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In John chapter six Jesus declares many times that he is the bread of life that comes down from heaven, from the Father. In a lengthy discourse, Jesus establishes two main things: 1) The Father gives the true bread, 2) Jesus, himself, is that bread.

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life... - John 6:32-35a

Within the realm of typology the Manna is seen as the type (foreshadowing) and Jesus as the anti-type (actuality). This seems borne out as Jesus acknowledges that the Father gave the bread in Exodus but that he, himself, is the "true" bread. The contrast appears not to be between true and false but between shadow and reality, if you will.

Later, in John 15, Jesus declares that he is the "true" vine:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. - John 15:1

The context of chapter 15, however, doesn't offer a similarly explicit contrast. Assuming the adjective "true" represents a contrast and taking "true vine" as the anti-type (actuality), what is the vine that is the type (foreshadowing)?

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    The word 'true' in Hebrew כן has the notarikon symbols for the Son of God כ and the Son of Man נ in death ן [final nun]. If he was using Notarikon,, he was declaring who he was in the same way that 'stone' אבן is the father אב and the Son בן together.
    – Bob Jones
    Nov 4, 2021 at 0:49
  • @Bob Jones This is very interesting… Start me off on a journey with a book, video, website..?
    – user36337
    Apr 18 at 5:35
  • “Here is a young man with five bread rolls and two fishes” (John 6:9). [Over there is an old man with a bottle of wine, some cheese, and a honey comb] Apr 18 at 11:14
  • @Bob Jones Thanks very much!
    – user36337
    Apr 19 at 21:24

6 Answers 6

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Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. 9Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. 10The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. 11She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. 12Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? 13The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. 14Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; 15And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself. 16It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.

[Psalm 80 9-16 KJV]

Psalm 80 describes Israel as a vine. Brought out of Egypt, and planted like a plant potted and travelled and transplanted in a foreign land.

Grown vast, with boughs like cedars. But, latterly, burned with fire, in judgment.

Wasted, and forlorn. Fruitless. Carried off to another land, uprooted.

A similar figure is the fig tree, which Jesus cursed, which bore no figs at the proper season, that is to say the season of the coming of the Son of man. Thus, cursed.

But He, himself, is the true vine. Not a figure of that which is yet to come. Not a figure which, itself, failed even to properly, in faithfulness, represent that which it was supposed to figure.

But he, himself, is come, the true vine and the branches which are fixed in him shall be fruitful.

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    Truth compared to shadow, not falsity.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 30, 2020 at 15:05
  • 4
    Actually, on reflection, a very interesting question - Made so on account of this answer - Thanks!
    – Dave
    Oct 30, 2020 at 17:57
  • 4
    Excellent answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Oct 30, 2020 at 20:00
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    In our studies of Mark (and in other places) at church, we used the labels Old Israel and New Israel to denote the ideas so eloquently expressed in your answer, Nigel.
    – user36337
    Apr 18 at 5:40
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John describes many things as true. I am wondering what these passages in John's gospel have in common:

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world (1:9 ESV)

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth (4:23 ESV)

For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps (4:37 ESV)

my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. (6:32-33 ESV)

So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. (7:28 ESV)

You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. (8:15-16 ESV)

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser (15:1 ESV)

In several places and maybe all, it seems that there is a contrast between a physical concept in this world and a spiritual concept, coming from God.

  1. There is physical, ordinary light, but also spiritual, true light.

  2. There are people who worship without the Spirit and those who worship in a true, spiritual way.

  3. There are ordinary sowers and reapers in this world, and there are people who sow and reap a true, spiritual harvest.

  4. There is ordinary physical bread and there is true, spiritual bread - Jesus himself.

  5. There were many ordinary people who taught in the temple from their own human understanding, but Jesus was spiritual and taught true wisdom from his Father.

  6. There were many ordinary human judges, but Jesus was not one of them. But he would make true, spiritual judgments together with his Father.

  7. There were many ordinary, physical vine plants, but Jesus with his followers is a spirital vine plant, a spiritual "Israel" (people of God) consisting of followers who are intimately connected to Jesus.

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    I think that this is the right answer. The "true" one is the spiritual reality for which the physical model or illustration was created.
    – user558840
    Mar 10, 2021 at 21:46
  • This answer is enthralling because it betrays a level of understanding of the Gospel of John: a true soaking in the mind of this book (research aside). You have inspired me to aim for a similar depth of knowing. I suspect that journey will be one ending in emergent simplicity.
    – user36337
    Apr 18 at 5:52
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This is not an answer as much as a train of thought set in motion by the question and based on the premise that Adam “is a type of the one who was to come.” (Rm 5:14)

The imagery of the vine and branches brings to mind a genealogical chart or a family tree. If we can imagine it as such, then we can juxtapose the physical genealogy that originates with Adam, the first born of the earth, with the spiritual genealogy that originates with Jesus, the first born of heaven.

  • “Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit… The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven.” (1 Cor 15: 45-48)
  • “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’” (Jn 3:5-7)

The vine of God also calls to mind that which is planted by God and which is expected to bear fruit in due season and according to His will. Because he did not obey God's will, Adam represents the planting that was untrue to God. In contrast, Jesus who sought to do “the will of him who sent me“ is the true and faithful vine (Jn 5:30). The Gospel of John beautifully lays out how Jesus, in fulfilling the will of the Father, also unveils God’s vision for each one of us:

  • “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love… This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.“(Jn 15:8-12).

Finally, we can contrast the rigid nature of the physical genealogy with the fluid and ever changing nature of the spiritual genealogy. The branches of the spiritual vine or tree (Rm 11:17-24) are continually breaking or being pruned, grafted and re-grafted. The connection between branch and vine is spiritual and conditional; it is only by a mutual in-dwelling whereby we abide by and in the love of God that we can remain fruitful:

  • “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (Jn 15:5-6)
  • “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree.” (Rm 11:17)
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  • A lovely train, thank you 🙏😌
    – user36337
    Apr 18 at 6:07
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    @AshleyRoberts Thank you your comment. It is amazing to me how much can be said via a single image. I was just thinking of how the vine/tree is also, or perhaps is in essence, a representation of the cross.
    – Nhi
    Apr 19 at 15:17
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Among other possible candidates, the wine that is the type, the foreshadowing, is the wine which Noah made and got drunk with after being saved from the flood.

After being saved from the flood and having received the sign of a covenant from God - a rainbow - Noah immediately proceeded to plant vineyard and imbibed wine (Genesis 9:20-21). This wine is linked to this covenant with a sign of the rainbow. However, as the salvation from the Pharaoh through separation of the sea was not introducing an ontological change in the saved Jews, and neither the manna they ate made any graceful change in their hearts, similarly nor the rainbow-covenant brought any ontological change to Noah and his children, and nor the wine that Noah made could achieve the transformation of human nature as to bringing it to the state of the "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17).

Thus, both Noah's salvation from flood with the rainbow and wine and Moses' salvation from Pharaoh with the heavenly manna, were only physical salvations that showed indeed God's merciful benevolence, yet introduced no ontological change, and as such featured only as prefigurations to the coming True Salvation; indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ is the true bread and true wine in the sense that only through eating His body and drinking His blood, as He commands (John 6:51-57) can we be saved, become new creation and get access to divine life and become citizens of His eternal Kingdom.

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This is a good question. The answer includes all the above, but can especially be seen in a complex manner via what can be called, “vinifera theology.”

The first explicit prophecy of the coming of the Messiah in Genesis 49:10-12 describes a vine (Israel). The Messiah becomes one with the vine (Israel):

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk. (Genesis 49:10-11)

The Talmud in Kesubos 111b interprets this verse in the sense of a Messianic smile of goodness & grace:

Showing your teeth to your neighbor [in a broad smile] is better than giving him a drink of milk, for it says, "white toothed [l'ven shinayim] from milk." Don't read l'ven shinayim, "white toothed", but libbun shinayim, "showing the teeth" [i.e. smiling] is better than milk.

The roots of “vinifera theology” also go back to the Exodus.

You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land.The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. Its branches reached as far as the Sea, its shoots as far as the River. - Psalm 80:9-16

The Psalmist was making more than just a general analogy. Recent archeological research has revealed that the ancient Hebrews (i.e. the Apirou people) were in charge of grape cultivation in ancient Egypt. So when the Psalmist writes about Israel being like a vine taken out of Egypt, it’s based upon an historical analogy. An article in the Jewish Times states:

Scholars claim the Apirou people were the “Hebrews” and that these people were the specialized wine makers of ancient Egypt. Mural paintings around the tomb of Amenhotep II, who lived in the 14th century BCE, portray these “Hebrews” pressing grapes by foot, and a scene entitled “Wine from the vineyard of the Roads of Horus” illustrates men decanting wine at an intersection located relatively close to Southern Israel.

Picture the scene on the way to the Mount of Olives, to the Garden of Gethsamene. The disciples would have passed through vineyards, with grazing sheep, surrounding the city down through the Kidron Valley.

The vineyards were illuminated by the full moon of Passover. So, it would have been a twilight kind of scene. Columella & Pliny speak of preferred trellis systems, in the first century, as being either head pruned (which was more difficult to manage) or involving the use of poles up to seven feet high with a single cross bar. So, it’s likely the disciples were passing trellis systems with cross bars! See a picture of a California vineyard below:

enter image description here

Of course, the vines would have been pruned back for the spring growth that was soon to come. But a deeper theological point can be brought out and it runs like this.

It is likely that the author of the 4th Gospel was highlighting the sayings of Jesus that parallel Dionysus oriented themes. Jesus is the true vine, unlike Dionysus who is a counterfeit or a shadow hinted at in pagan dreams as C.S. Lewis argued.

The wedding of Cana, the vine & the branches, etc. are all indications of contextual theology that went into this work.

The traditional place of the 4th Gospel's composition was in Ephesus. It is interesting that the following occurred when Anthony entered the city of Ephesus:

...women arrayed like Bacchanals, and men and boys like Satyrs and Pans led the way before him and the city was full of ivy...harps and pipes and flutes, the people hailing him as Dionysus, giver of Joy and Beneficent. (Plutarch Lives, Antony 24.3)

This is not to say that the 4th Gospel is fictional. Charles Hill believes he’s found another fragment of Papias in one of Origen’s Homilies on Luke. The fragment suggests Papias believed John was the author. The fragment also suggests that John believed in various gospels truthful accuracy of historical events and put his stamp of approval on what went into the final canonical selection process for the gospels.

There is a report noted down in writing that John collected the written gospels in his own lifetime in the reign of Nero, and approved of and recognized those of which the deceit of the devil had not taken possession; but refused and rejected those of which he perceived were not truthful. (Charles E. Hill, “What Papias Said About John (and Luke): A “New” Papian Fragment,” Journal of Theological Studies NS 49 (1998), p. 585)

Grapes and wine are highly important symbols in Jewish tradition and date back to the 1st century. A magnificent golden vine that hung over the inner portal of the Second Temple was described by Josephus and the Mishnah.

The Hasmoneans and Bar Kochba followers struck a cluster of grapes on their victory coins as a symbol of the fertility of the country. This same emblem appears slightly later as a decoration in mosaic floors of synagogues.

Josephus in describing Herod's Temple in Jesus' day writes:

Under the crown–work was spread out a golden vine, with its branches hanging down form a great height, the largeness and the workmanship of which were an astonishing sight to the spectators. (Antiquities of the Jews, 5.5.4)

Josephus also writes:

The gate opening into the building was, as I said, completely overlaid with gold, as was the whole wall around it. It had, moreover, above it those golden vines, from which depended grape-clusters the golden vine and the veil. as tall as a man and it had golden doors fifty-five cubits high and sixteen broad...

Josephus continues:

Before these hung a veil of equal length, of Babylonian tapestry, with embroidery of blue and fine linen, of scarlet also and purple, wrought with marvellous skill. Nor was this mixture of materials without its mystic meaning: it typified the universe. For the scarlet seemed emblematical of fire, the fine linen of the earth, the blue of the air, and the purple of the sea; the comparison in two cases being suggested by their colour, and in that of the fine linen and purple by their origin, as the one is produced by the earth and the other by the sea. On this tapestry was portrayed a panorama of the heavens, the signs of the Zodiac excepted. (Josephus, The Jewish War)

On their way to various events the disciples would have likely paused at the entrance to the temple that at Passover is kept open all night for the many thousands of pilgrims to pray. The massive size of the golden grapes with the vine over the temple door and the cosmic symbolism of the tapestry would have prompted some interesting dialog.

It is significant that the etymology of Chardonnay has a Hebrew background - e.g. sha’har Adonai which means “gate of God." That Chardonnay has a golden hue when ripe and that, according to the Mishna, the temple gate in Jerusalem had golden grapes above its door (Mishna, Middot, 3, 8) suggests that the grapes hanging above the temple door were designed to look very realistic - i.e. either reflective of Chardonnay itself or another grape that has a golden hue when ripe.

The temple paralleled Dionysus themes so much that Plutarch used those to make an argument that the Jews worshiped Dionysus. For example, Plutarch makes an appeal to such things as vines and ivy used in the Feast of Tabernacles, etc. (Plutarch Table-Talk 4. 6).

In Isaiah, Israel is referred to as the vine that produced wild grapes - because of their rebellion and sinfulness. Jesus, as recored in John 15 states:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit…

The primary focus is on abiding. We must have a willingness to abide. Someone once said, "a god is that to which one’s heart clings in every time of trouble” Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom….” To abide in the Messiah, the true vine, is to be in the Kingdom.

For an interesting exploration of the symbolism of the temple door, see this site.

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If Jesus calls himself "the true bread" or bread of life (antitype), what is the type? The natural or ordinary bread. If Jesus is the "true vine", what is the type? The natural vine itself. If Jesus is the ideal or good Shephard, then the type is Shephard itself. Spiritual truths are implied from physical, natural objects. See symbolism in Bullinger's book, Figure of Speech:

A material Object substituted for a moral or spiritual Truth

Greek, σύμβολον (symbolon), from σύν (syn), together, and βάλλειν (ballein), to cast; hence a casting together. Used by the Greeks, much in the same way as we use the word "coupon," where one part corresponded with or represented another part. Hence, in language, the use of one thing to represent another; or, the use of a material object to represent a moral or spiritual truth.

The word does not occur in the New Testament, and nothing is said in Scripture as to one thing being so used. The assertion as to anything being a symbol of another rests entirely on human authority, and depends for its accuracy on its agreement with the teaching of Scripture.

Charles Ellicott writes,

(1) I am the true vine.—For the word “true,” comp. Note on Joh. 1:9. The ideal truth, of which the natural vine is a figure, is fulfilled in Him. The thought is introduced suddenly, and with nothing in the context to lead up to it. The natural explanation of this is, that here, as in other instances, it was suggested by some external object which met the eye. If we suppose (comp. Note on Joh. 14:31) that they were crossing the valley on the way to Gethsemane, there is reason for the idea that they passed a vineyard, that supplied the form in which our Lord’s thoughts are expressed; but the journey itself, during the discourse, is improbable; and the sight of a vineyard is the less likely, as it was night. On the supposition that they were still in the room where they had eaten supper, a vine whose tendrils grew into the room, or the vine carved on the doors of the Temple (Jos. Wars, v. 5, § 4; Ant. xv. 11, § 3), or the vineyards seen in the distance by moonlight, or the vine suggested by “the fruit of the vine” of which they had drunk, have been suggested. Of these the last has most probability, as bound up with the significance of the cup of which they had drunk that night. We cannot say more than this. The imagery may have followed from some incident, or custom, or remark, now wholly unknown to us. It was, as in the case of the Good Shepherd, familiar to them from the Old Testament, and would have come to their minds from any slight suggestion. (See, e.g., the following passages: Psa. 80:8-19; Isa. 5:1 et seq.; Jer. 2:21; Eze. 19:10.) It seems to have been expressed also in Rabbinic precepts, e.g., “Whosoever dreameth of a vine-branch shall see the Messiah.” (Berachoth, fol. 89.) And my Father is the husbandman.—Comp. Mat. 21:33 et seq.; Mar. 12:1 et seq.; Luk. 20:9 et seq. The thought here is of the owner of the vine, who himself cultivates and trains it.

John Gill comments:

whether he might take occasion, from the sight of a real vine, to compare himself to one, nay be considered; since it was usual with Christ, upon sight or mention of natural things, to take the opportunity of treating of spiritual ones: though it may be rather this discourse of the vine and branches might be occasioned by his speaking of the fruit of the vine, at the time he ate the passover, and instituted the ordinance of the supper.

Jesus' blood is the true wine, that was symbolized by the natural red wine during the Passover Seder. To quote from my answer from this question- Why did the disciples not protest on the statement of drinking the blood of Jesus?:

Red wine as the symbol of the blood of the first Passover lamb

The Jews were already familiar with the symbolism of the blood in red wine, in the Passover Seder. See the book Jesus in the Passover: More than an Haggadah by Ton Rose, or the basic articles or videos describing the meaning of the Seder, by Mark Biltz. The wine is also called the blood of grapes. The red wine in the Seder represents the blood of the lamb, and some sages interpreted it as the blood of the children that the Pharaoh murdered. The cup institution is a secondary extension to the Seder plate, it is also interpreted mystically, read the meaning of the four cups in detail in Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 118:1.

Shabbat 129a:14 מַאי צׇרְכֵי סְעוּדָה? רַב אָמַר: בָּשָׂר, וּשְׁמוּאֵל אָמַר: יַיִן. רַב אָמַר: בָּשָׂר — נַפְשָׁא חֲלַף נַפְשָׁא. וּשְׁמוּאֵל אָמַר: יַיִן — סוּמָּקָא חֲלַף סוּמָּקָא. The Gemara asks: What are these special needs of a meal? Rav said: It is referring to meat. And Shmuel said: It is referring to wine. The Gemara explains: Rav says: It is referring to meat because the soul replaces the soul, i.e., the meat replenishes the person’s strength. And Shmuel said: It is referring to wine because the red replaces the red, i.e., red wine substitutes for red blood.

To quote Dov from Judaism SE, on the blood symbolism of the red wine:

The starting point is the Shulchan Aruch OC 472:11 where it writes expressly:

מצוה לחזור אחר יין אדום (אם אין הלבן משובח ממנו) (טור):

It's a mitzvah to seek red wine (if the white wine is not better) [Tur].

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 118:1 writes further the reason why:

You should do your best to obtain choice wine to perform the mitzvah of drinking the Four Cups. If red wine is available, that is, of the same quality as white wine, and its kashrus is as reliable as white wine, the red wine is preferred for the Four Cups, for it is said, "Look not after wine when it is red," (Proverbs 23:31) indicating that wine is most desirable, when it is red. In addition, because it reminds us of the blood, which flowed, when Pharaoh slaughtered innocent Jewish children. In backward and ignorant countries, where people, make slanderous accusations, Jews refrain from using red wine on Pesach. (Sefaria translation)

This point about the slaughtered children is also mentioned in the Ohr Zaruah, Vol. II, Siman 256 (Left column, bottom quarter) and he adds two other symbolic cases of blood. He writes:

יין אדום זכר לדבר שהיה פרעה שוחט תינוקות כשנצטרע ועוד זכר לדם פסח ולדם מילה

Red wine as a remembrance for Pharoah who slaughtered the babies (and bathed in their blood) when he was suffering with leprosy. And furthermore, it is a remembrance for the blood of the Korban Pesach (the Paschal Lamb) and the blood of milah (circumcision).

Finally, it is also worth noting the Pri Megadim, OC, Eishel Avraham 472:13 who writes that when using wine it should be red as it resembles blood and is a remembrance of the first plague of blood, thus symbolically appropriate for the evening, in the same way that Charoses is a remembrance to the cement/clay that the Jews used.

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