Resurrection Of Lazarus, Jews And Jewish Tradition (john 11:1-44)

resurrection of Jesus1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

The story begins with introducing to us Lazarus (in Hebrew Eliezer, which means God will help) who resides in Bethany (in Hebrew Beit Aniah, which means the House of the Poor). These Hebrew names are not coincidental.

Bethany was not far from Jerusalem (there was also a Bethany across the Jordan river). There are many reasons to think it was a very special village. It is likely that this village served as one of the Jewish Essene diaconal centers. These centers were spread throughout the ancient Jewish world. Essenes (a Jewish sect) were known for their commitment to serve the poor and sick. Incidentally, there seems to be a strong connection between sections of the Essene community and the early Jewish believers in Jesus movement, but this is a topic for another time.

It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.

It is interesting and somewhat surprising that John makes this comment so early. The reason is because the incident of Mary anointing Jesus, is not recorded until next chapter. This means either John wrote his Gospel after the other Gospels, expecting people to be familiar with the story, or more likely that the story had already circulated orally and John assumed that the hearers were familiar with it.

So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

There are remarkable parallels here with between the raising of Lazarus and the healing of the man who was blind from birth. In one case light is given and in the other case, life. Interestingly enough both themes are the major themes alluded to in John 1:4: In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Also, the reason for both Lazarus’ death and the man’s blindness was for God’s glory (John 9:2-3 and John 11:4).

(Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.) So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

If we read vss. 5-6 they make little sense (since Jesus loved them, why didn’t he come immediately). If we read the text carefully, we will quickly realize that verse 5 is a parenthetical comment inserted between vss. 4 and 6. This means verse 6 (“So when he heard…”) continues as the end of vs.4 (“it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it”.) So no one would think Jesus did not truly love the family, the parenthetical comment was added – “Now (you must know) Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”.

The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

If we attempt to understand the Jews here as being the Jewish people, the sentence would  sound completely ridiculous. Clearly, the Jerusalemite authorities who were seeking Jesus’ life are in view here. We must continue to remember John’s statement in the prologue that summed up Jesus life, death and resurrection: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) Jesus is referring to the light that illuminates the world. Remember, in John the world does not always mean humanity at large, sometimes it means Judea and its inhabitants.(John 7:3).

11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.

Jesus clarifies for his disciples that his close friend Lazarus had died. What is important in vs.17 is John’s statement that when Jesus arrived in Bethany it was already the fourth day. This explains why after hearing the news that Lazarus was very sick “he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (John 11:6) Jesus knew how long it would take to travel to Bethany. He was determined to arrive, not only after Lazarus’ death, but when, according to popular Jewish belief, resurrection was no longer possible – on the fourth day!

18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.

Lazarus, who may have been an Essene, and his family were given fully to the service of the poor and sick in Bethany. He was highly respected by the hoi Ioudaioi. Many, hoping to bring them much needed comfort, came to mourn together with Martha and Mary. It is in this story that Jesus makes his final strike against the stronghold of unbelief within the Jerusalem priestly elite. He was about to resurrect a respected member of the Jerusalemite religious society in plain view of members of the hoi Ioudaioi. This would necessitate a response of faith in Him. Mary and Martha were being comforted by their own people from among the Jerusalemite ruling establishment.

20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

Martha told Jesus that if he would have come within the three days when resurrection was possible, he could have resurrected her brother. Her faith went even further and she said “even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you!”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Martha is careful, seeking not to raise her own hopes too high. She probably thought to herself: “Jesus seems to be saying that my brother will be resurrected, but he could be referring to some distant future.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

Jesus’ point was simple. Martha must stop thinking of him as the one who can ask God for resurrection and receive a favorable answer from on high. She must understand instead that Jesus is the Logos of God, the God who gives life. In Jesus’ own words – “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

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Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” 28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.

Apparently Jesus remained outside the village for a time since enough time lapsed for meetings and conversations to occur. Vs. 30 is another parenthetical comment in which the author is clarifying the meaning of his story as it unfolds.

31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

What is important here is that the author highlights the fact that when Jesus spoke with Mary outside the village, some of the hoi Iouidaioi who had come to comfort the family followed her. This indicated that they witnessed this exchange. The Hoi Ioudaioi who followed Jesus outside of the village both saw what happened and heard most of the interchange between Jesus and Mary.

32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Mary repeats Martha’s regret (John 11:21). We can imagine that this had been discussed in their family circle.  

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

Here we see Jesus enter the suffering of humanity and his connection with hoi Ioudaioi as never before in this Gospel. Jesus saw Mary and members of the hoi Ioudaioi grieve passionately over the passing of Lazarus. He was deeply troubled.

How burials occur within a particular culture tell us a much about the people’s worldview. Christian culture is always solemn, but festive when it comes to the burial of a righteous man. Grief is always mixed with hope and celebration. In Jewish culture, while the resurrection of the righteous is also affirmed, there is a strong belief that when a righteous man dies the world suffers loss.

The balance of good and evil is tipped, at least at that moment, towards evil. While the righteous man is taken away from the world’s evil, those who remain have lost significantly and in a sense, are left to fend for themselves.

34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

A brief excursion into Jewish burial practices of the first century will be helpful here. Jews of the first century in the Land of Israel buried people twice. When someone died. the body was first wrapped in a cloth and placed in a cave for a prolonged period of time. After the body decayed and only bones remained, they were collected into a special box called an ossuary. The ossuary was then placed together with other ossuaries of family members, and put into a family tomb. Jesus, realizing that the first burial had already taken place, asked where they had laid the body. They responded “Sir, come and see”. The word Lord, used here in Greek, is not a confession of faith that Jesus is the incarnate God, but simply a respectful term of address.

35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

No other section of the Scriptures shows Jesus so deeply full of emotion. His full divinity and full humanity meet here in the expression of his grief. He did not just cry. He wept. His reaction (even though he knew he was about to resurrect Lazarus) was fully compatible with the Jewish practice of grieving and wailing. The Hoi Ioudaioi who witnessed this exchange concluded that Jesus indeed loved the same person they appreciated so much for his service to the community of the poor and suffering.

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

One can see that the crisis of the hoi Ioudaioi’s opposition to Jesus was deepening. Now it was not only those from Jewish Galilee and a few members of the system that began to take interest in Jesus. Many who came to comfort the Lazarus’ family were moving toward a positive view of Jesus. Their regret was “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” Remember, they were not talking about resurrection. Their reasoning is therefore very logical. If Jesus could give sight to the man born blind who had never seen light, surely he could have given healing to a man who was sick. One action was much greater than the other. However, none of them realized what Jesus was about to do.

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

Martha told Jesus to stay away from the entrance of the tomb since the smell of a decaying body would be overwhelming. She once again pointed out that Lazarus had been dead for 4 days. You will recall that Jesus’ arrival was perfectly timed for the resurrection to take place on the 4th day, when it was believed that resurrection was no longer possible.

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Earlier, Jesus had told Martha that arriving on the fourth day would not limit him. Resurrection was not something he would do with his Father’s help. Resurrection and Life are both the essence of what Jesus is. He is indeed the Word/Logos/Memra of Israel’s God, and he was destined to show the world his Father’s Glory.

43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”

Some tombs were extremely deep and they literally included a tunnel to get to the actual place where the bodies were deposited. So it is not surprising that when the stone that functioned as a door would be rolled away, Jesus would call Lazarus in a loud voice. This was not to make this event more dramatic, but was that the resurrected Lazarus could physically hear the voice of his Life-giver from afar.

44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

John (or whoever wrote this Gospel that was later attributed to John) was an eyewitness who was concerned with detail. He mentions something that no other Gospel says. Lazarus, when he came out of the tomb, was not covered with one piece of cloth but with two. His face had a cloth that was separate from the body shroud. Today, when ancient Jewish burials have been discovered, this description is confirmed. Jews indeed buried the way John described. John was a local. He was an insider. He was an eyewitness.

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  1. Shara H.

    Dr, Eli, this was a wonderful study as I have heard much research on this subject recently. I am also thankful that you have the courage to debate subjects such as the trinity and the One God understanding of the scriptures without fear of the more traditional beliefs that are not biblical, nor originate from a biblical source. Jesus referred to God as My God and your God. Truly Jesus is the promised seed and the Son of God, the risen Christ! God Bless you in your work! In His Love, Shara

  2. ND Motsoane

    I am, however, little confused as to how one can be both equal and subordinate to another at the same time. Does “equal” and “subordinate” mean the same thing in this case? Does Yehshua, the Son have authority to send the Yahweh, Father around?

    To me, Yehshua always presented Himself and acted as subordinate to His Father, Yahweh. In other words, He acted within the mandate (commandments) given by the Father and would do nothing outside the scope. In John 15, He stated the fact that He obeyed the Father and thus abided in His love (favour), and commanded the disciples to, in turn, obey His commandments in order to abide His love.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear ND, I am committed NOT to seek to convince anyone including you. You asked me how I understand this. I answered honestly. The fact that Jesus can not send the Father, but the Father can send Jesus is just that – subordination. I believe in it wholeheartedly. But I also believe that there are some statements of Jesus especially in this Gospel that you have not wrestled with sufficiently (If you serious enough, read this through

      So you only have subordination, but no equality of power and glory. OK. Once again in this forum we DO NOT ENGAGE in the most divisive debates that regularly and commonly take place elsewhere. For example our group does not have a creed. We are people of all kinds of theological views. Really… all kinds. We do accept people who do not share our opinions (like you :-)) without problems. We in fact prefer clarity, to agreement. I trust that you will find our group therefore a stimulating and somewhat uncommon environment not to convince, but to explore. Once again welcome and let us continue thinking together. Dr. Eli

      1. ND Motsoane

        I am surprised, and disappointed at the same time, in the way you seem to react to my questions. I did not realise that asking questions or sharing views amounted to being divisive. I am really beginning to sense impatience/intolerance for difference of opinion.
        It seems to me that you only entertain those that simply agree with your particular point of view. I was under the impression that your intention was to assist people like me that have not wrestled sufficiently with scriptural matters like your group seems to have.

        I considered my questions innocent and straight forward, and the intetion was purely to engage the issues at hand and to obtain help from others that might know better than myself.

        I have no agenda to discredit (and indeed, I have no authority to do so) any group or creed but if that is what your groups feels, then I rest my case and would like to offer my unconditional apologies.

        Kind regards

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Perhaps, we misunderstood each other. I am willing to say that it was my fault. I was saying that this is not a forum where people debate issues like Trinity for example or in this case Jesus’ full divinity (its rejection or acceptance). (Incidentally I did not perceive your comments as having the agenda to discredit.) If I came across this way I also apologize to you. Blessings and much peace, Dr. Eli

        2. Rafael

          To ND:
          If a group of people come together to buy a business, but cannot decide on a leader, they will accomplish little more than constant disagreement. But if they decide on a leader, even though they are all equals, they will accomplish much. This is only a crude analogy. But it gives you the idea. If I’m chosen as leader, then I tell others what to do. If another is chosen to be leader, then he tells me what to do. And if I respect him, I follow his orders. In the realm of hierarchy, the one in charge is greater. But I’m still his equal, because each of us is an equal owner. It’s a crude analogy for sure. But it pretty well fits. In fact, the business will run smoothest when the role of each person is well defined ahead of time, and each one sticks to his defined role.

          1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            All analogies that seek to explain this very complex relationship are imperfect, but this one seems very helpful.

  3. ND Motsoane

    In your article about the Resurrection of Lazarus, Jews and Jewish Tradition”” (John 11:1-44), you mentioned that, it was not as if Yehshua, the Messiah could not raise Lazaraus without the help/permission of the Father. Will you kindly expatiate on this one?

    My understanding is that, even Yehshua Himself said, without the Father, He could do nothing and in some parts of the Bible, He indicated that there are certain things He had no prior knowledge off (eg the day/hour of the day of judgement but) but only the Father knew. To me, this means, both the ability/power and authority to do things comes from a source higher than Himself. Before raising Lazarus, He lifted His eyes to the Father to give ackowledgement/show gratitude for the fact that the Father heard His request. There are a number of other instances where Yehshua prayed to the Father to give thanks or ask for things.
    Even with His resurruction after 3 days and 3 nights, Yahweh, the Father raised Him from the dead. Yehshua, in fact declared that all authority in heaven and on earth was given by the Father to Him. So, the person granting authority/permission could not be of lower or equal rank to the one being delegated.

    I view both as beings that co-exist separately [each with a distinct personal name(s)], carrying the same title (“God”) and the Son (being subordinate to the Father) through whom the Father does things. Yehshua is the “gate way” for all humanity to the Father, Yahweh, hence we must believe in Him (ie that He is the Son of Yahweh; died and was raised by the Father from the dead; and that He is the way, the truth, and life, and than none come to the Father except by Him).
    In the end, Yehshua will hand over the reigns to the Father, so that all (including Yehshua) can be under authority, viz. that of the Father (1Cor 15:28).

    Please kindly enlighten me if I am missing something in this respect.

    Kind regards

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear ND, thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts. I do not have any difficulty with what you wrote. While in the Gospel of John in particular Jesus is set forth as God’s Logos co-equal to God the Father in Power and Glory, he is also set forth as subordinate to the Father. The relationship therefore of both equality (in power and glory) and subordination (authority) all at the same time. I hope this helps to clarify my position. This topic is way to big to try to explain why I think so.

    2. Rafael

      Before Yeshua died and rose again, indeed he said he did not know the time of his return. But it has been observed that he never said that after his resurrection.

      Also, do not overlook that Yeshua said “I” will raise this temple in three days. He also said that he had the authority to lay down his life and to pick it up again. He also said that the Father would do it.

      Yeshua always chose to be obedient to the Father. Part of that involved the need for prayer and petition. He even requested that he not have to endure the cross. But he made the request in a peculiar way. He said “if it be possible”. So what about it wasn’t possible. It was certainly possible to avoid it. But the result would have been dire for humanity. So, because the Father did not let the cup pass, it shows that there was no other way to save us. And this is what proves that there is only one way to God.

  4. James Ericksen

    Thank you Sir;

    In chapter 11 of the writings of John.

    John 11:4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

    What is your interpretation of “This illness does not lead to death”.

    I am a little perplexed at this statement.

    Thank you, James.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I think it is simpler that we realize. Jesus basically said that this incident will not lead to Lazarus death (given resurrection that was expected), but I think you are right the language is less then clear! :-). Dr. Eli

      1. Rafael

        Even though death did occur, the main element of death did not occur, that of “finality”. That was not the end for Lazarus in this life. And it was this that Jesus referenced when he said that it was not unto death. As Dr Eli pointed out, Jesus knew that Lazarus would live again, and that Lazarus would continue to live until later when he would actually die, unto death.

        Do not overlook the fact that Jesus waited only two days? If Jesus had departed immediately, Lazarus would still have been dead two days already before arriving. So why did Jesus wait two days? Did Jesus not know? Of course he knew. Did he know that by delaying two days he would arrive on the fourth day of Lazarus’ death? Of choose he knew. So why did Jesus delay two days? It was precisely to show that nothing is too hard for the Father, and that Jesus was sent by him. Lazarus was four-days dead, impossibly dead according to tradition. But prophecy predicted that Messiah would raise the dead. How much deader does he need to prove? When Jesus died, many who had already died walked again, not just a few.

        1. Anderew

          Amen( which i recently discovered means I believe)

  5. RamonAntonio

    First, the line of reasoning derives from the comment by Mr Thornber tying the use of the Gospels as part of preaching the Gospels which is the exact order Jesus commanded to the apostles and disciples when ascending to heaven in front of them: Go preach the good news of the Kingdom of God… That is what is called as the “Sending…” by Jesus to all Christians. In Latin the word was Missio which evolved to Mass. That is precisely why I reflected that what Catholics call Mass is in fact the Celebration of the Eucharist and the Mass properly would be the final “sending’ to preach the Gospel, i.e. the Missio. The final call in Mass presently says “This Mass has finished. Go in peace…” but it was originally “This Celebration has finished. Go Now and Preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God…, in fact “Go to your Missio as ordered by Jesus…” which would correspond to the Missio. So actually I think we Catholics are reversing the order in our actual Liturgy, the Mass was commanded by Jesus to be realized “outside the Temple” to all people in the world. In the Temple we really celebrate the Eucharist Celebration, not the Mass.

    Second, I do not say that there was a body of liturgy as such in apostolic times. What I propose is that the practice of preaching by the apostles (following the order by Jesus Himself) using the same parts of the Gospel stories that prevailed in the oral and written record as key elements of their preaching, a practice which was sustained by the Fathers and their successors in their use of written homilies with ample references to most of the same Gospel stories, evolved into what eventually we received as the written Gospels and what became then the Liturgy of the Christian Faith which in time became the Catholic Liturgy.

    What I propose, based in Mr Thornber argument, is that the practice of preaching and using Gospel stories as part of a nascent Liturgy evolved in two lines: one the written Gospels that we received and two, the Liturgy of the Catholic Church. This in fact, may also help explain why the Catholic Church relies in Three distinct lines of authority: The Gospels and the Bible envisioned as a continuum of the Revelation of God within the Pact of Abraham, The Tradition of the Church which is the establishment and preservation of the faith according to the Apostles including Paul and the following Fathers and The Magisterium, which is the “management” of the Faith by the Church itself as authorized by Jesus to Peter which is contained in the Councils and the Pope’s authority as descendant of the seat “Cathedra” of Peter based on the “tend my sheep” order by Jesus to Peter.

    Third and finally, oral tradition evolution, which I have studied a little for I think is critical, if was practised freely of a liturgical tradition, most probably would have resulted in a more diverse written tradition for, contrary to popular belief, oral traditions in religions are by definition more rich and inclusive than written traditions. Canonicity is a phenomenon that only exists in written records. For example, when in the midst of the first part of the 20th century, the 3,000 years old oral traditions from India were written by Englishmen from the memory of certain independent sages, they were exact copies by different persons and wildly ample in the tradition. No written record existed prior to that translation from oral to written until later written records were discovered in excavations of temples and these written codes were in fact parts of the memory record of the sages. The oral traditions were more complete than the Temple codes but they were almost the same in the parts corresponding. So the hyphotesis of a simple oral tradition would or should have rendered a more diverse Gospels. In fact, if we take a look to the apocryphal Gospels, they would suffice to sustain my argument for they are more ample and even some of them are inside the Catholic Liturgy but not in the accepted Gospels, specially the Infant narratives.

    The small parts of the life of Jesus that were kept in the Gospels, as noted by John’s remark, were preserved for and with a purpose in mind. For me, the best shot at this intention is the comment by Mr Thornber that they were part of preaching and I add that were in fact part of a nascent liturgy that took centuries and Councils to be established.

    NOTE: (I expose these thoughts, which reflect my personal Catholic understanding, with utmost respect to all participants and occasional viewers in this forum who represent diverse views from which I constantly learn and receive valued wisdom and please do not feel any intention from me to proselytize in any argument I expose). Thanks for the interest and remember this is solely a hypothesis).

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Cool. Anyone else would like to join in this fascinating conversation?

  6. James Ericksen

    In the death of lazarus, does the Hebrew scriptures in Ecclesiastes 12: 5 – 7, apply to your interpretation of death?

    Just curios.

    Thanks, James,

    I really enjoy your studies.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thanks, James. I think Eccl.12:5-7 describes the general human experience at the time of death. So of course it applies. I am feeling that perhaps there is more to your question :-). Is there? Yours, Dr. Eli

  7. RamonAntonio

    I wrote my comment from the point of view of a practizing Catholic which is to say I may have presumed that readers directly understand the diferent role liturgy plays from Scripture. I don’t know if its the same in other religions.

    In Catholic practice, liturgy is an aggregation of prayers, nost of them from Scripture but also from Tradition and the Apostolic Fathers writings intermixed with practices of decotion and sacramental actions derived from the Apostolic teaching. (This is an incomplete summary, check erudite sources). So, for example, Catholic Mass includes ceremonials, the entrance remembering the Ehmaus trip, prayers of salutation, worshipping, reading of Scripture, preaching through homily (the reason why lay people are prevented from preaching in Mass) (something I think must change), the consecration of species, prayers, communion and final blessing and sending to preach the Gospel (which has been distorted as an ending when in fact it is the real beginning of the Mass).

    My comment then is as follows, I think Mr Thornber suggests that this tradition of liturgy commenced in the apostolic era via the use of the Gospels as liturgy, THUS A SELECTION OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS AND NOT A FULL RENDERING OF WHAT WAS WRITTEN, and this selection became the standard of the writing of the Gospels thus becoming the present rendition of the Gospels we now have. This is a radical new interpretation of Gospel development in terms of Catholic practice and this why I am so intrigued. IT ACTUALLY MAKES A LOT OF SENSE TO ME.

    If this hyphotesis is correct, then fuller texts must have existed but were abandoned by the strong core of apostolic descendants who defined wat was to be used as part of Liturgy in the nascent Church of Jesus. This then was probably mirrored by the Jewish tradition which then responded by building its own core of beliefs in the Mishna and the Talmud, them a defining core of Jewish practice. This model suits the parallel surging of Church Liturgy and diferentiation from Jewish origins.

    Food for study.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I can see how hypothetically that would be possible of course. Nothing that you mentioned seems to through up a red flag. BUT… what is the reasoning behind this hypothesis? What leads to us to even have to say that there was such body of liturgy before there were Gospels? (the is first question) and Why do we need this hypathsis if another one much simpler one can be put forth that the Gospels were simply told as stories and therefore were part of oral tradition. Dr. Eli

    2. Rafael

      To Ramon:

      If I’m not mistaken, the Talmud began long before christianity. It was a work that was several hundred years in the making, and was finished not long after the start of christianity.

      Also, if I’m not mistaken, the catholics derived their liturgical practice from the preceding messianic Jews, who themselves derived theirs from Jewish liturgy. The Hebrew scriptures themselves were given by God with a tune built into them. God told Moses to teach the “song” of the Torah to the nation of Israel. When Paul (and others) were in prison singing hymns and praises, much of what they sang were the very scriptures themselves. This is speculation, but not blindly so. What other hymns and praises could they have been singing that we know about?

      Catholics who go to a Jewish service are often surprised at the similarities. But do not make the mistake of thinking that the Jews are the ones who copied others. It was the other way around.

  8. RamonAntonio

    I totally agree With your comments Dr. eli. This is precisely why I like Mr. Thornber insightful comment on why we read the Gospels now as they have been written. Because they were primarily part of a “liturgical” type preaching, the actual historical facts were receded in favor of sustantive summaries that preserved the “important” aspects from the point of view of the leaders of the early Church. If this is what Mr Thornber suggests, then it is one of the most striking propositions I have heard in decades of study and something that invites profound study.

    From this point of view, the abscence of data we expect in the Gospels actually makes sense. They were not preserved as data references but as liturgical steering readings to further the acceptance of Jesus as God. Tha’s where the crucial comment in John’s closing states that much else happened that would not fit in all the books of the world and ONLY THESE HAVE BEEN RECORDED IN ORDER FOR US TO PRAISE JESUS THE LORD…

    In that time, John may have been refering to a library such as the essenne library and then we could see that all the books in the world could be construed as the magnificient three volume biography of Churchill by William Manchester more than 3,000 pages of actual English long. Thus, a longer version of the life of Jesus may have been written with sufficient detail. Libraries of versions of documenta existed. But Jesus life was not written such as those. why? Mr Thornber remarkably suggests that it was the result of PURPOSE… And the purpose was to focus Jesus life on its meaning, the meaning that has withstood milennia, the meaning of Salvation from God by God Himself in Jesus Christ.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Ok, for the uninitiated among us :-). Does not the liturgy imply that it would be written down? If so where, do we really have anything liturgical going back before the Gospels? If so what precisely?

  9. James Ericksen


    Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg in your studies have you came across these words from the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 12: 6before the silver cord is snapped,i
    and the gold bowl is broken,j
    and the jar is shattered at the spring,
    and the wheel is broken into the well;
    7and the dust returns to the earth as it once was,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

    I interpreted this as death as the scriptures say.

    If this is so, how would you discern the death of Lazareth?

    Thank you, James.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear James, I did not understand your question. I am afraid. Please, rephrase. Dr. Eli

  10. RamonAntonio

    This is a fascinating discusion, indeed most of its fascination deriving by the careful exposition that Dr. Eli has made in his analysis. For me there are two critical details in his account: 1) the careful “staging” of the resurrection by Jesus himself and, 2) the centrality of the fourth day in the belief of the Jews. I have to confess that I had never heard of this belief and have been most impressed by Dr. Eli documentation of it. This leads me to my personal appreciation of the centrality of this miracle which maybe only second to Jesus own Ressurrection, both being unheard of events in antiquity because precisely of the timing of Lazarus in the fourth day and the absolute impossibility of anyone believing in someone resurrecting himself after being publicly destroyed and hanged by a Roman procurator.

    By stagging I propose that Jesus ministry was heavily influenced by Greek theater staging and narrative mastery which I presume were derived from Jesus exposition to Sephoris where some presume Joseph and jesus worked in the early years. It must be noted that Jesus was not a carpenter but a tekton, ie. a builder as the various references of construction He makes in His preaching attest. Also, preaching discourse was nascent in judaism as Hillel and Shammai were in the Temple around the time Jesus was born. (I have always supposed that it was with them that he was talking when he was found in the Temple although I have no way pf sustaining this other thatn a careful analisys of the timeline). His use of greek language and terms is also noted, calling hypokrites to the Pharisees which is a direct reference to the theater actor who uses masks and says something but means other thing, so a deceiver. If I am correct, Jesus timing is as precise as Dr. Eli suggests and a crucial part of his purported ressurrection of Lazarus. It was meant to be undoubtable and a key element of his ministry. And timing is a master use of time to which I now go…

    After reading and investigating on the subject of miracles I am of the opinion that most of what we presently call signs or miracles are events that alter not necessarily the laws of nature but the laws of time-space. That is, what we experience and by testimony of someone or ourselves call miracle, is something that could occur naturally in a given time or a reversion of something that already occurred. If we make a list of miracles we can verify that most, if not all, are occurrences that may happen. The exceptions to this appreciation are important such as turning water into wine or giving sight to someone who has no eyes but these radical signs are to be studied in detail.

    In the case of the resurrection of Lazarus, the fourth day was a critical element for the resurrection to be undisputable and what Jesus did was to demonstrate that He had power over time and matter in the form of giving life to a decaying corpse and turning that corpse in the person that was before dying. Only God can do this sort of thing. Jesus miracle REVERSED the natural, proven and attested effect of time to a point in the past which in effect restored the previous life of Lazarus to the present and in fact restored life to something unliving. Jesus was indeed demonstrating that He had authority over life and death and that only God could have. So he was not healing Lazarus as everyone expected He could but restored life to a dead being and returned that dead human being to life as he was before dying. This was not a golem. This was Lazarus and this is why Jesus called Lazarus to come out of the cave.

    After this event only one thing remained, returning Himself from the dead and proving that it was Him. And for this to be indisputable, Thomas doubts were central to the testimony, that is, someone from the inner circle that attested that what the others were saying was imposible and false was convinced and accepted publicly that he was in front of the Risen Jesus.

    I like a lot Mr Thornber comments which reflect that these events were so crucial that they were preserved in an orderly fashion as part of a nascent “liturgy” which was the base of our present narratives we so enjoy studying under Dr. Eli’s guidance.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Ramon, thank you for your kind words about my studies. About Jesus staging this moves: I think this is rather clear when it comes to sending his disciple to get a young donkey to full fulfill the prophecy as well as the event we considering now “waiting until the 4th day” to resurrect Lazarus (there a many other places). The close proximity of village of Nazareth to the Roman city of Sepphoris (wiki article on it here – where there was a significant theatrical culture present (as such images like hypocrites – the mask changer in the theater plays probably do come from that connection). Jesus spent much time there no doubt as a child. (I can especially relate to this because in my childhood there was a theater near by where I was always drawn to! 🙂 My favorite melody up until now remains of the areas of Carmen!) Now we must always be humble enough to admit that all those things are to some degree speculative because most of historic data is missing and therefore it is not possible to fully reconstruct the accurate picture of happened. We must be satisfied with what we can know for certain and what probably happened given the data we do have.