Thanks, Jeff, for putting it explicitly:
> If "Jesus" in John can use language in a "physical way" and "symbolic
>manner," and the narrator is
>practically "one with Jesus" as Jesus is with the Father (Jn 17:20), then
>why shouldn't we expect to find the narrator using language in
>the same way? And what theory of language and/or narrative assumes a
>different function of language other than symbolic?
A great point from the start! Language is always symbolic. And, the
Johannine Jesus does speak in the evangelist's language and thought forms
(see Müssner). John's narrator indeed does a great deal with symbolism
and theological interpretations of things. The evangelist even declares
so explicitly many times: he said this in order to..., or, this happened
in order to fulfill..., etc. And, you have details in the narrative which
make use of typologies and "loaded" presentations of persons and groups,
so these considerations are essential for fruitful and adequate readings
of the text.
The point I am making, however, is that scholars too readily lapse into
"theologizing interpretation" mode when trying to "explain" John's
differences with the Synoptics. The inference: "the fourth evangelist has
obviously constructed this order (differing from Mark) for theological
reasons" is NOT an obvious inference. It is often a sloppy move rooted in
the fallacious assumptions I have outlined earlier. Few scholars
challenge it, and I want to know why.
I also would like to have some discussion of Hofrichter's excellent point
on the Malachi passage, and I wonder why the Jewish leadership is already
ready to kill Jesus in John 5 if he hasn't been provocative there before.
Also, what of the "46 years," and why does Papias record John the Elder
(whom I believe to have been the redactor and author of the epistles) as
mentioning that Mark got down the wrong order? The prevalent
Synoptic/Johannine paradigm is flawed.
There are degrees of symbolization in the Johannine text (apparently
non-symbolic detail, possibly symbolic or theologically-significant
detail, implicitly symbolic/theological detail, and explicitly
symbolic/theological detail), and interpretations should take such factors
into consideration more than they do. For instance, according of "days"
in the early part of John to some symbolic/liturgical role is not implicit
in the text, but possibly so. This makes it a possibility but not a
>-- Scholars too hastily (and sloppily) attribute every detail in John to
>literarily symbolic and theological function when the text is innocent of
>such functions explicitly. Eggus to Pascha is a great example (as we
>discussed earlier). It reflects political issues rather than theological
The point here is that epistemologically, this motif seems rooted in
reflection upon historical and political events rather than a factor of
>On a more general note:
> While I am not opposed to souce critical and historical critical
>investigations in the Fourth Gospel, it does surprise me that these
>questions continually generate the most responses on this list. Where are
>the "literary (narrative and otherwise) critics" of John?
As you know, this field is of great interest to me as well. Our studies
need to be interdisciplinary, using the best approach and discipline for
the particular issue being addressed. Thanks for your good work along