I had been reading John’s Gospel for weeks, stuck on the symbolism of Jesus and water. Jesus says “I’ll give you living water, that you’ll never thirst again.” He says, “my belly is full of pure water.” On the cross, he’s poked with a spear, and blood and water gush from his side.”
In my study of Joseph in Genesis, I found that he seemed to represent the mandrake plant (duda’im, דדאם, atropa mandragora), and wrote about it in “The Mandrake Man.”
I think a similar dynamic is at work in John’s gospel. Jesus is the Messiah. The Messiah is, among other things, a drink, or an oil. Like an elixir of life, immortality. You hear it in our modern day usage of “Christen” for baptism as dedication to Christ, and see it when you “Christen” a ship before it leaves the harbor by cracking a champagne bottle on its bow.
A major information source I’ve just discovered is the Peshitta, the Aramaic text of the New Testament. While the scholarly consensus is that the NT was originally written in Koine Greek by Aramaic speakers, the Aramaic text reads in a much more organic, natural fashion, and many cryptic passages are quite clear in the Aramaic. For example, I’ve always puzzled over “the eye is the window to the soul,” which in Aramaic is “the eye is the lamp of the body;” to me, this is a far more intuitive metaphor.
One of the most significant discrepancies I’ve come across is miltha, מלתה, which is rendered as “logos” in Greek, and the Word in English. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Miltha can mean “Word,” but it has several meanings. The gematria number is 475, which is also “Drink,” as seen in Genesis 24:
“Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink.”
Which is precisely what Jesus says to the woman at the well in John Chapter 4. You also see this in 1 Corinthians 10:4, which in Aramaic says something like, “In the wilderness, the Israelites ate the food of the spirit and drank the Messiah.” Our English translation from the Greek renders it as “they drank from the rock, which was Jesus,” which doesn’t really capture the liquidity inherent within Messiah.
The Messiah likely corresponded to an elixir they used in their rituals. That’s not to say that Jesus’ death and rebirth was all about the drink, but to say that it’s a unifying metaphor that had ritual significance, and may have been represented by an earthly plant cultivated at Qumran.
A parallel to this narrative is found in the Hindu Veda 9, of Soma, the drink of the gods, particularly Varuna and Mitra. Soma is not only an elixir, but also is personified in some stories, coming down to earth and performing miracles.
Researchers have spent years trying to attribute this Soma to a psychoactive plant, which is fine, but not really my interest. Likewise, an argument could be made that psychoactive mushrooms or other plants were cultivated at Qumran, and that’s what was represented by Miltha and Messiah. John Allegro wrote The Cross and the Mushroom about this very theme.
While I find these inquiries intriguing, finding real world historical contexts for ancient mystical scriptures is not really my interest. I’m interested in archetypes, and the symbols inherent in the texts that make them into coherent narratives. That’s been my major qualm with the Bible, as much as I love it: it’s made incomprehensible by the translation, because the translators want to shy away from anything that doesn’t fit the narrative: anything that smacks of sexual imagery or polytheism is buried syntactically.
I say, let the texts speak for themselves, even if they’re weird and suggestive and difficult. What I appreciate about Miltha is that it captures the generative aspect of the incarnation, the phallic male energy, the … semen of G-d, without being too literal. Just as the divine feminine is buried by the church, the divine masculine is as well. The text comes across as alien and sexless, which does not capture the narratives of the Holy Marriage John’s Gospel describes.