Monday, December 12, 2022

The Importance of His Flesh in Entelechy (Gospels 11)


And the Word became flesh.”

(John 1:14 NKJV)

“unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”

(John 6:53 NKJV)



Imagine that you are Jewish, at the time of Jesus.  Like Peter, in Acts 10:13, you refuse to eat any foods that are not kosher.  No pork, no shellfish, no rabbit, not even Jello (if it had been invented back then; it’s made of pig parts).  No catfish, shark, or sturgeon.  No escargots, no insects (other than certain varieties of locust).  You can’t eat an egg that has blood in it, because the blood indicates an unborn embryo that was not properly killed, and, besides, you cannot eat anything with blood in it.  Then, along comes Jesus who tells his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood.  Not only is drinking any blood a violation, but eating his flesh even smacks of cannibalism.  Justin Martyr’s First Apology (Chapter 5 & 6) indicates that the Romans accused the early Christians of cannibalism, perhaps, based somewhat on this passage.  Jesus’ saying even scandalized many of his disciples in Capernaum who heard it: “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ . . . Jesus . . . said to them, ‘Does this offend you?. . .  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.(John 6:60-61 NKJV).


Many commentaries on John have wrestled with the John 6:53-61 passage, but my purpose, here, is to see if the concept of entelechy sheds any new light on its meaning.  It is possible that the John 6:51-63 passage is where the concept of hulē/ὕλη plays a most important role.  As I mentioned in my post The “Form” of God and Entelechy (Gospels 6), “all (natural) material/hulē/ὕλη (including “flesh”) was “made” by (or through) the Logos.”  Although the New Testament only once uses the term hulē/ὕλη, John makes considerably more use of the term flesh/sarx/σὰρξ, using the term eleven times.  Of those eleven times, eight are in the John 6:51-63 passage, now under consideration, where Jesus also claims to be the living bread that came down from heaven. 


It is not enough to say that John’s account of Jesus is employing the trope of metaphor.  It clearly is.  The question is how extensive the metaphor is.  Certainly, Jesus’ body is not literal bread or manna (John 6:31-33), yet he does assert that he literally did come down from heaven.  His use of the verbs to eat and to drink pertain to the bread and manna metaphor, so they are not literal, either.  Importantly, however, when Jesus refers to his own flesh/sarx/σὰρξ (and blood), he is being quite literal. 


Other than the John 6 passage, perhaps, the most important (entelechially-enlightening) passage in John is 1:14, where John tells us that the Logos became flesh/sarx/σὰρξ.  We celebrate this verse at Christmas time, calling Christmas the “incarnation.”  In-carn-ation, features the flesh element, since the root “caro/carnis-” is Latin for “flesh/sarx/σὰρξ,” as in “carnivore” and “carnival.”  The combination of Logos and flesh/sarx/σὰρξ, according to 1:14, allows us to see/theaomai/θεάομαι his glory—as of the only begotten of the Father—full of grace and truth. This “seeing” (or perception of Jesus’ glory) is the more literal equivalent of “eating” and “drinking.”   The metaphor of eating and drinking indicates “ingesting” into one’s own flesh/sarx/σὰρξ the nutrients that are, then, to be “assimilated” into one’s own flesh/sarx/σὰρξ.  John uses three Greek words meaning “to see” interchangeably:

(1)   theaomai/θεάομαι,

(2)   horaō/ὁράω, and

(3)   theōreō/θεωρέω.

/θεωρέω may have the etymological implication of seeing as God helps one to see, according to Wiktionary’s notes on θεωρός.  Note the prefix “the-” at the first of the word theōreō.  “The-” is the first part of the words theos/θεὸς  (God) and theology (the study of God).  The English words “theory,” “theorist,” and “theorize” come from the word see/theōreō/θεωρέω.  The word see/theōreō/θεωρέω is employed by Aristotle in On Rhetoric, to suggest that the discipline of rhetoric helps one to “see/theōreō/θεωρέω” the available means of persuasion in any given situation.  Aristotle is not interested in mere spectatorship on the part of his readers.  He is interested in truly in-depth “seeing,” the kind of seeing that would enable one to fully grasp all implications of an issue, “theoretically, so to speak.”  Likewise, John, in his gospel, wants his audience to fully grasp all implications of Jesus and his work as Logos-become-flesh: specifically, his glory—as of the only begotten of the Father—full of grace and truth.  He wants his disciples to ingest and assimilate the implications of what they “see” him accomplish in his flesh/sarx/σὰρξ.  As Odeberg (p. 36) puts it, “they will see the conne[ction] being brought about between the celestial appearance, the Glory, δόξα [doxa], of Christ and his appearance in the flesh.”  This connection, according to Odeberg, is what the disciples will observe when they “see the angels of God ascending and descending on the son of man,” as discussed in the previous post.  Even as it pertains to the simplest term for seeing (to “see”/horaō/ὁράω), Odeberg (p. 40) credits Abbott with showing that, in John, “the choice of the verb ὁράω . . . always refers to the spiritual sight, the spiritual perception . . . [which] in [John] presupposes the entrance into the spiritual reality.”  It is as when one says “Oh, I see!” to indicate that one, at last, fully comprehends all of the implications in something that has been said or done.


When John states that people believed-in/followed him when they saw/theōreō/θεωρέω the signs he did (2:23, 6:2, 40), or the Samaritan woman saw/theōreō/θεωρέω that he was a prophet (4:19), he indicates what Jesus says in 12:45: “whoever sees/theōreō/θεωρέω me sees/theōreō/θεωρέω Him who sent me.”  In contrast to his disciples, Jesus says in 14:17 that the world cannot receive the Spirit of Truth because it neither sees/theōreō/θεωρέω him nor knows Him.  In 16:10, 16, and 19, Jesus tells his disciples that, when he goes to the Father, they will see/theōreō/θεωρέω (interchangeably phrased: see/horaō/ὁράω) him no longer, but then in a little while, they will see/theōreō/θεωρέω him again.  Perhaps, Jesus is clarifying this “in a little while” reference in 17:24 when Jesus prays to his Father that his disciples might be where he is, to see/theōreō/θεωρέω his glory, just as John 1:14 says we saw/theaomai/θεάομαι his glory—as of the only begotten of the Father.


In other uses of to “see”/theaomai/θεάομαι, John 1:32 states that John the Baptist saw/theaomai/θεάομαι the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove on Jesus.  In John 4:35, Jesus calls upon his disciples to see/theaomai/θεάομαι that the fields are white unto harvest, as the Samaritans were coming out to him.  In John 11:45 many Jews who had seen/theaomai/θεάομαι him resurrect Lazarus believed in him.  This word for seeing also implies great depth of understanding, and ingesting and assimilating.


It is not enough to have great understanding of Jesus; eating his flesh involves bearing “witness” to what one has seen.  In John 1:34, the word “to see”/horaō/ὁράω‎ is connected with bearing “witness.”  John the Baptist says that he has seen/horaō/ὁράω‎ and borne witness that Jesus is the Son of God.  In 1:50-51, Jesus tells Nathanael that he will see to see/horaō/ὁράω‎ greater things; he will see/horaō/ὁράω‎ angels ascending and descending on Jesus.  In John 3:11, Jesus connects his own “witness” with what he has seen/horaō/ὁράω‎ with God above.  In the primary passage under consideration in this post (in 6:46), Jesus says he is the only one who has seen/horaō/ὁράω‎ the Father.  In 8:38, those things he has seen/horaō/ὁράω with his Father are what he speaks about.  In 11:40, before he raises Lazarus, he tells Lazarus’s sister Martha that, if she believes, she will see/horaō/ὁράω‎ the glory/δόξα/doxa of God.‎  In John 14:9, Jesus tells Philip that whoever has seen/horaō/ὁράω him has seen/horaō/ὁράω the Father.  In 19:35, John summarizes why he has written his gospel: “He who saw/horaō/ὁράω it [i.e., John] has borne witness . . . that you also may believe.”


The three words for seeing, as John uses them, are virtual synonyms.  As noted, it is necessary, but not enough, for his disciples to “see” the things that Jesus did in the flesh.  As I wrote in the previous post, Odeberg connects the testimony/martyria/μαρτυρία of Jesus with the believer’s testimony.  

As Odeberg notes in his comments on Lazarus’s resurrection (pp. 120-121), those who are eye witnesses of the resurrection supply testimony/martyria/μαρτυρία concerning the Divine power of Jesus, emanating from a personal experience of that power.”  His disciples could not have supplied “eye witness” testimony, if they had not “seen” Jesus, in the flesh, doing his works. As they “see” Jesus’ mighty works and ingest and assimilate the truth about him and his glory as a result, they engage in the process (entelechy/ἐντέλεχεια) of eating his flesh (sarx/σὰρξ) and drinking his blood.  Jesus’ words may be spirit, but what humans actually “saw” him do was in his flesh (sarx/σὰρξ).  One cannot “see” spirit, but one can “see” flesh.  John 3:8 points out that, like the wind, one cannot “see” spirit, even though it is active around one.  Jesus’ flesh—the hulē/ὕλη—is supremely important in order for his disciples to “see,” ingest, and assimilate.  Furthermore, Jesus’ spirit was not tempted; his flesh was tempted, as when he hungered after fasting in the desert, but he did not sin.  His spirit did not die; his flesh died on Calvary.  Were it not for the death of his flesh, there would be no forgiveness of sin—no sacrifice.  When priests offered a sin offering for the people, they would eat of the flesh (Leviticus 10:12-15).  When Israelites offered an acceptable sacrifice of thanksgiving, they themselves ate all of it on the same day (Leviticus 22:30).  John is unique among the gospel writers in asserting that Jesus was crucified on the very day that the Passover lamb was slain.  John the Baptist asserts:  Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the world’s sin (John 1:29).  Once Jesus died on the cross, his body was placed in a tomb for three days, then resurrected and ascended.  No one ever literally ate his flesh, but those who saw his flesh, believed in him, and witnessed to his deeds in the flesh ingested and assimilated his flesh and blood into their own lives.  His flesh was of the utmost importance!

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