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Why Did John Write His Gospel?

Tim Staples

Audio only:

Tim Staples shares the story of the dark figure early Church writers say motivated John to clarify the truth about Jesus Christ.


Cy Kellett:

Hello, and welcome to Focus, the Catholic Answers podcast for living, understanding, and defending your Catholic faith. I’m Cy Kellett, your host, and it may not seem obvious, but many of the earliest Christian writings had to do with defending the faith; not just expressing the faith, but defending it. Today we talk about the Gospel of John with Tim Staples, senior apologist here at Catholic Answers, and author of all kinds of stuff you could find at timstaples.com, and the author of Behold Your Mother: A Biblican And Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines. Tim, thanks for being here with us–

Tim Staples:

Great to be with you, Cy Kellett.

Cy Kellett:

To talk about some of the players behind the scenes of John’s gospel, maybe.

Tim Staples:

Yes. Yeah. I kind of … I call him the odd man behind the Gospel of John. You know, it’s funny, Cy, whenever I speak to conferences, parishes, whatever … in fact, I just gave a talk on this topic just a few days ago–

Cy Kellett:

Okay.

Tim Staples:

Up in Hilmar, California at a parish. I usually start by saying, “Most Catholics know that Matthew wrote his gospel to a Jewish Christian community, right?”

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Tim Staples:

We’ve heard that.

Cy Kellett:

The new Moses.

Tim Staples:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

That Jesus is the new Moses. Yeah.

Tim Staples:

Oh yeah, you have so much in there that demonstrates that, as well as the testimony of the Fathers of the Church, yeah, and you’re right; even the language itself … You know, when Matthew talks about Jewish traditions, he doesn’t explain them, he just mentions them.

Cy Kellett:

Right, right. Yeah.

Tim Staples:

Whereas Luke, or Mark even, will explain what they mean. There’s Hebraisms, all kinds of stuff all over Matthew’s gospel that help us to know that, yeah, this was written to a Jewish Christian community, and one of the most obvious is you see Matthew’s emphasis on Peter, on the Petrine office. You notice how–

Cy Kellett:

Oh yeah.

Tim Staples:

Only in Matthew’s gospel do you have Peter walking on the water.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Tim Staples:

Only in Matthew’s gospel do you have the keys to the kingdom. Only in Matthew do you have the famous fishing excursion. “Go get your fishing pole, cast it in the sea. When you catch a fish, you’ll have enough money to pay for me and for you,” Vicar of Christ, right? “In the place of me,” right? I mean, it’s obvious stuff, right down to the very listing of the apostles in Matthew 10:2. Only in Matthew do you have Peter called ‘the first apostle’, protos, which does not mean chronologically because we know Andrew came first in John 1:41. Had to go back home and get his knuckle-headed brother Peter.

Cy Kellett:

Right! That’s right, yeah.

Tim Staples:

So, protos, the first apostle, it’s just overwhelming in Matthew’s gospel, he’s emphasizing Petrine authority. Why? Because that was the ultimate issue in the Jewish Christian community; “Who is this Peter guy to tell us we don’t have to circumcise our babies and have gentile babies circumcised? I mean, Charlton Heston gave us this, right? What in the world are you talking about?”

So, the papacy, right … And for lack of time, if we go to Mark’s gospel, it’s a more general gospel because Mark gets his gospel from Peter. We go to Luke, it’s a gentile gospel. Emphasis, why? Because Luke is the only gentile writer, and we could get into details, but the point is, Cy Kellett, why did John write his gospel?

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, what’s his … What’s he responding to? What’s prompting him to write this? Yeah.

Tim Staples:

Exactly, and that’s the one where you usually get a blank stare from people.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

They may have heard of those other three, but John … And here, I’ve got to share this. About 30 … Oh my goodness, that would be about 36 years ago. I discovered this reading the Church Fathers as a Protestant at Jimmy Swaggart Bible College, reading in particular Saint Irenaeus. I read every word of that man, and all the apostolic fathers and beyond, I’m reading, reading, reading, and you discover, “Oh my goodness. Why did John write his gospel?” Well, there was a fellow whose name is Cerinthus.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Tim Staples:

Who … Cy, you’re smiling because you know. I’ve been–

Cy Kellett:

I learned it from you. It’s funny, I hadn’t … If I had heard of Cerinthus, it had gone right past me, you know?

Tim Staples:

Right. Right. Well, so many … I was talking to Cy earlier and I mentioned, I’ve been really hitting this over about the last six months. Since I came back from my stroke, I’ve been doing this talk … I gave it at our Catholic Answers conference … the odd man behind the gospel, Cerinthus.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

And I’ve been really speaking, literally all over the world. I did it in Australia, I did it in New Zealand, I’ve done it all over, and I get a blank stare. “Who’s Cerinthus? Never heard of him.”

Cy Kellett:

Right. Right.

Tim Staples:

Yet, in the early church, everybody knew who Cerinthus was, and even in the early centuries. In fact, the Church condemned this man over and over. The last time he was formally condemned by the Church, Cy Kellett, was in the year 1435.

Cy Kellett:

Wow!

Tim Staples:

At the Counsel of Florence. And you kind of think, “Catholic Church, lighten up!”

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, get over it!

Tim Staples:

I mean, my gosh, the guy’s been dead for 1400 years and you’re still condemning him! What’s going on? Well, the Church has a profound sense of the impact that these heretics and their heresies have on the community. It goes on long after they die, especially if you’re someone like Cerinthus. The impact has been enormous.

Now, here’s the key, Cy. He is understood to be one of the fathers of Gnosticism. One of the very … You know, there’s a tradition that Simon the Magician there of Acts Chapter 8 is one of them, and there’s a number of lesser known names attached to the early Gnostics, but none bigger than Cerinthus, who, according to tradition, was a disciple of John. He was a Christian, believed in Jesus, but he left he faith side and he took many souls with him, and he became kind of the archenemy of John the Apostle.

Cy Kellett:

Did John really get out of the bath because of Cerinthus? Is that real? Or something like that.

Tim Staples:

Yeah, that’s right. That is a real story relayed by Saint Irenaeus, who by the way, Saint Irenaeus is a great source of this because Saint Polycarp was his teacher.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Tim Staples:

And Polycarp knew John the Apostle.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Tim Staples:

He was discipled by John the Apostle, so Saint Irenaeus would say of Polycarp that he still had the words of Saint John echoing in his memory, right? And so, yeah, John tells the story to Polycarp, who tells to Irenaeus of one day John’s in a bathhouse with some of his disciples … which, by the way, was common in the first century.

Cy Kellett:

That’s where you went to take a bath, yeah.

Tim Staples:

You didn’t have a bathtub in your house.

Cy Kellett:

Right, right.

Tim Staples:

Right? And so he’s there, and Cerinthus and some of his disciples came in, and John allegedly says, “Run for your lives. The son of Satan has entered into this place. The walls are going to fall down on us.” Now, most … I would say ‘most’, but there are a number of modern scholars who say, “Oh, that’s apocryphal. John would’ve never said that.” John, after all, was the apostle of love, right?

Cy Kellett:

Oh, wow.

Tim Staples:

“He put his head on the breast of Jesus. He talks about 1 John 4:8, ‘God is love.’ He would never.” Whenever I read that, the first thing that comes to my mind … and I know you probably think this way too, Cy, is, “Whoever wrote this does not have children.”

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, right, because there can be a biting edge and a sharp edge to love.

Tim Staples:

Yeah, that’s right.

Cy Kellett:

I don’t mean you bite your children or stab them, I’m just saying, sometimes love doesn’t look like love, it looks like real human encounters.

Tim Staples:

Yes, and love is concern for the other, right? That’s what love is, is you’re willing the good of the other, and sometimes the good of the other needs a whip and throwing money changers’ tables over.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Right.

Tim Staples:

I mean, that’s love incarnate there in John 2. I always say of my kids, “I love them before I spank them, while I’m spanking them, and after I spank them,” you know? And so the idea that John would never have done that … Well, I’ll tell you what. Let’s get into what Cerinthus actually taught.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, that’ll give you an idea why John spoke sharply about him. Yeah.

Tim Staples:

Why he spoke sharply. And by the way, folks, not just in this alleged story, but within the pages of the New Testament John has some very strong words for Cerinthus and the boys. Now, hang on to that.

But what we’ve got to do is lay out … There are basically four major heresies that Cerinthus taught. Now, he taught more, but probably I picked out the four major heresies, and number one is Cerinthus, and this is a quote from Saint Irenaeus in 177 A.D. He said that Cerinthus denied that God is the creator of all things, right? Now, what did he mean by that? The idea is Cerinthus, as one of the founders of Gnosticism, taught that there’s kind of like two gods. There’s God, and then you have this Demiurge, right? So, for simplicity’s sake, two gods. You have the first god, who is the source of all spirit. He created angels, he created our souls. He has nothing to do with matter because matter is evil for the Gnostics. Now, many listening, you’re going, “Ah! I’ve heard of these guys!” You’re right.

So, the second god, the Demiurge, was the source of all the evils in the universe that begin with matter. So, matter is evil, spirit is good. That is the first major heresy, and it would have devastating impact–

Cy Kellett:

That gives people the very kind of sad, heartbreaking idea that I’m trapped in my body. I need to be liberated from this.

Tim Staples:

That’s exactly what they taught. That’s one of the many things that it would lead to.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. People teach that today, too. I mean, you see this still. People think–

Tim Staples:

Yeah, we’re a ghost in a machine.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Right.

Tim Staples:

I heard a television preacher … I can picture him right now … who said … He calls our bodies a dirt suit.

Cy Kellett:

Oh yeah! Right.

Tim Staples:

“We have a dirt suit,” you know? “We’ve got to get rid of this thing. But our spirit is where … ” you know.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

No, folks. But here’s the kicker, right? So, keep that in mind; he’s not the creator of all things, only the spirit, which is good. In fact, many of the Gnostics, disciples of Cerinthus would teach that the good god doesn’t even know matter even exists because he’s so far transcended. He doesn’t even know we exist. He’s way out there.

Cy Kellett:

Wow.

Tim Staples:

Right? And so the Demiurge is more eminent to us, all right? So, anyway, this would lead to so many bad things, and one of those being … Oh, I should mention this, too. He also taught that Jesus is not God. Jesus was born of … And this is very much related to heresy number one. Let’s make this heresy number two. Jesus is not God, he is born of a normal sexual relationship between Joseph and Mary, but Jesus was chosen to become, or to have the Christ dwell with him. And what Cerinthus meant by that is, at his Baptism, when Jesus was 30 years old, the Christ came upon him. So, picture Scene of Baptism, Matthew 3:16. He’s Baptized, the dove descends.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Tim Staples:

Right? The Father says, “This is my beloved son.” Well, that’s when the Christ came upon him. Then, in Luke 24, on the cross, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” that’s when the Christ leaves him and his body goes to the dust where it belongs. Okay? So, this becomes a really important point. The Christ was too pure, because he emanates from the good God.

Cy Kellett:

Right, right.

Tim Staples:

He emanates. He doesn’t really come down, but he emanates from the lowest level. There’s 10 levels … They’re called Aeons. He emanates from the lowest level, but he’s still too pure to where he could have an evil body, hence the Christ comes upon him, the Christ leaves him.

Cy Kellett:

So, Jesus …

Tim Staples:

Is not God.

Cy Kellett:

Is a different person than the Christ.

Tim Staples:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

They’re two people.

Tim Staples:

That’s right.

Cy Kellett:

They’re two … yeah.

Tim Staples:

That’s right. The Christ is an entity that comes upon him; Jesus is this natural dude. Good guy …

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, but …

Tim Staples:

But not God. Okay, but that leads to heresy number three, and that is the denial of the incarnation.

Cy Kellett:

Oh yes. Right. Right.

Tim Staples:

So, the idea that the word, or that the Christ could be made flesh, was absolutely anathema to Cerinthus, so no incarnation, and now the fourth heresy flows right out of that: a denial of the Eucharist. And I have to tell you a story. You’ve got to imagine, Cy, when I’m a student at Jimmy Swaggart Bible College and I’m learning about this stuff, I’m reading about this stuff … And by the way, the commentary that I’m reading on the Fathers was largely done by Protestants. I’m reading footnotes from Philip Schaff and those guys, but even they are acknowledging in their footnotes these truths about Cerinthus; to a great extent, anyway. And so I’m reading this and I’m going, “Oh my gosh! All right, so he denies the Eucharist. Why?” Because of course if the word is not made flesh, then what would the Eucharist be? The Eucharist is purely symbolic. It’s purely a symbolic representation of Jesus the Christ, but of course there’s no incarnation, so there’s no body to consume. You can’t consume the Eucharist because the Christ was never enfleshed at all, so it’s purely symbolic. Now–

Cy Kellett:

It’s interesting, I have to say; losing the oneness of God, everything else just falls apart after that.

Tim Staples:

Oh my gosh.

Cy Kellett:

Once you’ve divided God up as he did, then the rest of it all just becomes a mess.

Tim Staples:

Oh, Cy, we’re only scratching the surface of the heresies that branch off from this. Maybe if we have time we can talk about some of them, but I wanted to make this point from the get-go, is that you’ve got to imagine, here I am, I’m reading about this and I’m going, “Oh my goodness! So, I’m on the side of Cerinthus.”

Cy Kellett:

Oh, right!

Tim Staples:

Because I was a Protestant at the time.

Cy Kellett:

And you were saying that the Eucharist is symbolic.

Tim Staples:

It’s purely symbolic.

Cy Kellett:

Purely symbolic.

Tim Staples:

“How could this man … ” Now, think about this though, Cy … and you talk about being uncomfortable … this was actually a watershed moment for me, because it didn’t immediately lead me to the Church, but I think this took me to the point of no return. I was still fighting, still trying to save my Protestantism, but I was pretty much a goner by this point, and I continued to study and to read until finally … I’ll tell you what brought me home was, first time in my life, I prayed to a saint, I prayed to the Blessed Mother. That’s what finally brought me home to the Catholic faith.

But I wanted to say this, because for our listeners, I want to give you homework. Just read John Chapter 6, but John’s gospel in general, think about how John … Just as we talked about with Matthew, you have more about the papacy than all the other gospels pretty much combined. I mean, the papacy is everywhere in Matthew’s gospel because of his audience. Think about John’s gospel with regard to the divinity of Christ. John’s gospel has overwhelmingly the most and most direct references to the divinity of Christ. Why? Because that’s what he’s dealing with.

Cy Kellett:

Oh!

Tim Staples:

And think about how it’s written, all right? Let’s go to John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Cy Kellett:

That’s all perfectly responding to what you just said of the theology of Cerinthus. That’s so interesting.

Tim Staples:

It is, because this is who he’s … And by the way, these are all unique to John’s gospel. You don’t find this anywhere else. Jesus is not called ‘the Word’ anywhere else except John’s gospel, and this whole prologue there, the first 18 verses of John’s gospel are unique to John’s gospel, but look at Verse 14: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” I mean, you know he’s got Cerinthus on the brain, because Cerinthus and his boys especially despised the term ‘flesh’.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, right. That makes sense.

Tim Staples:

Flesh is evil. “The Word was made flesh.” And as we read forward … I mean, guys, I know many of our apologists listening, you know how in John’s gospel, the divinity of Christ, are you kidding me? You know, right from the start, as I mentioned too, John 5, Verse 17 and 18, after he heals the paralytic, and they’re ticked off because he healed on the Sabbath, what does Jesus respond in Verse 17? “The Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” and immediately they pick up rocks to kill him. Why? Because, of course, folks, think about it, does the Father work on the Sabbath? Yes. Doing things like keeping us in existence. You know, little things like that, right? Well, Jesus says, “The Father worketh, and I work,” and they wanted to kill him.

But then notice in Verse 18, John puts a parentheses. It’s a parenthetical statement. He then says, “And thus they wanted to kill him, not because he healed on the Sabbath, but because he called God his father, making himself equal with God.” That’s John’s commentary just for Cerinthus and the boys. And remember, it’s not just for Cerinthus, but for Catholics who were being led astray by this guy, okay? He is equal with God. You’ll notice in John’s gospel, four times Jesus uses the divine name for himself, Ego Eimi in Greek, or Yahweh in Hebrew, from Hebrew … I should say Exodus Chapter 3, Verses 14 and 15, God reveals his name as Ego Eimi.

I like Verse 15, because when Moses says, “Who shall I say sent me?” He says, “Tell them I Am sent you.” And in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, that’s Ego Eimi. Notice how many times in John’s gospel … In John 8:24, Jesus says, “Unless you believe Ego Eimi, you will die in your sins.” Unless you believe I’m God, in other words, you will die in your sins. Guys, girls, you don’t run around saying stuff like that in first century Israel.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Right.

Tim Staples:

I mean, Jesus … You’ve heard me say this, but he definitely did not read the book How To Win Friends And Influence People, because you don’t do that. You don’t say, “Hey, I’m God. How are you guys?” But this is what he says, and then four verses later he says it again, and then in John 8:58, the famous line, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” And, to me, one of the most powerful declarations is John 19:6, which I wish Mel Gibson would’ve put in his movie. Remember when the thugs were coming to get Jesus–

Cy Kellett:

Oh, I know what you mean. Yeah.

Tim Staples:

On Holy Thursday.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Tim Staples:

They’re coming to get him, and what happens? Right? They’re saying, “Where is this Jesus of Nazareth?” And Jesus steps out and says, “Ego Eimi.” That’s all he said, and they literally fell backwards onto the ground. I mean, like an unseen hand …

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

Down they went. Oh, Mel, you should’ve put that in your movie. But, my gosh, this is a revelation of Jesus as God. We have Thomas in John 20:28, “My Lord and my God.” I mean, there are so many examples we could use in John’s gospel. Well, this is because he’s dealing with Cerinthus. You have an emphasis on the divinity of Christ. “He is the creator of all things,” and not just God is the creator of all things, but Jesus the Christ is the creator of all things. He is the Word made flesh.

And by the way, for my friends in that Catholic commentary I read years ago that, “Jesus would never say this … ” And I’ve actually seen that from more than just one Catholic, or, “Saint John would never say this,” that, “Run for your lives, the son of Satan has entered into the bathhouse,” and all that. Well, look at 1 John Chapter 4, Cy Kellett, Versus One and Two. This is John referring to Cerinthus, folks. Or, let’s say we’ll let you decide who he’s referring to. He says, “If anyone denies that Jesus the Christ is come in the flesh, the same is anti-Christ.” Right?

Cy Kellett:

Wow! Yeah! That’s … Yeah.

Tim Staples:

And by the way, in the Greek text it’s very clear, it’s not just Jesus, but it’s Jesus the Christ, [inaudible 00:21:56] Christos. “Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh.” Not just Jesus.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

Because Cerinthus would have no problem with saying Jesus came in the flesh–

Cy Kellett:

Jesus came in the flesh, because yeah, he thought he was flesh. Yeah. Right.

Tim Staples:

That’s right. But you’ve got to … I mean, this is so awesome when you see this, but folks, of course I wanted to focus on this, and that’s John 6. When Jesus … and of course John is orchestrating this thing. What I mean by that is all four of the gospel writers, many of our listeners know, they put together the words and sayings of Jesus, all accurately. There’s no contradiction, Cy Kellett. The Holy Spirit doesn’t contradict. But they bring out different sayings and works of Jesus to minister to their particular congregation or people that they are dealing with. And so in John 6 you have this incredible depiction, which by the way, you can find in John 6, Mark 6, and Matthew 14, you can see the same scenario, where Jesus does the miracle of the loaves. He goes up on the mountain. He sends the knuckle-heads out on the sea, and they’re ready to die, and then he comes walking and he saves the day. That’s found Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6.

But what’s fascinating here is in each story … In Matthew, the emphasis on this same story … miracle of loaves, goes up on the mountain, knuckle-heads are out on the sea, “Ah, we’re going to die–“

Cy Kellett:

‘Knuckle-heads’ are the apostles, I’m …

Tim Staples:

Yes, yes.

Cy Kellett:

I just wanted to clarify that. Okay.

Tim Staples:

The knuckle-headed apostles. As you’ve heard me say, they are proof positive there’s hope for me.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

I mean, these guys, professional fishermen that never caught a fish. But he comes walking out on the water, and what happens? John sees him first. He says, “Peter, hey! It’s Jesus!” And Peter says, “If it be thou, bid me come to thee on the water.” Jesus says, “Come.” He does what no man has ever done before: he walks on water. Starts to fall, gets his eyes off Jesus. Jesus says, “Nope, you’re not going under,” and then they walk back to the boat together. Is that beautiful? Once again, he’s walking on the water back to the boat. Emphasis on Peter, the unique authority and power he has as spokesman for Jesus.

Mark’s gospel, same story, except when Jesus comes walking out on the water in Mark … and by the way, this is Mark, Chapter 6, Verses 47 through 52. I’m serious. It’s right there in the book. This is hilarious, Cy. But in Mark’s version, Jesus comes walking on the water, the apostles, “Ah, we’re going to die!” They see him, and the Bible says, “And Jesus would have passed them by … ” Other words, he’s just, he’s going to walk right by as they’re drowning over there, or getting ready to … until they all call out to him. It wasn’t just Peter. All of them call out. Jesus stops, steps into the boat, and the storm ceases, and then the Bible says they were more afraid of Jesus than they were of the storm! Because of course they realize God just stepped in the boat with them, because only God can control nature.

But the point here though is, in Mark’s gospel you have the purpose. Saint Peter, we know, is behind Mark’s gospel. He gives Mark the substance of his gospel. He’s the beloved son of Peter, we know from 1 Peter 5:14, and so the substance of his gospel comes from Peter. And that’s why in Peter’s gospel … I say Peter’s gospel; it’s the Gospel of Saint Mark, with Peter kind of the man behind the scenes here. Peter, you don’t have a single Petrine text. No walking on the water, no keys, no first apostle, no supernatural fishing excursion, none of those. He emphasizes the college of the apostles, how they all call out and he steps into the boat and the storm ceases.

But now, Cy, we go to John’s gospel. Same scenario … miracle loaves, goes up on the mount, sends the knuckle-heads out on the sea … but then there’s a complete change of plan here. He launches into the Eucharistic Discourse, around the fact that in John’s gospel, as you know, it’s the Book of Signs.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

Right? The multiple signs that Jesus performed demonstrating he is the messiah. But in John, Chapter 6, remember at the very beginning, the reason why the multitudes are following him is because they saw the signs that he had performed, starting with the Wedding Feast of Cana, which became a very popular sort of rumor. You know what happens when you do miracles like that. People start talking about it, and that’s what happened here, so you have in John 2. Then you have in John 4, the Samaritan woman, “Come see the man who told me everything … ” And remember, she went blabbering it all over the place, “You’ve got to come see this man,” and they came!

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

People came, and they said, “Now we believe him, not just because of your word, but we’ve seen him.” They saw him. They saw him perform miracles. And then you go to Chapter 5, we just talked about the paralytic that he healed. So, all these signs he had been performing, and in Chapter 6 that’s why the multitudes were following him. They saw the signs he had performed in Chapters 2 and 4 and 5, right? So, you’ve got zillions of people following. Why? Because Jesus, as the Book of John says, “Now the Passover,” the feast of the Jews, was near at hand. Jesus looking up and seeing the multitudes, he’s now ready to do his Eucharistic Discourse. Why? Because we know the Eucharist, Cy, is our Passover.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

1 Corinthians, 5:7, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed, therefore let us keep the feast.” What feast? The Passover feast, as Paul will later describe it in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 10, Verse 15, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the koinonia partaking in the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the koinonia, the partaking in the body of the Lord? This is our Passover.” Well, guess what? Jesus sees the multitudes … “It’s the Passover. I’ve got literally tens of thousands of people here. It is time for a Passover discussion,” or a Passover discourse.

And so how does he start it? He says, “Philip, how are we going to buy food for all these people?” I just love that line, Cy, because if I’m Philip, I’m saying, “Who died and made us the caterer?”

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Right.

Tim Staples:

“What do you … We’ve got tens of–“

Cy Kellett:

“Maybe you could’ve mentioned this before we got out here.”

Tim Staples:

That’s right! But what does Philip do? The apostles are like, “Oh my gosh, does anybody got any money? We need to take a collection here real quick.” But obviously Jesus knew … and I love Verse 6 there, because it said he said this to test Philip. And remember, interesting, in both Mark 6:37 and in Matthew 14:16, in their versions of this story, Jesus says to the apostles, “You give them to eat.” They’re more direct about it. It’s implied in John 6, but they say it in Mark, and in Matthew’s gospel. He tells them to do it. He is teaching them, “You guys are going to be my priests that are going to perform a miracle every day, and you are going to feed the multitudes with my body, blood, soul.” And of course they weren’t there yet.

Cy Kellett:

No, no. Right, right.

Tim Staples:

And so they’re like, “Okay, let’s take up a collection here,” and Jesus says, “Okay, guys. Have them sit down,” and he splits them up into 12 companies, as you know, gives the bread … I love it. Andrew says, “Hey, there’s a lad here that has five loaves and two fishes, but what are they among so many?” And, “It will be sufficient,” and the miracle happens. Well, this miracle is a setup, Cy, in the various gospels, but for different reasons.

In John’s gospel, this is a setup for the Eucharist; Mark’s, for the college of bishops; Matthew, for the papacy. Now, Cy, are these contradictions? No. All of them happened, but the authors bring out the particular parts of the story for their community, and you’d better believe it. And this launches into … I don’t think we have time to do all the details of it, but the bottom line is, you love the way … At least we can say this: the way John moves the story is, these multitudes of people have been following Jesus because they saw the signs. Then he does the miracle of loaves. They’re like, “Oh my gosh. This guy is the messiah.” And in Verse 14 of John 6, they want to come make him king by force, and Jesus has to do a disappearing act to get away. “No, guys. No. Not time yet, all right?” And they kind of had a little bit of a wrong understanding of what the messiah was going to be; not a king to take over the empire here, or a new emperor.

And so he kind of disappears, and at that point, of course the apostles get into the only boat that was on the shore and they go out on the sea. Jesus goes up into the mountain, but nobody saw because he kind of did a disappearing act, right? And so the multitudes are going, “Wait a minute. Where is Jesus? Well, the apostles, they went out on the sea. Where did Jesus … I don’t know.” Well, they searched all night. They went all the way around the Sea of Galilee looking, and the next morning they find Jesus on the other side.

Cy Kellett:

Right. Yeah.

Tim Staples:

And they go, “Hey! How did you get over here? There was only one boat there.” And Jesus turns the story … This is right around Verse 27, 28. You’ve got to love Jesus, because he turns the story on them. He goes, “You’re not searching for me because you saw signs, you’re searching for a free meal!” And they were … I mean, I just love that story, Cy, because he sees through our façade. He knows exactly what our motives are. You can’t fool Jesus. And you can only imagine, when Jesus turns to them and says, “You’re here for the free meal,” they were like, “Oh my gosh. This guy knows us. We are so busted,” and they say basically, “Okay. What must we do to believe?”

And he says, “If you want this whole thing here, you’re going to have to believe me and everything I teach. You’re going to have to believe in me. Not just Yahweh, the transcendent god out there somewhere, but me.” He turns the focus here, unlike Moses, unlike any of the prophets. “You need to believe in me,” and then they kind of … You could picture, in about Verse 30, they’re sheepishly going, “Okay, well, what sign do you do to prove?” Dude, why are you following him to start with? You’re seeing signs, right?

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

“What sign do you do?” Moses, in Verse 32, Moses gave us bread from heaven, and then they quote Psalm 102, “He gave them bread from heaven.” He gave them bread from heaven. Moses gave us bread from heaven, and Jesus, once again proving he never read the book How To Win Friends And Influence People, said, “Moses did not give you bread from heaven. My Father gives you the true bread from heaven, that if anyone eats of this, he will never hunger again.” And in Verse 34, they says, “Give us this bread always,” and he says, “I am the bread, the living bread come down from heaven.”

And that begins a little five-verse scenario where Jesus says a number of things that would’ve ticked off a first-century Jew. He says, “First of all, you have to believe in me. If you believe in me, you’ll have everlasting life.” But then he also says, “You believe in me and I will resurrect you at the last day.” Dude, you don’t say that. God resurrects folks at the end of this thing. “Unless you come to me.” He says a number of things. You have to believe in him, come to him, “I will raise you up on the last day,” on and on, but there was one thing that he said that ticked them off the most, and that is, “I am the bread come down from heaven.” That’s what John picks out, of the many things that he would’ve said that they would’ve objected to. He says in Verse 41 … and this is why I say to all those listening right now, I’m giving you homework. When you read John 6 tonight for your homework, focus on Verse 41 and 52, and you get a sense of this dialogue and what’s going on.

Because in Verse 41, they object. They say, “How can this man say he came down from heaven? We know him! I went to Nazareth Elementary School with him! And he’s saying he’s going to come down … I know his cousins, I know his mama. No.” Right? They object to him saying he came down heaven. Why? Because Cerinthus and the boys rejected that he was God. He didn’t come down from heaven. He was born of a natural relationship between Joseph and Mary, so he did not come down from heaven. Guess what? That’s the focus there, and you’ll notice, when they object in Verses 42 and 43 and 44, Jesus then responds by saying, “Yep, yep, yep. I came down from heaven, I came down from heaven.” He repeats it again and again until … We’re going to do this quick … you go up to Verse 51, where he says, “I am the living bread come down from heaven, and the bread that I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Cy Kellett:

There it is, that word.

Tim Staples:

There’s that word that Cerinthus and the boys would’ve hated, but that was the occasion for the next verse, Verse 52. Remember, I said Verse 41 and 52. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” And remember, if you read it carefully, folks, they’re not saying this out loud. They’re murmuring it among themselves. They’re saying, “How can this man give us [inaudible 00:36:24]?”

Cy Kellett:

Right. Yeah.

Tim Staples:

But Jesus has big ears, because he’s God. He sees their souls, he sees their hearts, and what does he say to them? When they’re struggling, and they’re saying, “How can this man give us … ” Jesus looks them in the eye and says, “Truly, truly … ” We usually end our sentences with this word. It’s amen, amen, right? “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of son of man, drink his blood, you have no life in you. My food is true meat, my blood is true drink, and he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” So, notice he goes back to what he said earlier, but now attaches it directly to the Eucharist. “You must believe in the Eucharist or else you’re not going to be raised up on the last day, you’re not going to have everlasting life.”

And, my friends, I’m sorry I’ve been monologuing for so long here, but you’ve got to understand, Cy, and everybody listening, when I discovered this roughly about 35 years ago, this was a revelation, to be sure, but also a revolution in my life. It was, “Oh my gosh.” I had to, by this point, either be Orthodox or Catholic.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

I tried to be Orthodox, but the Pope got in the way, bottom line.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Tim Staples:

But that’s where I was. Now, Cy, and all those listening, can you imagine if you can share this with your Protestant friend? “Hey, take a look at this. Just as a historical fact, why did John write his gospel? You’ll find some interesting information here. Here, let me give you a CD set or a digital download by Tim Staples called Living Bread. Check this out,” right? Anyway, that’s kind of a synopsis of what I discovered all those years ago.

Cy Kellett:

And it is amazing that … And the ending with, “I will raise you up on the last day,” this is the thing that they don’t believe is going to happen; because why would you want to be raised up in evil flesh again?

Tim Staples:

Truly. That’s right. There is that. Now, it’s interesting that among the Gnostics, you had different sects who taught different things. Some scholars say that Cerinthus did believe in a kind of resurrection, but some of his followers that would be more Docetists, they rejected it altogether. And really, you’re right; if you take Cerinthus’s teaching to its natural conclusion, then absolutely you reject the resurrection.

Don’t you find that interesting about heresies in general? Luther did not see the full ramifications of his errors when he first began. He rejected stuff until the end of his life because of his teaching of justification by faith alone, in the same way with Cerinthus. He originally held on to some of the Christian doctrines, and it’s believed the resurrection of the body was one of them, but his teachings make the resurrection not just superfluous, but as you say, if the flesh is evil, why would you resurrect this pile of scum that, Cerinthus, you talked about how the body is evil and all of this? And so very quickly the Gnostics discarded it. Yeah. There is no resurrection of this evil flesh.

Cy Kellett:

And the other striking thing is it was Irenaeus–

Tim Staples:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

Who said, “Here’s the four basic heresies of … ” and you can so easily see John refuting those four heresies.

Tim Staples:

Oh my gosh.

Cy Kellett:

In word after word, sentence after sentence, it’s those four things that he’s refuting.

Tim Staples:

Yeah. And can you imagine this as well: picture again, I’m a student at Jimmy Swaggart Bible College. Now, I had already read Lightfoot’s Apostolic Fathers even before I became a student at Swaggart Bible College, but I had Lightfoot’s edition with me. I still have it. You can see it at my house. I still have it. It hasn’t fallen apart yet. Some of my old books ended up falling apart, that my buddy [inaudible 00:40:27] gave me, but I still have Lightfoot’s Apostolic Fathers, and I had read through it, and I’m highlighting it.

Well, as you know, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who knew John the Apostle, writes in 107 … I mean, this is right around the time John died. John died around 100.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

And Saint Ignatius of Antioch knew. He was in the sea of Peter and Antioch, and knew John the Apostle, and what does he write, I believe it’s in section seven of his letter against the Smyrnaeans? When he is deal with the same Gnostics that his teacher John the Apostle dealt with, and not too long before, depending upon when you believe John wrote the Book of Revelation … but either way it’s not that long before … John is dealing with these same people. Well, what does Ignatius say? He says, “They … ” That is these Gnostics, these Sons of Cerinthus … “abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they deny the Eucharist is the flesh of our lord and savior Jesus Christ, the same flesh which suffered and died for our sins,” close quote.

Cy Kellett:

Wow.

Tim Staples:

And this is 107 A.D., when Ignatius was on his way to be martyred for the faith. You still have that Gnostic influence, and in fact it was growing outside of the church, and we know … Here’s a little interesting tidbit for folks, is if you read carefully when Ignatius is dealing with them, it appears they’re still populating Catholic churches. They’re going to mass, but they’re not in full communion with the Church anymore. And we know that never happens, right, Cy?

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. So, they’re just believing a different gospel.

Tim Staples:

They sure are.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

But what ends up happening is, quickly, they leave entirely and start forming their own communities, and by the time of Saint Irenaeus … About 75 years later, when Irenaeus is writing about them, he writes about a huge number of Gnostic sects who had begun, because just like kind of Protestantism, the Gnostic sects would split from each other.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. And that’s in Against Heresies, you’re talking about.

Tim Staples:

That’s in Against Heresies, yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Right.

Tim Staples:

He lists so many different sects of these Gnostic sects, but here he talks about how they had their own communities now. They’re saying masses. They’re saying these pseudo masses, but Irenaeus points out their hypocrisy. He says, “They use the words, ‘This is my body, this is the chalice of my blood,’ but they don’t believe that it is, so they need to either stop saying the words, or believe what they’re saying.”

Cy Kellett:

Wow.

Tim Staples:

So, isn’t that fascinating? Because–

Cy Kellett:

That is fascinating, because again that brings us into the modern world, where the same situation is in some churches, in many churches.

Tim Staples:

Modernism.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

Modernism that Pope Saint Pope Pius X called ‘the synthesis of all heresies’ is certainly alive and well in the sense that you have people not just calling themselves Christians, United Church of Christ kind of American Baptists who don’t believe in anything anymore, right? But Catholics who are so far afield now … I mean, we have a real crisis in our church right now, folks, with people that are mimicking saying the words, but their hearts are not there. It’s a show, a façade of orthodoxy, but that denies the power thereof, denies the essence of the faith. We could get into the moral issues; same principle.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Tim Staples:

You deny infallible teaching on the moral law, like homosexual marriage is a-okay and all of this that we’re seeing coming out of Germany and the Flemish bishops and such. Folks, these are heretics and heresies. I’m sorry, it’s infallible, Cy Kellett.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

It is an infallible teaching of the Church that a man cannot have conjugal relations with a man, and a woman with a woman, so those who are arguing for this are arguing for heresy. They are not in full communion with the Church. And we have some of this in high places.

Guess what? There’s nothing new under the sun, but I always like to encourage people at this point, and understand that just as in the first century, the second century, you had people in the church who were denying Jesus is God, they were denying … Guess what? It ultimately only served to solidify the Church’s position, because it’s what Saint Paul says is perineal. In 1 Corinthians 11:19, he says, “Heresies must come so that those who are approved among you may be manifest.”

And this is what we’re going through right now. We went through it in the early centuries with the divinity of Christ, the Gnostics, you name it. Guess what happened? The creed was born. And later, all the definitions, the Eucharistic definitions come from basically the Gnostic denials, as well as, later, the Nominalist denials that were very similar in nature, led to the very definitions. So, be of good cheer.

Cy Kellett:

And those definitions led to a robust Christendom that could intellectually engage with the world very confidently, and a thousand years of confident engagement with the world.

Tim Staples:

It’s where the definition ‘transubstantiation’ comes from.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Tim Staples:

The Nominalists, which are basically Gnostics, and the Gnostics before them that were denying these things, and so I will guarantee you one thing, folks: all of this craziness going on in the church right now … Now, we don’t rejoice in heresy. That’s not what Paul is saying. He said, “Heresies must come.” He’s not happy about it. We’re not happy about it, but the good news is that crucifixion always leads to resurrection in our faith, and that’s what is happening right now, and it’s going to happen. We have Pope Francis meeting with each and every German bishop one on one, basically slapping them, and now he sends Qualette and Ladaria–

Cy Kellett:

Who have written beautifully on this, by the way. Have you been reading what they’ve been saying? It’s really good stuff.

Tim Staples:

It is good stuff, and you know what? That’s why I rejoice. I can’t help it, because I know on the other end of this we’re going to have definitions, we’re going to have clear teaching, and … We already do, but it’s only going to get clearer over time, folks, so be of good cheer! Rejoice, folks, because God is at work in and through all of this in his one holy Catholic and Epistolic Church.

Cy Kellett:

Thanks, Tim. I really appreciate it.

Tim Staples:

God bless you.

Cy Kellett:

And you said the place where people can learn more about this, because it’s the …

Tim Staples:

It’s called Living Bread.

Cy Kellett:

Living Bread. Yeah.

Tim Staples:

That is the … It used to be a CD set. I think there are some CDs left.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, there’s probably … but nobody wants CDs anymore. You can just download it now.

Tim Staples:

I know. You can download it, but–

Cy Kellett:

Well, actually, some people want CDs, yeah, because–

Tim Staples:

For the one or two of you … I was just up in Sacramento and people actually asked me, “Where are the CDs?” I really did.

Cy Kellett:

“They’re in a warehouse somewhere. We can’t find them.”

Tim Staples:

That’s right. But there might be a few left at Catholic.com, but the digital download is there. It’s called Living Bread at Catholic.com.

Cy Kellett:

Thanks again, Tim. Thanks so much for joining us here on Catholic Answers Focus. We very much appreciate that you do. If you want to get in touch with us, you can always send us an email at [email protected] That’s our email address, [email protected] If you’d like to support us financially, you can do so by going to GiveCatholic.com. And wherever you’re watching or listening right now, if you give us that five-star review, the thumbs up, whatever the thing is there, maybe a few nice words, you’ll help us grow this podcast. Subscribe! Then you’ll be alerted when new episodes are available. We’ll see you next time, God willing, on Catholic Answers Focus.

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