The early church saw in John 19:34, the piercing of Christ’s side and subsequent flow of blood and water, an allusion to Eve’s creation (Genesis 2:21-22). By the end of the second century we find the Apologist Tertullian saying,
If Adam was a figure of Christ, the sleep of Adam was the death of Christ who was to fall asleep in death; that in the injury of His side might be figured the Church, the true mother of the living.
According to Alban Maguire,
This teaching had been foreshadowed before the time of Tertullian, and after his time we can find no doctrine more honored among the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
Few scholars today, however, actively engage this interpretation and those that do dismiss it as foreign to John’s intent. Raymond Brown sees “little evidence that the Genesis story was in John’s mind here.” Mark Stibbe thinks, “(it) requires ideas which are properly speaking extrinsic to the gospel.” It’s no wonder Andreas Koestenberg in his comprehensive A Theology of John’s Gospel doesen’t even include it as a “Possible Instance of the New Creation Motif in the Passion Narrative.”
But far from being an unfounded interpretation such a meaning appears to have been intended by John himself. It demands renewed consideration. As allusion, John 19:34 is the Fourth Gospel’s keystone, holding this narratives most important themes together.
In the series of posts to follow we will examine the evidence for this implicit reference.
- First we will consider the importance of John 19:34 in the fourth gospel and the interpretations which are most prominent today.
- We will then examine the volume of correspondence between John 19:34 and Genesis 2:21-22.
- And finally we will conclude with a look at how this allusion forms a fitting conclusion to four of John’s major themes: (1) New Creation, (2) New Birth, (3) Marriage, (4) Oneness.