by Tony Badillo

The blood and water of Jesus in John19:34: "However one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out," World English Bible. What does this mean?

For centuries this odd but striking verse has mystified the Christian church, but has the answer been in plain sight all along? The question is not: How was this enigma explained by a church that arose later, but rather: What caused John to record it? - and is the answer related to his Jewishness or the Temple, somehow?

Solutions Past and Present

John 19:34 has spawned a variety of interpretations; here are the three major ones:

Fourth century Church fathers saw the water and blood as symbolizing baptism and the Eucharist, while others viewed it as depicting the Mosaic Sinai Covenant and the New Covenant; and still later, justification and regeneration.

However, some today see both fluids as the result of natural bodily processes, proving only that Jesus' death was genuine and refuting docetism, the idea that Jesus' death was not real because he himself was not a real human being.

But the most popular view by far is the medical opinion written by Dr. Wm. Stroud in 1847, London (On the Physiological Cause of the Death of Christ ), that Jesus died of a ruptured heart due to emotional stress. As a result, blood and an aqueous fluid accrued in the pericardium, a sac surrounding the heart; then when a Roman spear ripped through this sac, a small amount of blood and water was released. But one objection is that dead bodies do not bleed because blood coagulates quickly once the heart stops pumping, and since Jesus was already dead according to John 19:33, the outrush of fluids required a miracle. In 1915 the International Bible Encyclopedia supported Dr. Stroud's views, but the 1979 edition, vol. one, p. 527, rejects them, saying they have fallen out of favor. It offers, instead, a medical explanation by A. F. Sava which - from the reader's viewpoint - differs little from Stroud's. The most significant difference, it seems, is that rupture of the heart cannot be caused by emotional stress or mental duress alone, ass Stroud seemingly claims or implies. Still others reject both views, surmising that John 19:34 involves biblical symbolism, not medical analysis.

In the end, New Testament (NT) readers are left with the same question: What does this curious outrush of blood and water signify or prove, if anything? To John the writer it proved a great deal, but what?

John's Missing "Fulfillment" Verse

What you are about to read is not intended to deny traditional views, for these will always have a place within Christianity; but that said, let us reexamine John 19:34 from a new perspective.

Beginning with John 19:24 and continuing with verses 33 -37, the writer attempts proving that Jesus was someone whose appearance was predicted in the Tanach ( Old Testament, OT ) and cites four incidents:

They cast lots for his garments .................... Fulfillment of Psalm 22:18
His legs were not broken ............. Passover fulfillment of Exodus 12:46
He was pierced ........................................Fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10
And blood and water issued forth ........................ Fulfillment of what??

As shown above, John offers no OT verse citation for the fourth incident. Why? To find out, let us review two of his examples. Jesus not having his legs broken by the Roman soldiers, v. 19:33, corresponds to the Passover lamb not having its bones broken in Exodus 12:46, implying to John that Jesus must be the new Passover "lamb of God". This is followed by Jesus having his side pierced by a Roman lance and blood and water issuing forth, 34 -37, which John links to Zechariah 12:101 ( latter half ), rendered in most Christian bibles as, "They shall look on him (or me) whom they have pierced ..." But notice: Zechariah says nothing of blood and water issuing forth; this occurs only in John 19:34.

John the writer wants NT readers to believe Jesus symbolizes the Passover lamb that was slain in the Exodus account. But in the Passover text water plays no role, Exodus 12:1-28 ; it's not even mentioned. On the other hand, this could be of little import because the Passover lamb relates mostly to slaying and blood, whereas water relates to spirit, and for that John would refer us to his Zechariah verses where the people begin seeing "whom they have pierced" after the "spirit of grace" (first half of Zechariah 12:10) is "poured" out. And here poured clearly suggests water, linking it to 13:1 where a "fountain is opened" for cleansing and where "living waters" flow, 14:8.

In the NT the Divine spirit is also symbolized by water, for Jesus said: "He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, from within him will flow rivers of living water," and then John adds, "But he said this about the Spirit ... (that) was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified," John 7:38, 39 ( here glorified means crucified ).

Is Something Missing?

Therefore, although we may find slain lambs and their blood in Exodus and a spirit-water analogy in Zechariah - two very distinct and widely separated OT books - we do not find lamb's blood and water flowing together in either. Something is missing, because the writer says in John 19:34 "... and immediately blood and water came out," and then adds that he saw it, has testified to it, and is telling the truth "that you may believe," v. 35. Let us be clear, objective and truthful: John recorded this blood and water issue as a proof of who Jesus was by what he fulfilled. Is this not so? But there is no OT verse referring to lamb's blood and water streaming in unison. Are we missing something, then? Yes! And it is this missing key that unlocks the mystery and reveals a new, never before seen aspect of John 19:34, as I will demonstrate shortly.

The Passover in Egypt and in John's Day

John was also thinking of the Passover in his day, not the Egyptian Passover only. What is the difference? In the first Passover there was no temple. Even its predecessor, the tabernacle, had not been set up; this did not occur until the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai where they received Torah, the Law. At the first Passover the lambs were slain at home and eaten at home, Exodus 12:1-8. Since there was no tabernacle or temple, there was also no central sacrificial altar for the slaying of such animals. However, in John's and Jesus' time centuries later, there was a resplendent white limestone temple atop Mount Moriah (today's Temple Mount in Jerusalem ) where hundreds of lambs were slain.

Temple Sacrifices, the Blood Drains and Water

As a result, thousands of gallons or liters of lambs' blood had to be disposed of. But how? By being poured into a drain at the "base of the altar" ( Leviticus 1:11, 13; 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34 ), a rule that applied to both tabernacle and temple. For instance, the First Temple ( i.e., Solomon's ) required ten lavers of water for rinsing blood from sacrificial offerings, II Chronicles 4:6. Therefore in the Second Temple of John's day, voluminous amounts of water were poured into the altar's drainage system to flush away the blood of lambs. Since the Temple Mount was a hill with a flat limestone surface, where did the drains empty? They spewed into the Kidron Valley below. The Temple's drains are referred to in various sources such as the Jewish Talmud and in archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer's The Temple and the Rock, p. 57.2

The Temple faced east, toward the rising sun and the Mount of Olives. The depressed area between these two hills is called the Kidron Valley or Brook (The valley is normally dry, becoming a brook only during the Passover spring rains). Jesus' choice place for schooling his followers was the Mount of Olives, and from there he would descend and pass by the Kidron, and then walk upwards to the Temple Mount where he preached publicly. Since sacrifices were offered morning and evening daily with more on high holy days such as Passover, every Jew knew that blood and water routinely spilled into the Kidron Valley below; and evidently the Temple drains made such a profound impression on John that when he saw the blood and water streaming from Jesus' side he concluded Jesus must be the new Passover lamb. In his mind, the outflow from Jesus' side mirrored the copious discharge from the Temple's drains. Furthermore, Jesus - like the lambs ­­- was also slain during the Passover festival.

Moreover, John's gospel is the only one that mentions the Kidron, John 18:1. Otherwise the Kidron is nowhere else found in the entire New Testament. And it is only John who records John the Baptist as saying of Jesus, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" 1:29, clearly associating Jesus with the expiatory blood of lambs. And again, it is John alone who records that Jesus compared his own body to the Temple, 2:19, 21: "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up," said Jesus, "But he spoke of the temple of his body," explains John. Therefore, Jesus became forever linked to the blood of lambs, expiation of sins, the Temple, and - consequently - the flushing water of the Temple's altar.

This is the missing key in John's explanation: The riveting image of the Temple drains spewing their torrent of blood and water into the Kidron below; and because he assumed his readers already knew this, no biblical proof text was needed, nor was there any in the first place.

Let me emphasize: According to John, in "fulfilling" the Passover scriptures Jesus became not only the atoning Lamb of God but also the new temple through whom the Divine spirit - symbolized by water - could now flow unto the masses, as had been symbolized by the gushing drains of King Solomon's Temple and later by Herod's Temple. To John, at least, the blood and water was proof that the Temple building and its sacrifices paralleled Jesus' body and his crucifixion (John. 2:19-21). Hence, the "missing" fulfillment verse is not an Old Testament one, but rather one spoken earlier by Jesus, which implies that Jesus saw himself as the Temple personified, and John the gospel writer is the only one who recorded this.

The blood and water issue ............................ Fulfillment of John 2:19-213

Reexamining Zechariah 12:10

As noted earlier, Zechariah 12:10 says nothing about any blood and water outrush, it only says 'They will look on him whom they pierced'. Even if no blood or water had spewed from Jesus side, Christians could still claim that the "piercing" refers to the crucifixion. However, this was not John's sole aim, for Jesus was not the first person to be crucified ( "pierced" ) by the Romans, nor was he the last. Hundreds of men were crucified at different time for different reasons. John was not interested in merely informing readers of another crucifixion but, rather, that this particular one was intimately related to the Temple. How so? In three major and direct ways, at least:
a.) by Jesus having previously referred to his own body as a "temple," John 2:19-21,
b.) by the issue of the blood and water mentioned in John 19:34 and,
c.) by the Temple's curtain being torn at the moment of Jesus' death, Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45.

John wrote nothing of the Temple curtain being torn from top to bottom, others did (check above verses). Besides the blood and water issue, he also noted that Jesus likened his physical body to a temple which if "destroyed," would be raised in "three days," John 2:21, 22; and John was a personal witness to the slow-motion destruction of Jesus' body on the cross. Saying it differently, since the sacrifices and their consequent outflow of blood and water were essential to the Temple's existence, Jesus - as the new temple - had to come by the same means; and since he did so on the cross, he - after his resurrection - became the newly raised temple by which people should now seek God, is John's viewpoint in I John 5:6-94 and John 19:34, 35. Although water and blood issued from Jesus' side only momentarily, these two fluids had been streaming from the Temple for hundreds of years before, and by so doing defining its essence, and Jesus captured that essence on the cross, John is indicating. And he adds that he is reporting this so that "you might believe," John 19: 35, meaning, You should believe it because this is how blood and water also flows from the Temple. John had mostly Jews in mind - Jews like himself who highly esteemed the Temple. At the time of the crucifixion itself there were no "Christians" or a Christian church, only or mostly Jews and pagans.

Could Blood and Water have Issued from a Dead Jesus?

Some doubt that any fluids at all could have issued from Jesus because he was already dead when his side was pierced, John 19:33. Once death occurs, the blood does not flow well because the heart stops pumping and the body grows cold. Yet the blood had to flow as a visible sign of his expiatory (atoning) death, because Leviticus 17:11 says: "... the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life" (this is one way Christianity explains expiation [i.e, atonement] ). Hence, a miracle was likely required to confirm that his expiatory work was now "finished," as Jesus himself says in John 19:30. Jesus was born by a miracle from a young virgin, performed dozens of miracles throughout his short adult life, and his life's end was marked by a miracle, the issue of blood and water. Then came the final miracle: a resurrection from the dead three days later, the New Testament records.

Was Solomon's Temple constructed in the hidden form of a human being? You will be pleasantly surprised. See: http://www.templesecrets.info/

1. Zechariah 12:10 reads in Christian bibles "they shall see me (or him) whom they have pierced," but Jewish bibles read differently, preferring instead the plural case: They shall look toward God concerning "those" who have been slain, stabbed or thrust through. See the Jerusalem (Jewish) Bible; the Stone Edition of the Tanach, or Tanakh - the Holy Scriptures. However, the old 1917 JPS Tanakh uses the singular pronoun, him, referring to one, single, unidentified individual who is slain. No plural case here. See at: http://www.hareidi.org/bible/Zechariah12.htm#12 (URL was valid as of October, 2009).

2. On the Temple drains, see also Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 5, p. 696, and the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Middoth, Chapter III, Mishnah 2 Soncino 1961 Edition, page 12; and Babylonian Talmud: Tractate 'Abodah Zarah, Folio 44a.

3. The Church does not appear to understand John's reasoning in John 2:19 - 21, "Destroy this temple and in ..." etc.; and this is likely because of its anti-temple bias expressed to me once rather tartly, we don't need the temple, we have Jesus. But contrarily, Jesus saw himself as the incarnation of the Jewish temple, which raises an interesting question for the Church: How does the stone temple depict the form of Jesus' body? Or for that matter, the form of any human body? Most Christian authorities likely will say that v. 2:21 should not to be read in such a literal manner. Even Jesus' own followers did not believe his body-temple words until he arose from the dead, according to v. 2:22. The NT implication is, therefore, that while in the flesh he considered himself a body-temple incarnated, but after his resurrection a body temple spiritualized, and this spiritualization was foreseen by the transfiguration vision in Matthew 17:2, where he becomes radiant with light, similar to Moses' experience several centuries before, Exodus 34:29, 30. Except that in Jesus' case both head and body become luminous, implying that the Divine spirit was going to be diffused among his followers, which collectively symbolized his body, and which afterward became known as "Christians," Acts 11:26, and later developed into the Church.

No matter the above remark - "we don't need the temple" - many Christians, perhaps most, see the Church as the new temple because of Ephesians 2:21, 22, I Peter 2:5, 4:17 and II Corinthians 6:16. Also, Christians themselves are said to be individual body-temples according to I Corinthians 3:16, 17 and 6:19.

4. The "water and blood" verse of I John 5:6-8 contains an interpolation footnoted and identified in various New Testament versions.

 

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