Common ground for study (was Re: Possibilities and historical inquiry)
- --- I wrote:
> Brian suggests a fundamental difference in intuitions (sense--- Brian responded:
> of plausibility, e.g.) between staunch Christians (or at least
> staunch Catholics like himself), and those who are not such -
> when it comes to one's assessment of the veracity of miracle-
> accounts. I'm not sure that this is so, but if it is, where is
> the commonality necessary for dialogue? Are "NT scholars"
> increasingly finding themselves polarized, and if so, is that
> necessarily bad?
> Well, I don't see the need to distinguish between "NT scholars"In my mind, that's arguable, but in any case I didn't make the
> and "staunch Christian scholars", as they can be the same thing,
> n'est pas?
distinction you suggest. In fact, the notion of "NT scholars"
becoming polarized would make no sense unless I had been including
what you call "staunch Christian scholars" in that group.
> Seems to me it's almost definitional that a person who firmly[BT]:
> believes in religious-system Z is about the worst possible
> historian of Z ...
> What is your definition of "Z"? A Christian?No. 'Z' is a variable. I specifically didn't use 'X' cuz I feared
it would be mistaken to represent Christianity. Now as to your
further questions (which I won't quote, since they somewhat
embodied the misunderstanding): I generally believe that good
history requires both knowledge of, and "distance" from, subject.
This "distance" is what I would call 'impartiality'. One needs to
be close enough to know the subject, but yet far enough away so
as not to act as a shill for the subject. A balancing act, for sure.
Now you put church history in the hands of a Eusebius, say, and you
aren't likely to see any embarassing warts. Put it in the hands of
someone at the opposite pole and all you see is warts.
Now if I may, I'd like to return to your list of "miracles". One
thing that struck me immediately about the list was that the
resurrection seemed to be the *most* plausible of the four! Now
that's saying something. But a few more comments:
1. As a good Catholic, you might also have mentioned the bodily
ascension of Mary. Although that isn't mentioned anywhere in the
NT, I take it that you accept it on the basis of the doctrine of
Papal infallibility (when advised by council, that is).
2. You pulled two slick rhetorical maneuvers with respect to what
I had called the "miracle" of Jesus descending into hell. Both are
contained in a single sentence:
"Jesus' descending to the dead (cf. 1 Peter 3:18) is not really a
miracle as is commonly understood, as this event did not take
place within the natural world at all."
The first manuever was to change the description of the event,
as it occurs in the AC, to "descending to the dead", which you
attribute to 1 Pet 3:18, but which in fact isn't there. In
addition, however, the description as found in the AC (an apparent
reflection not of 1 Peter, but rather of the Gospel of Peter) must
be the one that all good Catholics affirm, n'est-ce pas?
The second manuever was to rule out this supposed event as a
miracle by claiming that it "did not take place within the natural
world". But in the first place, that seems to beg the question of
whether J was supposed to have descended *bodily* into Hades. For
if one assumes that he did, then the descent was as much "within
the natural world" as was the ascent. It's just that the ascent
was observable by others, but the descent wasn't (since the corpse
was out of sight in the tomb). So it seems that if you want to
assert that the descent wasn't within the natural world, you'd
have to claim that it was a spiritual descent, not a bodily one.
(BTW, this weird little portion of the AC seems intimately tied
to the Gospel of Peter, wouldn't you say?)
A second objection to your second manuever is that at least one
other of your "miracles" ALSO seems not to take place within the
natural world - namely the transubstantiation of the Eucharist.
As you describe the event, J's "true body and blood are found in
the bread and wine". But that's precisely what ISN'T the case.
*Nothing* is found in the bread and wine except bread and wine.
So what you call the "true body and blood" must be one of those
conveniently-undetectible spiritual substances. Thus this supposed
transformation does *not* take place within the natural world,
because unlike the bodies involved in the other miracles, the
bread and wine are physically unchanged by the supposed event.
3. With respect to the ascension, you go beyond the AC, which
merely says that "he ascended into heaven". Since, by all accounts,
"heaven" admits of no physical bodies, it's incoherent to claim
that anybody ascended "bodily" into heaven. One can imagine
physical bodies rising into the sky, but those bodies must have
been transformed into spirits in order to be "taken into heaven".
It won't do to try to cover up conceptual incoherence in an event-
description by calling the event itself a 'mystery', and then blame
it on the limitations of historical methodology that it's unable to
verify what is essentially nonsense.
Mt. Clemens, MI
> -----Original Message-----was
> From: Horace Jeffery Hodges [mailto:jefferyhodges@...]
> Sent: 13 August 2003 21:56
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: RE: [XTalk] McCoy on Jn 6
> Geoff Hudson <geoff.hudson@...> wrote:
> <The literal interpretation of Jn.2:3 is 'and lacking
> wine the mother of J says to him: "wine they have
> not." 'The implication seems to be that there never
> was any wine for the wedding.>
> This 'literal interpretation' would not fit John 2:10,
> where the Architriklinos tells the bridegroom,
> "Everyone first sets out the good wine, and when
> people have become drunk, the inferior wine, but you
> have kept the good wine until now."
> An editor changed the story from one in which purified water was a sign of
> the Spirit to one of a miracle in which water was changed to wine - such
> the tacky imagination of the editor.My reaction:
At this point I would like to insert an answer to Matthew Estrada, which I
sent him privately. I would look askance at the assured statement "an editor
changed..." In spite of Ray Brown's detailed analysis searching our various
layers in John, and the yheory of a "sign xourse" I believe one should first
try to interpret the sign in terms of the Gospel we have before us. I would
agree with those who believe the author knew the three Synoptic Gospels and
commented on them also in this 'arche ton semeion'.
'The mother of Jesus' represents faithful Israel; just as the Samaritan
woman is addressed with "woman" representing the Samaritan people who
acknowledge Jesus as the one sent by God (J 184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11).
Surely "my hour has not yet come" refers to Jesus' death, as the great Hour
of the Lamb of God. The "third day" would likely refer to the day of
resurrection1). One might read the story as a play; only 6 large empty jars
are on stage in the opening scene (with clamor and tumult heard backstage
because the wine had been depleted). Afterwards just three persons appear on
stage: Jesus, his mother and, - besides a number of silent 'diakonoi' -,
an odd, indignant character with a unfamiliar function of 'architriklinos'
. Oddly enough, moreover, the reader is not told the identity of the main
personalities, namely, the bride and the groom. They do donot appear on
stage. Who is the bride and who is the groom?
The great theme of the prophets and the Psalms is that JHWH is the
bridegroom and Israel his bride. The bride is awaiting the coming of her
groom. However, she can become unfaithful, even adulterous. JHWH, however,
is and always will remain faithful. That the story starts out with an
absent groom and bride, underlines the ambiguity of the marriage of JHWH and
2) The clue of the allegory is found in the end (2,8-11). The term
'architriklinos' is deliberately chosen; it is not an accepted term for an
official at a wedding, neither in Hebrew nor in Greek. I cannot help
thinking John ironically refers here to the high priest, 'archiereus', who
always presides in the great ceremonies of pre-70 (!) Israel and who would
be considered to be the right official for the performance of the
'marriage'. He was supposed to have taken care of a good supply of wine,
but he fails miserably. Indignantly. he therefore goes backstage and
privately accuses the groom, in casu JHWH. He should have served the good
wine first ( - it is left to the imagination of the reader what this 'good
wine' is - it certainly refers to wine fit for the above marriage in the
pre-70 era). JHWH should have kept the inferior wine to the last (Jerusalem
destroyed and the temple in ruins) But the 'archiereus' was seriously
mistaken. He didnot realize what is going on as will be explained in the
followiung chapters. (cmp John 11,48 and 51-53)
3) There are two remarkable features in the structure of John 2. a) The
Synoptics do not have this 'primary' sign of water changed into wine (or do
they?). b) they donot have the entry into Jerusalem in the beginning of the
story but at the outset of the passion story. The eye catching structure of
ch 2 could be compared with folding doors opening up to John's entire
haggadah. One side is brightly painted leading to the marriage, the other
dark, full of gloom as if going to a funeral. For the theme of the second
part of chapter 2 is the saying, "destroy this temple and I will raise it up
it in three days" (2,19) This refers both to Jesus death (and resurrection)
as well as to the destruction of the temple. This was in John's eyes - let
us say - the secular reality of Israel's circumstances.
I agree with J.L. Martyn that John's perspective is that of the ecclesia vis
à vis the synagogue across the street, so to speak. It was written at the
time that mutual excommunication was taking shape. In the Gospel 'the
Passover of the Joudaioi (read the synogogue acroos the street) is placed
next tlo the true 'Passover' of Israël initiated by the death of its Messiah
for the salvation of Israël and the nations (or the 'kosmos' in John).
4) In Mark Jesus' first act is to be baptized by John when the Spirit
descends into him like a dove. Matthew writes that what is "conceived by
her" is "of the Holy Spirit" 1,18). Luke too begins both his Gospel and his
Acts with the outpouring of the Spirit (L 1,15ff. 35; Acts 2,4.17 (note the
mocking 'new wine' 2,13). So would it not be plausible that John refers to
God's Spirit as the agent that turns water into wine?
5) It seems to me that the six waterjars refer to the water of baptism.
There is a relation between a) John's baptism, b) Jesus' being baptized by
John, and c) the disciples later baptizing in the name of Jesus.
My conclusion is that the joy of the marriage will only be restored when the
people receive the water of baptism which means a radical turning around
toward God, a true conversion. Without baptism no wedding joy.