by miriam berg
Chapter II

(John 2:1-11)
The first part of the second chapter of the gospel of John reports Jesus as performing magic, transforming water into wine, and as doing it voluntarily, without being asked. Now the Synoptics do not report this event, nor do they report any other magic tricks; the loaves and fishes, walking on the water, and calming the sea are not the same kind of magical transformation as changing water into wine. And the Synoptics declare repeatedly that Jesus healed people only when asked, telling them to tell no one, and declaring that it was their faith which healed them and that he would perform no sign. Thus this tale is not confirmed by the other three gospels but is actually inconsistent with them. And whether this story is completely made up, or whether it has an allegorical (i.e. not real) meaning, what is its moral teaching? What part does it play in the coming of the kingdom of God, or in the system of Jesus' thought as reported in Matthew's Sermon on the Mount, or the two Great Commandments taken from the books of Moses? Even if Jesus or anyone else could turn water into wine, what would that teach us about righteousness and moral behavior?

This story as reported by John also depicts Jesus as being sarcastic with his mother, saying, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" Now it is true that Matthew, Mark, and Luke also report an event where Jesus refuses to pay any special attention to his mother, when he says, Behold, my mother and brethren are those which hear the word of God, and do it (Luke 8:21); and that on other occasions he disparages relations with parents in favor of the kingdom of God (Matt. 10:37; Luke 14:26). But on these occasions he definitely does not relate it to himself, as he does here in John, saying, Mine hour is not yet come. So, apart from the difference in style as reported between John and the Synoptics, is it more likely that Jesus would have spoken the words reported in John, or those in the Synoptics?

(John 2:12-25)
John next reports that Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the passover, and drove the money-changers from the temple. This story is also told in the Synoptics, but near the end of Jesus' career, rather than at the beginning. Whom shall we believe? But we still have no words from Jesus regarding himself, only the words of the narrator; and the fact that the Synoptics report the quotations from Isaiah and Jeremiah accurately ("My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations (Isa. 56:7); but ye make it a den of robbers (Jer.7:1l), whereas John combines them and softens them and makes Jesus claim God as his personal father which is not part of the authentic quotations, raises doubts about John's ability to report accurately without editorializing and theologizing over Jesus. It does not make sense for Matthew, Mark, and Luke all to have perverted the statement as reported in John ("Make not my father's house a den of merchandise") into the sterner, less personal, but accurately quoted verses in the Synoptics; the direction of literary evolution is quite clearly the opposite.

(John 2:23-25)
In the last three verses of this chapter we again find> Jesus portrayed as being haughty and disdainful of people around him ("Jesus did not trust himself to them; because he himself knew what was in man"). Now the Synoptics report on a few occasions that Jesus "knew their thoughts" but never that he said that he "knew all things that would happen to him" as is reported in John; and while Matthew, Mark, and Luke report that Jesus was harsh in his judgments of the Pharisees, this is counterbalanced by his exhortation to "Judge not, that ye be not judged" and to his followers to judge for themselves what was right (Luke 12:57) and not to simply call on his name but to do the will of God (Luke 6:46; Matt. 7:21). Are we to believe the image of the self-proclaimed Messiah told of by John or the compassionate and humble but forthright ethical and moral teacher told of by Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

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