Living Tradition
Editor: Msgr. John F. McCarthy, J.C.D., S.T.D.Distributed several times a year to interested members.
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No. 42 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program July 1992

by John F. McCarthy


        The superiority everywhere verifiable of the neo-Patristic method to the form-critical method of Scriptural interpretation can be illustrated in the episode of the calling of the first disciples (John 1:29-51).

        A FORM-CRITICAL ANALYSIS.  Rudolf Bultmann, in his highly influential commentary, The Gospel of John, regards the narrative of the calling of Nathanael (Jn 1:45-51), in the larger context of the calling of the first disciples (Jn 1:35-51), as nonhistorical.1 Bultmann observes that the Evangelist used an older literary source about the calling of these disciples which itself did not attend to historical details or have any interest in them.2 According to Bultmann any attempt to harmonize this account with the true historical record "destroys the specific intention of the narrative."3 Using form-critical analysis, Bultmann notes that the chronology of the passage, as narrated by the Evangelist, is obscure: on one day John the Baptist gave testimony to the priests and Levites from Jerusalem (v. 19); "the next day John saw Jesus coming to him" (v. 29); "the next day again John stood and two of his disciples" (v. 35); "the next day (Jesus) was going to Galilee" (v. 43). In his reconstruction, Bultmann reasons that the scene in vv. 29-34 was composed wholly from the imagination of the Evangelist, while vv. 35-51 reflect an earlier story that was in the source and may have had historical elements behind it, although even the source had not been composed with the intent to narrate history. The title "Lamb of God" was never pronounced by John the Baptist; it "must come from the Jewish-Christian tradition, perhaps from its liturgical vocabulary." The Evangelist took this simple title found in the source (v. 36), elaborated his own presentation (vv. 29-33), and, to make a link, added "the next day again" to v. 35.4

        Regarding the chronology of vv. 35-50, Bultmann asks, "would it be possible to imagine the situation at all?" In v. 43 Jesus sets out for Galilee and finds Philip, meeting him, therefore, on the way. Then how would Philip have had the opportunity of finding Nathanael (v. 45)? "All becomes clear if the subject of heurískei ("he finds") in v. 43 was originally one of the disciples who had already been called.... Thus v. 43 has been altered by the Evangelist...." Looking at the literary source he claims to see, Bultmann surmises that, since v. 41 ("he finds first his brother Simon") does not begin with "on the next day" after the two disciples had followed Jesus (v. 37), so also the words "on the next day" in v. 43 were probably added to the source by the Evangelist, as well as the words "now it was about the tenth hour" in v. 39, leaving the form-critic to conclude that logically "all the events recorded in vv. 35-50 would take place on one day; but there is no reason for this assumption."5 In other words, the chronology makes no sense at all as far as serious history is concerned; it is just a confusion.

        THE ANALYSIS UNDER CRITICISM.  Like all form-critical treatments, this analysis of Bultmann falls apart under careful examination. There is certainly something odd at first blush in the report in v. 29 that "the next day" John saw Jesus and said "Behold the Lamb of God," and then in vv. 35-36 "the next day again John stood and said 'Behold the Lamb of God.'" It looks like two different days, and many good commentators, like St. Thomas Aquinas, e.g., have read it that way with impressive reasoning. But here we seem rather to have a subtle historical meaning of the text. If the Greek word pálin in v. 35 means "again," not in the narrative sense of "on the next day again," but rather in the editorial sense of "going back again" to what was begun to be narrated in v. 29 and "repeating" more briefly those initial words, then the two scenes in vv. 29-30 and 35-36 are one and the same episode having taken place on one and the same day. And this seems to be the true exegesis of the word pálin on the historical level of the text. This reading shows explicit attention to the chronology on the part of the Evangelist, contrary to Bultmann's supposedly reasoned idea that this story has been told "without any attention to historical detail."6 Rather, the Evangelist here explicitly distinguishes between the historical details of the calling of the first disciples of Jesus and the testimony of John the Baptist which was given at that time.

        Similarly, while the understood subject of heurískei (he finds Philip) in v. 43 may be Jesus in the naive reading of the verse, it is certainly Andrew in its historical reading. On the level of chronology, Andrew first finds his brother Simon (v. 41), and then "on the following day he was setting out for Galilee, and he finds Philip" (v. 43). It is clear from the text that Andrew had decided to follow Jesus to Galilee, and so he went and found Philip to tell him, because Philip was from his town and might like to go with them. One can surmise that Peter, Andrew, and Philip had come down there to listen to John the Baptist, as had Nathanael, who was from Cana, and they were in contact with each other. Since John the Baptist had pointed out Jesus as the Messiah, it is reasonable that these Galileans (in the wide sense) might have been inclined to follow Jesus back to Galilee as a group. Bultmann claims that the Evangelist changed the subject of "he finds" in v. 43 from Andrew of the literary source to Jesus, but Bultmann errs, because the subject remains Andrew. It is only that, in a deeper sense, the subject is Jesus, inasmuch as Andrew was following the decision of Jesus.

        Hence, the reasons given by Bultmann for excluding "any real interest" on the part of the Christian composer in "the external details" of the account simply do not stand up under criticism. Even his observation that the remark of the Evangelist in v. 39, "now it was about the tenth hour," has merely some symbolic significance such as that "the tenth hour is the hour of fulfilment"7 does not stand up, because the actual words "about the tenth hour" convey chronological precision; there is no symbolism in the adverb "about."

        After the invalid reasoning of the form-critic has been put straight, it becomes clear that Jn 1:29-51 could very well be the faithful reproduction of an eyewitness report. Andrew could have related the whole story to John, as could Philip have done, especially if Philip is the other disciple mentioned in v. 35. Finally, John, son of Zebedee, author of this Gospel, could have been the other disciple mentioned in v. 35, as Thomas Aquinas and many other able commentators have conjectured, and, therefore, John could have been an eyewitness to the whole episode. In fact, in his Gospel, John out of humility habitually does not mention his own name, but rather refers to himself as "that other disciple" or something similar (cf. Jn 13:23; 19:26-27; 20:2,3,4,8; 21:7,20,23,24). Interestingly, at the very conclusion of this Gospel, it is declared, referring to John, that "this is that disciple who gives testimony of these things," without mentioning John by name (Jn 21:24). An additional reason, perhaps the initial reason, for not mentioning his name would be the confusion or emulation with the name of John the Baptist in v. 35 as well as the occurrence of the name of John, father of Simon, in v. 42.

        Bultmann, for flimsy reasons, maintains regarding the Fourth Gospel that "the author remains unknown to us." He claims that the Gospel does not name the author, but to do so he must attribute the claim of John in 2l:24 to a hypothetical redactor, and even then he admits that "the redactor holds the author to be an eyewitness to the life of Jesus" and "identifies him with the enigmatic figure of the Beloved Disciple." Relying only on a far-fetched inference from Mark 10:39 and on "several witnesses of the ancient Church" whom he does not name, Bultmann maintains that John "must have been killed by the Jews very early."8 He needs to affirm this in order to be able to keep up his whole approach while admitting also that in historical fact "a part of the Baptist's following went over to the Christian community" and "it is probable that the Evangelist himself was among these disciples."9 The fact that Jesus said to that disciple whom He loved "So will I have him remain till I come" (Jn 21:22) already cancels Bultmann's facile assumption from Mark 10:39 that John "must have been killed by the Jews very early." One would have to want very badly not to see the truth in order to accept Bultmann's weakly defended hypothesis that John's declaration, "this is that disciple who is giving witness of these things" (21:24), must have been written by a redactor. No fact or testimony can survive the subjective plausibility test of a form-critic whose mind is made up to the contrary.10

        THE WORLD AND HUMAN EXISTENCE.  Bultmann's method of form-critical literary analysis, so seemingly rigorous and scientific in its presentation, is actually a fallacious application of mistaken presuppositions about the world. Bultmann followed from the beginning the idea that nothing miraculous can happen and that there can be no real intervention of God in this world.11 He went on to declare that God does not exist in objective reality and cannot, therefore, be a real object of our thoughts.12 On the basis of this total exclusion of the object of Christian faith, Bultmann gave a meaning to the Gospels which is diametrically opposed to what their authors intended and which reduced the Gospels to mere products of human subjectivity.13 He excluded on principle that the Incarnation of God could really have occurred as well as the Resurrection of Jesus and every other miracle reported in the Gospels.14 In excluding these things a priori, he was not acting as a true historian, because he was not open to consider what might actually have taken place inasmuch as it contradicted what he already supposed could not have taken place.15 He did not really examine the reported facts objectively, but only sought plausible reasons to exclude them, if they did not accord with his presuppositions.

        In applying unhistorically his presupposition about the world to the narrative in John 1:29-51, Bultmann sees illustrated the theme of the "divine man," or "man issuing from the gods," which, he says, was an idea "widespread in pagan and Christian Hellenism." Thus, for Bultmann, the origin of the idea of the divinity of Jesus is Hellenistic pagan mythology, and this idea penetrated into the story of Jesus after the Christian community had spread to the world of Greek culture. He sees the Gospels as a particular form of religious literature, reflecting some events surrounding the life of Jesus, but expressed in the genre of pious fantasy according to the dictates of certain psychological laws that govern preconceptual thinking. All of this is nothing more than a calumny against Jesus and his followers, not based upon historical facts, but merely deduced from false presuppositions about human existence and the real world.16

        For Bultmann the Gospel of John "fundamentally contains but a single theme: the Person of Jesus," with the result that "the detail no longer possesses worth on its own account." According to Bultmann "the source of the discourses which John takes over or to which he adheres is Gnostic in outlook. ... In John Jesus descends from heaven, like the Gnostic Redeemer, to bring to men the saving message, and he returns to the Father after completing his work." But, at the same time, "in his Gnostic form a pointed anti-Gnostic theology is expressed. John knows no cosmic dualism. ... John thus uses the language current in Gnostic circles to give expression to the Christian understanding of faith."17

        What Bultmann means here by the "Christian understanding of faith" is Bultmann's own idea of Christian faith, which he discovers in John by peeling off the "mythology" in which he finds it encased. The divinity of Jesus is for him the center of that mythology. Thus, he says, the idea of omniscience, attributed to Jesus in this Gospel, "belongs to the mythological elaboration of the idea of revelation," and "the close connection between the omniscience of the Revealer, grounded in his unity with God, and his task of revelation can already be seen in Gnosticism."18 Thus, in meeting Nathanael (v. 47), Jesus shows himself to be the divine man "because he knows the character of the man he meets." In v. 51 the Evangelist quotes Jesus as saying "you shall see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man," but Bultmann credits the Evangelist with merely using the mythological idea of heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending to convey the more real idea, not of the vision of heavenly beings, but of the vision in faith of the glory of Jesus in the here and now, "as the vision which sees in him the Father." In Bultmann's reading, the source of vv. 45-51 showed Jesus as a divine being (a God-Man) whose miraculous knowledge overwhelms those who meet him, but the Evangelist transforms this into "the paradox of the glory of the Incarnate," in that his narrative "at once portrays the right way of seeking Jesus, the power of the word which proclaims him, and the right way of hearing this word - in the 'following' of discipleship. ... Thus faith in him is grounded in the fact that in the encounter with him the believer's own existence is uncovered. ... In the earthly presence of the Son of God the promise is fulfilled. Jesus is the Son of Man, not, as understood by Jewish and early Christian apocalyptic, as he who one day will come in the clouds of heaven, but in his earthly presence."19 Thus Bultmann finds in John's account of the calling of Nathanael (vv. 45-51) his own impoverished idea of Christian faith, and he excludes, by the reductive process of his form-critical and existentialist method, all the richness of faith that John actually presents.

        Bultmann's exegesis by no means presents "the right way of seeking Jesus" or "the right way of hearing" the Word of God written in the inspired text of the Gospels. His denial of the divinity of Jesus makes his outlook no longer Christian. He has, in fact, eliminated from his outlook the entire object of Christian faith. Once Bultmann had made the mistake of denying the historical fact of the Incarnation of God in Jesus, his corrupted imagination was able gradually to bring him to a denial of the entire historical truth of the Gospels. In ascribing to John's Gospel the theme of the "Gnostic Redeemer," Bultmann's intellectual appetite would not let him consider that the Gnostic Redeemer was only a corrupted interpretation of the true event of the Incarnation. Bultmann exulted in his exclusion, as a "modern man," of the "Gnostic view of the world," in which "the divine world of light and the demonic power of darkness stand over against one another,"20 but, in closing his eyes to what the Gospel of John was telling him about the powers of darkness, he opened his mind to the influence of those demonic powers. As a form-critic he compared unfavorably the inspired word of God with the mythologies of surrounding cultures, but he never stopped to think that those mythologies were only corruptions of the true Revelation, created from the unbridled fantasy of men enslaved to Satan and falling further into sin. The two principal sources of Bultmann's thought could well have been his own unbridled imagination and the suggestion of devils seeking to empty the Scriptures of their meaning. Bultmann's thinking does not begin from prayer to the one true God or induce to prayer to the one true God. It is anti-Christian in the sense that it opposes faith in Jesus as the God-Man; it deprives Christians of hope in the sense that it denies the existence of heaven and of God, whose triune life constitutes heaven; it is devoid of charity in the sense that the love for God evoked by the inspired Scriptures is falsified by form-critical analysis. Bultmann did not hesitate to place the "almost magical power of attraction" of the Person of Jesus as described by John the Evangelist in the category of a transposed "fairy-tale motif,"21 not realizing that this attraction only appeared to be fanciful from the viewpoint of his own warped subjectivity.

        A CATHOLIC FORM-CRITIC.  Raymond E. Brown, a Catholic form-critic, in his well-known commentary, The Gospel according to John, conjectures that the Fourth Gospel was composed in five stages from one dominant source, with the second, third, and fourth stages put together by the same evangelist - not necessarily John the Apostle - and the fifth stage done by a redactor who was of the same bent of mind. Brown believes that the redactor added the final chapter to the Gospel and probably also the Prologue, which is "a once-independent hymn composed in Johannine circles."22 While he quotes from a great variety of writers in this voluminous work, it is clear that Brown depends heavily upon Bultmann for his method of literary analysis and for many of the ideas that he considers. Brown does not express Bultmann's radical anti-Christian conclusions, and it may be assumed that he, as a Catholic, does not accept them, but his method does not enable him to pull clearly and decisively away from the rationalism that underlies Bultmann's thought.

        Thus, regarding the historical truth of this Gospel, Brown observes: "If John is based on historical tradition and genuine theological insight, then one of the principal reasons for writing the Gospel may have been to preserve this tradition and insight."23 This hypothetical statement is not an affirmation that historical tradition and genuine theological insight are in fact preserved in this Gospel, or even that there was an intention to preserve them. Brown comments on both possible elements as he goes along, but the expressions "historical tradition" and "genuine theological insight" remain undefined throughout his work. Bultmann, on the other hand, openly admits that there is historical tradition underlying the Gospel of John, such as that Jesus of Nazareth did live and preach to people in Palestine in the first century and that some of the disciples of John the Baptist probably did adhere to Him. What Bultmann denies is that one can take as historical at face value anything that is asserted in this Gospel, on the ground that it is not in the genre of sober historical narrative but rather of religious fantasy. And Brown does not ably defend the truth against this charge. Bultmann also sees "genuine theological insight" in this Gospel, especially inasmuch as it historicizes assumed mythological imagery and leads towards the uncovering of the believer's own existence. Brown presents no explicit idea of what "genuine theological insight" might mean, and his lack of definition seems to prevent him from arriving at a position that is clearly different from that of Bultmann.

        Thus, Brown accepts Bultmann's basic reconstruction of Jn 1:19-34, while questioning indecisively whether the material in these verses that has Synoptic parallels was added by the "Ecclesiastical Redactor," as Bultmann conjectures.24 But if neither the Evangelist nor the conjectured "Ecclesiastical Redactor" was reporting the sober historical facts, what difference does it ultimately make, and what reason should people today have for putting any credence in it? This question Brown never addresses, nor does he oppose Bultmann's answer to the question, but he accepts Bultmann's working hypothesis that these are imaginary scenes used as a framework for the presentation of theological ideas. Brown sees the narrative in John of the calling of the disciples of Jesus as a reorganization "under theological orientation" of whatever historical information might underlie the account, according to the theme of "a gradual deepening of insight and a profounder realization of who it is that the disciples are following." This insight "reaches a climax in 2:11, where Jesus has revealed his glory and the disciples believe in him." This is exactly what Bultmann has suggested with greater incisiveness.25 St. John's Gospel quotes John the Baptist, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael as expressing various titles of Jesus at the time of their calling. Bultmann sees this as the Church generations later placing these words on the lips of John the Baptist and of the disciples in imaginary scenes created for the purpose. Brown follows suit in saying: "What John has done is to gather these titles together into the scene of the calling of the first disciples. ... That the disciples did not attain such an insight in two or three days at the very beginning of the ministry is quite obvious from the evidence of the Synoptics. For instance, only halfway through Mark's account (8:29) does Peter proclaim Jesus as Messiah, and this is presented as a climax. Such a scene would be absolutely unintelligible if, as narrated in John, Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah before he ever met him. ... Thus, we cannot treat John 1:35-51 simply as a historical narrative. John may well be correct in preserving the memory, lost in the Synoptics, that the first disciples had been disciples of John the Baptist and were called in the Jordan valley just after Jesus' baptism. But John has placed on their lips at this moment a synopsis of the gradual increase of understanding that took place throughout the ministry of Jesus and after the resurrection. John has used the occasion of the call of the disciples to summarize discipleship in its whole development."26 In v. 49 Nathanael is quoted by John as exclaiming: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel." Looking at this exclamation as words placed upon the lips of Nathanael, Brown observes: "The former of the two titles, 'the Son of God,' was probably a messianic title.... In the theological progression indicated by the titles of ch. 1 which capsulizes the disciples' gradual growth in insight throughout the whole ministry of Jesus, John may well have wished to include in 'Son of God' a confession of the divinity of Jesus. ... Certainly, the readers of the Gospel in the late 1st century would have become accustomed to a more profound meaning for 'Son of God.'"27

        DEPENDENT THINKING.  In this appraisal, Brown does not succeed in distinguishing his position from the devastating conclusions of Bultmann. In fact, Bultmann's denial that the scenes of the calling of the disciples could possible have taken place is based ultimately upon his failure to comprehend that Jesus really is the God-Man. For Bultmann, the notion of the divinity of Jesus first came into the Church in the Hellenistic period, many years after the death of Jesus. Hence, it was the Church that created from its own imagination the progression of titles leading up to belief in Jesus as the God-Man. With this presupposition, Bultmann falsely but logically argues that neither Jesus nor his first disciples could have spoken as they are quoted to have spoken in John's first chapter.

        How should one read what Brown says about the historical truth of John's narrative? As a Catholic, he presumably knows that Jesus actually is the God-Man, and from this conviction it follows that Jesus could have said what He is quoted by John as having said at the calling of the first disciples. Brown's difficulty regarding the confession of Peter is paltry, because in Mark 8:29 Peter declares as his firm conviction what Andrew had claimed to him in a preliminary way in John 1:41. Such a scene is absolutely intelligible in harmony with John 1:41. Peter had discovered in the meanwhile, not only that Jesus really was the Messiah, but also that Jesus was God Incarnate (Matt 16:16), and he had come to know this on a level that merely human insight could never attain (Matt 16:17). Had Brown reached the same level of insight when he wrote these words?

        Brown does not define even implicitly in any discernible way what he means by a gradual deepening of "genuine theological insight," or by a "profounder realization of who it is that the disciples are following," or by a "gradual increase of understanding." For Bultmann the progression towards the proclamation of Jesus as King, as Messiah, as Son of God was not an increase of understanding; it was a regression into religious fantasy. Brown offers no arguments against this accusation; the primary question for the exegete of whether Jesus is or is not really the Son of God seems to be completely outside of his focus of attention. But since reality is the necessary medium of all science,28  this lack of focus takes Brown out of the field of scientific thinking.

        Thus, when Brown (pp. 87-88) observes that "the readers of the Gospel in the late lst century would have become accustomed to a more profound meaning for 'Son of God,'" he is presenting a mental confusion. According to the form-critical sources upon which Brown depends, the idea of the divinity of Jesus arose in the Church later in the 1st century, borrowed from Hellenistic pagan mythology, and was then retrojected into the Gospel accounts. If Brown accepts this presupposition, then his expression "more profound meaning" is itself meaningless for the historian, because such a retrojection is "more profound" only in a fanciful way. But, on the other hand, if the idea that Jesus was the "Son of God" arose, as it did, from the historical fact that He is the Son of God, then Peter could already have "become accustomed" to this more profound insight already during the ministry of Jesus, in which case Brown's appeal to readers of the Gospel in the late first century is seen to be a confusion.

        Bultmann's position regarding this is both clear and clearly unacceptable to a Christian. He presupposes that Jesus was no more than an ordinary man of his time with highly limited capacities and insights, and from this (false) presupposition he logically concludes that everything illustrating the divinity of Jesus has been retrojected into his life-story after his death, beginning with his imagined resurrection. Brown does not affirm Bultmann's unbelief, but he lacks the apparatus to deal with it as he expounds his own conclusions. Thus, the attribution of divinity which Jesus makes of Himself in the Gospel and which the disciples make concerning Him Brown for no logical reason assumes could not have taken place in historical reality. He says, for instance: "We have spoken of the sequence of titles in ch. 1. Verse 51 introduces 'the Son of Man' (which is not found in the Genesis background of Jacob's dream). This is the only title in the chapter that Jesus uses of himself, a fact that may reflect a historical reminiscence that Jesus did use this title, as distinct from the titles given to him by the disciples after the resurrection, e.g., Son of God."29  By this distinction Brown is implying that Peter, for instance, before the Resurrection could not have called Jesus the Son of God (Jn 6:70; Matt 16:16). But Brown has no historical evidence or logical reason for saying this. Bultmann's exclusion of the divinity of Jesus is essential to the coherency of his form-critical reasoning. In the absence of this presupposition, form-critical reasoning is seen to be confused and incoherent with the historical fact that Jesus is the divine Son of God.


        A DISTINCT HISTORICAL SENSE.  The neo-Patristic interpretation of Sacred Scripture is emerging at this time in the Church both as a continuation of the valid exegetical tradition of the past and as a reaction against the invalid and often harmful exegetical results of form-criticism. It begins from the insight that form-criticism, in using a defective historical method, is falsifying the Scriptures on both the historical and the theological levels. Neo-Patristic exegesis has already the use of a partially developed scientific historical framework of research by means of which it can discern the errors in form-critical method and, with the help of God's grace, arrive at new insights into the meaning of the sacred text.

        The principal source of the neo-Patristic method is the exegetical tradition of the Roman Catholic Church in the Patristic, medieval, and modern periods, as contrasted with approaches that oppose this tradition. Other sources include wholesome contributions from Orthodox, Protestant, and Jewish writers who reflect in some way the Catholic tradition. Another important source for the development of the framework of research is the Catholic philosophical tradition, to which is added the valid speculation of philosophers of history and the work of scientific historians regarding the specific area of historical science.

        Neo-Patristic exegesis distinguishes systematically between the literal sense and the spiritual sense of the sacred text.30 On the level of the literal sense, it again distinguishes systematically between the "simple" literal sense and a "subtle" literal sense that frequently comes into focus under technical analysis. It is precisely by failing to see the subtle literal sense that form-critics find a basis for many of their arguments against the historicity of the Scriptures, and it is very often by resolving the historical problems raised by form-critics against the text that the subtle literal sense is found. We may, therefore, divide what was formerly called the "literal and historical sense" into two literal senses, the simple literal sense and the historical sense, and deal with them accordingly.

        In commenting above on Jn 1:29-51, I examined some chronological difficulties raised by form-critics against the text. I suggested that the Greek word pálin in v. 35 was explicitly editorial and thus brought the Evangelist's historical framework into view. I suggested also that the understood subject of "was setting out for Galilee" in v. 43 is Andrew and thus drew attention to a meaning that is not obvious to the simple reader, who will spontaneously assume that Jesus is the subject. And, in some way Jesus is the subject, so that the question of a double literal sense arises. Neo-Patristic exegesis undertakes to treat this question, and much work remains to be done. In the case of the two instances in vv. 35 and 43, which I have just mentioned, either my suggested reading is the only true literal reading or there is an intended double literal meaning in the text.

        Neo-Patristic analysis often finds that the plain and simple literal meaning of a problematic passage is true but imprecise, while the subtle literal meaning that can be gathered without falsifying the wording is a precise statement that is completely in harmony with the demands of historical science. The simple meaning of a text is usually available to anyone who can recognize even the most naive and slavish meaning of the words in the text, however technically inaccurate that meaning may be. That the Holy Spirit would present a text that is not technically correct in its simple reading can be explained as follows: a)  so that persons not having technical education or a precise framework of knowledge can perceive the spiritual message within the text; b)  so that readers may deepen their understanding of the message by finding answers to the historical problems that have been deliberately left in the text; c)  so that the truth may remain hidden from those who are not honestly seeking for answers.

        St. Thomas Aquinas, following St. Augustine, allows that there could be a multiple literal sense of words in Sacred Scripture, although he does not declare that there is.31 One of the tasks of contemporary neo-Patristic exegesis is to study various examples of the contrast between the simple and the subtle senses of passages in order to try to resolve the question as to whether they are instances of a double literal sense or vague versus clear understandings of a single literal sense. The example which we shall consider here is the description of the calling of Nathanael in Jn 1:45-51.

        VERSES 45-46.  In v. 46 Nathanael is quoted as saying to Philip: "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Bultmann misses the subtle meaning as he comments: "It seems incredible to Nathanael that obscure Nazareth could be the home of the promised one. It makes no difference whether one takes the sentence as a question or an ironic statement. - There is no need to suppose that Nazareth had a bad reputation; it is enough that it was an insignificant village."32 Brown looks only at the naive sense as he suggests: "The saying may be a local proverb reflecting jealousy between Nathanael's town of Cana and nearby Nazareth."33 Commentators of the Catholic tradition have also explained Nathanael's remark on the level of the plain and simple sense. Thus, St. Thomas quotes St. John Chrysostom as suggesting that Nathanael knew from the prophecy of Micheas 5:2 that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem,34 and Cornelius a Lapide adds that Nathanael also knew that Nazareth was a homely little village despised by the Jews.35

        But to understand with historical precision the expressions of Nathanael and Jesus in this penetrating conversation it is necessary to go beyond the naive sense of the words. Philip had said to Nathanael: "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth" (v. 45). It needs to be understood that Nathanael was a student of the Scriptures and a conceited young man as well. In his erudition was included an interest in the origin of words. Hence, he could easily infer that the name "Nazareth" came from the Hebrew word nazir, meaning "set apart," "consecrated," and, therefore, "holy."36 Nathanael was thus making a witty remark to Philip as he said in effect: "Can anything good come from the holy?" And this quip was a humorous reflection upon the origin of Jesus, who was from Nazareth.

        VERSE 47.  But Nathanael came to see. "Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him and he said to him: 'Behold a true Israelite in whom there is no guile'" (v. 47). According to Bultmann, with this greeting Jesus is being shown as the "divine man" in that he knows the character of the man he meets: one who is worthy of the name of Israel, because in him there is no guile.37 Brown opines: "The proclamation of Nathanael as a genuine Israelite without guile is another example of the revelatory formula isolated by De Goedt" ("Look!" followed by a description "wherein the seer reveals the mystery of the person's mission").38 St. Thomas says that Nathanael is here called "truly an Israelite," that is, one without guile, because the name "Israelite" in its etymology means either "very righteous" (cf. Isa 44:2) or "a man seeing God," and Nathanael was very righteous as well as possessing the cleanness and simplicity of heart needed by those who see God.39 Cornelius a Lapide relates the interpretation of St. John Chrysostom that Jesus implied in this encomium that He was not offended by Nathanael's question to Philip about being from Nazareth, because He knew that Nathanael was of an open mind and was sincerely seeking the truth.40

        However, there is obviously something enigmatic about these plain readings of the text. An Israelite is a descendent of Israel (Jacob), and Jacob was one of the most guileful individuals who ever lived, as exemplified by the way he acted towards his brother Esau (Gen 25:25-34); towards his father Isaac (Gen 27:11-29); towards his uncle Laban (Gen 30:29-43); and in the "blessings" that he pronounced for his own sons at the time of his death (Gen 49). The very name Jacob means "he grabs the heel," which is a trick used by wrestlers to overthrow their opponent. It is obvious, on the level of historical analysis, that the greeting of Jesus, "Here is a real Israelite, in whom there is no guile," is an ironical and witty riposte to Nathanael's flippant question. In straight and prosaic words, Jesus could have said, "Behold a true Israelite, full of guile," but the ironical form meets Nathanael on his own terms and shows him that Jesus knows him for the cocky individual that he is.

        VERSE 48.  This spirited opening by Jesus causes Nathanael to ask in surprise: "From where do you know me?" This sets up another witty reply from Jesus: "Before Philip called you, I saw you being under the fig tree," that is, "I saw you when you were under the fig tree" (v. 48). Now, Nathanael may have been standing or sitting under a fig tree before Philip called him. But this declaration of Jesus seems to have said much more than that to Nathanael, in the context of the quip that he had made about the hometown of Jesus. The play on words is about origins of words and of persons. It seems that, within the ambit of obvious Scriptural references, the allusion is to the Garden of Eden, so that it is as if Jesus is saying to Nathanael: "You joked about my supposed father and place of origin, but I saw you when you were only in potency in the procreative seed of Adam and Eve, your first parents, as they stood naked and ashamed under the fig tree from which they took leaves to make garments (Gen 3:7). Therefore, I, Jesus of Nazareth, am the God who created you and your ancestors."

        VERSE 49.  Nathanael understands this, and he exclaims: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel" (v. 49). Bultmann's interpretation of this confession of faith excludes entirely the action of divine grace. On the metaphysical level he denies the existence of God as an objective Being who could in any way interject Himself or his action into the closed causal reality of this world.41 Hence, he denies that the incarnation of God in a Man could really have taken place. And on the psychological level he holds that the imaginative instincts of these primitive people in Palestine, including Jesus and Nathanael, were so behaviorally conditioned by the culture in which they lived that they could not have imagined that Jesus was God Incarnate.42  Thus, Bultmann believes that the idea of Jesus as the Son of God had to have been taken from some pagan source in the Hellenistic period and placed on the lips of Nathanael by a writer of that time. His explanation is that the direct source of the idea of the divinity of Jesus is Gnosticism and that the writer of St. John's Gospel was a Christian Gnostic who historicized the Gnostic images that he used by applying them to the here-and-now rather than to some distant heaven.43 Bultmann adopted this interpretation because it fit in with his own nonbelief in the existence of heaven, and he maintained this position even though he admitted that the form of the Gnostic "redeemer myth" that he took as a model did not develop until after the Gospel of John had been written.44

        Brown does offer some arguments against Bultmann's notion of the meaning of Jesus. He notes that the expression "and the Word became flesh" in Jn 1:14 "is a clear reference to the Incarnation" and "describes the Incarnation in strongly realistic language by stressing that the Word became flesh," a term which "seems to have been associated with the Incarnation from the earliest days of Christian theological expression." He feels certain that the theology of this Johannine expression "would not have been compatible to Gnostic or Docetic strains of thought".45 "Thus," he adds, "in becoming flesh the Word does not cease to be the Word, but exercises his function as Word to the full." Bultmann also admits a contrast here with the Gnostic picture in that Jesus is presented as Wisdom incarnate or as revelation itself "for Jesus brings no teaching and is not a guide to heavenly mysteries" as in Gnosticism. To this idea Brown asks, "But does not Bultmann make too much of a revealer without a revelation? ... If the fact that Jesus was sent is all important, this is in itself a tremendous revelation of 'the one thing that is necessary.' It is a revelation that the Creator is here present to his creatures; and the Creator does not come with empty hands, for he gives light and life and love and resurrection."46 To Bultmann's claim that the revealer is only a man, Brown counters: "Käsemann, writing against Bultmann, insists on the glorious character of the Word-become-flesh. The flesh is not simply an incognito through which men must see; rather the glory of the Word keeps breaking through the flesh in the miraculous works which can be seen."47

        Brown's response to Bultmann lacks critical historical apparatus. An ambiguity hanging over Brown's commentary is whether the Word did become flesh in historical fact, or whether that is merely what is claimed in the theology of this Gospel. Bultmann admits that the writers of the Gospel believed that God had become man; the credit that he gives to this Gospel lies in his understanding it as reflecting historicized interpretations of full-blown mythology that are in the direction of "the right way" to understand Jesus. In Brown's argumentation the relationship of the "theology" of this Gospel to actual historical fact never becomes clear. Is Brown affirming as a critical exegete that the eternal Word of God exists in historical fact and that He became flesh in historical fact, in response to Bultmann's charge that this is mere religious fantasy? Brown's method does not seem able to address this question adequately. To say "If the fact that Jesus was sent is all important" remains hypothetical. The fact that Jesus was sent from God is all-important, not only for the theology of John, but also for the critical historian today. Is Brown saying unambiguously that the "vertical aspect" of the Gospel according to John in historical fact "expresses the uniqueness of the divine intervention in Jesus,"48 seeing that he also says that "one cannot claim that the dependence of John on a postulated early Oriental Gnosticism has been disproved"?49 Brown identifies the "founding fathers" of Gnosticism to have been "Simon Magus and Dositheus of Shechem,"50 thus indicating the Satanic origin of this doctrine, but he cannot show with conviction that this inspired Gospel depends only on historical fact and not at all on the perversion of the historical truth of the Incarnation suggested by devils to the corrupt imaginations of these evil men. Brown agrees with Bultmann and others that "the main emphasis in the Gospel is on realized exchatology,"51 but he does not show that John presents the historical reality of God, of heaven, and of life after death, without which this Gospel would become a mere religious fantasy, as Bultmann claims.

        VERSE 50.  Jesus approves the fact that Nathanael believes because He had said to Nathanael "I saw you under the fig tree." Nathanael's pride in his learning had been shaken, he had repented of his vanity, and this had disposed him for the grace of having his eyes opened to catch a glimpse of the divine Person within the human figure of Jesus. Nathanael had seen a new and higher reality of God present in the man Jesus. "Greater things than these shall you see." Jesus promises to Nathanael that he will see more than this earthly power of the personality of Jesus; he will have more than a glimpse at the divinity of Jesus, because the clarity of his vision of supernatural things would increase.

        VERSE 51.  Jesus turns to the group of the disciples and makes this promise: "You shall see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." This is a precise prediction of what was going to happen in historical fact. Those of the disciples who would remain faithful were going to see, after their death, the gate of heaven opened and the King of Heaven therein. St. Thomas points out that in heaven the angels are seen ascending and descending upon the Son of Man: ascending toward his divinity and descending upon his humanity.52 This did take place in historical fact. It has been said erroneously by some that "history ends with death." This is a misstatement of the truth. With death certainly ends the series of changes visible on this earth. But life within the one continuum of reality goes on. To say that heaven exists in historical reality means that this enriched phase of life is in the one continuum of being that the historian knows as reality. The heaven promised by Jesus is not a religious fantasy, it is not a dream. Nor is Jesus in heaven a figment of the imagination. In v. 51 Jesus reveals with unshakeable authority that history does not end with death and that death is not itself the end of life.


        A TRIPLE SPIRITUAL SENSE.  The spiritual sense is a pattern of meaning, relating to the Person and the mission of Jesus the Messiah, which has been impressed upon the text of Sacred Scripture by the Holy Spirit, its principal Author. It centers around the Allegory of Christ, a sustained analogy which raises the mind from the merely visible and historical meaning of the words to a supernatural meaning that contains and illustrates some aspect of divine revelation. The simple allegory centers around Jesus as a Divine Person present on earth in the human nature which He has assumed. The higher allegory, called anagogy, centers around Jesus as the Word of God, existing from all eternity and present in Jesus as the King of Heaven, together with the Divine Persons of the Father and the Holy Spirit. The higher allegory includes both this Trinitary meaning and also the eschatological "last things" of death, judgment, heaven, and hell. In addition to the lower and the higher allegories of Christ, there is a moral allegory known as tropology, which presents itself as a pattern of application of the truth of Christ to the soul of the individual believer, especially as it moves from the state of sin to the state of virtue or as it advances to higher degrees of virtue. I shall attempt here to apply these distinctions to the narrative of the calling of Nathanael.

        VERSE 45.  Philip says to Nathanael: "We have found the one about whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote, Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth." On the historical level, the Evangelist is not affirming that Jesus is the son of Joseph; rather, he is quoting Philip, who is reporting the common opinion of the people of Nazareth that Jesus was the son of Joseph (Lk 3:23), although Jesus was in historical truth the adopted son of Joseph.

        Prominent among the keys to the Allegory of Christ are the etymology of names and the typology, or figuration, by which persons, things, and events on the natural level, especially as recorded in the Old Testament, represent the reality of Christ and his Church. Etymologically, the name Jesus means "Yahweh saves" or "Yahweh has saved," and, therefore, "God saves." Jesus is the Savior. To recognize who Jesus is means to recognize that Jesus is the Second Divine Person, the Son of God, having become a man in order to save mankind from slavery to sin and death. The name Messiah means "anointed," as does its Greek translation Christos and the English word "Christ." The Messiah is the one anointed by God as the great prophet, priest, and king of Israel. Moses in the Pentateuch and the prophets of the Old Testament wrote about Jesus, partly in a directly prophetic way, but more often under the imagery of prototype and figure. Jesus is the Supreme Prophet, the King of Heaven, and the great High Priest sent as a Mediator between God and sinful men. His human nature was anointed with the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Third Divine Person, at the moment of his Virginal Conception.

        The allegorical sense comes into sight with the recognition that Jesus is the Messiah. In v. 45 it is clear that Philip and the others had begun to realize this. But Philip is probably not thinking yet about the allegory of names when he presents Jesus as "the son of Joseph, from Nazareth." We are told that the name Joseph means "may God increase."53 On the level of anagogy this may apply to any of the Three Divine Persons. Jesus is the "increaser," in the sense that He brought the increase of sanctifying grace to mankind enslaved by sin (Jn 1:17). The Holy Spirit is the "increaser," in the sense that every increase of goodness and sanctifying grace is produced by the Holy Spirit. But above all, and by appropriation, God the Father is the "increaser," because He is the absolute origin of the increase of all things. On the level of divinity, God the Father is the origin by eternal generation of God the Son, and by eternal spiration, with the Son, of God the Holy Spirit, thus being the absolute "increaser" within the Blessed Trinity. On the level of natural creation, God the Father is the absolute origin and creator through the Son of all created things, angelic and corporal, invisible and visible, living and inanimate. On the level of grace, God the Father is the origin of every increase (1 Cor 3:7), because He sent his only-begotten Son to make the increase possible (Gal 4:4-5). Cornelius a Lapide points out that St. Joseph, in his role as foster father of Jesus, was a figure of God the Father.54

        VERSE 46.  "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" I have noted above the ironic nature of this question in the historical sense of the text. Cornelius a Lapide observes that, since the name does not occur in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Hebrew etymology of the name is uncertain. We cannot tell from the Greek transliteration whether it was written with zain (Naz), and derived from nazir or nozeri, meaning "set apart," "consecrated," and, thus, "holy," or rather written with tsade (Nats) and derived from netser, meaning "budding," "flowering," or "a shoot."55 There is strong indication in Matt 2:23 of a double etymological meaning of the name in the inspired text.56 William Albright held that the original Hebrew name was probably Notseret, and that "since the Aramaic name had not been etymologically transferred into Aramaic as Natserath (Heb. nsr, 'to protect,' appears in Aramaic after the shift of consonants as ntr), there was nothing to keep the s between the two voiced (sonant) consonants from being changed by partial assimilation to z...."57 Thus, the original consonant may have been tsade, as a Lapide and other writers had suggested. Albright, in his use of modern "linguistic and philological orientation," presents solutions that contrast at least superficially with those of the Catholic exegetical tradition, but he also admits that, "in view of the numerous still unsolved puzzles of vocalization and ending with which the student of the Aramaic toponymy of Palestine is faced," he is only presenting "the most plausible solution."58

        In the case of Nathanael's query, the problem is not the historical origin of the name Nazareth; it is rather what an Aramaic speaking student of the Hebrew Scriptures would likely have assumed the etymology of "Nazareth" to be. And we can guess from the structure of his remark that he was associating it with nazir in the sense of "holy." Jesus does come from what is holy. God is all holy, and Jesus is from God. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God, and the holiness of God is by appropriation ascribed to Him. Jesus was virginally conceived in the womb of the holiest of all pure creatures by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. The body and soul of Jesus are saturated with the holiness of the Holy Spirit. The perception that Jesus is from what is holy in the most absolute sense of the word is an insight that puts a man on the road to perfection and to union with God. Nathanael was asking in his conceited way for that insight, and Philip gave him the opportunity with the invitation, "Come and see."

        VERSE 47.  "Behold a true Israelite." For modern commentators, the etymology of the word Israel is uncertain. With reference to the changing of Jacob's name to Israel in Gen 32: 28 (cf. Hosea 12:34), the name Israel is usually presented as meaning "may God rule,"59 "ruling with God,"60 "to strive with God,"61 "wrestler with God,"62 or something of this sort. The etymology "man sees God" (ish-roe-el), presented by some of the early commentators (Philo, Nazianzen, Hilary, Eusebius, and Prosper) is now commonly rejected.

        Cornelius a Lapide rejected this interpretation to follow the Septuagint, Theodotion, Symmachus, Jerome, and Aquila in holding that the name means "ruling over God."63 While all aspects of Jacob's encounter are not clear, it must be kept in mind that the "vision of God" is an important element of the episode: "I have seen God face to face and my life has been saved" (Gen 32:30).

        In this episode Jacob is a prototype of Jesus. The name Jacob ("he grabs the heel") suggests a wrestler. Jesus wrestled with Satan and supplanted him (St. Thomas). Historically, Jesus is the man who "saw God and lived" even during his sojourn on earth, and his human consciousness sees God forever in heaven. Anagogically, on the level of divinity, Jesus, the Word of God, "wrestles" eternally with the Father in the infinite dynamism of divine love, and they "overcome" each other in the spiration of the Holy Spirit. Thus, Jesus can say, "I am strong against God; how much more shall I prevail against men"(cf. Gen 32:28), even though He is totally subject to the Father.

        Tropologically, the follower of Jesus "wrestles with God" in the dynamism of grace given by the Holy Spirit. He sees God obscurely by the infused virtue of faith, especially by analogy with natural concepts and the images supplied by Sacred Scripture. He will be blessed with the clear vision of God in the life after death. Thus, Jacob is a figure of the true believer and of the Church. God is "overcome" by love for the living members of the Mystical Body of Jesus, and gives them the blessing of heaven, which they win by their prayers and sacrifices and by overcoming the world, the flesh, and the Devil.64

        In vv. 46f. Nathanael is "wrestling" verbally with Jesus. In this he is a true follower of Jacob. Jesus confronts him with the guileful character of Jacob and challenges him to change his manner and become a "true Israelite" in the spiritual sense, that is a true follower of Himself. Implied here is the beginning of a deep conversion from a Jewish mentality which sees no distinction between the secular and the sacred to a Christian outlook in which both the Savior and his followers are "set apart" from the spirit of this world.

        VERSE 48.  "Nathanael said to him: 'From where do you know me?'" The question of origins underlies this whole exchange, and so the interrogative adverb "from where?" (póthen) is very important. Jesus replies: "Before Philip called you I saw you under the fig tree." Literally, "I saw you being under the fig tree." I have treated above under the historical sense the probable allusion to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. On the level of tropology the allusion may go deeper, especially in relation to the allegory of names and to the question of who Nathanael really was.

        It has long been disputed whether Nathanael is to be identified with Bartholomew the Apostle. In a thoroughgoing study of the issue, Urban Holzmeister reviewed the reasons for and against such an identity and concluded that the most probable opinion is in favor.65 St. Augustine, followed by St. Gregory the Great, St. Thomas, and others held that Nathanael was not Bartholomew, largely for the reason put forward by St. Augustine that Nathanael was learned in the Scriptures, while Jesus chose only unlettered men to be his apostles. Holzmeister finds this reason to be very unconvincing. In favor of the identity is the fact that Bartholomew is a patronymic meaning "son of Tolmai," and, therefore, could easily be the surname of Nathanael. The argument from the patronymic was first advanced only in the ninth century, but it fortifies other reasons often advanced in favor of the identity, as I shall try to explain on the level of tropological allegory.

        The remark of Jesus to Nathanael, "Behold a true Israelite," is, as I have explained, a play on words. Now the name Nathanael, as Holzmeister points out, means "God has given" and is actually of Babylonian origin. Hence, in terms of the historical origin of the name, it does not represent a true Israelite at all. Nathanael himself was from Cana in Galilee, and Cana means "reed," which is a tall grass growing usually in swampy waters. Thus, Cana symbolically indicates lowliness of birth, and the designation "from Cana" indicates allegorically a tall non-Israelite from low and swampy ground.

        Similarly, the name Tolmai (or Tholmai) according to some means "covered with furrows," and Tolmai again is not an originally Hebrew name. In fact, the name is first encountered in the Old Testament in Num 13:23, which speaks of Tolmai as one of a race of giants living in Canaan at the time of Moses. And the name Canaan means "low (ground)." Now, since furrows are conduits of water on the ground, the "son of Tolmai" is represented etymologically as a tall non-Israelite stemming from low and watery ground.

        Since I am not expert in philology, I leave it to those who are to examine these derivations and correct them where necessary. I think that a moral message was definitely given by Jesus and accepted by Nathanael. Tall in his estimate of himself and of his learning, proud of his Hebrew descent, Nathanael is confronted with the actual lowliness of his origin. "I saw you being under the fig tree" means, I think, that Jesus, a Divine Person with eternal knowledge, saw Nathanael when he was still in potency in the ground from which the human race has sprung. It is an invitation to Nathanael to make an act of humility in the recognition of the reality concerning himself. And this involves a change of focus, because Jesus is the true "Nathanael," the true "gift of God," and it is Jesus who gives the gift of grace to men, also to little Nathanael, if he asks for it with humility.

        VERSE 49.  Nathanael is struck by the response of Jesus, and he exclaims: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel." We do not know how deeply he understood the words of Jesus, but this was certainly for him a moment of grace and of conversion, and he was definitely being helped to understand. In this experience Nathanael began to move away from pride in himself and pride in his race, and to recognize who Jesus is. The title Son of God expresses the divine origin of Jesus, while King of Israel means King of the true Israelites, of those who share in the dynamism of divine grace. Neither title is here understood as basically political in nature. Nathanael's motive is his realization of the highness of the origin of Jesus, and this recognition suggests many Scriptural allusions which we cannot take up here.

        VERSES 50-51.  "Greater things than these shall you see." Nathanael has seen the power of the intelligence of Jesus in its impact on himself, and he has begun to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and as the Messiah. Higher degrees of insight will be given to him. He will, in fact, as did Jacob allegorically in Gen 32:30, "see God face to face" in the beatific vision. Just as the "man" in Gen 32:29 blessed Jacob at the end of the struggle, so Jesus blesses Nathanael at the end of this verbal contest.

        "You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." The Son of Man is Jesus in his human nature. Jesus has turned to the group of the disciples as he makes this promise; the "you" is in the plural. To see heaven opened is to enter into heaven, where the good angels serve Jesus both as God and as man. This promise of Jesus is one of the literal and historical bases of the anagogical sense of Sacred Scripture.

        There is in this promise of Jesus an obvious allegorical allusion to the dream of Jacob. The ladder extending from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven is Jesus in his humanity. The angels are seen ascending and descending upon this ladder. God is seen leaning upon this ladder and saying to Jacob: "... your seed will be like the dust of the earth, ... and in you and your seed will all the tribes of the earth be blessed" (Gen 28:14). The seed to which this prophecy refers is Jesus (cf. Gal. 3:16) and then those of every tribe of the earth who are sanctified in Jesus. Nathanael inherits this promise, not by being a physical descendent of Jacob, but by abandoning his pride of race and adhering to the other-worldly spirit of Jesus. In his pride, Nathanael is little more than "dust of the earth." But through humility the furrows of Nathanael's human soul become irrigated by water turned into the wine of divine grace, the "gift of God" given by Jesus, and the gates of heaven are opened for him.


1. R. Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Eng. trans. by G. R. Beasley-Murray (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1971 - translated from the 1964 printing of Das Evangelium des Johannes with the Supplement of 1966), pp. 94-108.

2. Ibid., p. 99.

3. Ibid., p. 108.

4. Ibid., pp. 95-98.

5. Ibid., p. 98.

6. Ibid., p. 99.

7. ibid., p. l00.

8. Ibid., pp. 11-12

9. Ibid., p. 108.

10. For a summary of the solid arguments in favor of John the Apostle as the author of the Fourth Gospel, see John M. Steinmueller, A Companion to Scripture Studies, rev. ed. (Houston: Lumen Christi Press, 1969), vol. III, Special Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 137-147.

11. See J. F. McCarthy, The Science of Historical Theology (TAN Books and Publishers: Rockford, Illinois 61105), art. 8.0 (pp. 101-102).

12. Presented with critique, ibid., pp. 146-151.

13. Presented with critique, ibid., pp. 5-14.

14. Presented with critique, ibid., pp. 101-113.

15. Presented with critique, ibid., pp. 113-119.

16. Presented with critique, ibid., pp. 126-135, 155-164.

17. Bultmann, op. cit., pp. 7-9.

18. Ibid., p. 102.

19. Ibid., pp. 104-107.

20. Ibid., p. 7.

21. Ibid., p. 106.

22. R. E. Brown, The Gospel according to John, The Anchor Bible (Garden City: Doubleday, 1966), pp. XXXIV-XXXIX.

23. Ibid., p. LXVII.

24. Ibid., p. 70.

25. Bultmann, op. cit., pp. 106-107.

26. Brown, op. cit., pp. 77-78.

27. Ibid., pp. 87-88.

28. McCarthy, op. cit., pp. 47-53.

29. Brown, op. cit., p. 91. For places in the Gospel according to John where Jesus calls Himself or others call him "Son of God" (apart from equivalent expressions such as in 1:14 and 1:18), compare 1:49; 3:16; 3:18; 6:70; 9:35; 11:4; 11:27; 19:7; and 20:31.

30. See J. F. McCarthy, "Neopatristic Exegesis to the Rescue," in Living Tradition, No. 41 (May 1992), pp. 5-6.

31. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 1, art. 10 corp. Cf. Augustine, Confessions, bk. 12, ch. 31, no. 42 (ML 32, 844); De Genesi ad litteram, bk. 1, ch. 19 (ML 34, 260f.). See also T.P. Kuffel, "St. Thomas' Method of Biblical Exegesis," in Living Tradition, No. 38 (Nov. 1991), p. 3. See also note b to Summa Th., I, art. 10 in the Leonine edition (Marietti, 1952), Tome I, p. 561.

32. Bultmann, op. cit., p. 103.

33. Brown, op. cit., p. 83.

34. Aquinas, commentary on Jn 1:46.

35. Cornelius a Lapide, commentary on Jn 1:46.

36. Cf. Cornelius a Lapide, commentary on Matt 2:23.

37. Bultmann, op. cit., p. 104.

38. Brown, op. cit., pp. 83, 87, 58.

39. Aquinas, commentary on Jn 1:47.

40. Cornelius a Lapide, on Jn 1:47.

41. In The Science of Historical Theology, I have summarized at length Bultmann's principle of the exclusion of God from this world (pp. 5-6 and 101-102) and presented a refutation (pp. 103-113).

42. Bultmann states his principle of cultural conditioning in The History of the Synoptic Tradition, Eng. trans. by John Marsh (Oxford: Blackwell, 1963), p. 4. He says: "The proper understanding of form-criticism rests upon the judgement that the literature in which the life of a given community, even the primitive Christian community, has taken shape, springs out of quite definite conditions and wants of life from which grows up a quite definite style and quite specific forms and categories. Thus every literary category has its 'life situation' (Sitz im Leben: Gunkel), whether it be worship in its different forms, or work, or hunting, or war. The Sitz im Leben is not, however, an individual historical event, but a typical situation or occupation in the life of a community. In the same way, the literary 'category,' or 'form' through which a particular item is classified is a sociological concept and not an aesthetic one, however much it may be possible by its subsequent development to use such forms as aesthetic media in some particular literary product. But in the literature of primitive Christianity, which is essentially 'popular' (Dibelius) in kind, this development has not yet taken place, and it is only possible to understand its forms and categories in connection with their 'life situation,' i.e. the influences at work in the life of the community."

43. Bultmann, The Gospel of John, pp. 28, 106-107.

44. Ibid., p. 27.

45. Brown, op. cit., p. 31.

46. Ibid., p. 32.

47. Ibid., p. 35.

48. Ibid., p. CXVI.

49. Ibid., p. LVI

50. Ibid., p. LXVIII.

51. Ibid., p. CXX.

52. Aquinas, commentary on Jn 1:51.

53. Cf. J.E. Steinmueller and K. Sullivan, Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia, Old Testament, "Joseph"; R. Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible, "Joseph."

54. Cornelius a Lapide, commentary on Matt 1:18.

55. Cornelius a Lapide, commentary on Matt 2:23.

56. See Benedict Viviano on Matt 2:23 in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 636; Henry Wansbrough on Matt 2:23 in A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, p. 908.

57. W.F. Albright, "The Names 'Nazareth' and 'Nazoraean,'" in the Journal of Biblical Literature 65 (1946), pp. 399-400.

58. Ibid., pp. 397, 400.

59. R.E. Murphy, in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, on Gen 32:28.

60. Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible, "Israel."

61. Bruce Vawter, in A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, on Gen 32:28.

62. Steinmueller-Sullivan, Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia, "Israel."

63. Cornelius a Lapide, commentary on Gen 32:28.

64. Cf. a Lapide, ibid.

65. U. Holzmeister, "Nathanael fuitne idem ac S. Bartholomaeus Apostolus?" in Biblica 21 (1940), pp. 28-39.

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