Essays on John and Hebrews by Harold W. Attridge (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament: Mohr Siebeck) Harold W. Attridge has engaged in the interpretation of two of the most intriguing literary products of early Christianity, the Gospel according to John and the Epistle to the Hebrews. His essays explore the literary and cultural traditions at work in the text and its imaginative rhetoric aiming to deepen faith in Christ by giving new meaning to his death and exaltation. His essays on John focus on the literary artistry of the final version of the gospel, its playful approach to literary genres, its engaging rhetoric, its delight in visual imagery. He situates that literary analysis of both works within the context of the history of religion and culture in the first century, with careful attention to both Jewish and Greco-Roman worlds. Several essays, focusing on the phenomena connected with "Gnosticism", extend that reiligio-historical horizon into to the life of the early Church and contribute to the understanding of the reception of these two early Christian masterpieces.
The essays in this volume contain work done over the course of the last thirty years on two texts of particular interest to me, the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Gospel according to St. John. The exegetical approach of the essays varies and displays some of the methodological shifts that have taken place in New Testament criticism during the last quarter of the twentieth century. Some essays (#1, 8, 9) focus on the problem of the sources of the Fourth Gospel, still an important question though one that has to some extent been displaced by various strands of literary criticism. Placing the early Christian texts in the religio-historical context of the first century remains a useful way of gaining insight into the canonical sources and several essays treat the relationship between the documents of the New Testament and other bodies of roughly contemporary religious and philosophical literature (#1, 3, 4, 10, 16, 24). Attention to the rhetoric of early Christian texts, coming as they did from a culture shaped and permeated by rhetoric, has opened the way to new perspectives (#7, 19, 21). Of particular interest is the way in which certain rhetorical conceits serve important theological purposes (#20, 22, 23). The history of interpretation of New Testament documents, always of importance to the discipline, has gained new attention in recent years, and two of the essays (#13, 14) explore aspects of the second century reading of the Fourth Gospel or the context within which such readings take place (#15). Analysis of the literary dynamics of the narratives of the New Testament parallels the attention given to the rhetorical structures and techniques of epistles and homilies. The Fourth Gospel is an especially fruitful, but very challenging, field for exploring such literary questions. Several of the essays here attempt to do so, by considering questions of genre, the use of symbolism and the tensive elements of narrative and characterization (#2, 5, 6, 12).
Many of these essays first appeared in collections or Festschriften and may not be readily available. While some may deserve to remain in obscurity, it is my hope that the insights that I have enjoyed discovering may be of use to other readers of these important documents from the early days of the Christian movement.
The literary evidence for Johannine Christianity
The complexity of the Johannine corpus renders attempts to trace the contours of Johannine Christianity difficult. Nonetheless, the sources reveal a community of early followers of Jesus who, using an abundance of biblical symbols, defined themselves rather starkly against the Jewish milieu in which they arose. These believers cultivated an intense devotion to Jesus, as the definitive revelation of God's salvific will, and understood themselves to be in intimate contact with him and with one another, under the guidance of the Spirit-Paraclete. They were conscious of their relationship to other believers with whom they hoped to be in eventual union. Their piety found distinctive expression in a reflective literary corpus that explored new ways of expressing faith in Jesus. Their common life included ritual actions known to other followers of Jesus, but they insisted on the unique spiritual value of those rites. Disputes eventually divided the community. By the middle of the second century some representatives of the Johannine tradition achieved a respected role in the emerging 'great church, the interconnected web of believers throughout the Mediterranean that provided mutual support and maintained fellowship under the leadership of emerging episcopal authorities. The Johannine community of the first century bequeathed to the universal church its distinctive literary corpus and estimation of Jesus, which came to dominate the development of later Christian orthodoxy. Other representatives of Johannine Christianity, nurturing alternative strands of tradition, influenced various second-century movements, characterised by their opponents and much modern scholarship as 'Gnostic'.
The primary source for Johannine Christianity is the anonymous gospel 'according to John'.' Closely related in vocabulary, style and concerns are the Johannine epistles, which are certainly interrelated, even if they address discrete problems. Most scholars find in them evidence of the Johannine community wrestling with problems of the interpretation of the gospel, although some associate the epistles with a late phase of the gospel itself.
Date and provenance of these central texts still generate controversy. The widely accepted date for a reasonably 'final' form of the gospels is the late first or early second century, although other estimates have ranged widely. Nineteenth-century scholarship tended to place the gospel in the mid or late second century.6 The dating of P52 (P Ryl. 457), the gospel's earliest witness, to around 125 ce, provided many twentieth-century commentators a terminus ante, although the dating of the papyrus is hardly secure, and explicit citation of the gospel does not begin until Irenaeus in the last quarter of the second century. Nonetheless, allusions to the gospel in second-century works such as the Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch and the Odes of Solomon persuade most commentators that the period of 90-110 constitutes a reasonable framework for the work's composition. Some critics push the date considerably earlier, before the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, thus finding in this gospel the earliest example of the genre.
The location of the community that produced the gospel and whose experience is reflected in the epistles is also a matter of conjecture. Irenaeus associates the gospel, written by the Beloved Disciple, John, with Ephesus. Irenaeus and other church fathers report anecdotes of John's activity in Ephesus, competing with `Gnostic' teachers such as Cerinthus, or engaged in pastoral activity. While some scholars continue to think of Ephesus as a probable venue, at least for the gospel's final form," others have proposed options on the Mediterranean littoral or in the Syrian hinterland." Affinities between the gospel and other religious literature support such efforts. Alexandria was the home of the first-century Jewish philosopher Philo, whose complex speculation on the logos is often seen as a background to the Johannine prologue. Alexandria was also a centre both for the speculative Christianity labeled 'Gnostic', often proposed as a background to the gospel," and also for circles that generated the Corpus Hermeticum, a body of Graeco-Roman religious literature with affinities to the gospel's symbolic world." Alternatively, the Dead Sea scrolls parallel the gospel's 'dualism and its use of scripture," prompting speculation about the gospel's Palestinian roots." Further east, the Epistles of Ignatius and the Odes of Solomon, probably of second-century Syrian provenance, offer intriguing similarities to the gospel's imagery and spirituality.
Other texts occasionally enter discussions of the Johannine community. Although explicitly attributed to a visionary named John, the book of Revelation is not part of the relevant literary corpus. Despite some common motifs, its language, literary style and theology clearly distinguish Revelation from the gospel and epistles."
Two second-century texts obliquely continue the Johannine literary tradition. The Apocryphon of John is the most important witness to a major strand of second-century Christianity. Four copies, all surviving in Coptic translations, attest two recensions of the work, which was known also to Irenaeus. The slightly later Acts of John, pious fiction typical of the period, records legends featuring the apostle. Both works witness some second-century `Johannine' Christians with 'Gnostic' characteristics, but caution is necessary in retrojecting their evidence to the first century as background to the gospel.
The complex heart of the corpus, the gospel, defies attempts to situate the Christianity that it represents. Several surface features of the text signal the difficulties. The genre, a narrative of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, parallels other late first-century quasi-biographical gospels.' A patchwork of similarities to and differences from other known gospels, particularly the Synoptics, has produced continuous debate about their relationship to John. Most recent scholars are sceptical of direct dependence, although some argue that assorted pericopes, particularly the passion narrative, indicate dependence on the Synoptics.26 A few voices alternatively argue for the dependence of one or more of the Synoptics on John. The possibility of Johannine intertextual allusions has recently become even more complicated because of the possible relationship between the gospel and non-narrative Jesus traditions, particularly the Gospel of Thomas.
To decide the relationship of John to other gospels is not simply to determine its sources and, hence, its possible historical value. Understanding the loose relationship with the Synoptics and perhaps Thomas reveals the text's rhetoric, which engages in a sustained reflection on the 'conventional wisdom' of various proclamations about Jesus. The writers responsible for the gospel no doubt knew of the stuff of which the Synoptics and other gospels were made, and may have even known one or more in its final form, but freely adapted both oral traditions and literary productions.
The text obviously delights in symbolism. Almost everything seems to point to something else. The miracles of Jesus are 'signs', but how and what they signify is not immediately apparent. Jesus' discourses are replete with evocative terms, often pointing to himself, but introducing scriptural and general cultural themes. The complex narrative collapses temporal horizons, inscribing the life of the community into the story of Jesus.
The use of irony introduces further intricacies. Although hardly unknown in the other gospels, the trope pervades this text. Some times irony is a transparent dramatic device in which a character's ignorance or misunderstanding reinforces the reader's beliefs. Irony obviously pervades the pivotal event of the gospel, the 'hour' of Jesus"glory', strangely manifest in the ignominy of crucifixion (e. g. John 12:23-33). Yet there may be even deeper irony, playing with readers' expectations in order to provoke reflection. Both pervasive symbolism and irony hint that the gospel does not contain straightforward references to actual belief and practice.
Further complicating the use of the gospel as a source for historical reconstruction are numerous aporias. Features of the plot challenge its unity, such as temporal and spatial sequences that make little sense,36 or an apparent closure in the action that subsequent developments ignore.37 At the conceptual level, affirmations about the relationship of Jesus and his Father, about judgment, or about eschatological salvation are often contradictory or difficult to reconcile. Such difficulties have inspired attempts to trace the gospel's sources and redactional history. One widely accepted theory posits the gospel's development from a primitive collection of miracle stories, a 'signs source', through a process of homiletic elaboration of sayings of Jesus, assembled by an evangelist's guiding literary hand, supplemented by other editors or redactors.
Redactional theories in turn ground construals of the history of the community behind the text. Such theories postulate that Johannine believers began as a distinctive Jesus movement that gradually conformed to the Christianity of the second century. While it seems highly likely that the gospel did develop over time and therefore shows signs of rewriting and expansion, the construal of redactional activity as an attempt to domesticate a 'maverick' narrative remains unsatisfactory. A fundamental problem is that the supposed redactors did such a miserable job of making corrections, having left so many tensive elements in the text. It is equally plausible, and indeed even more likely, to read such elements as a deliberate literary strategy. Too ready an appeal to redactional corrections to explain disjunctions may obscure both the functions of the literary work itself and the character of the community standing behind it.
A possible history of Johannine Christianity
The overall contours of a history of Johannine Christianity could be sketched as follows. The community began in Israel, probably in Judaea, in the immediate aftermath of Jesus' death and resurrection, perhaps under the leadership of a disciple of Jesus who inspired the text's Beloved Disciple. This egalitarian fellowship remembered" what Jesus said and did and engaged in scriptural interpretation" to make sense of their experience. The community interpreted the mission of their rabbi or teacher" with the resources of their Jewish tradition, understanding him to be one sent from God," a prophet like Moses, the Messiah," the Son of Man," Son of God, an embodiment of God's word.54 Beyond traditional titulature, the gospel appropriated symbols from Jerusalem's cultic tradition and applied them to Jesus as the new temple,55 the source of 'living water'56 and light'," whose life reflected the biblical liturgical cycle. This Judaean Johannine community probably expanded with converts from Samaria, who introduced distinctive messianic expectations focused on a Mosaic prophet. In the face of external opposition from Jewish circles, members of the community insisted ever more stridently on the heavenly source and destiny of Jesus and his intimate relationship with God. In pressing these claims against considerable opposition, they took on characteristics of a 'sect', with well-defined social boundaries.' Their claims eventually led to their 'expulsion from the synagogue', a trauma mentioned three times in the gospel." Some scholars have connected that expulsion with the birkat hamminim, a 'blessing', or praise of God, in fact, an imprecation against heretics. This benediction was reportedly added to the Amidah or Eighteen Benedictions in the last decade of the first century by rabbis at Jamnia (Yavneh). Although a bitter separation from its Jewish matrix marked the history of Johannine believers, it cannot be correlated with the introduction of the birkat hamminim, which is not to be dated before the third century. Tensions between traditional Jews and the new followers of Jesus are widely attested in early Christian sources. While the animosity attested in the fourth gospel is particularly intense, it was not unique.
Now somewhat distinct from their former Jewish environment, whether in Judaea or the diaspora, these believers faced new challenges, also inscribed in the Johannine literary corpus. Doctrinal disputes, apparent in 1 John, developed over the implications of the group's characteristic christological confession. The precise roots and shape of the rejected Christology(ies) are open to debate. The opponents mentioned in 1 John may have resisted the close association of Father and Son on which the gospel insists. They may also have questioned the connection between the divine logos and the apparent fleshliness of Jesus. Such a docetic' position may have involved theories about the relationship between the heavenly/ divine and the earthly/human in Christ, or it may have denigrated the physical Jesus, on philosophical66 or perhaps even paraenetic grounds. The writer of the epistle insists, in any case, on the close connection between Father and Son (1 John 2:22-3), and maintains that Jesus really did come 'in the flesh' (1 John 4:1-3; cf. 2 John 7). Other doctrinal struggles surface in the epistle's insistence on the reality of sin and atonement (1 John 1:8-2:2; 4:10) and on the concomitant need to assume moral responsibility. However 1 John relates to the gospel, its positions strongly resemble the explicit stance of many prominent second-century Christians. On crucial doctrinal issues, the position of the epistles is, in broad outline, compatible with the emergent 'Great Church'.
A second point of conflict in the Johannine community's development concerns its organisational form. The gospels overtly are silent on the organisation of the communities that read them. Some texts hint at an egalitarian ideology, e. g. Matthew's rejection of honorific titles (Matt 23:9), Mark's idealisation of service (Mark 10:45), or Acts' idyllic picture of primitive 'communism (Acts 2:44; 4:32). The situation in early communities was certainly more complex, and Paul's letters attest emerging social organisation. The gospels, too, occasionally hint at the ecclesial world for which they were written, rather than the ideal fellowship that they describe. Matthew 16:18-19 famously portrays Peter as a figure of authority, perhaps rivaling the still respected scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23:3). The portrait hints at an incipient monarchical episcopacy, first evident in Ignatius of Antioch. Otherwise, governance rested in the hands of presbyteral councils, implied in Acts 20:17-38, and evident in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim 3:1-12) and in 1 Clement 42.4-5, from late first-century Rome.
The fourth gospel offers little explicit information about institutional structures. It portrays the followers of Jesus as a flock (John 10) and a vine (John 15), both of which suggest special intimacy. The sheep hear and recognize their shepherd's voice; the vine's branches grow directly from the stalk that is Jesus (John 15:2, 5-6). The pastoral imagery further suggests the existence of other sheep (John 11:41) who should belong to the one flock. Neither metaphor, however, has any room for an intermediary structure between Jesus and his 'sheep'. If a real Beloved Disciple or his successors played a governing role, that role finds no echo in the main body of the text. The disciple's death, implied by the dialogue between Jesus and Peter at 21:21-3, may have led to community reflection on its relationship to other sources of authority.
What appears instead of simple charter myths are disciples standing in symbolic opposition. Most prominently, the Beloved Disciple contrasts with Peter.72 At the Last Supper, he reclines in the bosom of Jesus (John 13:23),73 and mediates Peter's access to Jesus (13:24). At the cross, the Beloved Disciple stands by Jesus and becomes his adopted brother (John 19:26), after Peter had betrayed and abandoned Jesus (John 18:17, 25, 27). Peter and the Beloved Disciple run together to the tomb on Easter morning, but the Beloved Disciple arrives first (John 20:4) and 'believes' upon seeing the folded grave cloths (John 20:8). The disciple's precedence may have ecclesiological implications, if, by the time of the gospel's composition, Peter had become associated with hierarchical structures.
If an ecclesiological subtext underlies the Beloved Disciple's portrait, other aspects of his persona may have special significance. His new status as guardian of Jesus' mother may contrast with James, the Lord's brother (Gal 1:19; Mark 6:3), whose leadership in the church of Jerusalem is attested by Paul and Acts,74 or with the claims of Thomas, 'the twin, understood to be the sibling of Jesus in early Syrian traditions!' Unlike the Beloved Disciple, Thomas believes only after seeing and being invited to touch the resurrected Jesus (John 20:28).76 Whether they are historical individuals or ideal types, the contrasts between the Beloved Disciple and other disciples suggest a critique of contemporary Christian groups, symbolised by various apostolic figures. All the disciples, nonetheless, are indeed apostles, 'sent' into the world as was Jesus (John 20:21).
The epistles provide tantalising data on disputes about the leadership of Johannine Christians, in the figure of Diotrophes, criticised in 3 John as one who `loves first place' (philoproteuon) and who 'does not receive us' (3 John 9). Diotrophes probably represents the new style of leadership, like Ignatius of Antioch, that emerged in the early second century. The 'elder' who penned 3 John, and perhaps the two other Johannine epistles as well, may have represented an older form of leadership, closer to the charismatic itinerants of the first apostolic generation. The rivalry between 'the elder' and Diotrophes would then resemble the development evident in the Didache, the first book of church order, compiled probably in Greek-speaking Syria during the late first through early second century.78 Didache 12.1-5 recognises but restricts the authority of itinerant prophets, while Didache 15.1-2 entrusts the future to locally elected bishops and deacons.
While the portraits of the disciples in the fourth gospel score points about titular leaders and by implication their followers, the image of Peter in the last chapter takes on special significance. Rehabilitated from his triple denial of Jesus by a triple protestation of love (John 21:15-17), he is finally commissioned to `feed the sheep' (John 21:17). This chapter acknowledges that, however much the apostle Peter and perhaps other ecclesiastical leaders were inferior to the Beloved Disciple, their authoritative position should be respected.
John 21 then suggests that Johannine believers were becoming reconciled with the wider church of the second century, which, by the time of Irenaeus, would be marked by its interconnected hierarchy, incipient canon and creedal confession. The epistles also attest a schism within the community, in their reference to 'antichrists', who 'have gone out from us' (1 John 2:18-19). Perhaps those people maintained the theological positions criticised in the epistle, a docetically tinged Christology, or a denial of the reality of sin. Their legacy may be felt in such second-century texts as the Apocryphon of John and the Acts of John.
Distinctive features of Johannine Christianity
Johannine literature suggests that the 'community of the Beloved Disciple' had its own development within the larger Christian orbit, a development that, by the second century, led some of its number to a closer association with the type of Christianity, heavily influenced by Paul, emerging in urban centres from Antioch through Ephesus to Rome. The written record nonetheless maintains distinctive features in theology and practice, particularly in three areas, Christology, eschatology and ethics. In each area the distinctive Johannine position intensifies elements present in other forms of Christianity. In the final analysis the gospel's most distinctive features are the literary techniques through which it makes its claims.
At the heart of the gospel stands a very 'high' view of Jesus, God's creative Word in human flesh, as the prologue (John 1:1-18) proclaims. This association of Jesus with God's Word is certainly related to the sapiential categories exploited by other early believers for explaining the significance of Jesus. Similarly, the claim that Jesus is the incarnation of a principle or agent sent from God is present in other early celebrations of Christ. Distinctive of the fourth gospel is the way in which the two poles of the affirmation are maintained without explicit resolution. Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30); yet the Father is greater than Jesus (John 14:28). Jesus is sovereign over wind and wave (John 6:19) and has preternatural knowledge (1:48, 16:30), but is reduced to tears at a friend's tomb (John 11:35).
To reduce these tensive elements to indices of documentary development ignores their conceptual role. The gospel's antinomies repeatedly reaffirm both claims of the prologue: Jesus is God's Word, and he is flesh and blood. Ultimately, his glorious divinity is most apparent when he is most visibly human, at his death.
The text's approach to claims about the significance of Jesus is evident in the series of appellations of Jesus as 'Son of Man'. Several passages evoke sayings of the Synoptic tradition, but often with a new twist. Some (John 1:51, 5:27, 6:62) parallel elements of the 'eschatological' Son of Man sayings, the predictions of the `coming' in heavenly glory surrounded by angels to act as judge." Other verses recall the passion predictions that form the backbone of Mark but are paralleled in the other gospels. Others (John 6:27, 53, 9:35) portray the Son of Man in the present, offering sustenance and soliciting belief.
In all of these cases, the echoes of familiar traditions are made strange. At John 1:51, the Son of Man is not surrounded by angels, but, through an evocation of Jacob's ladder, he becomes a vehicle for their ascent and descent. At John 3:13-14, another biblical intertext, the healing serpent from Numbers 22 reinterprets the suffering Son of Man. At John 8:28, the 'lifting up' of the Son of Man reveals his true identity, and, at John 12:32, he promises to draw all to himself. The manipulation of Son of Man sayings through the earlier chapters anticipates the final saying at John 13:31, which boldly combines the 'glory' associated with the 'eschatological' sayings, with the event of the 'hour' when the Son of Man is 'lifted up'.
The handling of the Son of Man sayings betrays a deliberate appropriation of traditions about Jesus, holding assertions about glory and suffering in an ironic tension that invites the reader or hearer of the gospel to contemplate the significance of the cross. A reflective literary hand has reshaped traditional material in order to reinforce a central Christian tenet.88 Although the gospel has certainly been read as naively docetic,89 the handling of such traditional christological sayings, like much else in the text, strongly emphasised the incarnate Christ as the focal point of Christian thought."
What obtains for Christology also applies to the gospel's eschatology. It is striking that the gospel lacks scenes of eschatological judgment or apocalyptic catastrophe, like those prominent on the lips of Jesus of the Synoptics and paralleled in Paul. Some passages, moreover, use eschatological categories, particularly `judgement' and `resurrection', to describe not future events but the present confrontation between the individual and Christ. Yet some passages do mention a judgement and resurrection to come 'on the last day'. The antinomies in the perspectives on eschatology have stimulated debate about the character of the Christianity that the gospel represents. In this material in particular, some scholars have found evidence of the hand of a corrective redactor, imposing orthodoxy on a more radical original source.
Before embracing such mechanical redactional hypotheses, however, it is important to remember the reinterpretive strategy apparent in the gospel's Christology. A similar tactic is likely to be at work in the eschatological passages, where the gospel did not, in fact, break new ground. Other early Christian teachers had also used eschatological categories to suggest that hoped - for realities were part of the believers' present experience, particularly in worship. Such claims appear prominently in passages on baptism, which, in Pauline Christianity, actualises Christ's death and resurrection in the life of the believer. The ritual also makes the new life of the spirit a present reality, even if believers long for eschatological consummation. One of the dangers that Paul himself confronted was a tendency to take the trope too literally and thereby ignore both the future hope and the contemporary ethical demand that he thought essential to life 'in Christ'.
The fourth gospel's handling of eschatological expectations parallels Paul's, with a balance between present reality and future hope. Yet, in contrast to Paul, the gospel emphasises the side of the realisation of 'eternal life' in the believer's `abiding' relationship with God, which grounds any hope of a more conventionally conceived 'eternal life'.
The dialogue between Jesus and Martha of Bethany sharply focuses the gospel's eschatological tension. After Jesus proclaims to Martha that her brother would rise, she responds with a conventional Jewish hope" that her brother would rise on the last day (John 11:23-4). Without denying Martha's hopes, Jesus points to himself as resurrection, and by implication, life lived with him as eternal. Absent the life of faith, hope in a future resurrection is, the gospel suggests, vain. Similarly, at the core of the Last Supper discourses (14:1-4), Jesus, discussing the 'way' of his departure, promises to return and take his disciples with him to a heavenly 'abode' (John 14:2), the Johannine equivalent of the Pauline 'rapture' (1 Thess 4:17). The subsequent dialogues suggest that the intimacy envisioned for the post-return 'future' is already present. To those who keep Jesus' word, Jesus and the Father will come and make their 'abode' (John 14:23). Like branches on the vine, his disciples will abide in him, if they keep his commandments. This sequence of eschatological moments parallels that of John 11. A traditional hope is strongly affirmed, but by implication made contingent upon the anticipatory realisation of that hope in the life of the believer. Traditional eschatology has not been eliminated, but refocused on its present preconditions. The figure of the Paraclete, the 'spirit of truth' (John 14:17), plays a central role in this refocusing. Present through baptismal rebirth (John 3:5), this 'Holy Spirit' (John 14:26) abides with the disciples (John 14:17), teaching them (John 14:26) and defending them against a hostile world (John 16:8-11).
When seen from the perspective of the play on eschatological categories in chapters 11 and 15, the antinomies in the theme of judgement attain clearer resolution. The climactic saying on the subject at John 12:47-8 combines the tensive affirmations that the Son does and does not judge. Unlike the Son of Man seated in eschatological glory, Jesus, the Son, has not come to judge but to save (John 12:48), yet the word that he has spoken (or will speak: John 13:31) provides a basis for judgement 'on the last day'. The gospel allows for an eschatological future, but it is firmly grounded in the present confrontation between the Word, both in the flesh and in the book, and those summoned to hear it."
Ethics and religious practice
The followers of Jesus depicted in the Johannine literature display few of the practices that characterised their lives. Unlike the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), the fourth gospel says nothing about an ethic of non-violence, of loving enemies, turning the other cheek, renouncing divorce, walking the extra mile.
Ethics for the fourth gospel can be reduced to the single command to love one another, emphatically proclaimed at the Last Supper (John 13:31), illustrated with a proverbial saying (John 15:13) and echoed in the epistles.' The gospel spends little time on practical consequences, although both it and the epistles insist on the importance of forgiveness of sins. Yet the love that disciples are to embody focuses on the community of fellow disciples. Such love is not deemed incompatible with harsh words against enemies (John 8:44), which perhaps mirror the hatred of an inimical 'world'.
Neither the evangelist nor the writer of 1 John elaborates a detailed ethic; both focus instead on fundamental motivations for ethical behaviour. The Last Supper discourses indicate that the foundation is not simply a divine command issued by God's legate, but, in Jesus' death for his friends, it is also an embodied example of the 'greatest love' (John 15:14). This grounding of ethics in turn constitutes a soteriology: the cross reveals something that attracts (John 12:32) and heals (John 3:14-15), which, as the final discourses make clear, is love in action. In making `the love command' central to Christian proclamation, John is hardly unique. By connecting that command so closely to the cross, the evangelist innovatively fused a theoretical foundation of ethics and a doctrine of revelation.
Unconcerned about ethical details, neither does the fourth gospel worry about religious practices, such as fasting, which troubled other Christians and, according to Didache 8.2-3, marked community boundaries. Perhaps Johannine Christians rejected the biblical practice of fasting as did other early followers of Jesus, but the text is silent. In contrast to Matthew 7:7-13 and Luke 11:2-4, the gospel offers little explicit instruction about prayer. The final prayer of Jesus (John 17:1-26), faintly echoing the Lord's Prayer,' is not proposed for imitation. Jesus endorses petitionary prayer (John 14:13-14; 16:26), but without specifying its form. The epistles provide examples of confessional forms (1 John 4:7-10), but not prescriptions.
The text suggests that Johannine Christians baptised and conducted a sacred meal, two hallmarks of Christian communities. The gospel offers conflicting testimony on whether Jesus himself baptised, but that seems irrelevant to the insistence that one must be 'born from above' by 'water and spirit' (John 3:5). The dialogue with Nicodemus offers a specifically Johannine interpretation of the action, precisely in the terminology of 'birth again / from above'. Neither a cleansing from sin, nor eschatological seal, nor participation in the death of Christ"' baptism is, using language of Hellenistic religion, a `rebirth'. While other baptismal theologies are not in evidence, there is an intricate literary development of baptismal symbols. The 'water' through which rebirth occurs is echoed in the water from Jacob's well in John 4, where the traditional sapiential equation of water and teaching is apparent. That traditional equation receives a new twist in the note that teaching will bubble up as a fountain within each believer (John 7:38). New associations appear through the connection of the believer's 'water' with what flows from Jesus' pierced side (John 19:34). Baptismal 'water' is thus ultimately connected with the believer's apprehension of the cross. 1 John 2:26-7 also mentions a 'chrism' that teaches, perhaps alluding to another baptismal symbol.
That Johannine Christians celebrated a sacred meal is clear, although how they did so is not. Whatever their practice, we should not expect a standard formula in the late first or early second century. Two passages are relevant to their practice. Chapter 13 recounts a simple final meal, with no symbolism attached to bread or wine, as in the Synoptic and Pauline accounts. Instead, Jesus washes the disciples' feet and requires that they do likewise (John 13:3-17).
On the other hand, Jesus' lengthy discourse on the bread of life concludes (John 6:51-8) by affirming the importance of eating Jesus' flesh and drinking his blood. This passage clearly alludes to the kind of eucharist celebrated in Pauline and Synoptic communities.
One interpretation of this evidence sees the Johannine community celebrating its own sacred meal, without 'words of institution' or any reference to the sym bolism of bread/ body, wine /blood. A redactor, concerned to fill a gap, expanded the 'bread of life' discourse of chapter 6 to include such elements. Although some have argued for the integrity of John 6,122 most scholars accept the theory of literary stratification and its implications for the development of Johannine eucharistic practice.
The gospel's overall literary strategy should, however, signal caution. The gospel regularly recontextualises elements of early Christian teaching and practice. One might suspect a similar strategy at work in the eucharistic materials. As a redactional move, situating the reference to sacramental eating in chapter 6 is hardly an effective device to harmonise the gospel with some newly orthodox practice. Instead, the 'eucharistic' passages of chapters 6 and 13 could be designed to work together. One must 'eat flesh and 'drink blood' to have a part with Jesus (John 6:53); one must also know and understand his act of loving service (John 13:17). If 'eating' and 'drinking' function as traditional sapiential metaphors, then the actions contemplated in chapter 6 must be correlated with the interpretation of the actions suggested by the 'sacramental' language of chapter 6 certainly alludes to a ritual practice used by the Johannine community at some point in its development. It might have come late to the life of the community or, more likely, it describes an accepted practice the understanding of which the evangelist wanted to deepen.
Johannine Christianity constitutes an alternative to other forms of Christianity in the late first or early second century. It does so in part because its community history, its oral and written traditions, and its practices may differ from those of the 'other sheep' with which it became increasingly in contact. But most of all it is distinct from its competitors because its probing analysis of traditional forms and affirmations resulted in a creative attempt to comprehend and, thus, to recontextualise the experience of Jesus and what it means to follow him.
The Gospel of John by Francis J. Moloney (Sacra Pagina: Liturgical Press) (Hardcover) The expression Sacra Pagina ("Sacred Page") originally referred to the text of Scripture. In the Middle Ages it also described the study of Scripture to which the interpreter brought the tools of grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, and philosophy.
This series presents fresh translations and modern expositions of all the books of the New Testament. Written by an international team of Catholic biblical scholars, it is intended for biblical professionals, graduate students, theologians, clergy, and religious educators. The volumes present basic introductory information and close exposition, adopting specific methodological perspectives while maintaining a focus on the issues raised by the New Testament compositions themselves.
The goal of Sacra Pagina is to provide sound, critical analysis without any loss of sensitivity to religious meaning. This series is therefore catholic in two senses of the word: inclusive in its methods and perspectives and shaped by the context of the Catholic tradition.
The Fourth Gospel, called the "Gospel of John," has stirred the Christian mind, heart, and imagination for twenty centuries. It was fundamental to the emergence of Christian theologies, both orthodox and heterodox, especially the early debates on christology and the Trinity. First interpreted within the communities for which it was produced (in the letters called 1, 2, and 3 John), it has inspired commentary from then until now.
The present work by Francis J. Moloney focuses attention on the narrative design of the Fourth Gospel and traces the influence of this Gospel's story on its readers. It traces the way in which the author has told the story of Jesus in order to bring readers to a point of decision. The Gospel's author has a definite point of view that gives this Gospel its literary and theological unity. By no means limited to its first-century audience, the Fourth Gospel speaks to Christians of all ages and calls them to make, once and for all, life's most important choice.
The Fourth Gospel has stirred minds, hearts, and imaginations from Christianity's earliest days. The second-century Gnostics used it in the construction of their systems, and its significance for mainstream Christianity is obvious from the time of Irenaeus (c. 130—c. 200 c.E.). It was fundamental to the emergence of Christian theology, especially in the trinitarian and christological debates that produced the great ecumenical Councils, from Nicea (325) to Chalcedon (451). Any interpreter of the Fourth Gospel is the heir to rich and widely varied interpretative traditions. Indeed, it is my view that in 1, 2, and 3 John the Gospel received its first interpretation from within the communities for which it was produced. Such commentary has gone on unabated since then. Not even a scholar who devotes the major part of his or her academic activity to the Fourth Gospel can hope to keep up with the flow of monographs and journal articles dedicated to it. Fortunately, students of the Fourth Gospel have been blessed with some remarkable commentaries. Early in the century (1925), Marie-Joseph Lagrange produced a volume that is remarkable for its identification of exegetical difficulties, however much the contemporary scholar may agree or disagree with Lagrange's solutions to those problems. Originally published in 1941, Rudolf Bultmann's commentary remains a most stimulating and provocative reading of the Johannine text. German commentary on the Gospel, outstandingly represented by the two volumes of Jurgen Becker (1979-1981), continues the Bultmannian tradition. British scholars have long been fascinated by the Fourth Gospel. Sir Edwyn C. Hoskyns' moving study (1947) at times reads like the poetry of the Gospel itself, and C. H. Dodd's Interpretation (1953) provided an unparalleled study of its background and meaning. Since those days the multi-volume commentaries of Raymond E. Brown (1966-1970) and Rudolf Schnackenburg (1965-1975), and the precise but rich second edition of the work of C. K. Barrett (1978) have provided the reader with a wealth of background information and well-informed, judicious commentary. No other book of the New Testament has attracted so much attention from commentators.
Is there need for a further commentary on the Fourth Gospel? Within the overall purpose of the Sacra Pagina series of New Testament commentaries, I have attempted to introduce another form of commentary. Building upon my large-scale narrative-critical reading of the Fourth Gospel, published between 1993 and 1998 in three volumes, this contribution to the series devotes particular attention to the narrative design of the Gospel story. It attempts to trace the impact the Johannine form of the Jesus story makes on a reader. My aim has been to trace the way in which the author has told the story of Jesus to bring readers to a point of decision (cf. John 20:30-31). I will comment on the unfolding argument of an author who communicates with readers by means of a unique Gospel narrative. My presupposition is that—whatever the sources may have been—the present shape of the Gospel attempts to tell a story that articulates a coherent theology, christology, and ecclesiology. Whoever the historical author may have been, there is an identifiable "point of view" in the story that gives it a literary and theological unity.
The Johannine narrative falls into obvious blocks of material that, after the Prologue (1:1-18), deal with Jesus' public ministry (1:19-12:50), his final evening with the disciples (13:1-17:26), and the account of his death and resurrection (18:1-21:25). There are, however, more subtle turning points in the narrative (see, 2:1; 5:1; 11:1-4; 13:1; 18:1-3; 20:1; 21:1). At these moments in the narrative I will provide a general introduction to the section that follows. It is in these introductions that the distinctive vision of this commentary unfolds. The translation of the text of the Gospel and the more detailed Interpretation and Notes that follow will attempt to support the larger vision supplied by the general introductions. Following the lead of the commentary on Paul's letter to Rome in this series by my colleague, Brendan Byrne, S.J., I will keep the bulk of the commentary in the Interpretation. The Notes serve the purpose of justifying the particular positions adopted in the commentary, presenting and evaluating alternative points of view, and sharing those issues from the history of the Gospel's interpretation that shed light on the commentary. In line with this aim, the Interpretation precedes the Notes to each section. A number of critical issues in the history of Christian theology and in the history of contemporary biblical interpretation have arisen from the text of the Fourth Gospel. I cannot devote exhaustive and detailed attention to all these matters. Some will be mentioned in the Notes, but they are well covered by the classic commentaries on the Gospel. Other commentaries and major specialized studies will be listed in the general bibliography found at the end of the Introduction and in the briefer bibliographies under the heading "For Reference and Further Study" that conclude each section of my commentary.
John by Gail R. O'Day, Susan E. Hylen (Westminster Bible Companion Westminster John Knox Press) The Gospel of John is one of the most beloved books in the Christian canon. Its stories and images have long captured the imaginations of Christians. Not only is it one of the most popular writings of the New Testament, but many aspects of its style and outlook are distinctive. In this clear, thorough, and accessible commentary on the Gospel of John, scholars Gail O’Day and Susan Hylen explore and explain the Gospel’s distinctive qualities. This accessible study of the Gospel of John is written for clergy and laypeople who wish to deepen their understanding of the Fourth Gospel. It is informed by the best contemporary scholarship on John but is free of obscure details and jargon.
The Fourth Gospel is one of the most beloved books of the Christian canon. Its stories and images have captured the imaginations of Christians in every generation. The stories of the wedding at Cana, the woman at the well, and the raising of Lazarus are told and retold among adults and children. Images of Jesus as the bread of life, the good shepherd, and the vine are familiar from Sunday school lessons, sermons, and stained-glass windows. While much about the Gospel is familiar, the depth and beauty of its language reward those who return again and again. For the early initiate, Jesus is simply the good shepherd, and we the flock he carefully tends. The student of John finds that picture enriched by understanding the way John draws from Ezekiel the image of God as shepherd. The patient reader comes to recognize Jesus not only as the shepherd of the sheep but the gate to the sheepfold . . . and such discoveries go on and on.
John's Gospel is not only one of the most popular writings of the New Testament, it is also distinctive in many aspects of its style and outlook. For example, Jesus does relatively few miracles (and no exorcisms) in John. Jesus teaches in much longer speeches in John than in the Synoptic Gospels. His teaching contains few of the parables that are well known from the other Gospels: for example, the parables in Matthew that begin "the kingdom of heaven is like a . . ." have no direct parallel in John. The "I am" sayings that characterize Jesus' speech do not occur in any other Gospel. John's chronology of the life of Jesus is also different from that of Matthew, Mark, or Luke. John presents Jesus' ministry as a three-year time period; it encompasses three Passover celebrations (2:13; 6:4; 13:1). The death of Jesus occurs on a Friday in each Gospel account. However, in John this Friday is the day of Preparation for the Passover; in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it is the first day of the Passover Festival. Because of these differences, John is often presented as a Gospel that stands on its own (evident in references to it as the "Fourth Gospel"), while Matthew, Mark, and Luke are commonly grouped together as the Synoptic (literally, "see together") Gospels.
Many modern Christians have asked why John's portrait of Jesus is so different. One approach to this question is to look at the Gospel's origins and the social and historical setting in which it took shape. Trying to understand where, when, and why this author wrote can help us to understand why his portrait of Jesus often looks different from the other Gospels. But historical investigation can only take us so far; it may help us to understand how John's language came about, but it will not answer all the questions a reader may have about John's distinctiveness. Another way of thinking about John asks the question differently: what do the distinctive attributes of John communicate to the reader about Jesus? This way of thinking about John poses questions about the literary style of John's Gospel: What does John say? How does the text say what it says? The particulars of John's narrative are shaped by the historical contingencies of the author's and Jesus' lifetimes and by the literary and theological choices the author made.
Revelation of St. John: The Path to Soul Initiation by Zachary F.
Lansdowne (Red Wheel/Weiser) is a verse-by-verse guide
toward unlocking the divine wisdom that is hidden within the pregnant symbolical
language of the last book in the Christian Bible. The author, a Theosophist who
is well read in the classics of Theosophy and the Alice Bailey Arcane School, as
well as some of the best of metaphysical interpretations of a revelation, by
Charles Fillmore, Joel Goldsmith,Yogananada, Krishnamuriti, Mabel Collins, Edgar
Cayce, Frits Perls, Carl Jung, Charles Leadbeater, Helena Blavatsky, Rudolph
Stiener, Sir Aurobindo and even seldom cited esoteric writers like James Pryse.
It offers a synthetic and psychologically scintillating commentary into the
levels of Soul Initiation represented by this universal dream of the Christian
Each chapter is seen as an initiation into soul development and every verse is given a psychological interpretation. Anyone familiar with the tarot symbols will find much wisdom in reading this book, even if you have no faith in the previous Christian epoch, this book speaks directly to us about how the symbolic language of Revelation maintains its universal psychic validity, in much the same way as the Egyptian mythologies when rediscovered still spoke directly to our deepest formative impulses of the self and its transformation. Anyone reading this volume is offered a feast the many metaphysical cuisines that comprise the Theosophical movement?s vast literature and insight into the initiatory path of the soul.
For anyone into dream interpretation, or interested in the larger vision of tarot symbols this book belongs not only on your reading list, but on the top of your reading list. It is often noted in passing at the twenty two major arcana correspond to the twenty two chapters of Revelation, with this book alone one is given an invitation to understand just how close that correspondence is or can be.
The Revelation of Saint John is a marvelous journey through the intricacies of one's on mind. Lansdowne has provided a psychological interpretation of the original Revelation that is poignant and pristine. In reading the verses of the King James' version of the Revelation laid alongside Lansdowne's interpretation we are given not only a glimpse into the Revelation of Saint John, but also a psychological peek into the revelation of Zachary Lansdowne as we see him skillfully piece together this work of Love. Using correspondence and analogy to light up the intricacies of symbolism and vivify the imagery of the world's great religions, Lansdowne interprets the last book of the Bible into simple yet effective language such that "the last shall be first" in giving us a new voice for describing the path to soul initiation.
As we read The Revelation of Saint John, our intuitions may give us illumination and understanding about our own psychological experiences as well. We may begin to see ourselves as one with John and so John's Revelation becomes our own as we recognize fragments of our self corresponding with the Revelation's symbols. Using Lansdowne's psychological interpretation we are able translate the meaning of these symbols into the experiences of our present lives. As Lansdowne says, "...the Revelation of St. John deals with the present--that is, with the present of whoever may be reading it. It thus contains information that any reader--including you or I--can apply to become blessed."
What Zachary Lansdowne does in The Revelation of Saint John is bring the 2000 year old Revelation of St. John into the modern era where it can be experienced anew as the Revelation of you and me.
The Revelation of St. John, the last book of the canonical Bible, has been a mystery since it first appeared. No other part of the Bible has caused more controversy. Traditional interpretations of the book fall into one of three categories: the major prophecies that are supposed to have been fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.; the historical view that Revelation predicts the course of human events from the founding of Christianity to the end of the world; or the futurist view that Revelation predicts events that will occur at the end of the world.
It’s actually none of the above, writes Zachary F. Lansdowne, a leading expert in the field of spiritual initiation. In the Introduction to this rich and complex interpretation, he writes, "According to its own verses, the Revelation is concerned with the present time, which is whatever time we happen to be reading it, and contains information that we can apply immediately to become blessed."
This is not a book about "end times" or Armageddon and when it might come. This is a book written entirely in symbols, concealing a path for early Christians, and for the contemporary reader. Lansdowne has applied a unique psychological method of interpretation that takes each symbol as depicting some aspect of human consciousness rather than an eternal event, thus showing that the Revelation is actually a detailed instruction for the spiritual journey—a map to the wakening of higher consciousness. Moreover, while the Revelation appears in the great lineage of Judeo-Christian tradition, Lansdowne shows that its instruction can be appreciated and applied to seekers from any tradition.
Lansdowne’s line-by-line and verse-by-verse interpretation—presented here in an easy-to-read side-by-side format—is a manual for the true seeker who would follow teachings of Jesus as they were and are laid out, rather than as they have been interpreted by theologians and biblical historians. The Revelation of St. John, when unlocked by the key of psychological methodology, is revealed to contain ideas from many diverse wisdom traditions and philosophies—archangels in Judaism, chakras and kundalini in Hinduism, Buddhist mindfulness, the redemptive power of love in Christianity, and absolute standards of comparison in Platonic philosophy. Zachary Lansdowne’s revelatory text makes these teachings of the path to true soul initiation available to seekers from every spiritual tradition.
The Riddles of Jesus in John: A Study in Tradition and Folklore by Tom Thatcher (Society of Biblical Literature) At the end of his exhaustive study of Gospel Of John's tradition, C. H. Dodd confessed, “I do not at present see any way of identifying further traditional material in the Fourth Gospel, where comparison with the other gospels fails us, without giving undue weight to subjective impressions.”
Similarly, D. A. Carson closed his review of Johannine Source Criticism with the gloomy prospect that current approaches "do not encourage the conclusion that they will produce any more satisfying information regarding literary sources." Fortna's observation is as relevant today as it was in 1988: "so far a precise way to explain the discourses' provenance and development has not been found. It is therefore clear that the present study, which will assert that the Johannine discourses are based on a previously undetected oral form, the riddle, requires a fresh approach to the formation of GOSPEL OF JOHN's sayings tradition. In turn, a fresh approach to Gospel Of John's sayings tradition requires the development of a new method.
Recent history has shown that the form—critical approach to Gospel Of John's sayings tends to produce more positive results than the source—critical approach. Robert Kysar concluded his 1975 survey of approaches with this diagnosis: "What is needed . . . is a more highly developed method of Johannine Form Criticism; and until such methodology can be developed, our efforts in this regard may satisfy little more than the fancy." D. Moody Smith has also suggested that a form—critical approach might offer more specific controls by providing external criteria for identifying traditional units.'" At the same time, current form—critical models have been able to salvage only a very few embedded logia from Gospel Of John's larger discourse units. To move beyond the Other Consensus and locate riddles in Gospel Of John, certain aspects of conventional Form Criticism requires modification.
First and primarily, the new Form Criticism should account for the fact that Gospel Of John bears few formal parallels with the Synoptics. Conventional Form Criticism begins by comparing Synoptic parallels to determine traditional forms, then attempts to verify these forms from noncanonical literature. Dunn observes that "our methodology [in Johannine Source Criticism] inevitably depends on Synoptic—like parallels." But true parallels between Gospel Of John and the Synoptics are few and far between, especially in the discourse sections. Johannine scholars have attempted to compensate for this paucity of parallels with two strategies, neither of which has been especially fruitful. Some, like Dodd and Lindars, have imposed Synoptic categories onto incompatible data from Gospel Of John, forcing a redefinition of the forms themselves and/or the conclusion that most of Gospel Of John's discourse materials are not traditional. The second alternative, taken by Fortna, Smith and others, has been to simply ignore the discourses all together, usually under the premise that these represent the author of john's own theological reflections. Neither alternative is satisfactory, for even if the discourses originated entirely with author of John it is probable that they were generated in an oral environment and therefore may have absorbed oral forms and patterns. The recognition of these oral forms and patterns is therefore critical to the exegesis and composition—history of the passages in which they appear. Since clear and specific parallels between Gospel Of John's discourses and the Synoptics are rare, the new Form Criticism cannot depend on them as the basis of its investigation.
Second, this new Form Criticism cannot use criteria for determining traditional materials which exclude the possibility that certain sections of Gospel Of John are traditional. There is no warrant for the adoption of methods which inherently prefer the Johannine narratives over the discourses, especially if this preference is based on analogies with the Synoptics. The unique circumstances of the author of John and the Johannine community make it highly probable that certain forms and patterns which are rare in, or absent from, the Synoptics would become essential to Johannine preaching. The riddle is one such form.
Finally, this new Form Criticism should avoid a persistent terminological difficulty. The reader of the preceding survey may have noticed that, up to this point, the words "historical," "traditional," and "Johannine" have been used indistinctly. This imprecision reflects the current state of Johannine scholarship, where these three terms and their relationships are understood differently by different researchers but rarely defined. The doctrine of johannisation, however, has produced a general agreement that the terms "traditional" and "Johannine" are somehow mutually exclusive. It is necessary to understand "traditional" in such a way that "traditional" and "Johannine" are not inherently opposed terms. It is also especially important to clarify that the terms "traditional" and "authentic" are not synonyms. Sayings units in Gospel Of John may be "traditional" in the broad sense that they are based on common oral speech patterns even if the author of John composed them whole cloth. As such, the present study is not immediately concerned with whether or not Jesus himself used the riddles in the present text of Gospel Of John, nor does it speculate on the origin of these units.
Since the oral text has no physical durability, it exists beyond the moment of composition only in the memories of the speaker and audience. Memory is therefore critical to any understanding of the "transmission" of an oral text across multiple performances. Remaining within the boundaries of the Oral-Formulaic Theory, Parks suggests that oral "repetition" is most properly "a dialogue with memory," the present performance recalling earlier performances.
“Oral tradition thus is a continuous life at the level of latent memory, which is brought into expression intermittently through specific performance acts.... Since tradition as such resides only in latent memory, at the moment of performance nothing except that performance exists."
The diachronic "history" of an oral text represents not a series of variants but the total number of synchronic performances in which that text has been composed. It is only in the sense that two unique performances tap into a common mnemonic vein that one may speak of the "repetition" of an oral text.
In view of these realities, any form-critical method should develop a means for describing textual continuity between oral performances. To signal that a performance is traditional and to facilitate recall of past performances, oral composers draw materials for their texts from an oral archive of motifs and formulaic structures. This oral archive does not contain the specific surface features of past performances, but rather the performer's memory of how the story in question is traditionally told. In this sense, the oral composer's role differs greatly from that of the literary author. "The oral poet conceives of [her/]himself as [her/]his tradition's voice," and uses the oral archive as a tool for reviving the memory of that performance tradition. What such composers "transmit is not a text, reified, absolute, . . . but an art of telling that comes into manifestation only in synchronic performance." In oral settings, there are no traditional texts, only traditions of telling. "Diachrony" is the composer's self-association with such a tradition.
To further explore the nature of "oral tradition" and "oral forms," it is necessary to examine the specific elements of the synchronic contexts in which oral utterances are produced, and to explain in greater detail how these contexts may be related in a diachronic sequence. In so doing, it becomes possible to describe a form-critical method which does not depend exclusively on the comparative analysis of parallel documents to identify traditional forms. demonstrated that conventional approaches to the speeches of Gospel Of John have produced primarily negative results. These results are largely due to limitations in NT Form Criticism, specifically a heavy dependence on literary parallels. Since the riddles in Gospel Of John bear few parallels to other extant texts, it is necessary to describe a method of form—critical analysis which does not depend on literate models of genre and text production.
Thatcher appeals to a number of language theorists whose research explores the nature of oral forms. The theories of Roman Jakobson and M. M. Bakhtin highlight the functional, situational, and dialogic nature of oral speech. Lloyd Bitzer' s theory of rhetorical situations clarifies the elements of speech situations, and their impact on the discourses produced within them. Several themes raised by these three theorists come together in Tzvetan Todorov's theory of discourse genres. This situational approach to genre, which is particularly compatible with the event nature of oral speech, necessitates theoretical clarification of the relationship between genre and ideology. Todorov is again helpful here, as is Robert C. Post's theory of genre, which explicitly addresses the ideological dimension of genres. This investigation produces a concise, yet theoretically comprehensive, delineation of the constituent elements of an oral form or "speech genre." Once conceptual clarity on the nature of oral forms is achieved, it becomes possible to describe a specific oral form, the riddle, and to identify this form in Gospel Of John.
Thatcher offers a new definition of oral forms and a new form-critical method for approaching the speeches of Jesus in Gospel Of John. This method begins by identifying the situational or ideological contexts in which speech genres develop, then identifies forms which typically appear in such contexts, and finally tests possibilities through analysis of the surface text. Such an approach is particularly amenable to the speeches of Gospel Of John, which receive little illumination from methods of analysis which depend on literary parallels. Thatcher also observes that most Johannine scholars believe the Gospel Of John was produced by a fringe group which had been violently separated from its Jewish heritage. In response to this separation, the group defined itself against mainline Judaism, using an "anti-language" of Jewish terms and symbols.
What speech genres might arise in such a situation? One oral form that may find its way into the author of John's "anti-language" under these social conditions is the riddle. Jack and Phyllis Glazier define the "riddle" as a verbal challenge which creates purposeful ambiguity between description and referent. Riddles use conventional language, but while normal discourse reveals its referent, the riddle hides its referent through intentional confusion. To resolve this confusion and answer the riddle, the riddlee must organize possible answers "based on the taxonomic principles the riddle offers."
"Correct" answers normally advocate those taxonomic boundaries and relationships which the group affirms. Elli Köngäs Maranda has therefore stated that "riddles play with boundaries, but ultimately to affirm them." It seems reasonable to suggest that the author of John utilizes this traditional form to clarify the ideological boundaries between his group and orthodox Judaism.
To explore this possibility, Thatcher develops a precise definition of the riddle consistent with the model of speech genres. This task requires a survey of the major approaches to the riddle as a folk genre. The search for traditional riddles in the surface text of the Gospel Of John is facilitated by four criteria.
First, a saying is a riddle if the narrator informs the audience that it is intentionally ambiguous, regardless of its surface form. Any culturally sensitive analysis of oral texts must accept the composer's understanding of the material he or she produces, even when that understanding disrupts neat analytic categories.
Second, a speaking character may signal that his or her words are intentionally ambiguous, either by stating so directly or by delivering the message in a discourse context which would naturally suggest that riddles are being used.
Third, the audience within the story may respond to a saying with confusion, or may indicate that the saying could reasonably take more than one referent. To assure that the reader lays blame for this confusion on the riddlee rather than the riddler, the narrator may highlight those aspects of the discourse situation which point away from the true answer.
Finally, when a character uses vocabulary which seems inherently contradictory within the normal conventions of language or logic, the saying may be a riddle.
Applying these four criteria to the Gospel Of John, Thatcher creates a table the sayings that may be identified as riddles. Discussion of the specific criteria relevant to each unit appears in the detailed analysis last three chapters of this study.
The Gospel Of John's "dramatic riddles" and "neck riddles" are treated together as both categories represent widely recognized uses of the riddle in cross-cultural folk performance, and neither is used in the Gospel Of John to explore the more peculiar aspects of Johannine theology. As a practical consideration, these riddles are fewer in number and require a less detailed analysis.
The "mission riddles" in the Gospel Of John explore facets of Jesus' divine identity and mission, and highlight the inability of human wisdom to comprehend him. They derive their ambiguity from the fact that Jesus' words of self-revelation always function at two levels. At the level of Gospel Of John's audience, they engender faith by revealing Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:30-31). At the level of the characters in the story, however, the mission riddles seem to be unusual or grotesque comments about everyday things. The tension between these two levels of meaning generates irony in those episodes where Jesus discusses his identity and mission with other characters.
The eight "salvation riddles" in Gospel Of John explore aspects of the Christian experience. The author of John uses these riddles to describe the unique relationship between believers and God, a relationship which is incomprehensible to the world. Ambiguity arises from the fact that Jesus speaks of this spiritual relationship in terms of biological functions. Two of the salvation riddles play on the biological metaphors "birth" and "life," and four more play on the metaphors "eating" and "drinking." In John's vocabulary, these biological functions refer to spiritual realities, but the characters in the story cannot understand Jesus' words because the discourse context seems to point to a more literal meaning.
As a social device, knowledge of the correct answers to Jesus' riddles separates the Gospel Of John's audience from the vanquished riddlees within the story and places them in a privileged position. Groups often use riddles in this way to distinguish members by what they "know," even when the acquisition of such knowledge relies on group membership rather than individual skill or intelligence. The various riddlees of the Gospel Of John are confused because they seek to comprehend Jesus' words through conventional channels of logic. The logic of Jesus' discourse, however, is a special group logic. The correct referents depend on group knowledge about Jesus' identity; the whole affair remains a mystery to “the Jews” as outsiders.
Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community by Craig R. Koester (Fortress) Craig Koester's respected study uses the symbolic language of the Gospel of John as a focus to explore "the Gospel's literary dimensions, social and historical context, and theological import." This edition is fully revised and updated and includes a number of new sections on such topics as Judas and the knowledge of God. Fresh treatments are given on a number of issues, including the Gospel’s Christology. This new edition offers both new insights and proven worth for students and scholars alike.
The symbolic language of john's gospel has long engaged the imagination of its readers. The evocative references to light and darkness, bread, living water, and other images have elicited a steady stream of exegetical, theological, and artistic comment. Paradoxically, the same qualities that contribute to the wide appeal of John's Gospel actually compound the difficulty of interpretation, since the leading symbols do not readily allow themselves to be defined; they convey multiple meanings simultaneously. In Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel, Koester seeks to distinguish and to explore the interaction between various aspects of meaning in Johannine symbols. At the same time he avoids reducing these multifaceted symbols to flat propositional statements or, conversely, suggesting that they are so indeterminate that they can mean anything the interpreter wishes.
Johannine symbolism cannot adequately be treated within the confines of one discipline; it demands consideration of the literary, the sociohistorical, and the theological aspects of the text. From a literary perspective I have built on the work of many predecessors, while giving renewed attention to the way we recognize symbols in the text, to the structure of the symbolism, and to its relationship to the literature of antiquity. When treating sociohistorical matters, Koester challenges the idea that Johannine Christianity was an introverted sect whose symbolic language would have been opaque to the uninitiated. He argues that Johannine symbolism would have been accessible to a spectrum of readers, helping to foster a sense of Christian identity that was distinct from the world while motivating the Christian community to a missionary engagement with the world. In terms of theological emphasis, I give special attention to the Johannine presentation of Jesus' death and stress the centrality of the cross for understanding symbolic language throughout the Gospel.
Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel is a study of John's Gospel as a whole. Using symbolism as its focus, it explores the Gospel's literary dimensions, social and historical context, and theological import. One question that shapes the study concerns how people know God, since symbols are earthly images that bear witness to transcendent realities; and a second question is how particular things can have broader or even universal significance. In the chapters that follow we will make our way through John's richly textured narrative, asking how this telling of the story of Jesus enables readers "from below" to know and believe what is "from above."
For this new edition, many portions have been rewritten and new sections on theological issues have been added to most chapters. Chapter 1 establishes a framework for interpretation, proposing that the Gospel addresses a spectrum of readers, who have somewhat differing points of view. It also considers how a single image can encompass multiple dimensions of meaning and explores how the Gospel might help readers distinguish valid from invalid interpretations of its imagery. Chapter 2, which deals with representative figures, includes a fresh treatment of Johannine Christology, a new section on Judas, and a final piece on the Gospel's understanding of human life in relation to God. Chapter 3 offers revised treatments of the Gospel's signs and discourses, with special attention given to the way the narrative engages conflicting points of view. Themes of light and water are taken up in chapters 4 and 5, each with new material. The treatment of the crucifixion in chapter 6 explores the different layers of meaning in John's presentation of Jesus' death, and a new concluding section connects each layer to John's focus on divine love. The discussion of Christian community in chapter 7 explores the social dimensions of the Gospel's symbolism in light of divergent points of view, giving fresh treatment to the image of the vine and its branches. Chapter 8, which is entirely new, considers the question about the knowledge of God through the disputed image of Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.
Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel edited by Reimund Bieringer, Didier Pollefeyt, and Frederique Vandecasteele-Vanneuville (Westminster John Knox Press) The discussion of the alleged anti‑Judaism of the Fourth Gospel and the realization that it is very difficult to deny categorically all the charges has functioned as a reminder of some basic tenets of a theology of revelation that are easily overlooked in the face of inconspicuous scriptural texts. According to mainstream Jewish and Christian theology, biblical texts are God's Word expressed through human words. The human writers of the scriptures are authors in the full sense of the word, that is, they were nor used by God as instruments of dictation. J. D. G. Dunn reminds us that "revelation comes through dirty hands and inadequate human language, and that the all‑too‑vigorous altercations of the first century were an integral part of Christianity's emerging identity and remain fundamental to its continuing self-understanding.
At the end of this discussion, we have arrived at three convictions: (1) There are some dimensions in the way in which the Fourth Gospel treats Judaism and "the Jews" that we consider to be expressions of anti‑Judaism (against those who propose escape routes). We find it impossible to relegate anti‑Judaism to the marginal aspects of the text and to deny that, in one way or another, it reaches to the core of the Christian message. We find it hard to escape the conclusion that the anti‑Judaism in the text of John is "intrinsically oppressive," that is, we are convinced that in these cases human sinfulness has in some way touched the core of biblical texts. The expression "intrinsically oppressive" is not intended to mean that the scriptures contain nothing but oppressive aspects. Rather, as we shall see, despite the all‑pervasiveness of the consequences of human sin, we are convinced that the scriptures transcend their own intrinsically oppressive aspects. (2) We count the anti‑Judaism that we find in the scriptures among the intrinsically oppressive dimensions and not among the revelatory dimensions, invested with divine authority. They are therefore totally unacceptable from a Christian point of view (against neo‑Nazis). (3) Because of the all‑pervasiveness of human sin, we do not find convincing any solutions that try to eliminate the anti‑Jewish statements from scripture by ascribing them to later redactions (against literary‑critical solutions). We reject attempts to create a canon within the canon by ascribing revelatory authority only to the words of Jesus or to the texts of the original writers (as eyewitnesses?) and none to the later redactors.
We thus affirm three convictions: (1) the Fourth Gospel contains anti-Jewish elements; (2) the anti‑Jewish elements are unacceptable from a Christian point of view; and (3) there is no convincing way simply to neutralize or to remove the anti‑Jewish dimensions of these passages in order to save the healthy core of the message itself. How can we affirm these three convictions at the same time? This is possible only if one can accept that even these problematic texts can have a place within the very process of revelation. But this calls for a review of our theology of revelation. Many approaches to the alleged anti‑Judaism in the Gospel of John seem to continue to presuppose that revelation consists only in the imparting of the content of faith by the mediation of the scriptural text. This theology of revelation leads interpreters of the alleged anti‑Judaism in the Gospel of John to defensive and apologetic reading strategies. An understanding of revelation as dialogical communication between God and the human person opens up new avenues in dealing with John's anti‑Judaism.
Understanding revelation as shared life or loving communion between God and humanity has a number of important implications for our discussion. Revelation is not to be understood as simply coextensive with the content of the scriptural text. Rather, the scriptural text in all its dimensions (not only its content dimension) "constitutes a privileged possibility of revelation in the present."9° In the process of present revelation, the scriptural text, as a human witness to God's self‑communication in the past, is a privileged medium, but by far not the only medium, of God's loving self-gift in the present. More precisely, the scriptures are a witness to people's interpretation of God's self‑communication to them. The scriptures themselves, and in particular the Gospel of John, do not claim to be the only place or the end of revelation. In the Fourth Gospel we find clear evidence that its writer presumed God's communication and shared life with the believers to continue in the community of those who come to faith through the word of the disciples (cf. 17:20). This is most striking in the "Farewell Discourses." The Johannine Jesus announces that the believers will do even greater works than Jesus (14:12). He also promises the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth who will guide them "into all the truth" and declare to them "the things that are to come" (16:13).
Since God enters people's lives in the historical conditions and limitations of real life, their interpretations are colored by these circumstances and shaped by their myopia and blind spots. The human authors of the scriptures are at the same time virtuous and sinful. The influence of sin on them was not rendered ineffective by God for the duration of their involvement in the writing of the scriptures. When faith confesses the scriptures to be inspired, this confession does not imply that the scriptures are free from error but rather that God can write straight on crooked lines. In our conviction, this writing straight happens mainly in God's promise of and invitation to a new, alternative world. Even though this alternative world is also expressed under the conditions of the limitations of this world, it contains a new horizon that takes us beyond the conditions of this factual world. In the perspective of the future, we assume that God's alternative world has never been fully realized in the world. Christian faith confesses this alternative world to have been initiated in the coming near of the reign of God in Jesus Christ. But in the Christian faith, the expectation of Christ's second coming and the awareness of a future dimension of eschatology ("the eschatological reserve") serve as a reminder that there is more to come.
Moreover, in this world we know the alternative world of God only by approximation and in the light of our own interpretation. Therefore, error and selfishness continue to mar our vision of the future. For this reason, understanding God's dream of our future is an ongoing community effort. On its pilgrim journey through time, the people of God (in its various subgroups) is called to ongoing conversion with regard to the image it has formed for itself of God's future for humanity. In this process, the alternative world that the scriptures project plays a crucial role as a corrective. In its projected world, the text contains a truth claim, in the name of which the limitations and sinful dimensions of the text need to be corrected. This correction takes place in the process of the text's effective history, where both the world of the text and the imperfections of the world behind the text leave their traces. S. M. Schneiders comments: "This tradition is simultaneously purified by and purifying of the text."92 She illustrates this position with the help of a basic idea of the American Declaration of Independence (1776): "All men are created equal." While it was certainly not the intention of its authors to include women, slaves, people of color, or children, by virtue of the qualifier all and of the possible inclusive meaning of the word men, the text unfolded an alternative world of all inclusiveness that shaped its effective history and by which its effective history was shaped.
On the basis of these theoretical considerations, we return to the issue of anti‑Judaism in the Gospel of John. Admitting anti‑Jewish elements in the Fourth Gospel (or any scripture text) and evaluating them as unacceptable from a Christian perspective does not make impossible our faith conviction of the revelatory character of the scripture texts in question. Rather, the anti‑Judaism is for us evidence of the fact that the human author of John, as well as the Johannine community, was a human person under the influence of sin. Anti‑Jewish elements are expressions of their sinfulness that have found their way into the scriptural text. These are the crooked lines. But how does God write straight on them? The Fourth Gospel projects an alternative world; it contains the dimension of God's dream for the future of humanity. In John, God gives his only Son "so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (3:16). God sent the Son "in order that the world might be saved through him" (3:17). The Johannine Jesus says about himself "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (10:10). God's ultimate concern is life and salvation for the world in an all‑inclusive sense. We understand God's desire of salvation for all to be so strong that rejecting Christ as mediator of salvation is not necessarily a reason for excluding people from salvation. Johannine passages that, like 3:36, for example, explicitly or implicitly contain statements to the opposite were formulated under the influence of human sinfulness, because they can become an obstacle to the realization of God's alternative world, which the text projects.
John's intimation that the only possible reason for not accepting Jesus as mediator of God's salvation is moral corruptness (being murderers and liars; see 8:44‑45 and 55) is unacceptable. In Romans 9‑11, Paul shared John's view of God's desire for the salvation of all (see 11:26, 32). But with regard to the rejection by many Jews of Jesus as the Christ, he arrived at a very different conclusion. He suggested that it was a temporary reality in God's plan in order to incite early Christian missionaries to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (esp. 11:11, 25‑26, 32). It is not moral corruptness but the deliberate, temporary hardening of the hearts of a part of Israel by God that, in Paul's view, keeps them from believing in Jesus. While this view could be subjected to critical evaluation on a number of counts, we find in it an important testimony to the fact that John's perspective is not the only one in the New Testament. We do not consider either John's or Paul's explanation of Jewish unbelief in Jesus as the last word. In both texts we instead see God's will in the expression of God's concern for salvation of all as the ultimate horizon of the text. While it was not the intention of the original authors that all be saved independently of whether or not they accepted Christ as mediator of this salvation, we are convinced that this is the meaning that the text projects in the future.
In a final step, we make an attempt to apply this hermeneutic to John 8:31‑59, the text that undeniably contains the most anti‑Jewish polemic of the entire Gospel. We do not find convincing interpretations that use John 4:22 to deconstruct the anti‑Jewishness of 8:44. For one thing, however positive the content of 4:22 might be considered, it cannot make 8:44 go away. Then we need to face the fact that 4:22 has a different focus and scope from 8:44 and therefore cannot neutralize it. Finally, more research is needed to clarify whether 4:22 is indeed as positive toward Judaism as many authors uncritically assume. The statement "salvation is from the Jews" in 4:22 might be used as a sharp reproach against "the Jews," accusing them of not recognizing and accepting Jesus although he is one of them and therefore should have easily been recognized by them. We find those positions more helpful that point out the expressions of inclusive love in John as deconstructing the expressions of exclusive hatred. But here we need to face the challenge of those who wonder whether, in John, it is not the other way around, namely, whether hatred does not deconstruct love. This is why we need to investigate whether "texts of terror" (in the words of Phyllis Trible) such as 8:31‑59 do not project an alternative world, God's dream of all‑inclusive love. The alternative world of 8:31‑59 is one in which all know the truth that makes them free (8:32), in which all do what they have heard from the Father (8:38), in which all recognize God as their Father (cf. 8:41), in which all are from God and hear the words of God (8:47), in which all receive salvation and life and thus "never see death" (8:51). Both parties in the conflict between Jesus and "the Jews" ultimately agree that these are the goals of human longing and yearning. Neither of the parties excludes the other on principle from these goals. The Fourth Evangelist does not say anywhere that "the Jews" are excluded from them on "racial" or other unrelated grounds. Indeed, the specific reason there is a conflict at all is that the Johannine Jesus makes an attempt that is as passionate as it is desperate to include "the Jews" in reaching these goals. Despite John's positive inclinations toward the Jews in trying to include them in salvation, the fact that he condemns radically everyone who does not except Christ as mediator of salvation remains very problematic.
Our efforts to identify the projection of an alternative world in 8:31‑59 that is different from the everyday reality of the Johannine community must not be misunderstood as an apologetic attempt to save the Johannine text. Our conviction of the presence in John 8:3159 of a proposed world in no way mitigates or takes away the Evangelist's ethical responsibility for the real and the potential anti‑Judaism of his Gospel. It does, however, raise the question of why there have not been more readers throughout the history of reading and interpreting John who allowed themselves to be touched by the text's alternative world. Disappointing as it may be, the most effective eye‑opener for the "world of the text" seems to have been the horror caused by the realization of the inhumanity and cruelty to which anti‑Judaism can lead, and in fact did lead, especially in the twentieth century.We cannot escape the recognition that there are anti‑Jewish elements in the Fourth Gospel. But this may not lead us to reduce the Gospel to its anti‑Jewish elements. For Christians, the Fourth Gospel is more than its anti‑Judaism and its anti‑Jewish potential. Even Jewish faith might be able to acknowledge that. Even if we cannot help but admit that the entire Gospel is affected by an anti‑Jewish attitude, the text projects an alternative world of all‑inclusive love and life that transcends its anti‑Judaism. It is the world of the text, and not the world of the author, that is a witness to divine revelation.
John, a Postmodern Gospel: Introduction to Deconstructive Exegesis Applied to the Fourth Gospel by Patrick Chatelion Counet (Biblical Interpretation Series, 44: Brill) deals with the postmodern philosophy of language as developed mainly by French authors such as R. Barthes. J. Derrida and J.-F Lyotard. The four chapters of the first part are theoretical and relate the literary concepts of postmodernity, poststructuralism and deconstruction to the practice of biblical exegesis. One important conclusion is that deconstruction affects both diachronic and synchronic approaches of texts. Each chapter closes not with suggestions but with implications for a postmodern, deconstructive strategy of reading.
The four chapters of the second part apply this strategy of reading to the Fourth Gospel as a whole (chapter five), to John 6 (chapter six), to John 17 (chapter seven) and to John 21,24‑z5 (chapter eight). This deconstructive reading shows the differential and apophatic character of Saint John's Gospel.
Patrick J. E. Chatelion Counet, Ph. D. (1995) in Theology, University of Nijmegen (Netherlands), is lecturer of the New Testament at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. He has published several books and articles on the Gospel of John and the letters of Paul from a deconstructive point of view.
Positions, Questions, Presuppositions
One might see the critical or exegetical meaning of deconstruction as the discovery or the unravelling or opening up of the aspirations of a text in order to obtain an unequivocal or ultimate meaning beyond the differential character of language. In this we can distinguish some strategic positions:
‑ deconstruction studies how texts, especially metaphysical, mystagogical, and ontological texts, try to give unequivocal or ultimate meaning by making the truth present;
‑ deconstruction studies how far the differential character of language obstructs this `making present' of truth and meaning;
‑ deconstruction studies whether texts possess a self‑deconstructive moment;
‑ its self‑reflexive position creates the awareness that pointing to the failure of texts to delineate their own truth and meaning can only be represented in texts which themselves carry the traces of differance and will therefore be subjected to deconstruction.
In this last presupposition‑the danger is indicated‑the hope of ever arriving at an unequivocal interpretation or meaning is relinquished even if the attempts are still trade. Deconstruction is therefore not a theory, but a praxis, notwithstanding the presuppositions. The textuality which the deconstructionist confronts, as well as the textuality which he himself brings with him, is not a readable one (Barthes: lisible) but only writable (scriptible).
I believe that there are several reasons why one should link exegesis to deconstruction and postmodernism. First of all, it seems to me that deconstruction and postmodernism, in relation to exegesis, open up a perspective that can provide a new dimension to existing insights. The awareness of diachronic layers, as that is expressed, for example in the text‑dependence of Matthew and Luke in relation to Mark, can be expanded with the idea that there are also synchronic layers, namely on the level of the meaning of the text as such; the fact that there are layers has to do not only with the history of origin of the text, but also with differences, deconstruction, and dissemination of meanings.
Secondly, I think that exegesis, by joining the postmodern debate, can obtain a position close to the actual reality and that the texts which it studies can begin to play a role in this debate. This is specifically true for John's Gospel. Logocentrism, even if only in name, has to pay a fair tribute to John's Gospel. The question studied in this book is that of the logocentric standard of John's Gospel.
A third reason to link postmodernism, deconstruction, and exegesis is that the text's exegesis deals with, and here I am primarily thinking of John’s text again, shows evidence of awareness of unpresentability and apophatic or negative speech in certain places.
This study has a theoretical section (partly philosophical, partly methodical) and a practical (exegetical) section.
In the theoretical section (Part One) the question posed concerns the feasibility of a postmodern and deconstructive exegesis. The study is not so much about whether deconstruction and postmodernism can be useful for exegesis; it has more to do with the question of to what extent they teach exegesis and in how far exegesis must take them into account. In Chapters One, Two and Three, I will discuss postmodern, poststructural and deconstructive developments that are of importance to exegesis. In Chapter Four, I will list the points of attention for a postmodern deconstructive reading strategy gathered in the preceding chapters. As a transition to the exegetical of this study, Chapter Four discusses the confrontation between deconstructive and hermeneutic interpretations:
The most important presupposition in Part One is that postmodernism and deconstruction are not methods or theoretical models, but as such constitute the contours of a certain style of acting and thinking. This style of thinking can, according to another presupposition, become visible (or is visible) in the way one practices exegesis.
In Part Two, the exegetical section, I discuss the differential and deconstructive character of John's Gospel. After a short exposition of the hypothesis, Chapter Five discusses the speech and action of some of the Gospel's characters against the background of the implicit (postmodern) norms of the Gospel. Chapter Six develops that norm using an exegesis of the words of Jesus about bread and flesh in John 6. Chapter Seven analyses Jesus' way of speaking in John 17, and Chapter Eight, finally, presents two mutually exclusive readings of the closing verses of the Gospel, John 21,24-25.
The most important presupposition in the second is that John's Gospel can be read not only from the viewpoint of the postmodern deconstructive reading style, which has been developed in the first , but also as an example of it. The presupposition is that John's Gospel‑in its verbalisation of the revelation‑is only a `signifiant' or signifier (or, as Bultmann says, ein bloJJes DafJ). This presupposition can also be understood in the sense that one can somehow deduce from the text of John's Gospel that the revelation is inexpressible. The concrete question I pose, is whether Jesus' words‑the way in which he speaks in John's Gospel‑reveal something of that inexpressibility. Another question is whether the postmodern deconstructive style of thinking, which is to be developed, can form a framework within which the traces of this inexpressibility can be shown.
I will defend the thesis that John's Gospel can be read as an example of a text which is aware of the fact that language is essentially inadequate to verbalise certain experiences (and, therefore, also to say what these experiences are). The presupposition is that John's Gospel is a methexis of the inexpressibility of the experienced revelation in Jesus
Christ. The background and the area of attention in the determination of this methexis is the controversy discussed in I, between the logocentric and the differential ideas on the possibility of sharing, verbalising, and speaking of the experiences of immediacy and presence. Using a terminology, borrowed by Derrida from the negative theology, I will indicate as apophatic speech the thesis that the text of John's Gospel possesses self‑reflective moments where it deals with the inexpressibility of mystical realities.
Befriending the Beloved Disciple: A Jewish Reading of the Gospel of John by Adele Reinhartz (Continuum) Adele Reinhartz has been studying and teaching the Gospel of John for many years. Earlier, she chose to ignore the love/hate relationship that the book provokes in her, a Jew, and took refuge in an "objective" historical-critical approach. At this stage her relationship to the Gospel was not so much a friendship as a business relationship. No longer willing to ignore the negative portrayal of Jews and Judaism in the text, nor the insight that her own Jewish identity inevitably does play a role in her work as an exegete, Reinhartz here explores the Fourth Gospel through the approach known as "ethical criticism," which is based on the metaphorical notion of the book as "friend"-not "an easy, unquestioning companionship," but the kind of honest relationship in which ethical considerations are addressed, not avoided.Befriending the Beloved Disciple is as multilayered as the Gospel itself, Reinhartz engages in five different "readings" of the Fourth Gospel: compliant, resistant, sympathetic, and engaged. Each approach views the Beloved Disciple differently: as mentor, opponent, colleague, and as "other." In the course of each of these readings, she elucidates the three narrative levels that interpenetrate the Gospel: the historical, the cosmological, and the ecclesiological. In the latter, Reinhartz deals at length with the so-called expulsion theory, the dominant scholarly notion that the Johannine community, which included believers of Jewish, Gentile, and Samaritan origins, engaged in a prolonged and violent controversy with the local Jewish community, culminating in a "traumatic expulsion from the synagogue.
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