There is yet another new way in which John is describing the Mystical Psalms Ladder in the Fourth Gospel.
Some years ago I saw that John’s Gospel is secretly constructing the Mystical Psalms Ladder before our eyes (the third part of this brief essay will go over this). Additionally, the final verse of the first chapter of John is the New Testament’s most overt reference to the mystical Ladder of Genesis 28.
Now, regarding these two discussions of ladders in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament): Is Jacob’s Ladder the same as the Mystical Psalms Ladder? There are certainly similarities between then. The Mystical Psalms Ladder initially appears to be a presentation, with far more depth and details, of Jacob’s Ladder. In actuality, however, the story is more nuanced. In the Mystical Ladder that is hidden in the Book of Psalms, Jacob is replaced by David. In the 25 Psalms that form the Ladder, the name of “David” is emphasized in the body of these 25 Psalms (not their superscriptions) about 429% more frequently than in the other 125 Psalms. And the name of “Jacob” or “Israel” is deemphasized in these same 25 Psalms. Change—progression—is happening.
Then, when the Psalms Ladder is brought, secretly, into the powerful flow of dialogue of almost every book of the New Testament, “David” is replaced by both Jesus Christ and by an evolving humanity that prospers and blossoms in the human community that learns integration and love in the light of the Christ Event. Jesus, and Humanity, are now the focus of the Ladder.
Just yesterday I was reading a particular version of the Gospels at a great café called St. Peter’s Cosmic Coffeehouse, near Berkeley. A couple years ago Pope Francis had thousands of books of the Gospels handed out to people gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. All four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles, were in the small volume, which was meant to be carried on a daily basis by the people receiving it. Over in the states, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made a similar book of the Gospels and Acts, patterned after the volumes given out in Rome. This portable version that the USCCB published has surprisingly extensive notes. These notes are from the New American Bible, a fine Catholic Bible.
While reading these notes yesterday, Easter Wednesday, the first note on John’s Gospel spoke of the “staircase parallelism” of terminology in John’s Prologue. And that’s when it clicked into place.
In addition to the Mystical Psalms Ladder being presented in various ways in John’s Gospel, it is also imaged in the first 18 verses of this Gospel; this group of verses is known as John’s Prologue.
This brief essay will have three parts. The first part discusses yesterday’s discovery of John’s Prologue’s allusions to the Mystical Psalms Ladder. The second part discusses the final verse of Chapter 1 of John, which is the clearest allusion to Jacob’s Ladder in the New Testament. The third part will discuss how John’s Gospel reconstructs the Mystical Psalms Ladder before our eyes.
Staircase Parallelism in John’s Prologue
The verses of John’s Prologue feature the repetition of key words. These words tend to be found at the end of one phrase and the beginning of the next phrase. Here is an example: John 1:1 has three phrases within the verse. The first and the middle phrases are united by the word “Word,” and the middle and the third phrase are united by the word “God.” Here is a transliteration, in actual literary order, of this verse:
“In the beginning was the Word
And the Word was with God,
And God was the Word.”
The third appearance of “Word,” at the very end of the verse, itself forms a strong connection to the first word of the next verse, Outos, which means “this” or “this one.” Outos is referring directly to the “Word,” and is directly representing it as a pronoun.
This “staircase parallelism” continues throughout most of the Prologue. Although this diagram shows many repeating words, this is only a part of the repetition that occurs in the Prologue.
Here is a diagram of the Staircase, or Ladder, hidden in the Prologue of John’s Gospel. A sort of culmination is reached in verse 14, with the Incarnation of the Logos in humanity, in human form, in flesh, in the person.
The numbers on the left are the verse numbers from which the vocabulary terms are taken. The numbers on the right are an initial proposal for the numbering of the steps of this ladder.
1 Word (In beginning) 1
Word, God 2
God, Word 3
2 This (Word); in Beginning, God 4
3 autou egeneto, 5
autou egeneto 6
4 autoi, life human being 7
life, light 8
5 light shines,darkness 9
darkness not 10
6 there was a human being, named John 11
7 witness 12
witness, light all believe 13
8 not light 14
witness light 15
9 true light 16
enlightens every human being, coming into world 17
10 in world was 18
world through him became 19
world not know him 20
11 into his own he came 21
his own not receive him 22
12 whoDID RECEIVE;authority to become childrenof God,believing into name 23
13 who not of bloods 24
nor will of flesh 25
nor will of man 26
but of God were born 27
14 AND WORD BECAME FLESH AND TENTED/TABERNACLED AMONG US 28
Verse 14 is a culmination of the Prologue’s Ladder in several ways. First, it is the end of the symmetrical ladder of repeated vocabulary that the Prologue contains, and which is the focus of this diagram. The ‘physically visible’ ladder of repeated words comes down from heaven to earth.
Second, it shows in figurative speech the Incarnation. The divine Logos becomes a human person.
Third, it shows how verse 13 gives all human persons the possibility of becoming more Christ-like, even more God-like, by exercising our authority to be born, or reborn, of God.
In the four Prologue verses after verse 14, the internal literary relationships among the terms become more complex. There is still much repetition in the final four verses of the Prologue, but their connections comprise a far more dizzying alignment; they are no longer a mere ladder or staircase. To show a synthesis of interrelationships between the terms requires something more complex, like a flight plan. A flight plan of angels, or of angelic human beings.
14 AND WORD BECAME FLESH AND TENTED-TABERNACLED AMONG US
(we beheld glory of him
glory as of only-begotten from Father)
full of grace and truth
15 John witnesses concerning him
and cries out saying,
This one was of whom I said,
He coming after me
Before me has become
For preceding me he was
16 And out of fullness of Him we all received
and grace on top of grace
17 because law through Moses given,
grace and truth through Jesus Christ came into being
18 God no one has seen at any time
the only-begotten Son,
who is in the bosom of the Father,
that one unfolds [that is, he reveals the Father in Heaven to us]
At this time I will not offer commentary on the final four verses of the Prologue, saving that for another occasion.
It is clear that the great mystic Evangelist, St. John the Divine, has once more hidden a picture of the Mystical Psalms Ladder in his Gospel, this particular manifestation being in the Prologue.
Chapter 1 of John’s Gospel concludes with a most unusual conversation. Philip has just become an Apostle of Jesus, and he goes to get Nathanael, to tell him about Jesus and to arrange for them to meet. Nathanael makes a joke, “Can any good thing be from Nazareth?” (1:46)
As they approach Jesus, Jesus has his own humorous retort for Nathanael. He says to him, “Behold, in Israelite in whom there is no guile.” (1:47) Jacob/Israel of the Old Testament was a shrewd, crafty, calculating, tricky fellow. He was perhaps trying to be close to God, but one would be wise not to trust him. He stole the birthright from his brother, among other things. So Jesus has a pretty good retort to Nathanael here.
A few moments later, Nathanael is completely stunned by Jesus. And he ends up saying to him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God, You are the King of Israel.” (1:49)
The chapter concludes with Jesus saying, “Amen amen, I say to you, from now on you will see Heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Child of Humanity (or the Future of Humanity, or the Son of Man).” (1:51)
Obviously, this verse is an allusion to Jacob/Israel as well, specifically, to the vision of the Ladder that Genesis 28 speaks of, when Jacob is fleeing from his brother, from whom he stole the birthright. However, in Jesus’ words, the Heaven is opened, which is not found in Genesis 28. Also, here in John’s Gospel, Jesus and/or Humanity has become the Ladder. We are the bridge between Heaven and Earth.
As a conclusion to this section: Although the New Testament is brimming over with hidden and subtle references to the Mystical Psalm Structures, including the Mystical Psalms Ladder, John 1:51 is one of the few places in the New Testament that specifically speaks of these mystical realities. The glorious Qur’an has many references to the Mystical Psalm Structures, and is full of discussion of Ladders and angels flying between heaven and earth. The Dome of the Rock, near al-Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem, is the site of the Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) vertical ascending Night Journey (the Mi’raj), which is very much like a journey on the Mystical Psalms Ladder.
The Qur’an also mentions the Zabur of Dawood (Psalms of David) three times, recommending them to us. Every page of the Qur’an has meaningful dialogue with the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and New Testament.
Seeing John’s Gospel Reconstruct,
Step by Step,
the Mystical Psalms Ladder
Throughout John’s Gospel, there is an actual re-construction of the Mystical Psalms Ladder. Back in the Book of Psalms, the Psalms that actually form the Mystical Psalms Ladder are the Psalms whose title-numbers are multiples of 6 (Psalms 6, 12, 18, . . . , 150). Here is an initial discussion of the Mystical Psalm Structures:
Amazingly, John’s Gospel reconstructs the Mystical Psalms Ladder. The construction process begins in Chapter 2, at the Wedding of Cana. There are 6 massive vessels for the purification water, each holding 2 or 3 measures of water, which is about 20-30 gallons each. Jesus turns this large volume of water into wine.
Now, any ancient literary mind would have instantly started working the mathematical possibilities of the numbers within the original Greek text. We start with the number 6. Then, 6x2=12. And 6x3=18. So we have 6, 12, and 18—the first three numbers of the Mystical Psalms Ladder.
The building of the Ladder continues in Chapter 6, in the mysterious crossing of the “sea,” when Jesus walks on the water and says, “I AM.”
After 6, 12, and 18, the next numbers of the Mystical Psalms Ladder are 24 and 30. Here in John 6, Jesus arrives in the middle of the sea to the Apostles when their boat is 25 or 30 stadia across the water. For the ancients, total accuracy was not required when reporting things, unlike the demand for proper information in today’s media, or in today’s accounting practices. The author John is clearly picking these numbers, “25 or 30,” for a reason. And now the reason is clear: he is building the Psalms Ladder for us in his Gospel.
An interesting feature of his Ladder-building project is found in Chapter 5. There, we encounter the lame gentleman by the pool near the Sheep Gate, where there are 5 porticoes. The number 5 represents the number of books in the Book of Psalms, which is mirrored by the number of books in the Torah.
But another remarkable number here is the number 38. The man has been lame for 38 years. The top step of the Mystical Psalms Ladder is formed by Psalms 138 and 144. Above this top step is Heaven, represented by Psalm 150. John is making an allusion to this top step of the Ladder by choosing the number 38.
Indeed, this entire story has many echoes of the Mystical Psalms Ladder. Some manuscripts of the Gospel have verse 5:4, which says, “For an angel of the Lord from time to time descended in the pool, and agitated the water. Then the first entering after the agitation of the water became well, whatever disease he/she was held by.” The underlined words are those that relate directly to the Mystical Psalms Ladder. The actual steps that lead down into the pool are not literally mentioned, though they are alluded to: the ill fellow says that others descend into the pool before him when the water is agitated by the descending angel. Jesus, who is the Ladder, tells the person to rise, to ascend. “And instantly the person became whole….” (5:9)
This entire episode is clearly another reference to the Mystical Psalms Ladder.
And I am grateful to the beautiful operation of the Catholic Church for bringing this, yet another Biblical miracle, to my attention. Pope Francis, in St. Peter’s Square, gave out copies of this special portable version of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. In America, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops repackaged this volume in a portable form, which I carry with me. This version has pages of powerful and insightful notes from the New American Bible. And reading the first note on John’s Gospel in this volume instantly unlocked this treasure for me.
In this Holy Octave of Easter, I with to profess my gratitude to the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, the USCCB, all Christians, my Muslim friends who have helped my studies, and all members of the Church, past, present, and forever.
The Prologue Ladder, in Greek
This addendum is simply a re-presentation of the Prologue’s Staircase/ Ladder, with the original Greek terminology.
1 logos 1
logos, theon 2
theos, logos 3
2 en arche, theon 4
3 autou egeneto, autou 5
autou egeneto 6
4 autoi, zoe anthropon 7
zoe, phos 8
5 phos skotia fainei 9
skotia auto ou 10
6 egeneto anthropos, onoma autoi Ioannes 11
7 marturian 12
marturesei, photos pantes pisteusosi 13
8 ouk . . . phos 14
marturesei . . . photos 15
9 phos . . . alethinon 16
photizei panta anthropon, erkomenon eis … kosmon 17
10 en toi kosmoi ein 18
kosmos di’ autou egeneto 19
kosmos auton ouk egno 20
11 eis ta idia elthe 21
idioi auton ou parelabon 22
12 ELABON AUTON, autois exousian tekna theou genesthai,
pisteuousin eis to onoma autou 23
13 oi ouk ex aimaton 24
oude ek thelematos sarkos 25
oude ek thelematos andros 26
all’ ek theou egennethesan 27
14 AND WORD BECAME FLESH AND TENTED/TABERNACLED AMONG US 28