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5923Re: [John_Lit] Targum background to John's Logos title

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  • John Ronning
    Feb 2, 2011

      On circularity - with respect to the Word theology, I presume you're not saying
      that the Targum Word theology could have come from Christian influence (the idea
      of the Word becoming flesh goes against the kind of thinking that seems to be
      behind the Word theology; i.e. keeping God transcendent, not imminent). With
      respect to examples like the branches as disciples in Tg. Psalm 80 - yes it's
      possible that 1st century Jewish thinking as reflected in the vine and branches
      discourse later influenced the Psalms Targum. My main point in an example such
      as this is to point out possibilities. In this case, many commentators point to
      Psalm 80 as important OT background for John 15; others (such as Keener) are
      dubious. I think the Psalms Targum adds weight to the view that Ps 80 is an
      important background (among many), though of course it is not proof. When such
      examples can be multiplied many fold, then I think the overall readiness to see
      a Targum background as a possibility should increase.

      With respect to John 12:26 - yes Jesus is going to the right hand of the Father,
      in heaven (where Stephen sees him); the difficulty of course is in what he means
      by saying that his followers must be where he is - he's not talking about our
      eternal destiny, but about how we serve him on earth. So where do we "go" to
      follow him now? I think you are correct to say we could answer "outside the
      camp" from Hebrews 13, what I am saying is that this answer is suggested by John
      12:26 itself.

      I should have made my case better/clearer. Besides the suggested background of
      the Exodus Rabbah interpretation of Exodus 33 (Moses followed the Lord outside
      the camp, where Israel must now seek the Lord after the golden calf incident),
      there is John 7:34, 36; "You will seek me, and you will not find me." This also
      fits in with Jewish interpretation of the golden calf incident, seen in the
      Targum of the Song of Solomon, which interprets the bride's statement "I sought
      him but did not find him" of the golden calf incident: "'Let us request
      instruction from the Lord and the holy Shekinah which has been removed from us.'
      Then they went around in the towns, streets, and squares, but they did not find
      it" (Tg. Song 3:2). The similar statement in 5:6 is related to Israel
      seeking/not finding the Shekinah at the time of the Babylonian exile. It would
      not be difficult for Jewish Christians to see a parallel after the Roman
      conquest (one reason I'm not inclined to date John early). While I don't think
      much of this as interpretation of the Song of Solomon, what is significant is
      what it says about Jewish interpretation of the golden calf incident.

      In short, if one interprets "You will seek me but you will not find me" as
      divine speech (notice how John draws attention to its importance by recording
      the crowd's question about it in v. 36), then there is much relevant OT
      background, such as Deut 4 where Moses tells Israel that if they seek the Lord
      from exile (the situation when John is writing, according to the usual dating of
      John), they will find him IF they search for him with all of their hearts. A
      corollary to that requirement comes from Exodus 33, after Israel's great sin:
      they must seek him outside the camp (i.e. they must follow where he went, and
      where Moses conversed with the divine Word before his incarnation). In the first
      century, that means they must seek him in the Christian church (Matt 18:20;
      where 2 or 3 gather in my name, there I am - similar to what the Mishnah and
      Talmud say about the Shekinah). So, in my view John 12:26 makes perfect sense
      with the idea that in returning to the Father Jesus is going "outside the camp."


      From: Ramsey Michaels <profram@...>
      To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Wed, February 2, 2011 11:28:41 AM
      Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Targum background to John's Logos title


      Thank you for some examples of using Targums to interpret NT texts. First, as
      you can tell, my commentary does little with "background" in general, so my
      neglect of Targums is perhaps not surprising. In equal opportunity fashion, I
      neglect Wisdom background, Philonic background, etc. as well, and will probably
      be duly reprimanded for that. I just think enough has been written in some of
      those areas. The evidence is what it is, and most people have firmly made up
      their minds as to what is relevant and what it not. I have concentrated instead
      on narrative criticism and the present form of the text.

      My friend Craig Keener, by contrast, deals extensively with backgrounds (a
      massive understatement), and in his index has cited all kinds of Targums. Yet in
      speaking about Targums in relation to the Logos in John, he is surprisingly
      dismissive. You might check out what he does do with them in various places. I
      suspect that in most cases he does little more than list references -- which I
      fear no one will look up. And you are right, I suspect, in saying that the
      reason many do not take account of certain parallels is that they are simply
      ignorant of them -- present company not excluded!

      A couple of comments, however. In admitting "various New Testament passages" as
      themselves the "greatest evidence" of the use of Targums in the first century,
      you are risking a certain circularity. Is it not even possible that some NT
      metaphors arising in a setting in which the "Christian" movement was still part
      of Judaism may actually have been preserved within Judaism and found their way
      into the Targums -- that is, that the influence could have been in the opposite
      direction? While I am not ready to propose such a thing, I'm not ready to rule
      it out either.

      Your two examples where the rubber meets the road are John 19:34 and 12:26. I
      don't find either one persuasive, the second less so than the first. It seems
      unquestionable that in 12:26 Jesus is going, if not to heaven, at least to the
      Father (as we learn in chapters 14-16), not merely "outside the camp," and he is
      certainly not excommunicating Israel -- tho he does excommunicate the devil five
      verses later! Your Targum may have more of a bearing on Hebrews 13:9-10. In
      19:34 Jesus' side is pierced once, not twice, and there is plenty of material
      within the Gospel (chapter 6 for example, and 7:37-38) to go on, without
      appealing to Ps-Jonathan.

      Still, the concrete examples are what we need. As the Germans say, "Was kommt
      heraus?" What is the actual exegetical yield? I'm keeping an open mind.


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: John Ronning
      To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2011 11:40 AM
      Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Targum background to John's Logos title


      Thanks for the kind words.

      Dating the Targums is obviously a relevant issue and a stumbling block to many.
      The fact that all of the extant Targums post-date John has to be considered.
      However, few would deny that there were Targums in use in the first century
      (various NT passages being the greatest evidence), and to put the Targums "out
      of bounds" for consideration as a background to the Logos theology, I would
      think one would have to assume the unprovable - that the 1st century Targums are

      not in the least bit reflected in the extant Targums.

      Take an example that does not involve the Word theology. The Psalms Targum
      interprets the "branches" of the vine in Psalm 80 as "disciples" (a nice example

      of the targumic practice of double translation - "branches" is translated first
      literally and then as disciples). It could not be proven that this
      interpretation was found in a first century Psalms Targum. But that is not why
      interpreters don't mention it in their discussion of the vine and branches in
      John 15. I would venture to say they don't mention it because they are ignorant
      of it.

      Another ex.: Ps-Jonathan Num 20:11 has an answer for why Moses struck the rock
      twice--the first time blood oozed out so he struck it again and water flowed
      abundantly. Tho Ps-J is late in its extant form, this could obviously reflect an

      early tradition and is of obvious potential relevance to John 19:34--John might
      have been struck by this fact and seen in it a message from God, that Jesus is
      what he said he was, the source of living water. True, this legend is found
      elsewhere (Ginzburg discusses variations of it), but is it not relevant to at
      least point out in a discussion of John 19:34? Does not the fact that it is
      overlooked, even tho Etheridge's English translation of Ps-J has been around for

      150 years, indicate a problem in Johannine scholarship? Such examples can be
      multiplied many-fold.

      Another dating issue: of relevance to the Logos title is whether the "Word
      theology" was current in the 1st century. Conceptual similarities to Philo's
      Logos (e.g. both Philo and the Pentateuchal Targums have the Word between the
      cherubim in the tabernacle), and to intertestamental wisdom literature (e.g. the

      divine Word healing the snake-bitten Israelites and destroying the Egyptian
      1st-born) and even the Tragedy of Ezekiel (Moses hears the voice of the Word at
      the burning bush) argue affirmatively, while absence of such theology in
      rabbinic Judaism would argue against late dating.

      Of special relevance is the dating of the use of Dibbera/Dibbura for the divine
      Word. This usage is much more isolated than the Memra but is very relevant to
      the question of Targumic background to the Logos title for two reasons: (1)
      while Memra is not used "aboslutely" (i.e. we find "the Word of the Lord," "my
      Word," etc. but not "the Word" as in John), Dibbera is used in this way: e.g. in

      the Palestinian Targums Israel heard the voice of "the Word" on Mt. Sinai, which

      is relevant to seeing the Word-become-flesh in the upper room as a new Sinai,
      making a new covenant, giving a new commandment, connecting love for him with
      obedience to his commands [just as in the 2nd commandment & elsewhere], etc; (2)

      a significant number of possible relations of Targum passages to John involve
      the use of Dibbera/Dibbura. E.g. John says the disciples saw his glory, full of
      grace and truth. Most agree that this is John's translation of rab xesed
      we'emet, "abounding in kindness and truth" from Exod 34:6 (i.e. it is how God
      describes himself to Moses). In the Palestinian Targums this revelation to Moses

      is a revelation of the Dibbura, the divine Word.

      In the previous chapter Moses set up a tent of meeting outside the camp, and
      those who would seek the Lord went there. Exodus Rabbah interprets this as
      evidence that God had excommunicated Israel after the worship of the golden
      calf, and that Moses followed his master outside the camp and regarded as
      excommunicated those whom God had excommunicated. Various Targum passages have
      the divine Word with Moses outside the camp, which is of potential relevance to
      the interpretation of John 12:26, where the Word-become-flesh says likewise
      those who would be his servants (as Moses was before the incarnation) must
      follow him to where he is going (which can't mean heaven but rather "outside the

      camp" - Jesus therefore announces his excommunication of Israel).

      It has been claimed that the use of Dibbura in this way dates only to the 3rd
      century and later, but besides the evidence from John, we have the fact that in
      Targum Jonathan of the Prophets, Dibbura is used only once, in Ezekiel 1, in the

      vision of the heavenly chariot. Levey ascribes the "Merkavah mysticism" used
      here to Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, who was a prominent rabbi from the 1st
      century. Since this is the only place in Jonathan that Dibbura is used, it
      stands to reason that Johanan is also the source of the Dibbura usage in Targum
      Ezekiel, meaning that Dibbura use was contemporary with John.

      If the Logos title comes from the Targums, then we can readily see that "the
      Word became flesh" is a unifying theme throughout the Gospel, as John shows
      Jesus doing the same kinds of things YHWH did in OT times, except now he does
      them as a man. Thus in the Gospel there are both human and divine parallels to
      the OT with Jesus as warrior, bridegroom of his people, lawgiver, etc.
      Interestingly, these themes are also found in Exodus 34, which as I mentioned
      above is where God reveals himself to Moses as "full of grace and truth." So
      when Jesus says, "it was about me that he [Moses] wrote," he is saying "Moses
      was my prophet; if you believe the prophet, you must believe whom he represented

      as prophet."


      John Ronning

      From: Ramsey Michaels <profram@...>
      To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Mon, January 31, 2011 1:13:17 PM
      Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Targum background to John's Logos title

      I appreciate John Ronning's comments about the targums. I have always been a bit

      cautious about the targums because of the difficulty of dating their origins.
      Moreover , it has seemed to me that the parallels more likely rest on a common
      use of certain key OT texts than on literary dependence one way or the other.
      Given the tendency within Judaism (and specifically in the targums) to avoid
      speaking of the Deity directly, but rather of his "word" or "name," or "glory,"
      or some other locution, parallels to the Gospel of John are not altogether

      However, I do agree with John that his book, along with certain others, remains
      a valuable supplement to most of the commentaries, including mine. We all need
      to be reminded of what we have overlooked either by accident or on purpose.


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: John Ronning
      To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Monday, January 31, 2011 12:16 PM
      Subject: [John_Lit] Targum background to John's Logos title

      Paul noted Jim West's review of Ramsey Michaels' new commentary on John. Jim
      also reviewed my book on John which came out a year ago:

      This book amplifies on an article I mentioned on this list a few years ago: "The

      Targum of Isaiah and the Johannine Literature" (WTJ, Fall of 2007). A number of
      members on this list expressed interest at the time, although not much
      discussion ensued.

      Although Ramsey's commentary is no doubt valuable in many respects, I was
      disappointed not only in a lack of discussion of the possibility of the Targum
      background (Aramaic Memra/Dibbera as divine Word), to the Logos title, but in
      the view that the Logos title was not as important as often deemed to be.
      Recognizing the Targum background does in fact lead to seeing Jesus as "the
      Word" throughout the Gospel. In this respect, Leon Morris' commentary was
      superior, since he allowed for the Targum background (as did Raymond Brown).
      Unfortunately, although both Morris and Brown wrote post-commentary books on
      John, neither evidently pursued this possibility.

      L:et me highlight just a few of many many examples:
      1. John 1:11-12: both the idea of receiving/not receiving the divine Word, as
      well as believing/not believing in the name of the divine Word are common in the

      Targums. Sometimes they are found close together, e.g. Deut 9:23 (I give Targum
      renderings in brackets): "You neither believed him [Neofiti: you did not believe

      in the holy name of the Word of the Lord] nor listened to his voice [Onqelos and

      Ps-Jonathan: you did not receive his Word]." "Receive my Word" is also found as
      a rendering for other expressions such as "come to me" (Isa 55:1-3), an
      invitation which Jesus gave repeatedly, with evident dependence on Isa 55:1-3.

      2. John 12:37--though he had performed so many signs before them, they were not
      believing in him. This is an evident paraphrase of Num 14:11--How long will they

      not believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have done in their midst? In the
      Targums it is "how long will they not believe in my Word" (Neofiti, "in the name

      of my Word" - see again John 1:12).

      3. John 12:41--these things Isaiah said [John has just quoted Isaiah 6] because
      he saw his glory. Burney pointed out long ago that in the Isaiah Targum, Isaiah
      sees the glory of the Shekinah of the Lord and hears the Word of the Lord speak
      to him. In addition to that, Pseudo-Jonathan Deut 4:7 "lifts" a phrase from Isa
      6:1 suggesting how a more "Palestinian" Targum of Isaiah might have read in the
      time of John: "the Word of the Lord sits upon his throne, high and lifted up,
      and hears our prayers."

      4. We can also see the repeated divine "I am he" sayings of Jesus (e.g. those
      dependent on Deut 32:39, Isa 43:10, 13, and 52:6) as complementing the Logos
      title, once we see that a Targum background implies "the Word" = the name of
      God. The two come together in Neofiti and Frag. Tg. V Deut 32:39: "I, in my
      Word, am he."

      Hopefully the time will come when all of this material will be given due
      consideration. Until then, my book is a necessary supplement to the
      commentaries. Yes I know that sounds like self-interest, but I also think it's
      true and of major importance for Johannine studies.


      John Ronning

      From: Paul Anderson <panderso@...>
      To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Sun, January 23, 2011 11:52:48 AM
      Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Riddles, etc.

      Wonderful, Ramsey, excellent discussions of your fine work!

      Would you care to share with us how you approached your commentary and how
      it might follow and depart from Morris's commentary? For instance, how did
      you approach composition, setting, audience(s), literary, and historical
      issues, etc?

      I'm sure this will be a "must-have" in all serious Johannine libraries;
      thanks for your invaluable service to readers of John internationally!


      On Sun, Jan 23, 2011 at 5:26 AM, Ramsey Michaels <profram@...>wrote:

      > Hi Everyone,
      > Since Paul has set a precedent, here is a link to Jim West's review of my
      > new NICNT Commentary on the Gospel of John:
      > Also, in case you haven't seen it, a link to Matthew Montonini's three-part
      > interview with me about the Commentary on his New Testament Perspectives:
      > Best wishes to all,
      > Ramsey Michaels
      > Portsmouth, New Hampshire
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: Paul Anderson
      > To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      > Sent: Saturday, January 22, 2011 10:02 PM
      > Subject: [John_Lit] Riddles, etc.
      > Dear fellow Johannine scholars,
      > Here are a few things that might be of interest:
      > a) My new introduction to John, *The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel*
      > (Fortress
      > Press, forthcoming) is being previewed by Jim West on the Zwingli website
      > in
      > case any are interested in following:
      > A review session is also being organized for the May meetings of the
      > Pacific
      > Northwest AAR/SBL/ASOR meetings in Spokane, so if any of you are
      > interested
      > in serving on the panel, do let me know (offline, please, at
      > panderso@...).
      > b) Tom Thatcher led an excellent Colloquium discussion on the John, Jesus,
      > and History a few days ago, so you might follow up on that if you're
      > interested in the latest on that front. See also the website, managed by
      > Felix Just, posting the papers and abstracts over the last nine years if
      > interested.
      > http://zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/john-jesus-and-history/
      > http://johannine.org/JJH-2010.html
      > c) And, here are several other postings on *Bible and Interpretation*,
      > giving an update on the JJH Project as well as a Bi-Optic Hypothesis, my
      > dialogue with Marcus Borg, and an overlooked first-century clue to John's
      > authorhip.
      > http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/john1357917.shtml
      > http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/fourth357921.shtml
      > http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/mainz357911.shtml
      > http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/acts357920.shtml
      > Take care,
      > Paul Anderson
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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