Reading the Gospel for the Solemnity Christ the King Universe, we ask two questions, neither of which has an adequate answer. The first, “In what language did Jesus have his conversation with Pilate?” The second, “Who is St. John?” Roman officials of the first century were much like our ambassadors today. They did learn the language of the lands they administered. Pilate spoke Latin, and Jesus Aramaic. With Pilate not being bi-lingual, either Jesus was, or there was a translator. John does not mention a translator.
Who was St. John? In his book, “An Introduction to the New Testament,” page 370 Professor Brown refers to how much more accurately John drew Palestine for his readers than the other Gospel writers did. On page 374, Professor Brown reports on how likely the community John wrote to was Samaritan, not Jewish. This explains the disparaging way John refers to the Jewish community, while seeming to be Semitic. It also casts doubts on alleged Greek philosophical influences on John.
Professor Brown also reports on how John uses double meanings. In our Gospel, there are three places where this occurs. The first is central to the discussion; is Jesus a king? The Greek term is, “Basilica,” or the king’s house. The Latin is “Rex,” giving us, “Regal.”
If Jesus were speaking in Aramaic, he would have used the word, “Malik.” This primarily means, “Messenger.” Psalms 72 and 82 show the king to be the messenger between God and Man and Man and other members of his community. There is no idea of the regal king sitting in his basilica. The messenger is out in the world delivering a message.
Our second reading refers to the “Alpha and the Omega.” The Hebrew version would be, the “Ox head and the Cross,” or the “Leader and the “Crucified.” The Hebrew word for “Faith,” is “Ameth,” or “Amen.” “Ameth,” takes the first, middle and last letters of the Jewish alphabet. Faith in God is the first, the middle and the last part of our lives. We live in the world, not outside it. Nineveh means, “Fish city.” Jesus lived with fishermen. The last letter of “Amen,” is that “N,” meaning, “Fish.” The “Th,” of Ameth? It is in the shape of a cross. Being a true disciple means following the way to the cross, always being humble.
John puns on Greek words for, “World.” The first is, “Geo,” giving us, “Geology.” John uses, “Cosmos,” giving us, “Cosmology,” or the ordering of this world. Jesus’ world is not Pilate’s world of violence and intimidation. Jesus’ world is of life and peace, where all live together.
John uses “Under Rower,” or for those fighting in his defense. This refers to the men sitting in the damp, crampy underside of a ship pushing oars to make the ship go forward. The way to Jesus’ world is being under rowers, traveling to the cross. Do we follow the way of Pilate, or the way of Jesus? Are we under rowers and messengers, or are we leaders, usurping God’s prerogative. Only one gets us to the kingdom.