Background

Rivers of ink have flowed into libraries on the topic of Evangelist John, and few aspects of these writings have been so fascinating as the question—who was he? The uniqueness and power of his Gospel are universally recognized. But his identity has remained a theological enigma to this day.

So you are right to ask how I can now presume to give an answer?

There were two very important spiritual developments in the 20th century in regard to which theology has remained for all practical purposes either oblivious or totally mute.

The first of these is the vast ocean of Steiner’s intuitive revelations relative to the Bible early in the century1.  You will come up largely empty-handed if you search theological libraries for any mention of Steiner or anthroposophy. The silence is deafening. Bibliography is endless, but this spiritual giant is never mentioned. Religions that arose out of ancient revelation now disdain any possibility of new intuitive revelation.

The second development is Morton Smith’s discovery of what is known as the Secret Gospel of Mark2. Theologians are well aware of this, but not of its significance. They generally recognize Morton Smith’s discovery as being an authentic letter from Clement of Alexandria3 that makes reference to the raising of a youth from the tomb—and though he is not named, they also recognize it describes Lazarus. The great significance that they fail to appreciate, however, is that together with the revelations of Steiner it shows us that Lazarus is the so-called “rich, young ruler” of all three synoptic Gospels. Steiner unequivocally identified Lazarus as the author, directly or indirectly, of the entire Johannine corpus (including the Apocalypse). And some prominent theologians, including no less than the late Raymond E. Brown, have included him among the possible authors of the Gospel and first letter. But it was not till the last half of our century that this discovery by Morton Smith at the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Saba in the Judean desert vindicated Steiner’s assertions. At the same time it showed that Lazarus was not only the Evangelist but that he was recognized by the other three Evangelists as pre-eminent among the disciples, as reflected by their including the account of him as the “rich, young ruler.” The anthroposophist Andrew Welburn, of Oxford University, in his The Beginnings of Christianity,4  is, to the best of my knowledge, the first to have identified Lazarus as the “rich, young ruler,” and he did so based upon the Secret Gospel of Mark.

I must also suggest another major significance of the Secret Gospel of Mark that theology has missed because it does not understand the nature of the raising of Lazarus. It is that the Secret Gospel resolves the great mystery of who the young man was who followed Jesus to Gethsemane wearing nothing but a linen cloth and who was seized and fled away naked. Only Mark’s Gospel tells of it (Mk 14,51-52), as a consequence of which the traditional view has been that it could only describe Mark himself. But now the Secret Gospel suggests that he too was Lazarus/John, and not that he actually abandoned Jesus, but that he was able to follow him in spiritual consciousness all the way to the Cross. We shall see how this must be so as we examine the actual content of this new discovery.

Now I have jumped way ahead. And if you are a New Testament scholar or believer, not otherwise familiar with Steiner’s works, you may well resist what I’ve suggested. So let us go back to a better starting point and work our way through.

The source material for most of what follows is in my book, The Burning Bush, particularly in the two essays entitled “Peter, James and John” and “Egypt.” The following chart, taken from the back of The Burning Bush, may be helpful to those of you not familiar with Steiner’s works:

THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF THE HUMAN BEING
As set out in Chart I-9 in The Burning Bush

(click here to view this chart)

This chart encompasses the entire panorama of the evolution of the human being, and incidentally also of the lower three kingdoms. Luke’s “parable” of the Prodigal Son is the story (allegory) of the descent of the human being from the spiritual world and its return thereto. This is the thesis of The Burning Bush, the first sentence in its General Introduction. All the lower kingdoms are by-products of the evolution of the human soul—the human being is not descended from the animal kingdom, but rather the animal and lower kingdoms are descended from the human kingdom. This is the meaning of the taking of all the animals and plants by Noah into the ark (Gen 6,19-22). This original ark is the post-Atlantean human body that has within it the residual nature of all the lower kingdoms that fell away into materiality at earlier stages of its evolution. As this pertains to the animal kingdom, Mark’s Gospel portrays it with great spiritual accuracy in saying that Christ in the wilderness (meaning the solitude of the soul) wrestled with the “wild animals” (Mk 1,12), namely, the variety of untamed animal desires of the human soul.

That statement about the ark, upon reflection, already transports us to another paradigm. It condenses a chunk of The Burning Bush into a tiny kernel in order to get to Evangelist John.

Continued...

   
Dusting off the Ancient Song
Background, continued