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Befriending the Beloved Disciple: A Jewish Reading of the Gospel of John

By Adele Reinhartz

“The garden setting in which Jesus and Mary are alone together calls to mind other Biblical gardens, in particular the primordial Garden of Eden in Gen 2-3 and the garden that symbolizes the female lover in Song of Songs. A Genesis connection is perceived by many scholars. Sandra Sneiders points out that God walks around in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:15-17; 3:8 ) just as the risen Jesus walks about the garden that holds his tomb. Nicholas Wyatt argues from Biblical and post-biblical literature that the Garden of Eden was profoundly associated with royal motifs. He suggests that from a Christian perspective the cross is the tree of life from which the first man had been driven away. After his death Jesus becomes the new gardener of Eden reversing the decree of banishment that had been passed on the first Adam. The allusion to Eden in John 20 also recalls the creation symbolism and imagery of the Johannine prologue. (1:1-18 )

Does reading Jesus as the new Adam transform Mary into the new Eve? The passage does not portray her using the familiar Genesis images. She does not evoke the woman who was made from Adam’s body, converses with the serpent, eats the forbidden fruit, offers it to Adam, and is banished with him from the garden. Nevertheless, some echoes of Genesis may be heard. Jesus calls her “woman”, just as the first man called his mate “woman” in Gen 2:23. Jesus then called her by name, just as Adam called the first woman by name (Gen 3:20). Jesus directive that Mary not cleave to him challenges the physical basis of the male-female relationship described in Genesis 2:24, according to which a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh. This echo suggests a contrast between the sexual relationship that developed between the first man and woman and the relationship of devotion between Jesus and Mary”

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