As one of the inspired authors, John the Apostle employs in His Gospel the Covenant-literary structure as a means not only of making allusions to previous texts, but also of prefiguring future ones. His Gospel portrays the works of Christ on earth, and his Revelation parallels these events in heaven.
Warren Gage writes:
Like an elaborately detailed oriental tapestry, John’s Gospel and Revelation are intricately interwoven to present a composite picture, epic in scope and immortal in theme. Elaborate patterns portray the marvel and mystery of the heavenly Son of God who leaves the riches of His Father’s court in quest of an earthly bride and a heavenly kingdom. The Gospel opens with the Spirit descending out of heaven like a dove upon the Son of Man. Revelation ends with the bride of Christ descending out of heaven, made ready for her Groom, and adorned in all the graces of the Spirit.
Together these books celebrate a love that spans time and eternity. We begin with the love of the Father for His Son before the foundation of the world. We survey all the ages, coming at last to the victorious wedding supper of the Lamb and the love of the bride for her Husband at the beginning of eternity future. The Gospel of the Bridegroom begins in a wilderness, but the bride of Revelation is brought at last to a pleasant garden. The darkness that struggled to overcome the Light has now been banished forever. Eternal dawn shines forth, unobscured, clear, and golden. The stones gathered of old by the banks of the Jordan are seen in this Light, by the banks of the river of crystal, to have been built into a vast city of glittering gems. And the bride is lovely in this Light. She is made ready for her Groom arrayed in the finest linen of heaven, white and pure. But as we admire her beauty, we remember that she can be dressed in white only because her Groom’s robe was dyed in deepest red.
John the Beloved weaves together his two great books using elaborate parallel, chiastic, and typological patterns. The two great works thus interpret and complete one another. Taken together, the Fourth Gospel and Revelation constitute a literary diptych, a picture whose temporal framework spans the beginning of the first creation (John 1:1), all the way to the vision of the new creation at the beginning of eternity future (Rev 21:1). Moreover, the two books of John offer a spatial horizon depicting the creative struggle of Jesus both from the perspective of earth (John) and of heaven (Revelation). Upon this wholly comprehensive canvas, John depicts Jesus’ epic struggle as the typological fulfillment of all of the major figures in the OT.1Warren Gage, The John-Revelation Project.
In 2 Corinthians 11:2-3, Paul reveals that this process of redemption was given to us in type right at the beginning. Paul describes himself as a holy matchmaker, like the Spirit of God, betrothing the saints as a pure virgin to a Christ who is a better Adam. Unlike Adam, Paul is truly a son of God, protecting Eve from satanic deception, in this case, the false gospels of the first century Judaizers which plagued the church before the destruction of the Temple.2See Peter Leithart, The Epistles of John Through New Eyes: From Behind the Veil, 10-13.
This explains the image of virginity used to describe the purity of the firstfruits martyrs in Revelation 14:4-5. The Apocalypse condemns Israel according to the flesh for her whoredoms, murders and sorceries, and yet calls “out of her” the Bride of Christ, the new Israel, and presents this daughter as a virgin, a perfect offering without spot or blemish, and with no false testimony in her mouth.
In this light, John’s account of Jesus’ treatment of the woman caught in adultery makes perfect sense. The Jewish leaders, occupying the seat of Moses, exalted themselves in their condemnation of prostitutes and tax collectors, yet, to the eyes of John, Jerusalem herself is exposed as the greatest harlot and quisling of them all, a bloodthirsty woman in priestly garb living the high life on the back of the Roman State.
The legal structure of the narrative, once identified, is breathtaking in its Covenantal allusions. It not only highlights the satanic nature of legalism, the misuse of the law by the lawless, it may also answer the question of what Jesus actually wrote on the ground.
Covenant Structure in John 8:2-11
The first thing we must cover here is the legal “architecture,” and we find that the actors on the stage in this narrative are all playing familiar roles, legal offices established in the Garden of Eden. However, the events in the Garden are not replayed here. Rather, this is a sequel, and the outcome this time, thanks to a better Adam, is very different.
The Garden was the original Sanctuary, and if we read the layout of the Mosaic Tabernacle into Genesis 2-3, we find that the Lord, Adam, Eve, the serpent, the springs and the inheritance promised to Adam all correspond to those furnitures constructed in the wilderness. Firstly, the Tabernacle itself, which was a microcosm of the Creation:
Ark of the Testimony (Day 1 – Light)
Veil (Day 2 – Waters Above)
Lampstand (Day 4 – Lights) — Altar of Incense (Day 5 – Swarms) — Table (Day 3b – Firstfruits)
Laver (Day 6 – Edenic Springs: Waters Below)
Bronze Altar (Day 3a – Promised Inheritance: Fruitfulness in Land and Womb,
to be received as Rest and Rule on Day 7)
Here we have three “rooms.” At the top we have the Most Holy Place, representing the throne of God. In the center is the court of His ministers or advisors, those who represent Him and mediate for Him. At the base is the earth, the domain over which Adam would be given dominion if he was found faithful. You might notice that although there are seven elements, and three rooms, there are five levels, which correspond to the process found in biblical Covenants:
(1. The authority of God)
(2. His authority delegated to Man)
(Qualification of the Man: 3. Priest, 4. King, 5. Prophet)
(6. Assessment of the Man)
(7. Promised Inheritance)
This fivefold architectural process is replicated in the Ten Commandments.3See God-In-A-Box
Now, in the qualification of the Man, we have three familiar offices:
- The Table of Facebread (Day 3) represents priesthood. Before Eve is constructed from Adam, Adam is given a single Law. (There are no priestesses in the Bible, since every priest since Adam represents the only begotten Son). Adam was created in the Land but lifted up as a kind of tithe, a holy firstfruits, into the Garden, like the later Levitical tithes. This is why the Levites were given no inheritance in the Land of Canaan, and why the book of Leviticus ends with curses and no equivalent of “Succession.” Priesthood for Adam was about listening to God as a servant.
- The Lampstand (Day 4) represents kingdom. Of course, true kingdom was only promised at this stage, so the serpent was offering a kingdom before God’s time. David spoke about the light of the Law as his lamp, and on the Day of Pentecost, the disciples became human lampstands, filled with the Spirit as internal law. So in the Garden, Satan was a counterfeit lampstand, an angel of light with a false Gospel, enticing the Man to bow down to him that he might give him all the kingdoms of the world. Kingdom for Adam was about acting for God as a guardian, not only “keeping” the Garden in order, but driving invaders from it.
- The Incense Altar (Day 5) represents prophethood. Adam was to be a legal witness against the serpent in the court of God. Instead, after unsuccessfully hiding himself and his wife, he gave a false testimony when assessed (Oath) and was cursed by God (Sanctions). Prophethood for Adam was about speaking for God as a witness, protecting his bride and presenting her chaste before God that the Land and womb might be opened to him freely. Of course, Adam did not die. One or more of his blameless “subjects” suffered the penalty of death to cover his sin on this first Day of Coverings (Atonement).4I like to say that God’s face is against the Man at priesthood, God’s face shines upon the Man in kingdom, and the Man himself is God’s face in prophethood.
Based on the requirements of these three offices, the actors on the stage in Eden are positioned as below. Eve, the “multiplier,” the one through whom Adam would become a “swarm” like the flocks in the sky and the schools in the sea, is caught in a tug-o’-war between priesthood and kingdom. Adam was to be faithful in all three offices, thus uniting them as Christ eventually did.
The Lord (Heaven – Genesis)
The Glory Cloud (His Chariot – Exodus)
The Serpent (False Ruler – Numbers) — Eve (Bride – Deuteronomy) — Adam (Guardian – Leviticus)
Cleansing (Judgment upon Adam, Eve and the Serpent – Joshua)
Inheritance (Entering into God’s rest as regents is denied to them
but limited fruitfulness is given as a gift – Judges)
This architecture is also found in the structure of the history from Adam to Noah, in the architecture of the Great Flood,5See Jacob’s Tabernacle. and indeed, as noted in the diagram above, in the pattern of the first seven books of the Bible. It is also found throughout the Old Testament, so we should not be surprised that this courtly, sacrificial and cruciform blueprint is fundamental to a deeper understanding of the narrative concerning the woman caught in adultery.
The Seat of Moses (The Law)
The Temple Veil (Mediation)
The Pharisees (False Rulers) — The Woman (Israel) — The Christ (Son of Man)
Cleansing (Judgment upon the accusers,
and the forgiveness of the Woman)
Inheritance (The accusers are disbanded,
and the Woman is given a new life)
As mentioned, the tragedy in the Garden of Eden is not replayed here; rather, it is a sequel. Like many women in the Bible, this one is not named, a literary clue that she represents “the Woman” in the Garden, the mother of all living. However, this woman is not Eve but “daughter Jerusalem,” a bride who, like “the Woman” at the well, has been mistreated by many husbands, but has at last found a true guardian in Christ, God tabernacling in human flesh that there might be true sanctuary in His courts.
Thus, the Woman stands in the midst of this court as the Altar of Incense, the fragrant “army” who is the center of dispute. Above her is the Law of Moses, the tablets contained in the Ark of the Testimony. Below her is the Land, the source of stones and fruit, cursing and blessing. Will she drink wine with her spiritual husband as co-regent, or will her blood be spilled to atone for her unfaithfulness?
She stands alone between the false Lampstand, her serpentine accusers, a nest of snakes, and the Adamic Table, the flesh and blood of the Son of Adam. She has been enticed, but her sin is not “high-handed.” It is the sin of wandering astray due to the weakness of the flesh. Of course, Eve was not a sinner. She was a precious vessel designed to be cherished and protected, not a rough pot to be neglected and exposed to unclean things (1 Peter 3:7). Adam was to restrain her as a guardian that she might not be judged.6For more discussion on “wandering” and “restraining,” see James B. Jordan, The Restrainer, Biblical Horizons No. 44, December 1992. The sin of the Woman’s accusers is, however, high-handed. Indeed, they already hold the instruments of judgment in their hands, stones representing the tablets of Sinai. But like the serpent, they intended to use the good law of God as a weapon, and they attacked the Woman because she represented the inheritance of the Man. Their real target was Christ, the one who threatened their authority.
Since John’s account follows the Tabernacle architecture, and the Tabernacle architecture is a New Creation, and the Creation Week is the foundation of Israel’s festal calendar, laying the story out in the sevenfold Bible Matrix gives us many more insights into its significance:
Ascension (Law given: Priesthood) – Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the [Land]. (Day 3: Land and Firstfruits)
Testing (Law opened: Kingdom) – And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Day 4: Lights – Pentecost)
At Creation, John establishes Jesus’ authority as the true ruler of the Temple. He is the one who sits in the seat of Moses, not only judging righteously and with mercy, but teaching as the true Angel of the Lord, not a serpent (Sabbath).
At Division, John not only presents the Pharisees as a false Hierarchy, an Israel that is only interested in “passing over” its own sin (Where is the male adulterer?), they are in fact representatives of Herod, a new Pharaoh who murders the children of Rachel (Passover).
At Ascension, Jesus is Yahweh upon Sinai, writing the Law with His finger, but He is also a better Moses, lifted up and writing a new set of tablets with human hands as he did after Israel had sinned. Jesus, likewise, is here authoring a new Covenant (Firstfruits).
At Testing, Jesus judges Israel for worshiping the beast, the golden calf. What is fascinating is that he calls these bloodthirsty men to judge themselves by their own law, so it is likely that the words written in the sand were the prohibition of murder (Pentecost).7The Law of Moses was given at the first Pentecost, where 3000 idolaters were slain by the Levites. The Spirit was given at the last Pentecost, and 3000 believers were saved.
At Maturity, Jesus’ writing would likely have been the prohibition of adultery. In the “scroll” numbering of the Ten Words, murder is the central Ethic in the “Adamic column,” and adultery is the central Ethic in the “Evian” column.8Again, see God-In-A-Box When men attack a village or city, they usually murder the men (related to breaking down the walls) and rape the women (destroying the houses with “strange fire”). Trumpets concerns the mustering of a holy host, but here these men are disbanded by a better law, the law of love written on tablets of flesh. The false “elders” are scattered and only the true Bride, awesome as an army with banners, is left. By the Spirit of Christ, the law is now internal in all cases, for blessing and for cursing (Trumpets).
At Conquest, Adam does not blame God and condemn His bride. He himself is her protector on this Day of Coverings, and she is not left naked and condemned. His own blood will soon cover her sin, but by faith she is already free. Unlike the adulteress in Numbers 5, Jesus gives her no cup to drink, since He will drink it on her behalf. When she does drink, it will be His cup, not the cup of Moses, and it will be a wedding feast that wipes out her accusers and their city forever (Atonement).
At Glorification, Jesus has become the complete Tabernacle, a cruciform tree of righteousness offering food and shelter to all who come to Him, whether Jew or Gentile (Booths). As Israel’s “annual” purification sheltered the nations from judgment, so Christ represents, shelters and commissions the Woman.
Finally, the fact that John mentions the physical position of Christ a number of times is revealed as liturgical when corresponded with the furnitures of the Tabernacle. Jesus begins seated as the true judge (Ark), bends down in the dust (Bronze Altar), stands up to speak (Lampstand), bends down once again for the Bride (Incense Altar), then stands as High Priest.
I have done almost all the work for you here, but I will leave you a single task. Map these events, using the feasts, onto the history of Christ and the Firstfruits Church for further insights on how this narrative links John with the prophecy against Jerusalem in Revelation.
The authenticity of this passage is disputed by some, but I believe the Covenant-literary architecture puts its authenticity beyond dispute.
For an introduction to the Bible Matrix, see Reading the Bible in 3D: The Bible as You’ve Never Seen It Before.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Warren Gage, The John-Revelation Project.|
|2.||↑||See Peter Leithart, The Epistles of John Through New Eyes: From Behind the Veil, 10-13.|
|4.||↑||I like to say that God’s face is against the Man at priesthood, God’s face shines upon the Man in kingdom, and the Man himself is God’s face in prophethood.|
|5.||↑||See Jacob’s Tabernacle.|
|6.||↑||For more discussion on “wandering” and “restraining,” see James B. Jordan, The Restrainer, Biblical Horizons No. 44, December 1992.|
|7.||↑||The Law of Moses was given at the first Pentecost, where 3000 idolaters were slain by the Levites. The Spirit was given at the last Pentecost, and 3000 believers were saved.|
|8.||↑||Again, see God-In-A-Box|