Gospel of John #37 : Text of passage (6:60-71) is reproduced below
After Jesus claims in John 6 that his own body (flesh) and his blood must be ingested, in order for people to gain eternal life, many are aghast at this claim. John’s Gospel likely reflects the charges, against early Christians, of human sacrifice, combined with cannibalism.
(Reproduced below is an excerpt from an article about this stereotyped accusation, which was directed against Christians in the early period. The counter-accusation, in turn, alleged the same vulgarity of pagans in their religious rituals. You will find, too, a link to the entire article by J. Rives, a Roman historian. See also the link to a contemporary article about religious rituals and cannibalism).
The Gospel counters this charge by the suggestion that the life of God is Spirit not flesh (v.63). Thus, cannibalism does not pertain to God. Because Jesus embodies God, he will not die but instead ascend (v. 62). Furthermore, those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, based on his works (e.g. miracles) and teachings, will ascertain the truth of his words, which are filled with spirit and life (v.63).
Only a few can understand this strange claim about Jesus’s stature and mission, which (to outsiders) entails cannibalism. Those who do understand that Jesus’s life is divine, and his mission bestowed directly by God, continue to follow him. For, as Peter recognizes, “You have the words of eternal life” (v.68b).
The idea that a man’s own body must be eaten — as flesh and blood — does sound bizarre and repulsive. It is only if we accept the theological claim of the Gospel of John that the idea may become palatable. For by “eating” the bread of heaven, and drinking the blood of God, we do not eat human flesh like cannibals. Instead, we partake directly in God’s Spirit, which offers freedom, eternal life, and Love.
Question: If you were among the original audience for this speech, what would your reaction have been?
Early Christians accused of human sacrifice and cannibalism
HUMAN SACRIFICE AMONG PAGANS AND CHRISTIANS By J. RIVES
(excerpt, introduction for complete article see: Human Sacrifice Pagans and Early Christians through JSTOR — copy may be downloaded for free through public library databases)
In Minucius Felix’ dialogue on the value of Christianity, written in the late second or early third century C.E.,1 the character Caecilius, who presents the anti-Christian arguments, recounts a story about their initiations, ‘a story as loathsome as it is well known’: after the initiate has struck a baby concealed under a covering of flour, those present drink the blood from its wounds and so seal their union (Oct. 9.5). Later in the dialogue, Octavius, the defender of Christianity, refutes this slander. The alleged crime, he argues, is so terrible that ‘no one could believe it except the sort of person who would attempt it’. He goes on to point out that pagans, not Christians, are the ones who practise actual human sacrifice. He supports his claim by citing specific examples: the Africans who used to sacrifice their children to Saturn, the Taurians and the Egyptian Busiris who sacrificed foreigners, the Gauls, and lastly the Romans themselves, who in the past would bury alive two Greeks and two Gauls and who in his own day sacrifice men to Jupiter Latiaris (Oct. 30. I) .
Although Caecilius describes the story he tells about the Christians as a notafabula, it is somewhat difficult to determine exactly how widely known it was. Virtually every Christian apologist between i so and 200 C.E. refers to the charge, but the evidence from the pagan side is much less extensive.2 After investigating the activities of Christians in Bithynia, the younger Pliny notes in his report to Trajan that they gather together ‘to take food, food that is ordinary enough and harmless’ (Ep. X.96.7). The appended qualification suggests that in the i iOS Pliny had already heard some version of these stories, and took them seriously enough to make inquiries.3 Some years later, Fronto had heard enough about the charges to elaborate on them in a speech.4 Later still, the citizens of Lugdunum who instituted a persecution of local Christians in I77 C.E. were apparently convinced of their truth, since they tried thro torture to make one woman confess to such deeds (Eus., HE v. I.26). although the evidence is scanty, there is enough to suggest that at least some pagans both knew and believed these stories.
See Link: Cargo Cults Accused of Cannibalism
John 6: 60- 71
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”
66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
We, the Arcturians offers an interpretation of Psalm 23, which I will summarize here. (For the full explanation, see the book: We, the Arcturians Book Amazon). As I see it, the interpretation is mild, fairly adaptable to conventional pieties, though with a few new flavors.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want: This shepherd takes us into the Light.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: The color green represents the heart chakra. We are to open our hearts to love.
He leadeth me beside the still waters: Our hearts become still in love.
He restoreth my soul: Karmic debets are released. We move toward the Light.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: Our lower consciousness causes us to fear death. With God’s protection, we understand that death is an illusion; once fear is transcended, we live according to a deeper and more expansive new Life.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: The enemies eat with us because we no longer fear them. God’s generosity extends towards all.
Thou anointest my head with oil: The anointing is the sign that we are children of God who belong to the Risen savior.
My cup runneth over: Abundance is promised, after our initiation along the paths of God. Since our consciousness has shifted, we no longer experience the world as a place of deprivation; rather, the world overflows like a cup of prosperity.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: Peace and joy are our birthright, which we discover through this anointing.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever: There are many mansions in God’s house. All of us have the chance to live there in peace and joy.
This Acturian interpretation of Psalm 23 ends with the the following salutation:
“Adonai, our beloved children of Light. We, the Arcturians, do bid you farewell from the northwest quadrant of the universe, and from the Most Radiant One.”
We, the Arcturians, by Norma J. Milanovich, transmits the message that the Arcturians, a star-people, are returning to earth to assist its inhabitants to move into a higher consciousness. These celestial beings, as Milanovich depicts them, are dedicated to Jesus Christ, as the most Radiant One, and to other ascended Masters.
Their service to Jehovah is told by their farewell salutation, “Adonai,” (which sounds to me like an improvisation upon “Adieu”). As Milanovich’s Arcturian glossary explains: “ADONAI- Hebrew word for The Lord. The pronouncement of the Holy Name Jehovah (or the name of the God of Israel) is attributed the power of working miracles. The revealed absolute Deity, the Holy Creator, the Redeemer. Used by the Arcturians in farewell as a seal to the transmissions.”
If the Arcturians transmit a message of love and light, as Milanovich claims, what does this love look like? And what resemblance does this Love have to the love preached by Jesus of Nazareth?
The Arcturians, as channeled through Milanovich, sketch a cosmology and history of civilization, which culminates in an apocalyptic confrontation, capped by the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. According to the Arcturian myth of origins, the Arcturians lived on earth in primitive times. A warlike people later invaded, disturbing the peace and well-being of the Arcturian civilization. Now, the earth has been taken over, in equal parts, by love and truth (on the one side) and by hatred and lies (on the other side), by forces of light and by forces of darkness. We are at a critical turning point, and in some ways, a disastrous one. The Arcturians are returning as our saviors and helpers.
Once points of light are anchored onto the earth, and although there will be some strife as those in league with powers of darkness resist the encroaching regime of the children of light, nevertheless a Second Coming is on its way. The “most Radiant Soul, Sananda Jesus the Christ” will return. He will “open a path to the Father’s house.” One of Milanovich’s Arcturian informers identifies himself as the Beloved Disciple in John’s Gospel, one of Jesus’s closest companions.
The result of the Second Coming will be that the earth will experience a rebirth into a higher consciousness, while the children of Light will establish their policies on earth of equality, mutual respect, peace, ecological responsibility, and justice. This picture, if a utopia, sounds appealing.
Yet, I will raise two critical questions about the Christian vision that is expressed through this Arcturian scenario. As my earlier post indicated, for any channelled material, we may test the spirits: are the spirits responsible for this vision holy or somehow inferior and misleading?
To begin with the last-mentioned point, regarding testing the spirits, 1 John 4 suggests this criterion: I John 4:1-2 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” The passage goes onto say: vv.7-8: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
What does it mean to confess that Jesus has come in the flesh? As the criterion for testing the spirits? One way to interpret this test is to maintain that Jesus’s coming in the flesh meant that he was capable of transforming the flesh — the material conditions of our lives. He did not merely preach a spirituality for the elite; rather, he performed works of healing and feeding for people of every spiritual grade and social category.
Jesus performed good works (healing, feeding, stilling storms). He even raised the dead. If the Arcturians serve this Jesus Christ, who came in the flesh, then it follows that we might expect to witness tangible miracles, and self-evidently loving good deeds, inspired by their message to the children of light.
Where are these miracles? Are children being fed? the sick in hospitals being healed? Tangibly and in the flesh? Are educational programs and libraries being offered to girls who lack education, across the world, through the dawning fifth dimensional vibration, heralded by the Arcturians? (For a similar critique, see: Critique of New Age Spirituality; see also the articles specifically about the Arcturians in this blog).
My second point of critique concerns the regime of love that is announced by Milanovich’s Arcturian guides. I refer the reader to an article, which raises ethical questions about the vision presented here. The author points out that various patterns of domination control, including implicit acquiescence to alien abductions, are evident in the Arcturian teachings. (See the critique here : Critique: We the Arcturians and here: Critique Milanovich Arcturians).
In brief, it may be questioned, how loving this teaching is, in fact; further, the Jesus, Sananda, the Radiant One may have only a verbal resemblance to Jesus of Nazareth, who came in the flesh and who is capable of raising the dead.
We, the Arcturians (c.1990), by Norma J Milanovich, exhibits themes that are by now familiar, in the genre of new age spirituality and extra-terrestrial visitations: a group of ET’s makes contact with a gifted or open-minded seer, who channels their saving message, in order to assist the rebirth or ascension process of earth. Earth is to move from a paradigm of separation (marked by domination, strife, greed, and competition) to a consciousness of unity (marked by mutual respect, peace, generosity, and cooperation); and from a three-dimensional into a fourth and fifth-dimensional reality.
Not all such new spirituality, involving extraterrestrial contact, attributes its origins, however, to Jesus–at least indirectly. Milanovich was a professor in New Mexico when she began to channel celestial beings from the planet Arcturus, who claim to be on a “mission of love and light”. They say, moreover, that “they are aided by the Ascended Masters, work for Jesus, the Christ and other magnificent Beings” (loc. 112).
Given the role of Jesus in these channeled messages, I will devote several posts to addressing the question, whether the Jesus of the Arcturians, here, is compatible with the Jesus of the Gospels and Christianity.
Let’s start first, then, with the matter of testing the spirits, which arises, in both Christian and channeled material, whenever the claim is made that a certain message is from a celestial, divine, or holy source.
As a channel, Milanovich asks this question herself: “Are these claims and messages fact or fiction? Is the source of these transmissions actually Beings from a higher state of consciousness, or are these messages coming from entities who are pathological liars with a plan to deceive and take over the Earth?” She concludes that the messages are benign, wise, full of love and light. Their meanings are consistent, neither tricky nor unreliable.
The descriptions of galactic life that they impart, moreover, and the conceptual complexity of their ideas, convey a veracity beyond what one could concoct as a fiction. The spirits proved themselves, moreover, by paranormal interventions. Once the spirits caused a crystal to turn on its own, as a sign of their presence, for instance.
I grant the sincerity of Norma J. Milanovich – (together with that of her two friends in the channeling circle, Betty Rice and Cynthia Ploski). As an academic researcher, she was schooled in a worldview and epistemology that clashed with the awakening of her newfound psychic gifts. Her decision to embrace her channeled message and to speak about her contact with the Arturians took courage, no doubt, and a commitment to push forward, with a spirit of service, along new frontiers in human evolution.
Nevertheless, Milonovich’s question for testing the spirits draws a false dichotomy, as I see it. The spirits need not be either holy or liars. Perhaps they are benign spirits, who can do tricks, such as the trick of making crystals swirl; if these spirit entities communicate, how valuable is their message?
In early Christianity, which took for granted a cosmology that included spirits of various kinds, a test was set up for distinguishing the holy spirit from spirits of a lesser kind. In the Acts of Peter, a second century work, a man named Simon the Magician is placed in a competition with Peter, the Apostle of Jesus Christ. Simon has the capacity to make “certain spirits enter in, which were only an appearance, and not existing in truth.” (Acts of Peter, XXXI)
These spirits could make miracles seem to happen, briefly: Simon could make “lame men seem whole for a little space, and blind likewise, and once he appeared to make many dead to live and move”. However, the illusion would last only for a minute. Simon stuns a crowd by flying in the air, only to be cast to the ground at Peter’s command.
In contrast, Peter is filled with the holy spirit, as an apostle of the living God. Thus, he can actually raise a girl from the dead. This story signifies that lesser spirits can imitate the acts of God, but they cannot sustain these excellent deeds, in substance and truth.
My point, here, is not to defend Christianity, as it currently exists, over against channeling and new age spirituality. Nor do I mean to degrade or discredit the Arcturian visitors. Instead, I raise this question: how do we test the authenticity of a spiritual message? Is the message from Jesus Christ, the living God? Or from a lesser spirit?
This post belongs to our study of the Gospel of John. Please see the side menu to review the previous posts. The text of John 6: 16-59 is reproduced below.
Gospel of John study #36
In the last post, we looked at John 6: 1-15. Jesus feeds a crowd by his bread miracle. On this basis, the crowds wish to make him King. They see him as the expected “prophet like Moses,” a figure in Judaism of the time who was regarded as God’s appointed servant, worthy to rule. Jesus refuses the role, just as he refuses the devil’s temptation of turning stones into bread. The devil understands that the one who possesses storehouses of food, in times of famine, can rule over and subjugate hungry hordes.
Yes, Jesus will multiply bread to feed people, in generosity and service, and to demonstrate the unlimited creative power of God. Yet, Jesus will not make use of his miraculous abilities, in deference to Satan, as a way to deprive people of their freedom by controlling their food supplies. As this next passage shows, Jesus offers the people the true “bread of heaven,” instead of perishable bread: the Life of God, which we may ingest as an eternally renewable source of eternal life, love and freedom.
We will return to consider this claim, again, in our next post. For now, I will break down this passage, analytically, in the hope of clarifying its meaning.
In this passage (6:16-59), Jesus demonstrates his God-bestowed miraculous abilities by walking in water (vv. 16-21). While his bread miracle recalls God’s provision of manna to the wilderness generation under Moses, so his walking on the sea recalls God’s parting of the seas, during the Exodus, so that Israel may cross out of Egypt, the place of bondage. Jesus demonstrates that he is not merely a new “prophet like Moses” but indeed one who can perform works directly sourced from God.
Jesus then gives a speech, explaining that the true gift he has to give is not merely food to eat (to sustain biological life) but instead eternal life. Furthermore, while the people under Moses ate manna in the desert (which is perishable) as a gift from God, the people now, in the presence of Jesus, may eat the bread of life itself, which has come down to heaven from God. It is Jesus himself who is this heavenly bread. It is his body that must be eaten.
This puzzling assertion, suggesting cannibalism, causes consternation and anger in some of Jesus’s audience. How can Jesus claim to be the bread of life, when he is a mere mortal, the son of their very own neighbors in their village?
41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.
We learn later in the Gospel (John 15) that to “abide” in Jesus means to abide in Love. Thus, by offering his own flesh, as heavenly bread, and his own blood, as heavenly drink, Jesus asks us to supply ourselves with a new spiritual foundation for our lives. Our lives, in communion with God, will be the life of God, which is Love.
The mission of Jesus Christ is to offer us this communion and union with God, which in turn gives freedom, and even an ability to perform miracles of our own.
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”
41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.