The “Spiritual Gospel” of John

Excerpt from Original Sin Is A Lie: How Spirituality Defies Dogma and Reveals Our True Self by Bob Peck. Available now.

In the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke), Jesus mostly talks about the “kingdom of God”. In both the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas, he makes statements about himself and his own divine nature — statements which are direct, mystical, spiritual statements of identity. ⁴³

There are two primary components about John to understand:

· John is clearly later historically than the other three canonical gospels (the Synoptics are understood to have been written from 70–100 CE, John was written from 100–125 CE)

· John is often called the “Spiritual Gospel” (initially by the highly respected Clement of Alexandria, because it’s so different in terms of tone and theme)

These two facts do not invalidate the text entirely (it has its moments!), but they do mean one thing very strongly:

That it should not be taken literally.

It’s in John where we get the authoritative, ‘kingly’ Jesus proclamations. It’s also where we get “the only begotten Son” line, John 3:16 — one of the most significant verses for modern day American Christianity:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

—Gospel of John 3:16

You might remember John 3:16 on football player Tim Tebow’s facepaint.⁴⁵ Stone Cold Steve Austin? I’ve even seen it on food menus in Laredo, Texas. This verse is almost always interpreted literally. With religious exclusivity — that Jesus, the man, the Son, is the sole holder of the keys to the kingdom.

As I mentioned, the statements of identity are almost always intended for the direct disciples. Very spiritual, mystical, to be interpreted deeply. John 14:17 has Jesus actually saying that point specifically:

“This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be among you.”

The disciples get the real identity, not the surface-level crowds… they aren’t yet able to interpret these more in-depth spiritual teachings. John has:

“Before Abraham came into existence, I AM.”

— Jesus, Gospel of John 8:58

How can a man in linear time come before the founder of his own religion? — a Jew speaking of predating Abraham, the father of the Jewish people. If Jesus is speaking about his identity in John literally, this doesn’t make sense at all. This is because I AM is the eternal higher consciousness of Christ, of unity, of inclusive unconditional love. With this understanding, the famous line in John 14:6 takes on a whole new meaning:

“I am [I AM] the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”

— Jesus, Gospel of John 14:6

No one comes to the Source of All Creation, except through the embodiment of unconditional love.

Making the distinction between the I AM and the man Jesus, there is a striking contrast of identity in Mark, when a man calls him the benign title of “Good Teacher”. To which Jesus responds,

“Why do you call me good?

No one is good except God alone.”

— Jesus, Gospel of Mark 10:17–18

This is the true humility of an awakened human being.

In our purest form we are vessels of the light of our Creator, mirrors with all blemishes cleaned off to fully capture the image of the light’s reflection. How can Jesus not be good, if he is the “one and only Son” of God?

Yogananda helps us interpret this one:

“The confusion between ‘Son of man’ and ‘only begotten Son of God’ has created much bigotry in the community of churchianity, which does not understand or acknowledge the human element in Jesus — that he was a man, born in a mortal body, who had evolved his consciousness to become one with God Himself. Not the body of Jesus but the consciousness within it was one with the only begotten Son, the Christ Consciousness, the only reflection of God the Father in creation.

In urging people to believe in the only begotten Son, Jesus was referring to this Christ Consciousness, which was fully manifest within himself and all God-realized masters throughout the ages, and is latent within every soul. Jesus said that all souls who lift their physical consciousness… …to the astral heaven and then become one with the only begotten Christ Intelligence in all creation, will know eternal life.” ⁴⁶

Yogananda wrote extensive commentaries on Jesus’ teachings

Yogananda is not alone here.

Prominent early Christian fathers Basilides, Theodotus, Valentinus, and Ptolemaeus all considered the “only begotten Son” to be the cosmic unifying aspect to all creation. The Greek word is “Nous”, meaning “intelligence, mind, or thought”, as opposed to the personhood of Jesus, the man from Nazareth. Clement of Alexandria quotes from Theodotus that “the ‘only begotten Son’ is Nous”.⁴⁷

John really comes alive when you read it allegorically, in the fuller spiritual meaning beyond the literal.

John has no nativity scene.

The birth of Jesus is only present in Matthew and Luke, and again there are a few differences between those accounts, but John starts off in a beautiful and fascinating way:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

— Gospel of John 1:1–5

The “Word” is an English translation of the Greek λόγος, pronounced “Logos”, which originated from the Jewish wisdom tradition of Philo of Alexandria.⁴⁸ This term doesn’t just mean a “word” but rather the Universal Law Governing All Things. There’s a correlation to the “Tao” in Taoism, and “Aum” in Hindu philosophy. The term itself was first used by Heraclitus, an Ancient Greek philosopher (535–434 BCE), one of the most important pre-Socratic philosophers, writing:

“The Logos is as here explained; but men are always incapable of understanding it,

both before they hear it, and when they have heard it for the first time.”

The author of John is tapping into a spiritual cosmology, about a Knowledge or an Awareness that is in tune with every fabric of existence. He specifically uses the Logos as a way of describing the level of attainment or divinity achieved by his main character.

by Josh Pierce

The ancient Chinese sage Laozi writes in the opening lines of the Tao Te Ching:

“The Tao that can be stated, is not the eternal Tao;

The name that can be named, is not the eternal name.

The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth…”

This “Word” is spoken and unspoken. It is intellectually unfamiliar and yet intimately knowable. It is intuitive, not analytical. Its truth transcends the world of form.

And lastly, the most striking comparison to John 1, comes from the Rig Veda:

“In the beginning was the Lord, and second to Him, was the Word.

The word was truly the Supreme Brahman (God).”

The Vedas are foundational texts for the Hindu religion. Not only are they the oldest texts of India, they are some of the oldest writings of human civilization. My head was spinning when I first read that line from another continent, in a previous era (~1900 BCE), as it is almost ‘word’ for ‘word’ in perfect alignment with John 1:1.

Vijay Nund performing morning rituals in the Ganges River, the most sacred river in Hinduism. by Joey L

It’s all connected…

There’s another beautiful moment in John that fundamentalist Christians have been trying to explain for years but they just can’t do it. I’m not persuaded about the exclusivity of Jesus Christ when this line roars out of the opening:

“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

— Gospel of John 1:10–13

If Jesus is the one and only son of God, how is he able to give power to “those who received him” to “become the sons of God”?

It’s a crucial, typically-overlooked moment that re-examines the divinity of Jesus. Is he “saving us” from original sin — that again, wasn’t even a concept at the time of John’s gospel — or is his teaching offering us access into becoming what he became, another child of God? The manifestation of the Logos in man? And how can he be the literal only Son, if the beginning of the gospel has “sons” in plural? Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria, called the “Pillar of the Church”, wrote:

“He was made human,

so that he might make us gods.” ⁴⁹

Professor Howard Clark Kee contextualizes the power of the Logos:

“In 1:14 John states explicitly that the Logos is manifest in human form. The revelation of God that the Logos brings is accessible to all who are willing to receive it, not just to those who by ethnic descent or by pious mode of life consider themselves to have some special claim on God.” ⁵⁰

This is why I get excited about deeper reads with these texts.

This analytical process rigorously questions those old mainstream Christian tropes: that Jesus is the only way, the only divine being ever, and you don’t have it in you. That you can’t get to where he got because you’re sinful.

Hopefully you’re starting to see through those misplaced falsehoods as later constructions by lesser men — which are in direct contrast to the true message of Christ.

Excerpt from Original Sin Is A Lie: How Spirituality Defies Dogma and Reveals Our True Self by Bob Peck. Available now.

43. Harris, Stephen L. (2006). Understanding the Bible (7th ed.). McGraw-Hill.

44. “The Story of Jesus as Mystical Participation: The Gospel of John.” Jesus in History: An Approach to the Study of the Gospels, by Howard Clark Kee, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977, pp. 203–214.

45. CBN News. “Tim Tebow’s Shocking Story About John 3:16 ‘Coincidence’ Goes Viral.” CBN News, 8 Jan. 2018, www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2018/january/tim-tebow-rsquo-s-nbsp-shocking-story-about-john-3–16-lsquo-coincidence-rsquo-goes-viral.

46. “Discourse 15: God’s Love Gave to the World His Only Begotten Son.” The Second Coming of Christ: the Resurrection of the Christ Within You: a Revelatory Commentary on the Original Teachings of Jesus, by Paramahansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship, 2004, pp. 273–274.

47. Clement, Excerpta ex Theodoto 6:3.

48. “John, Thomas, and Docetism: The Evidence of 1 John.” From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith, by L. Michael White, HarperCollins, 2016, pp. 314–315.

49. De incarnatione 54,3, cf. Contra Arianos 1.39

50. “The Story of Jesus as Mystical Participation: The Gospel of John.” Jesus in History: An Approach to the Study of the Gospels, by Howard Clark Kee, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977, pp. 228.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Bob Peck

Bob Peck

Ex-Christian. Religion Degree. Zen Buddhism, Yoga Philosophy. Texan. Love to all. [originalsinisalie.com]