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THE BELOVED DISCIPLE AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE INEFFABLE MYSTERY: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ST.

JOHN AND HIS GOSPEL IN THE ANCIENT CHURCH TRADITION
Marco De Petrillo
To the end of showing the bias for what it is, i.e. insupportable in itself, I will suggest in this essay that the traditional attribution of the ‗Fourth Gospel‘ to St. John, the Beloved Disciple of the Lord, is not without reason. A related argument will ensue, that the distinguished and venerable moniker ‗the Theologian‘ is due to the Evangelist because the doctrine of which he is the exemplar unhesitatingly propounds the fullness of the reality of Jesus Christ, which is the eternal and uncreated Evangelium. This study will comprise the following development: using the New Testament and early patristic sources, I will investigate the characteristics of the person of St. John and of the Gospel attributed to him. Then, I will perform a poignant analysis of the patristic reception of this Apostle and his Gospel, with the ecclesial (exoteric) and mystical (esoteric) ramifications thereof. I will complete the development of the composition of this essay with an introductory exposition of St. John‘s profound, though provocative, theology and metaphysic. Thus, I hope to have demonstrated, by the end of this essay, the appreciable significance of the Fourth Gospel and its author within the Christian Sacred Tradition. St. John and His Gospel: Scripture What is apparent from the New Testament regarding the first appearance of our John—his first encounter with Jesus—is that he, together with his 6

Introduction The advent of modernism, i.e. the socalled ‗Enlightenment‘, inheriting characteristic tendencies from the Renaissance, brought in its wake an uncompromising scepticism and revisionist attitude to all that had previously been conceived as being part of a great Sacred Tradition. This Tradition, manifesting in the Western and Eastern parts of Europe as well as elsewhere in the world, is Christianity.1 Though this Sacred Inheritance survives in a traditional manner to our own day, some of what is called ‗Christian‘ suffers, in different and subtle ways, from a post‗Enlightenment‘ deleterious influence. Such is the bias against Holy Tradition in all its manifestations—Holy Writ being among the manifestations of the Tradition.2
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For an insightful presentation and defence of the Sacred Tradition of the Church, the reader is referred to: Philip Sherrard, Christianity: Lineaments of a Sacred Tradition (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1998). 2 That Sacred Scripture is a dimension of Holy Tradition is not a denial of its intrinsic value and immense importance, though its place as the ‘first principle’, or the condition sine qua non, of Christianity is here denied. See: Timothy Ware, “Holy Tradition: The Source of the Orthodox Faith,” in The Orthodox Church (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), 195-207. In tandem with this note, and from the outset, I wish to make evident to the reader that my perspective, in this essay, will be, to the best of my knowledge, thoroughly informed by the Orthodox Tradition.

De Petrillo: The Beloved Disciple

brother James and their father Zebedee, was a fisherman by trade. It is at their initial meeting along the coast of the Sea of Galilee that Jesus called the two brothers who, thenceforward, ―followed him‖.3 Immediately, then, Jesus taught his disciples. His doctrine caused amazement in them, ―for he was teaching them as one with power, and not as the scribes‖.4 At one point, John, together with his brother James, are given a surname by their Teacher, the ―sons of thunder‖,5 an appellation that has implications for their character traits. This event seems to be motivated by a similar intention in Jesus as in his naming Simon ‗Peter‘, i.e. for Jesus merely ‗looked upon him‘ and, as it were, drew the name ‗Peter‘ out from him to foreshadow Simon‘s future ‗petrine‘ manifestation.6 Likewise, the following episodes seem to befit the character of a ‗son of thunder‘: John scolded an exorcist who, using Jesus‘ name, cast out devils, though he was not following Jesus‘ disciples7; learning of the shame brought upon his Teacher, John, with his brother, exclaimed to Him: ―Lord! Wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven to consume them?‖8; the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus, asking Him to grant them each a place, one on His right and one on His left, in His glory.9 From these accounts, we can discern the contours of a ‗fiery‘ character: zealous, enthusiastic and daring, though intolerant, exclusivist, and self-righteous. With the aid of his Master‘s compassionate rebukes,
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however, John quickly learned—because his ‗fire‘ was for the sake of God—to curb his passions, becoming the man known to tradition as the Apostle of Love.10 The Gospel of Mark, along with the greater Synoptic tradition, lays especial stress on the mysteriousness of Jesus‘ identity, and seeks to veil it in the proclamation of the Kingdom, whereas the Fourth Gospel seeks to lead people to a knowledge of Jesus Himself.11 Thus, we find Jesus desirous of concealing His identity, as when He silenced an unclean spirit who said to him, ―I know who thou art, the Holy One of God‖, as well as when the Teacher ―commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ‖.12 Nevertheless, He possessed disciples to whom He gave His Teaching. He also had a group of elect disciples to whom He revealed directly His deeper mysteries: Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John.13 Other texts in the New Testament point John out for distinction, especially his close companionship with Peter,14 and Paul‘s remark that he, along with James and Peter, ―seemed to be pillars‖ of the Church.15 In the Fourth Gospel, John is never explicitly men10

Matthew 4:21-22; and Mark 1:19-20. Mark 1:21-22. 5 “He named them Boanerges, which is, the sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). 6 John 1:42; Matthew 16:13-20; and Mark 3:16. 7 Mark 9:37-38; and Luke 9:49-50. 8 Luke 9:51-56. 9 Mark 10: 35-40; and Luke 10:35-40.

This name is given to him especially on account of the First Epistle attributed to him. 11 Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 4:17; and John’s Prologue, 8:12, and 17:3. 12 Mark 1:23-25; 3:11-12; and Matthew 16:20. 13 Such events were the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37 and Luke 8:51), Jesus’ Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2; Mark 9:1; and Luke 9:28-29), and Jesus’ Passion in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-38), events where only these three disciples were admitted. 14 Such as making preparations for the Paschal Meal (Luke 22:8), healing a lame man (Acts 3:1), preaching (Acts 4:13), and catechising converts (Acts 8:14). 15 Galatians 2:9.

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was a “hearer of John” (Against Heresies 5.). 199. did himself publish a Gospel‖. Maier (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications. and John. before long. “Against Heresies. 13:34. 99-100. Nevertheless. who according to St. Church History. 23 It has been well argued that there is a high probability that Papias. 1981). He writes: “Peter. aware that all the external details had been recorded in the Gospels. Irenaeus. John. without a sufficient reason. who also had leaned upon His breast.” Concordia Journal 33 (2007): 26. What is more astounding is the use. in: Irenaeus. Among them are Papias. The “other disciple” (1:35 -40 and 18:15-16) may also be a reference to this same personage. St. Irenaeus also says that John wrote his Gospel to refute Cerinthus. plainly. The Church History. Eusebius elsewhere provides parallel information concerning the circumstances of the composition of St. then. 53. John within the elite group of Christ’s disciples. ed. the Lord imparted the higher knowledge [gnosis] to James the Just.). 5 and 36. tells how. The other texts regarding this mysterious figure are John 13:23.11. Irenaeus of Lyons 16 (c. John’s Gospel: his disciples’ beseeching him to write. of the modern critical methods in the toilsome study of this Gospel. 325. 19:26. though he was aware that certain things about the Lord remained to be said (Eusebius. Because of this seeming oddity. [had been] favoured by the Saviour” (Eusebius. John and His Gospel: Tradition The overwhelming.19 which completely undermines this proclamation of old. Paul L. St. They gave it to the other apostles” (Ibid. to say the least. as ‘anonymity’.20 The former wrote. that ―John. the earliest and greatest authorities from among the Holy Fathers who made direct references to the author of the Fourth Gospel are Sts. and Apostolicity as a Part of the Johannine Question: The Role of Papias in the Search for the Authoritative Author of the Gospel of John. a heretic contemporaneous with him (Against Heresies 3.).1.22 Besides these. was urged by his disciples and divinely moved by the Spirit to compose a spiritual Gospel‖. John.). that Jesus loved many individuals.1. we find accounts from the Holy Fathers that lead to the same conclusion. the emphasis put upon ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ is frivolous.D. “Authority. James.202) and Clement of Alexandria (c. “Against Heresies. 17 I will tackle the issue of John’s absence from the Fourth Gospel. and Mark 10:21. attributed the Fourth Gospel to the 8 . 22 Eusebius. the disciple of the Lord. These texts. based on the similarity of the wording in 20:2.21 The latter.115-c. among others. and 21:7. 20:2-7. giving a more detailed account. 19 Randar Tasmuth. 1 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A. by many scholars. and Peter. i. trans. unanimity of the testimonies from the first three centuries concerning the authorship of the Fourth Gospel is truly astonishing. the identification of the Beloved Disciple. 14:21. especially if one disregarded certain issues that arise from historicalcritical enquiries. in: Irenaeus.1. ―the disciple whom Jesus loved‖.e. Church History. and between the Beloved Disciple and Peter in the Fourth Gospel. in: Irenaeus.” 563.” in vol. 18 John 11:3. St.150-c. He also distinguishes these three as having received gnosis directly from the risen Lord: “After the resurrection. Note also that there is a similarity of relationship posited between John and Peter in the New Testament. ―last of all.KannenBright: Concordia University Undergraduate Journal of Theological Studies tioned.” 426.16 with John apparently solves the ‗mystery‘.).215). 414. 2007). “Against Heresies. Against Heresies 3. total.23 20 John 21:20.4..33. therefore. 21 Irenaeus. Clement puts St.17 Let it merely be said. is thus seemingly reserved for a distinguished relationship with Jesus. Authorship. his knowledge of the three other Gospels and his approval of them.. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company.18 The name ‗Beloved Disciple‘. show that.

29 What is more. 27 “John the Evangelist thus says: ‘In the beginning was the Word.265) who wrote concerning John that he was ―the son of Zebedee..304). who wrote the Gospel according to John‖. Even a generation before Eusebius.. 5 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. who left one Gospel. the apparent anonymity. in: Origen. in: Origen. Dionysius the Great (d.). opinions are evenly divided” (Ibid. of the text can be a source of confusion. ‘Adamantius’.103-165).e. 342. Commentary on John 6. 99. 207. Justin Martyr (c. 179. 7 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Church History. The same text is found in: Dionysius. 9 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.2. in Asia. Allan Menzies (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers. Commentary on John 5. 28. Church History.33 Yet. there is also St. See also: Eusebius. A masterful analysis of 21:2434 has determined that the statement of this verse. and Apostolicity. we have the report that a given heretic. wrote his Gospel” (Hippolytus. presumably the author himself.). again.24 Polycrates of Ephesus (c.” 40-1. As to the Revelation. 6 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. “Dionysius the Great.). in addition to the Gospel. that the work as a whole ends at 32 Origen. 83. 255. Origen (c. ed. “On the Twelve Apostles. though confessing that he could make so many that the world would not contain them?‖32 John‘s Gospel was among the Evangelist‘s ―undisputed writings‖ that were ―read by all the churches under heaven‖.196).” in vol. 33 Eusebius. ends at chapter 20. Apostle John. Justin used the term ‘gospel’ “in parallel with the designation ‘reminiscences of the apostles’” (Ibid.” in vol. the message he wishes to inculcate. is not the end of the totality of the work. 9 . Church History. Insight is drawn from Tertullian (c. that ―this is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things and hath written these things‖.De Petrillo: The Beloved Disciple St. Church History. Eusebius adds: “Of John’s writings.. that the Evangelist‘s eyewitness testimony. Heracleon. interpreted the ‗speaker‘ in a given passage of the Gospel as ―the disciple‖.3.). but rather. 26 “John.236).). is a reference to the author and writer of the entire text of the Gospel— including the final chapter. Commentary on John 5. that ‗indestructible‘31 Alexandrian theologian. 243. whom he regarded as the Beloved Disciple (Tasmuth.27 From the Alexandrian tradition..220). and the strange ending. 29 Ibid.). John referred to himself as the ‗Beloved Disciple‘. the Gospels are associated with the Apostles (Ibid.25 Hippolytus of Rome (c.26 and Victorinus of Pettau (d.28 This last Father also mentioned that.30 Finally. who leaned on the Lord’s breast” (Eusebius.. Origen had claimed that the only Johannine texts that were not universally deemed genuine were the second and third letters (Origen.c.).).160-c. proclaimed: ―What are we to say of him who leaned on Jesus‘ breast.’” (Victorinus. in his Gospel. 28 Eusebius.170-c. who labelled 20:31 as the clausula evangelii. He does not mean. Thus. 34 Howard M. in other words. 31 This is from his well-known nickname.. 100.... “Commentary. “Commentary on the Gospel of John. 1994).” Journal of Theological Studies 50 (1999): 1-34. 25 “John. namely. the lawyer-theologian from Carthage. ―the archival and epistolary function of chapter 21—i. in: Origen. Jackson. “Ancient Self-Referential Conventions and their Implications for the Authorship and Integrity of the Gospel of John.” in vol. 350. What this signifies. Authorship. 30 Origen. “Commentary.” 346.185-254).. “Authority. “Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John.D. however. the first of his epistles has been accepted as authentic both in past and present. John.” in vol. 325.” 346-7.3. 24 St. 41. but the other two are disputed.130-c.

a prominent disciple of the Lord. Here is a useful glimpse at the intention underlying much of the tradition of anonymity: The being that has attained a supraindividual state is. aspects. 37 Note that only St. is closely bound up with this all-absorbing role of Christ as the Incarnate Word.‖43 Even before the 39 From this description. John. Mary is referred to as “the mother of Jesus” (for example: John 2:1 and 19:25). telling deductions can be wrought: St. 114. Lord Northbourne (Hillsdale: Sophia Perennis. thus it is truly ‗anonymous‘. by that fact alone. 5. whose ‗identity‘ is projected into the whole of John‘s prior 35 36 Ibid.. 43 Tasmuth. 10 . “Authority.. The exoteric aspect is generally found through ‗space‘ and ‗time‘. which is a mystery. indicates an essential relationship with the Lord. 2004).. though interrelated. the two realms remain distinct with regard to their possibilities. and the post-paschal realization causes to emerge the remembrance of all things past in the light of it: all things are thenceforward seen in the light of Christ. dimensions: the ecclesial or exoteric.” 26. 41 The Nicene Creed is what I am referring to.).38 Thus. to the end ―that God may be all in all‖.36 life. I will merely indicate here that the anonymity of these two persons is interrelated and that it possibly finds its fulfillment at the ‘adoption scene’ in 19:26 -27. 38 This is what St. because in it the ‗ego‘ has effaced itself and disappeared completely before the ‗Self‘. This distinction is somewhat mitigated because Christianity is an ‗exo-esoterism‘. now not I: but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20).35 The pseudepigraphical view of the Fourth Gospel in general thus has its difficulties. This is St. 42 See. only those concerning the Beloved Disciple. though the remark is applicable to all the traditional creeds. serious implications. 119. 40 Marco Pallis. John and the Lord’s mother are ‘anonymous’ in this Gospel. remains ‗invisible‘ in the Gospel which he authored37 in order that the anonymity of his individuality may appear ‗replaced‘ by the selfsubsisting and eternal reality. Paul’s discourse on the Resurre ction: 1 Corinthians 15:12-58. The full significance of the double anonymity surpasses the scope of this essay. There are. though the Creed41 seeks to point to the Christic reality. René Guénon.KannenBright: Concordia University Undergraduate Journal of Theological Studies chapter 20‖. though I will limit myself to develop.39 The Church and Ecclesial Continuity Holy Tradition possesses two distinct. and the mystical or esoteric. Thus. and “For you are dead: and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). and so does the bland notion of the utter ‗mysteriousness‘ of the personage called the Beloved Disciple. Authorship. and Apostolicity. for example. “The Veil of the Temple: A Study of Christian Initiation. and: “The particularity of the Christian tradition. namely its eso-exoteric structure.). that is to say it is beyond the determinations of ‗name and form‘ that constitute the essence and the substance of its individuality as such. Paul indicates in these texts: “I live. the ‗Beloved Disciple‘. obviously.42 the Fathers who composed it ―[aspired] to reach the very early days of Christianity via the apostles and to furnish the creed with the authority of the first witnesses. later in the essay. in whom all essential functions are synthesized without distinction of levels” (Ibid. 63.” Sophia: The Journal of Traditional Studies 5 (1999): 113-45. The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times.40 Nonetheless. Ephesians 3:4. trans. For instance: “Christianity’s ‘structure’ as such involves a ‘sliding scale of esoterism’ in the sense that those called to follow this path can live on whatever level or depth that grace and ability allows for” (Ibid. More light will be shed on this in the third part of the essay. released from all the limiting conditions of individuality.

” in vol. “The Authority of Scripture and Apostolic Doctrine in Ignatius of Antioch. and uninterrupted continuity of the apostolic Church. 108-110.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28 (1985): 71-9. a disciple of St. Clement of Rome (c. 8. Such are the cases of St. 1 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. and he that receiveth me receiveth 44 Daniel L. a man in all respects of an apostolic character.De Petrillo: The Beloved Disciple momentous fourth century. too. Polycarp before his accuser. others have also boasted such orthodoxy. they herald and defend the unity of ―apostolic orthodoxy‖ against heresies that are schisms and deviations from it.). 1 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers.. for the apostolic tradi47 48 Matthew 10:40. John. 41... “The Authority of Scripture. “Martyrdom of Ignatius. the disciple of John the apostle. living. Richardson. 1996). the ‗apostolic Fathers‘—Sts. ‘Swear. after lauding many ―great luminaries [that] sleep in Asia‖. See also: Hoffman. 49 Eusebius. Church History. says. and offer it at length: “The written form of the apostolic message was always understood by the Byzantines in the framework of ‘apostolic tradition’—the wider. who “*urged+ him.46 and of Christ‘s saying that ―he that receiveth you [i..‖52 The fact that these men were bishops is highly relevant. The ‘other doctrines’ which Basil mentions are.98/117). but. Paul exhorting the ‗brethren‘ at Thessalonica to ―stand fast and hold the traditions. “Martyrdom of Polycarp. Polycrates. Church History. live according to the tradition of my relatives.48 testifies to a large ‗network‘ of apostolic communities.96). 46 2 Thessalonians 2:14. ―I. Polycarp declared. 87-120. 1979). 73). authentic apostolicity was a principle of the soundness of tradition. 51 Ibid. whether by word or by [his] epistle‖. governed the Church of the Antiochians with great care” (The Martyrdom of Ignatius 1. 177. which [they] have learned.47 In a like manner. Ignatius of Antioch (c.. such as Polycrates. received from oral teaching. reproach Christ’. The famous sentence of Basil of Caesarea [330-379] on Scripture and Tradition can be considered to reflect the consensus of later Byzantine theologians: ‘We do not content ourselves with what was reported in Acts and in the Epistles.). Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (New York: Fordham University Press. and I will set thee at liberty. his apostles] receiveth me. I found this exemplary text which goes a long way to secure the view I am exploring.44 For them. Ignatius. the liturgical and sacramental traditions which. St... and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?’” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp 9. These last words are reminiscent of those of St. together with the more conceptual consensus found in the continuity of Greek patristic theology. him that sent me‖. Church History. “Ignatius.. 11 . saying.. the least of all of you.51 though they are by no means alone in such an endeavour.50 Together. both before and after reading them.49 reminiscent of St. 50 Eusebius. 52 Eusebius.” in vol. See also Ignatius’ seven epistles: Cyril C. [M]y brothers. in: Anonymous. 128-35.45 This concern they inherited from the apostles themselves. and carrying much weight in the mystery [of the faith+’.). 179. essentially.e.” 72. Hoffman. and in the Gospels. trans. Paul‘s ‗adventures‘ and the history portrayed in the ‗Acts of the Apostles‘. 45 “Their first norm is the authority of the apostolic testimony enshrined in the epistles and the gospels to which they so constantly refer” (Ibid. [I have] lived sixty-five years in the Lord and conferred with brethren from all parts of the world and have studied all of Holy Scripture. Early Christian Fathers (New York: Touchstone. St. 111. in: Anonymous. we add other doctrines. always served in Byzantium as a living framework for the understanding of Scripture” (John Meyendorff. who. ‘Eighty and six years have I served Him. Polycarp of Smyrna (69155)—had the same concern. Polycarp presents an analogous case. 129.35/50c.

1. 61 Ibid. Against Heresies 3.. the true. 15:22-23. 2:15. ―[preserving] the tradition of the blessed doctrine derived directly from the holy apostles. Texts such as the following confirm the early origin of this notion: Acts 1:20. I found rest.). 56 Irenaeus. had succeeded Pothinus in Lyons in 177. in: Irenaeus.56 Likewise. When I came upon the last (he was the first in power).4. he is an important witness and preserver of the testimony of the two generations preceding him because of his staunch defence and explication of the apostolic tradition. Peter. and the other a Hebrew in Palestine. 2 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A..54 Thus. trans.58 That other authority. Clement also opined that the Tradition of the Church was prior to the ‘traditions’ of the heresies (Ibid. which we have seen with our eyes. having tracked him out concealed in Egypt. Polycarp knew ―John and others who had seen the Lord‖. an Ionic. which he is in fact”.60 who.KannenBright: Concordia University Undergraduate Journal of Theological Studies tion ―is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches‖. the other in Magna Graecia: the first of these from Coele-Syria. in: Clement. 2005). St. Church History. 554. we find in these two representatives of the early Church—Sts. He writes.” 416). 177. the sons receiving it from the fathers (but few were like the fathers). who traveled to Smyrna and to Rome. He.). 59 Eric Osborn.” 563..). truly an image and outline of those vigorous and animated discourses which I was privileged to hear. Polycarp was made bishop of Smyrna by none other than 12 . Irenaeus.53 St. 57 Eusebius. in: Irenaeus. 325. where we find the Christians who were going to be martyred in Gaul writing to the Bishop of Rome as follows: “Once more and always. thus establishing himself as a link in this important apostolic succession. 172. Clement of Alexandria. John. John Behr (Crestwood: St. Against Heresies 3. Clement of Alexandria (New York: Cambridge University Press.. 1994).. and of blessed and truly remarkable men. Titus 1:5. “Against Heresies. which we have looked upon and our hands have handled.. “Against Heresies. Father Eleutherus. traveled widely—―from Italy to Egypt‖59— forming links with many teachers. 1997).” 415.2. faith procures this for us.57 i. engendered in the souls of his hearers a deathless element of knowledge” (Clement. as the elders. St.61 Thus. On his own acclaim prior to becoming the ‘Shepherd’ of Lyons. 60 “Now this work of mine in writing is not artfully constructed for display. have handed down to us” (Ibid. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. we would first have recommended him as a presbyter of the church. 1. the Sicilian bee. The one was born in the land of Assyria. Of these the one. On his succession to Pothinus. 55 See this work of his: Irenaeus. 301.” in vol.. That which we have seen and have heard. See: 1 John 1:1-3 (“That which was from the beginning. and 1 Peter 5:1.e.2.D. “Against Heresies.). Against Heresies 5.33. greetings in God. as a remedy against forgetfulness. ―[he] had heard [many 53 things] directly from eyewitnesses of the Word of life‖. Irenaeus St. 160. St. Irenaeus. 14:22.4. 2. 58 Ibid.3. 162. Irenaeus of Lyons (New York: Cambridge University Press. but my memoranda are stored up against old age. the disciples of the apostles. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers. see: Ibid.”). see: Eusebius.. in: Irenaeus. ed. Church History. 25. which we have heard. 54 Eric Osborn. John himself (Irenaeus. On the Apostolic Preaching. The Church in Lyons had strong ties with the Churches of Rome and of Asia Minor (Ibid. James. came by God‘s will to us also to deposit those ancestral and apostolic seeds‖. We have entrusted this letter to our brother and companion Irenaeus to bring to you. and Paul. for example: “So. “The Stromata.55 He states that Papias was ―the hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp‖. For if we had thought that rank could confer righteousness on anyone. 2001). The Stromata 1. St. the second from Egypt. we declare unto you. We beg you to hold him in high regard as one zealous for the covenant of Christ. 42. gathering the spoil of the flowers of the prophetic and apostolic meadow. in Greece. and others in the East. of the word of life.

and. That St.De Petrillo: The Beloved Disciple and Clement—a very close affinity62: Irenaeus‘ theology ―blends Paul and John in a way which is beyond prooftexts and based on a profound understanding‖. ‘exo-esoteric’. to say the least. It is no wonder.63 and Clement. as the name itself and the reason of the things declare. and: Wayne A. “The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism. St. by all. properly speaking. though this is a generally accepted view among Orthodox Christians. “A Commonitory. indicates. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace [Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers. 65 Ibid. 68 As we have seen.” Journal of Biblical Literature 91 (1972): 44-72.6. we can clearly trace a particular evangelical and ecclesial dispensation. in the Catholic Church itself. For that is truly and in the strictest sense ‘Catholic’. Second Series. and that these men clearly exhibit the catholic teaching. 132. and upon 68 Osborn.445): “Moreover. John Chrysostom and Augustine present the ecclesial 62 63 theory that they do.). always. disagree). it originates in Christ‘s very words to St. comprehends all universality” (A Commonitory 2. The event of Christ’s naming Simon ‘Peter’ can adequately be seen as occurring before the latter’s confession: “Thou art Christ. Concerning St Augustine. John in Tradition: Ecclesial and Mystical Dimensions The aforesaid is ground for proceeding to St. at times emphasizing one over the other. Irenaeus of Lyons. each is merely (though really) a typology of levels of the ‘life of Christ’ and a Christian’s reception and integration of it. John themselves) reveals both aspects of the Church. that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere.” in vol.70 As to the ‗Petrine‘ aspect of the Church. Paul (without neglecting other examples including the Synoptics and the Gospel of St. 69 We are here referring to apostolic catholicity. Meeks. Clement of Alexandria. from the New Testament to the later Holy Fathers. in general. John‘s ecclesial and mystical aspects. as a ‗pillar‘ of the Church.67 ‗deposit of the faith‘ concerning Jesus Christ and salvation. 70 Let it be said that the ‘Petrine’ (or ‘New Testament’) heritage as opposed to that which is ‘Johannine’ is not an absolute rule. in: Vincent of Lérins. Our reference is St. Osborn.c. the Petrine tradition is. then. St. 1994]. the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). it will be seen that his view on certain issues may be different from the tradition that has followed in his stead. 11 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: A Select Library of the Christian Church. ed. 292. John Chrysostom and Byzantine theology are used interchangeably. the distinctly Johannine heritage is the truly ‗inward‘ realization of the catholic doctrine. This aspect of the Johannine heritage flatly contradicts the speculations of many modern scholars regarding a ‗Johannine school‘66 distinct from the catholic or ‗Petrine‘ Church. 1979). a source for the apostolic distinction and succession of such men as Ignatius and Polycarp. like his teachers. but. Peter—as if in fulfillment of Christ‘s previously naming Simon ‗Peter‘71—that ―thou art Peter. though in different intellectual environments65——a fact that presupposes certain ecclesial relationships. and generally exoteric. 13 . St. 292.64 Both Irenaeus and Clement assumed and benefited from an apostolic heritage—they think the same gospel.69 On the other hand. Brown. as the nuanced characterisation of Christianity as ‘exo esoteric’ shows. John is. Thus. instructed his students to become ―wise in the mysteries of Christ‖. for instance: Raymond E. Vincent of Lérins (d. the catholic Church. though he is often portrayed as the Father of Catholic theology (I do not. 71 John 1:42. and as we shall see further. 172. not exactly to the establishment of the Catholic Church. In the first place. 64 Osborn. 1. The Community of the Beloved Disciple (New York: Paulist Press. which. that Sts. of course. a truly sound and authentic. Clement of Alexandria. all possible care must be taken. For the purposes of this essay. 67 I mean here.. 66 See. thus.

And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. 74 Meyendorff. within the communities of which they are presidents. for he represents ―the universal Church‖ because of his primacy among the apostles. Cyprian of Carthage. to those who occupy in each local church the very throne of Christ in apostolic succession. and that it is upon this foundation that Peter himself built.78 St. St. but a particular responsibility belongs. John was not beloved by Christ on account of his chastity (i. soteriological. there is but one. and has been established as the rock of the Church and is proclaimed by the Truth to be the key bearer of the Kingdom of Heaven‖.. Peter is the representative of the apostolic assembly and coryphaeus.76 Thus. but on some other quality. Byzantine Theology. yet are easily accessible to the faithful” (Ibid. Peter in Byzantine Theology.).e. “St. i. contrary to the general opinion of the Orthodox. And Jesus answering said to him: Blessed art thou. Peter was called petra on account of his confession. taught that the ‗see of Peter‘ belongs to each bishop in every local church. in fact. it shall be loosed also in heaven” (Matthew 16:15 19). 77 Ibid.e. as will be seen (Augustine.e. See also: Meyendorff.KannenBright: Concordia University Undergraduate Journal of Theological Studies this rock I will build my church‖. the Son of the living God. I only do not contend to know everything either Augustine or the Byzantines thought and said on the subject.. than his Eastern confrères: drawing upon Matthew 7:24-27 and 1 Corinthians 10:4. the third century Latin Father.77 Though Augustine agrees that St. and the rain fell..72 Byzantine theology presents the view that St. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth. he goes apparently deeper. as well as ecclesial. each one for his part.75 In St. also the rock of the Church and is also given the ‗keys of Heaven‘. i.).. 97. the ‗apostolic succession‘ which was discussed. There is no plurality of episcopal sees. and the winds blew.74 Regarding the Church 72 ‗institution‘.. Simon Bar Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee. 98). and all the bishops. however. 14. he says that Peter‘s confession (the ‗rock‘) is Christ himself. each for him or herself.” in The Primacy of Peter (London: The Faith Press.. the 14 . 97-8. and they beat The full context of Christ’s consecration of Peter is as follows: “Jesus said to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter: and upon this rock I will build my church. and doth them. which. it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth. 450.” 28-9. 76 This is true at least for what I am considering here. Byzantine Theology.73 Yet. are seated. is not without value. “St. shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock. 78 Ibid. St. the ‗keys‘ given to him is symbolic for the veracity of his confession! From this nuanced view.” in vol. seem to say. Matthew 7:24-27: “Everyone therefore that heareth these my words. Augustine does. ―the chief of the apostolic choir. 1963). so that the gates of the Kingdom of heaven remain closed for the heretic. at least explicitly. we find a seamless agreement with the Greek (Byzantine) tradition concerning ecclesiology. and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. it follows that every believer who confesses like Peter is. ―the power of binding and loosing sins‖. A Twelfth century homily has it that “the Lord gives the keys to Peter and to all those who resemble him. on this very chair” (Meyendorff. Christ‘s words are. his virginity). “Homilies on the Gospel of John. Augustine. and the floods came. Augustine chair of Peter.. according the Byzantines. but my Father who is in heaven. he says that the external functions of all the Church. that pillar of Latin theology.. Peter in Byzantine Theology. that St. thus. therefore. 73 Meyendorff. 75 Ibid. 7 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Moreover. “the confession is entrusted to each Christian at his baptism. 452. Ltd. to the bishops. are given by Christ through Peter.

trans. one in the temporal sojourn in a foreign land.” (John 14:6). “*It+ speaks of him whose genealogy had already been set forth.85 thus that it speaks of the eschatological import—though this import is likewise primordial—of the Christic Way. Augustine makes of the analogies of the ‗active‘ and the ‗contemplative‘ lives applies. ―which is in secret‖. members of the Fellowship of St. 86 Ibid. and great was the fall thereof. 302. nor that by St.). and the floods came. on the other hand.84 On a related note.” 452.” It is well to note that St. external. *had a+ most certain knowledge of this way”). “Homilies on the Gospel of John..). whereof the one is in faith. Origen conceived and distinguished between a ‗somatic‘. Augustine adds: “*everyone+ may drink *at the fountain of the Lord’s breast+ according to his own individual capacity” (Augustine. for it was founded on a rock. Origen of Alexandria taught that the Gospel of St.‖83 As these are stages (beyond ‗states‘) of the spiritual life conceived by Christians. Commentary on John 1.” 450. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. one in active work.. Deo volente. to ―be preserved in the immortality to come.De Petrillo: The Beloved Disciple further elaborated this typological ecclesiology—and here we begin to perceive that aspect of the Church that is distinctly ‗Johannine‘79—saying that. the other in the fatherland. 84 Revelation 19:7-9. “Homilies on the Gospel of John. and then. “The Feast of the Kingdom” is the title of the conclusion of Vladimir Lossky’s The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church . also.. What is more.” 1 Corinthians 10:4: “And all drank the same spiritual drink: (And they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them: and the rock was Christ). immortal life. and the rain fell. on the one hand. thus. neither the aspect represented by St. Origen adds: “We must. through the love of God. be Christians both somatically and spiritually.81 The use St. to the consummation of the Feast of the Kingdom. and it fell not. first. Paul also put Christ at the head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23). 236-49 (Crestwood: St.” 299. the Church lives surrounded with evil but is delivered insofar as it holds to Christ. Sergius. in: Origen. but.86 82 upon that house. if faithfully pursued. Christianity. 81 Ibid.. “Commentary. Peter.80 These two ‗lives‘ are likened to: two states of life. and 15 . the other in sight. in whose pilgrimage along the Way82 he/she is led. 1957). Christianity—concerning the evangelical mission—and a ‗spiritual‘. John. one in labour. inward. the other in the wages of contemplation. being loved by Him. that are known to the Church.. He shares in the common ‘Petrine’ faith—the doctrinal and sacramental means—yet plumbs other depths which are not accessible to all. and the winds blew.6. the other in repose. that she also possesses another. 85 Origen. and.. ‘John’ himself po ssesses the two aspects. This is what is emerging at this part of the essay.. to ―obtain deliverance from [his/her] present mortality‖. as in Acts 19:23 (“Now at that time there arose no small disturbance about the way of the Lord”) and 24:22 (“Felix.. the other in the eternity of the [heavenly] abode. but which begins to speak of him at a point before he had any genealogy” (Ibid.. “Homilies on the Gospel of John. excludes the other.” 450. 79 To be absolutely clear. Among the earliest references to ‘Christianity’ seem to be ‘the Way’. 80 Augustine. to every Christian. and they beat upon that house. ―that is not passed in the midst of evil‖. Alban and St. St. John is the ―first-fruit‖ of the Gospels and all Sacred Scripture. 83 Augustine. the Way will lead. and it fell. shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand. And every one that heareth these my words and doth them not. Christ said: “I am the Way. one in the way.

1978). Apostolic Preaching. 92 Clement. But should we find those who are perfected in the spirit. is intimately tied in with the lex arcani from where there is a call for a somatic (bodily) Gospel. The Holy Fathers in St. So is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The Transcendent Unity of Religions. (Wheaton: Quest Books. trans. as the perfecting and crown of all theology: as theology par excellence” (Lossky. 89 I am employing.). thus assuring the purity and effectiveness of the Church’s ministry in the world” (Meyendorff. the historic origins of the Church. the Church‘s mystical dimension. so we must do. these must be made to partake of that Word which. 95 In the Orthodox context. presumably. Orthodox Theology: An Introduction. Mystical Theology. in which a man says to those who are carnal that he knows nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. who was given from Him [God] at baptism and kept by the recipient living in truth and holiness and righteousness and patience‖88—is the apostolic tradition and inheritance. 175-6. trans.93 This. 93 It is a curious fact that these saints. 67. John‘s direct apostolic lineage. Ian and Ihita Kesarcodi-Watson (Crestwood: St. thus constitute only one aspect—the external and ecclesial—of what we may call a ‗Johannine school‘ proper.KannenBright: Concordia University Undergraduate Journal of Theological Studies Though the rule of faith—which is ―handed down‖ and instructs in the right doctrinal and sacramental means of the Church. Irenaeus of Lyons. the appropriate manner of referring to so-called ‘gnostics’. this would be. and are enamoured of the heavenly wisdom. the aforementioned Ignatius and Polycarp.. and 91 Frithjof Schuon.7. after it was made flesh. 159-63. Sts. a largely monastic. having been imparted unwritten by the apostles‖.. Origen‘s ‗secret Christianity‘. by extension and considering the prior discussion.91 As St. and bear fruit in it. The Church’s various ministries. 9. with God” (Ibid... having the Holy Spirit constantly dwelling in them.87 and which ―the faithful keep. together with the two further Johannine manifestations—theologians that manifest a ‗logos‘ theology.” 494. 16 . in: Clement.92 But this esoteric tradition is not at odds with faith in Christ. and Clement and Origen of Alexandria do not figure in modern scholars’ reconstructions of a Johannine community. is the truly lifegiving ‗sap‘ of the ‗vineyard‘. “that which is hidden. the term ‘mystical’ in the Orthodox and etymological sense.. in this essay. 87 Irenaeus.). The Stromata 6. Justin the Martyr. “Mysticism is accordingly treated. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. “are meant to maintain and structure this continuity. The Spirit is essential for the authenticity of the Church’s apostolic ministry and for it to remain in tradition with Jesus and his Gospel. 9.). especially the episcopate. It would seem that avowedly ‘objective’ scholars consider Holy Tradition to be extraneous to their subjects when this is precisely what an unbiased historical investigation will perceive! 94 “The Spirit breatheth where he will and thou hearest his voice: but thou knowest not whence he cometh and whither he goeth. 88 Ibid. from merely mundane researches” (Lossky. 1993). 90 John 15:1-8. and those of the purely spiritual lineage. as well as. “Stromata.90 This. rose again to what it was in the beginning. Byzantine Theology.89 of which St. rather. 42-4. John is the type. Another manifestation of the tendency to inappropriately sever the integral nature of John‘s wisdom is messalianism.). it reveals its deeper import. from the Greek mysterion. sporadic like fire94—is a blatant refutation of the misappropriation by pseudo-gnostics95 of John‘s organic theological symbiosis of the Church‘s ecclesial and mystical dimensions. Clement has put it: ―The gnosis itself is that which has descended by transmission to a few.

97 They were condemned at various councils. he was taken up‖.. 178. A Holy Father that is sometimes characterized as a messalian. “The New Theologian was given an opportunity to raise the question of authority in the Church. 99 Ibid.De Petrillo: The Beloved Disciple essentially anti-sacramental96 and antiinstitutional. St. until the day on which. and institutions are 17 .101 In other words. 69. giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen. Evagrius of Pontus (345399) wrote. the ecclesial as well as the mystical.. ―the Kingdom to come is already realized in the sacraments.104 This definition is akin to the esoteric perspective exempliunavoidable.100 96 97 Thus. 178. “Conscious of the fact that in the Kingdom of God there are no laws other than those of the Spirit. Way. His purpose is to formulate the tension between the Kingdom and ‘this world’.e. already accessible as a true and direct experience. On the other hand.99 Thus. 74. [the Church] has also remembered that the Kingdom. is St. as we have briefly seen. the natural. It is comprised of the practical.. Symeon the New Theologian (9491022). or ‗Johannine‘. 103 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. for the saint or mystic is ―the guardian of the faith‖ and ought to be trusted ―more than any permanent institution‖. canons. noted at the start of this essay as a characteristic of the ‗Synoptic Jesus‘.).‖ though each Christian must realize. though this is.98 The main problem with this group is its perceived neglect. that ―Christianity is the doctrine of Christ our Saviour. Meyendorff. John) informs all of the Church‘s concerns. movement. 104 Evagrius. manifest and perpetuate the generally exoteric (i. 75. such as those at Side (390). as means toward a fuller realization of the Kingdom” (Ibid. 177. Luke tells us in Acts 1:1-2 that the Gospel which he composed consisted ―of all the things which Jesus began to do and to teach. 100 Ibid. 102 John 3:12. the synergy between God and man/woman—a mystery defined and exemplified by Christ—in order to live in its reality. does not deny the sacramental reality of the Church. following the mystic. and Ephesus (431). by opposing the charismatic personality of the saint to that of the institution. has not yet come in strength. though falsely-so.. and the theological‖. for him and herself. St. intended to have a pedagogical value. Sinkewicz (New York: Oxford University Press. structures.. trans. 2003)...103 The Theologian’s Esoteric Gospel The Synoptics and much of the New Testament. Byzantine Theology. Evagrius of Pontus: The Greek Ascetic Corpus. to affirm that the tension between the ‘institution’ and the ‘event’ is built into the very existence of the Church in history” (Ibid. 69. in his famous Treatise on the Practical Life. laws. of the incarnate Logos who (as it is for St. Symeon.. The reality to which this saint testified was—and is—recognized by Holy Tradition as a most valuable reminder about its own truth and worth. In the present aion. This coincides with the preaching of the Kingdom. Ibid. Robert E. 101 Ibid. 97. or outright denial.). 176. until he/she knows the ―heavenly things‖102 and receives ―meat‖ to eat. the Christian disciple and pilgrim must move into the ecclesial aspect of the Church. ―[standing] as an important witness of the inevitable tension in Christianity between all forms of ‗establishment‘ and the freedom of the Spirit‖. and remains hidden under the sacramental veils. but rather reveals that the Kingdom is an ―attainable reality‖. ecclesial) dimension of the Holy Tradition. and the catholic Church.. Constantinople (426). 98 Ibid. the apostolic tradition.

199. trans. John. 111 Ibid. I say to you. and such is the nature of theology. we can plainly detect the inspiration of his ‗type‘ in St. and Jesus Himself is Wisdom.). 18 . therefore. apostle and evangelist. What comes to mind. Esoterism as Principle and as Way. Evagrius of Pontus. the virtues readily give way to prejudices which. 1987). and maintaining apostolic and ecclesiastic orthodoxy in doctrines.): “Because the other Evangelists had dwelt most on the accounts of His coming in the flesh. knowledge of God. in: Clement. spiritually. 288. Clement of Alexandria‘s Gnostic.113 This theology. Evagrius of Pontus. according to which the theologian ought to pray truly110 in order to attain ―the true knowledge of God in contemplation‖. John is the fountainhead of mysticism in Christianity. Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works. who ―alone. I am” (John 8:58). there was fear lest some. here. future. lives most correctly in accordance with the Gos108 105 St. ―the gnosis. Jesus did say: “Amen. John. and metaphysically.. the ‗son of thunder‘. 107 Clement. to lead away from this fondness for earth those who were likely to fall into it. on the side of pure esoterism—or esoterism which is fully faithful to its nature—‗there is no right superior to that of truth‘. and to draw them up towards heaven. and past‖. 106 Origen. through excess of zeal. John. 110 Evagrius. John Chrysostom has commented concerning the disparity between the Synoptics and John as follows (“Homilies on the Gospel of St. as his Gospel is the ‗first-fruit‘ of the Gospels and all Sacred Scripture. In order.KannenBright: Concordia University Undergraduate Journal of Theological Studies fied by St. William Stoddart (Middlesex: Perennial Books Ltd. Commentary on John 1. are opposed to reality and consequently to intelligence. the following clarification is due: The difference between the exoteric and esoteric points of view appears clearly when one compares the respective moral attitudes: on the side of exoterism. then. St. and from the eternal subsistence”. for now. 109 John 3:19-21. “To John the theologian. 130. amen.7. with good reason [John] commences his narrative from above..108 It will also be appropriate to recall the earlier description of St. and “I am Alpha and Omega. trans. one who reclines on it will be endowed with theology‖.. before Abraham was made. the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). and contemplation. is the proper heritage of him who ―[represents] Christianity in its most inward aspect‖. as a Hindu maxim asserts. 280. an exile on the island of Patmos” (Dionysius. Schuon. John‘s appellation. Transcendent Unity of Religions. for. which is the knowledge and apprehension of things present. 113 Evagrius.” in vol. “Commentary. 114 Schuon. being of grovelling minds. “Stromata. St. and every good must result from the nature of things and not from our sentiments in so far as they lose track of this. 16.114 As St. 41. in: Origen. Colm Luibheid (New York: Paulist Press. might for this reason rest in these doctrines alone. the First and the Last. The Stromata 6. John the Evangelist has a few early contenders. We find. 14 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. 105 so is Jesus Christ the Gospel itself106.107 But more on this in a moment. for example.111 This contemplation is thus the being of the Beloved Disciple.10.109 discernment. Dionysius the Areopagite’s tenth epistle. the very ‗type‘ of the theologian112: ―Breast of the Lord. For this reason I opt for the view that the entire Gospel is to be read primarily theologically.” 494. 112 The origin of the use of ‘The Theologian’ as a designation of St. is the transformation and transfiguration of the fiery zealot into the light of judgment. having grown old in the Scriptures. 1981). 130.” 302.

‗The Wonderworker‘ is said to have received a dream wherein he received ―a declaration of faith. St. and at some later period it was introduced. The Stromata 7. the Father of the living Word.. being guarded and preserved.” 508.115 There is another form of inheritance which assiduous research has uncovered: an inheritance by way of dreams!116 This story117 is recounted in St. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father. by revelation from the blessed John the Evangelist [and] by the mediation of the Virgin Mary. St. Liadain Sherrard (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society. St. The Eagle’s Doctrine: John 3:13 The foregoing magnificent theological declaration incites us into the Christic 118 “A Declaration of Faith. and has come even unto us. Gregory Thaumaturgus (c.). Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity.118 The text runs as follows: There is one God. is not unknown in the religious literature of the world.33.De Petrillo: The Beloved Disciple pel. in: Ibid. 6 of The AnteNicene Fathers..” in vol.. For the life of the Gnostic.394) biography of the august and venerable Father. Clement has likewise written that “the only really holy and pious man is he who is truly a Gnostic according to the rule of the Church” (The Stromata 7. 115 Clement. There is one Lord. Father of the onlybegotten Son. who is through all.213-c. 117 The question of authenticity is not my concern here.17. as if at some former period it was nonexistent. trans.7. Irenaeus has also written that “true knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles.8.. having His subsistence from God. Only of the Only. and Incorruptible of Incorruptible.. true Son of true Father. Perfect Image of the Perfect. 534. by a very complete system of doctrine.. “Against Heresies. Gregory of Nyssa‘s (c. There is a perfect Trinity. and being made manifest by the Son. Invisible of Invisible. the Supplier. in: Clement. Life.. the Cause of the living. in glory and eternity and sovereignty. 1993). Image and Likeness of Deity. and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world. to wit to men: Image of the Son. by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place. Holy Fount. neither divided nor estranged. and Power formative of the whole creation.” 554. who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten. Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things. of Sanctification. See: Michel Chodkiewicz. 116 The notion that saints can receive visions or dreams in which they are given teachings. an Andalusian Sufi Master who is known as ‘the Greatest Master’ of Islam. Efficient Word. without any forging of Scriptures. and God the Son. One preeminent case is that of Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-‘Arabi (1165-1240).). Seal of the Saints: Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn ‘Arabi. Rather. God of God. the same Trinity abideth ever. in whom is manifested God the Father.270). and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops. and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes+” (Against Heresies 4.335-c. 7-8. but without variation and without change. nor the Spirit to the Son. “Stromata. 19 . Sanctity. And there is One Holy Spirit. is nothing but the deeds and words corresponding to the tradition of the Lord‖. and Immortal of Immortal. who is above all and in all. in: Irenaeus. or Leader. nor anything super induced. and Eternal of Eternal. the symbolic and theological meaning is what I would like to convey to the reader at this time. Parent of God‖. for their own edification or for propagating among certain people.

thanks to his purified vision. metaphysical perception. sunlight directly and.128 However.127 What is more. mainly to: Jean Scot. and without denying the literal meaning of this interpretation regarding the economy of salvation of the Christic dispensation. is capable of looking into the mysteries of the Divine Sun. and is. Édouard Jeauneau (Paris: Les Éditions Du Cerf. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things. for “many are called. John teaches the doctrine of the ―Eternal Church‖. trans. neither [has it] entered into the heart of man. Christopher Stade (House Springs: Chrysostom Press.126 This doctrine. Cutsinger. the Son of man who is in heaven‖. 51. 1999). John. transcending all relativity. because he is unperturbed. because of the union of His two natures—divine and human—was. 124 Angelus Silesius. save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man. Homélie sur le Prologue de Jean . from all Scripture) regarding Christ‘s Person is John 3:13. trans. trans. for. Christ. The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to John by Blessed Theophylact. 20 . a high ranking Pharisee who sought instruction from Him but failed to understand. never absent from His Father.129 Our intention for approaching this verse in this manner is 125 126 Ibid. ―coenthroned‖. For what man knoweth the things of a man. into which He alone came by Incarnation for the sake of the salvation of the world. 2007).124 The consummation of this love is for the Theologian. 128 Ibid. St. the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. that ―no man hath ascended into heaven. St. but few are chosen”. deals with the knowledge of real principles and. Fr. Schuon. Metaphysics. The common Church teaching is that Jesus‘ origin is beyond this world. the deep things of God. 129 James S.125 Thus. where Christ tells Nicodemus. John (and indeed. is Christ. which ―is the only bird [that] can face the 119 Jean Scot. 120 I will refer. in fact increases [its] vision instead of going blind‖. but he that descended from heaven. as He is. Édouard Jeauneau (Paris: Les Éditions Du Cerf. One of the most salient verses of the Gospel of St. in this brief traditional esoteric exegesis of John 3:13. trans. 1969). ultimately. 1986). 77. 121 Here. Maria Shrady (New York: Paulist Press. 1997). by the Divine Light. The Cherubinic Wanderer. I stated. 200. because of the nature of his Gospel. John. 127 Theophylact.120 St. with Him in the Kingdom. He is like the eagle. which the spiritualis aquilae119 plumbs. having advanced in the Way past the stage of purification into the depths of the contemplation of God—thus as the Lord‘s Beloved Disciple—he is admitted121 to the intimacy and delectation of the Wedding Feast122 and is given the power of theology to know ―the deep things of God‖123: The eagle fearlessly turns to the sun its gaze As you do at God‘s flash if your heart is unstained. nor ear heard. the relevance of Matthew 22:14 is obvious.KannenBright: Concordia University Undergraduate Journal of Theological Studies mystery. the ‗eagle‘. Commentaire sur l’Évangile de Jean. 123 “Eye hath not seen. Advice to the Serious Seeker: Meditations on the Teaching of Frithjof Schuon (Albany: State University Press. but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:911). being ―the science of the Real‖. yea. ―is beyond the domain of change and becoming‖. Transcendent Unity of Religions. 84. by doing so. 122 I am inspired for this speculation by the parable of the ‘wise virgins’ (Matthew 25:1-13). with the Absolute Principle which. would take his readers to a deeper. 23.

deificatio et 130 in altitudinem diuinitatis assumptio. See also. Eriugena uses John 16:28 to support this interpretation. filius hominis qui est in patre. on the Mystical Body of Christ: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. 136 “Tous ceux qui croient en lui. This gnosis is none other than Christ. corpus cum membris. John‘s luminous doctrine is intended to ‗shatter‘—like lightning—the idolizing of a dark materialism that stops short at the opacity and density of ‗all this‘ (‗this world‘) rather than seeing things as they are.). Thence he asks what is the ‘descent’ and what the ‘ascent’. le Fils de l’homme qui est dans le Père” (Scot. who proclaimed Himself ―Alpha and Omega.).140 According to his theology. John characterizes those who reject Jesus in this manner: ―They said: Is not this Jesus. made known to John the Theologian by Christ Himself. 222-5. et reditus eius ad patrem hominis. though with Him all the restored members of His Body: In ipso enim omnes credentes un ipsum unum sunt. à élever jusqu’aux cimes de la divinité l’homme qu’il a assumé” (Scot. 140 Christ is likewise “the true light.131 Concerning the ‗descent‘ and ‗ascent‘ of the Son of Man. has understood that ‗heaven‘. thus veritable self-knowledge. which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world” (John 1:9). 137 John 15:15. si ce n’est celui qui est descendu du Père. refers to the Father.133 Eriugena continues: Exitus ergo eius a patre humanatio est.877).132 ―The Son of man who is in heaven‖ will then signify that Jesus is ―in the Bosom of the Father‖. Commentaire sur l’Évangile de Jean. truly. ne font qu’un avec lui. 133 John 1:18.De Petrillo: The Beloved Disciple justified if we remember Origen‘s distinction between the ‗somatic‘ and the ‗spiritual‘ teaching on Christ. 138 John 14:6. Commentaire sur l’Évangile de Jean. Commentaire sur l’Évangile de Jean. 14 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. whereas in Greek. 134 Revelation 22:13. it is from the unity of the First Principle that Christ comes down.” in vol. en effet. O Israel: the Lord thy God is one God” (Mark 12:29).139 so in Him things can be seen truly.130 The Irish sage. he paraphrases John 3:13 to read: Nemo ascendit in patrem. Johannes Scottus Eriugena (c. the son of Joseph. is only possible with reference to Him. The allusion is to the first commandment: “Hear.134 The Incarnation is undertaken alone. 135 The ‘Absolute Principle’ is also the ‘First Principle’. C’est ainsi que le Christ seul. the same word plainly refers to the past.815-c. 139 John 8:12. “Sa sortie du Père a consisté à assumer l’humanité. 132 Ibid. 223. Clement‘s notion of gnosis as the knowledge of principles and ends and existent conditions of things. the First and the Last. St.). and what is the ‘heaven’ from which he is and to which he goes (Ibid. Thus.). John Chrysostom says that spiritual things are the substance and end of things temporal (“Homilies. are referenced to the Father. 224-5. Furthermore. est remonté au Père” (Scot. 156. again. ascendit in patrem.137 St. 21 . Vnus itaque christus. son retour au Père consiste à deifier. both. in this verse. as well as St. quem accepit. the Beginning and the End‖. Eriugena explains that in Latin ‘ascendit’ is ambiguous as it can refer to both the past and the present. corps et members.) 131 “Personne n’est monté au Père. which reads: “I came forth from the Father and am come into the world: again I leave the world and I go to the Father”.136 This is the eschatological reality that is revealed in Jesus Christ. Christ is the truth138 and the light of the world. nisi qui de patre descendit. Thus.. St. according to Johannine theology. 225-7.. 225. the ascent also is by Him alone. as it consists in the descent of God‘s Oneness135.

e.. John shows. extending into realms the very connection to which it might be difficult for some to perceive. that people were ‘blind’ to the true nature of Jesus. in accordance with what was previously said.KannenBright: Concordia University Undergraduate Journal of Theological Studies whose father and mother we know? How then saith he: I came down from heaven?‖141 Though we can undeniably perceive the theological and metaphysical nature of the gnosis pertaining to the Theologian‘s Gospel. until he hath put all his enemies under his feet. Having investigated the New Testament and some early 143 144 John 6:42. And the enemy. which he wrought in Christ. [B]ut by a change in their senses the Lord‘s disciples passed from the flesh to the Spirit‖.144 The Orthodox view of this event is as follows: ―The light of our Lord‘s Transfiguration had neither beginning nor end. in a most harmonious manner. is exclaimed. this vision of Christ. who believe according to the operation of the might of his power. And whereas 141 he saith: All things are put under him.143 The last point I will make concerning the Christic mystery and reality concerns the following event found in the Synoptics: St. shall be destroyed last: For he hath put all things under his feet. And he hath subjected all things under his feet and hath made him head over all the church. Conclusion At the conclusion of this extensive essay. it remained unbounded in time and space and imperceptible to the senses. John included) possesses. that God may be all in all. not only in this world. who put all things under him. also principal and essential—restoration and resurrection of all things in Christ. as we have gleamed.. For he must reign. it is nevertheless true. John. though St.145 Thus. as they stopped short at the manhood which was before them. John‘s Gospel is particularly suited to lead contemplative Christians to the heart of the mystery which Christ‘s hypostasis was incarnated to reveal. Mystical Theology. however. Peter and James. plainly show this: What is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us. were brought by Jesus to Mount Tabor in secret. And when all things shall be subdued unto him. which. their unity in divinis. St. it behoves me to remark that. death. together with Sts. he is excepted. far from being a superfluous topic of research. raising him up from the dead and setting him on his right hand in the heavenly places. we can confirm that the ubiquitous Reality is the object of all the Holy Scriptures. 22 . that the catholic Church (St. are far reaching. then the Son also himself shall be subject unto him that put all things under him. the implications of our endeavour. 142 Ephesians 1:19-23. from the Epistle to the Ephesians and that to the Corinthians. in this verse. The following exquisite texts. Above all principality and power and virtue and dominion and every name that is named. 145 Lossky. and Luke 9:2836. Mark 9:1-8.142 When he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father: when he shall have brought to nought all principality and power and virtue. but also in that which is to come. There He unveiled to them the uncreated Light of His Godhead. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. 223-4. i. which is his body and the fullness of him who is filled all in all. Matthew 17:1-9. undoubtedly. has not been exhaustive. in which the final—though. although seen by bodily eyes. because metaphysical.

which are not written in this book. Hence. you may have life in his name‖. who was. to understand his Gospel as relating the reality of Christ understood to be the principle according to which and the way in which all things are to be discerned and the truth followed. In this sense. others might see in this a cause for rejoicing. here. He is the Beloved Disciple of the Lord because he attained to such a height of theosis that his anonymity evidently partook of the mystery of the Holy Trinity—for ―each ‗I‘ in God is also ‗not I‘ but rather Thou‖. 148 I am alluding to a subtle reading of the related theological notions of anhypostasis and enhypostasis. St. 2003). I also suggested a certain trajectory that St. 150 John 20:30-31. from those secret things which before they came to pass the very angels knew not‖. This ‗something more‘ may be indicated by the constant reference to the ‗remembrance‘ of Jesus‘ words. While the attribution of the most profound of the Gospels to the humble person of St. 23 .149 At the end of this essay. the Holy Spirit. I have also developed key traditional themes related to the heritage of St. unlettered. to introduce some closing remarks. Hart. Maximus the Confessor (c. he will say from the depths of the Spirit. among other such references. to do with reality and the nature of things.150 But there seems to be more to the Theologian‘s Gospel than a mere confession.147 In light of this comment. and have thus seen that his ‗type‘ begins in ecclesial orthodoxy but extends into the ‗living‘ and ‗tasting‘ of the mystical reality of Christ. found in St. let us remember.. we can know that the fulfillment of the mystery of St. St. exalted. John Chrysostom is one who rejoiced that ―it is no longer the fisherman the son of Zebedee. The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Grand Rapids: William B. John—and all that he represents—has a direct relationship with every man qua man. but He who knoweth ‗the deep things of God‘. so long as this qualification is understood metaphysically.e. John and his Gospel. But these are written. i. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Instead.De Petrillo: The Beloved Disciple patristic literature. “Homilies. John the son of Zebedee. John.” in vol. It is appropriate. that: ―Many other signs did Jesus in the sight of his disciples. 149 David B. John would have hoped his readers would take. 2. and serene.146 might be the cause for scandal for some. the Son of God: and that believing. we may wish to ask ourselves the following question: What is the fundamental purpose underlying St. that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ. For he will say nothing to us as a man.e.151 This is 147 146 Acts 4:13.580-662) and other Orthodox theologians after him. but what he saith. 14 of Nicene and PostNicene Fathers. i. John‘s theology is profoundly ‗existential‘. 171. St. 151 See: Luke 24:6-8. and 12:16. John 2:22. ipso facto. I have presented a proper context for discussing St. Peter’s confession (Matthew 16:16 and John 6:68-70). John‘s anonymity in his own Gospel is his resignation—his extinguished hypostasis148—before the awesome and ineffable mystery that is God. John‘s Gospel? Anyone with a negligible amount of knowledge of this Gospel will doubtless offer in answer— and rightly so!—John‘s own words. Note the similarity of this text with St. however laudable.. this Gospel and the author to whom it is attributed are not paltry elements of by-gone days.

1.155 and this because in principium (i.KannenBright: Concordia University Undergraduate Journal of Theological Studies particularly significant because it is Jesus Himself who tells His disciples that the Paraclete will bring all of His words to their remembrance. see: John 6:50-52 and 14:6. a theogenesis. This account. to return to which one must undergo an ontic rebirth158 or regeneration. Marco De Petrillo is completing his undergraduate degree in Honors Theology with a Religion minor at Concordia University. and in which. the Petrine Church will face hardships which it will be unable to surmount (21:18) while. or the ‗re-establishment of all things in Christ‘. in order to appreciate the metaphysical depths offered by St.. on the other hand. it may be more accurate to understand that the importance of remembrance lies in Jesus Himself. 161 John 21:15-23.). 152 153 John 14:26. John‘s theology. because of my preference of the wording. I not in conclusion that the full extent of salvation lies in ‗neo-genesis‘. though it surely has historical value. John 3:16 is also relevant. On Jesus Himself as life. which is from the King James Version. 154 On Jesus’ words as life.154 After the explorations of this essay. 157 Acts 17:28. The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 2. in: Richardson.. (Every Biblical reference has been to the Douay-Rheims Version. according to Holy Fathers such as St. and in the context of St.2. The inviolable archives are his cross and death and his resurrection and the faith that came by him” (Letter to the Philadelphians 8. 160 Notice that. This is what seems to occur in the Tradition. the eagle‘s doctrine is an invitation to the anamnesis of one‘s heavenly homeland (in the Father‘s bosom). is essentially symbolic. Christ Himself is the ‘original Scripture’: “To my mind it is Jesus Christ who is the original documents. 159 “And divinization is to have a divine birth” (Dionysius. 24 . we ‗lived‘ and ‗moved‘ and ‗had our being‘. in: Dionysius. both ‗remembrances‘— Jesus‘ words and Jesus Himself—refer to the same goal.160 there would nonetheless remain the Holy Tradition161 and the doctrine and the mystery of Jesus Christ—the perennial dilemma of every generation. the Johannine inheritance will flourish until Christ Himself comes to take it (21:23). Ignatius of Antioch. He is interested in the divergence between traditional and modern thought. on the one hand. in response (i. of every soul. Early Christian Fathers. namely ―life eternal‖. considering what we have previously said regarding the ‘Petrine’ and ‘Johannine’ types and their relationship. 155 Ephesians 1:10. see: John 6:64 and 69. in ‗obedience‘) to Jesus‘ ‗institution‘ of the Eucharistic meal.) 158 John 3:3. I am suggesting to combine the relevant texts. To this end. such as Luke 22:19 and John 6:27-60. 5-6. 156 John 1:4. Pseudo-Dionysius. principally) ―the life was the light of men‖156: the light by which. This is the sole exception. trans. John.e. in that.159 That being said. had the apostles left no writings.152 Moreover.157 Thus..153 In any case. 110. he values the study of traditional dogmatism and spirituality.e.). 201.

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