John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 19:30, Jesus Hands Over a Spirit

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

//I’ve quoted the NIV translation of this verse, but a more accurate translation is Jesus “handed over” his spirit. This is a very different picture than the other Gospels, and this is a key verse to understanding Johannine theology. What or who is the spirit, and who is it handed over to?

Is it the soul of Jesus, going back to God? Not likely; the Jews understood that the soul would hang around the body for three days, before death is recognized as certain. John follows this understanding; Mary appears to witness the soul ascending to heaven (as did the souls of all martyrs) after the third day.

Is it the Holy Spirit? Most interpreters assume the Holy Spirit is the Johannine equivalent of the Paraclete, or the comforter. But the comforter will not make his appearance until the evening of the resurrection, where it appears magically behind locked doors in the presence of the disciples.

Earlier in John, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, a “spirit” settled upon Jesus like a descending dove. Perhaps this was a gift of the eternal light/love/life; that which was “before Abraham,” that which was “with God in the beginning.” Is it now ascending back like a dove to where it came from, bookending the earthly life of Jesus with its arrival and departure? But it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere; it is “handed over,” possibly to the “beloved disciple,” whom Jesus commissions to take care of his mother.

Today, we naturally interpret the writings of John in the light of our own theology, which is a composite of all the Gospel stories. But what did John mean, 2,000 years ago? Why must John write so mysteriously? I’ll be probing these questions and more in my upcoming book about John’s Gospel.

1 Comment

  1. What’s up,I log on to your new stuff named “John 19:30, Jesus Hands Over a Spirit | The Dubious Disciple” daily.Your humoristic style is awesome, keep it up! And you can look our website about proxy list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>