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Re: [John_Lit] Johannine Drama (off list)

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  • ProfRam@aol.com
    The discussion of Colleen Conway s article is most illuminating. For me it raises the question, What are our shared values that enable us to classify certain
    Message 1 of 7 , Feb 2, 2001
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      The discussion of Colleen Conway's article is most illuminating. For me it
      raises the question, What are our shared values that enable us to classify
      certain canonical texts, as "problematic," "dangerous," or even
      "life-threatening"? Are these values in fact shared, or are they rather just
      individual values?

      Conservative scholars have long lamented that we are sunk in a morass of
      relativism, but "values," even absolute values, seem to be alive and well in
      the academic community, so alive and well in fact that we find ourselves
      quite capable of fretting about biblical texts being "problematic," or
      "dangerous." I am curious as to just what these shared values are.

      Ramsey Michaels
    • Colleen M. Conway
      ... just ... in ... I don t assume that we can all share the same values, especially in terms of assumptions about canonical authority. Still, I would hope
      Message 2 of 7 , Feb 3, 2001
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        > The discussion of Colleen Conway's article is most illuminating. For me it
        > raises the question, What are our shared values that enable us to classify
        > certain canonical texts, as "problematic," "dangerous," or even
        > "life-threatening"? Are these values in fact shared, or are they rather
        just
        > individual values?

        >
        > Conservative scholars have long lamented that we are sunk in a morass of
        > relativism, but "values," even absolute values, seem to be alive and well
        in
        > the academic community, so alive and well in fact that we find ourselves
        > quite capable of fretting about biblical texts being "problematic," or
        > "dangerous." I am curious as to just what these shared values are.
        >

        I don't assume that we can all share the same values, especially in terms of
        assumptions about canonical authority. Still, I would hope that we could
        agree that texts such as John 8 are problematic, dangerous and
        life-threatening given the legacy of the Jewish-Christian relations for the
        last two thousand years. I also hope that we do more than "fret about" such
        texts. Part of the motivation for my paper comes out of my experience of
        teaching the Gospel of John from a historical critical perspective, relying
        on Martyn's two-level analysis to "explain" why Jesus was telling "the Jews"
        that their father is the devil. In spite of my best efforts to defuse such
        language (to pick up on conversation earlier this week), my student's papers
        were often unrelentingly critical towards the Jews--in a word, anti-Semitic.
        I realize that there may be many honest points of disagreement between
        academics, but could we not agree that this is problematic?

        Colleen Conway
      • ProfRam@aol.com
        In a message dated 2/4/01 1:47:18 AM !!!First Boot!!!, cconway@iona.edu writes:
        Message 3 of 7 , Feb 3, 2001
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          In a message dated 2/4/01 1:47:18 AM !!!First Boot!!!, cconway@...
          writes:

          << Still, I would hope that we could agree that texts such as John 8 are
          problematic, dangerous and life-threatening given the legacy of the
          Jewish-Christian relations for the last two thousand years. I also hope that
          we do more than "fret about" such texts. >>

          So does it come down to the single issue of anti-Semitism, or is there more
          to it than that? Is the very fact that John believes in such a person as the
          Devil, and that there are "children of the devil" *in itself* "problematic"
          and dangerous? If so, is this a "value" that we all share?

          As for the anti-Semitism, which I prefer to think of as anti-Judaism, I have
          always thought the Gospel of John was both very Jewish and very anti-Jewish,
          and I have so far been able to live with that. There has always been a lot of
          anti-Judaism in Judaism from the time of the biblical prophets, and it is
          only when this rhetoric falls into the hands of Gentiles that it becomes
          "dangerous" and "life-threatening." That, I have always thought, is up to us
          Gentiles, as to what we do with it.

          But even beyond this, isn't the anti-Judaism of John simply a corollary of
          the fact that it is not only a Jewish but a Christian writing. Isn't the
          choice of any one religion in some sense a rejection of all the others?

          As to "fretting about" such texts as John 8, some of us do and some don't,
          but I'm not sure what more we can do, short of censoring the canon. I applaud
          you for being skeptical of explaining them away.


          Cordially,

          Ramsey Michaels
        • Thomas (Tom) Butler
          ... From: Colleen M. Conway To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com Sent: February 4, 2001 2:42:59 AM GMT Subject: Re: [John_Lit]
          Message 4 of 7 , Feb 3, 2001
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            ------Original Message------
            From: "Colleen M. Conway" <cconway@...>
            To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: February 4, 2001 2:42:59 AM GMT
            Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Johannine Drama (off list)

            . . .
            I don't assume that we can all share the same values, especially in terms of assumptions about canonical authority. Still, I would hope that we could agree that texts such as John 8 are problematic, dangerous and life-threatening given the legacy of the Jewish-Christian relations for the last two thousand years. I also hope that we do more than "fret about" such texts. Part of the motivation for my paper comes out of my experience of
            teaching the Gospel of John from a historical critical perspective, relying on Martyn's two-level analysis to "explain" why Jesus was telling "the Jews" that their father is the devil. In spite of my best efforts to defuse such language (to pick up on conversation earlier this week), my student's papers were often unrelentingly critical towards the Jews--in a word, anti-Semitic.
            I realize that there may be many honest points of disagreement between academics, but could we not agree that this is problematic?

            Colleen Conway

            Hello Dr. Conway,

            Yes, I agree that the references in the Gospel of John to "the Jews" is problematic. I have found, however, that the FG makes extensive use of semeiotic language borrowed from Hebrew texts, especially the Septuagint version of the Pentateuch.

            "The Jews" is a symbolic term borrowed from Nehemiah 2: 16. In that context it serves as a collective term for "the priests, the nobles, the officials" of Jerusalem. I contend that this term is used in the FG when reference is being made to the establishment leaders in Jerusalem.

            Of particular importance in this reference is the context - the rebuilding of the temple and city walls and gates. The destruction of the temple and its rebuilding is one of the topics of the gospel (see Jn. 2: 18-21). Though they are presented as enemies of Jesus in most places in the gospel, some of them follow Mary of Bethany from "the house" when she goes to Jesus (11: 31) and some of these believed in Jesus after witnessing the raising of Lazarus (11: 45).

            The Dead Sea Scrolls support the fact that the High Priest in Jerusalem at that time was viewed (at least in Qumran) as an evil high priest. That is certainly how he is depicted in the FG.

            The point of all of this is that those who have used this term to support antisemitism are mis-using the term. It was used to indicate a specific group of officials, those in Jerusalem who controlled the temple, not all of the people of Israel.

            Yours in Christ's service,
            Tom Butler
          • Felix Just, S.J.
            THANKS to Colleen Conway for making your paper available to this online discussion group this past week! You raised some important issues in your paper and in
            Message 5 of 7 , Feb 4, 2001
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              THANKS to Colleen Conway for making your paper available to this online
              discussion group this past week! You raised some important issues in your
              paper and in your online comments, highlighting some “problematic” elements
              not just in the text itself but also in our contemporary interpretation and
              teaching of the text. Do our attempts to “explain” the text inevitably
              (even if unintentionally) lead to “justifying” some problematic aspects, and
              thereby even “perpetuating” the very problems that they attempt to overcome
              (anti-semitism in particular, or demonization of other people in general, as
              Ramsey said). If so, then our teaching should not only address the
              problematic aspects of the texts themselves, but also deal explicitly with
              the problems involved in this teaching/explaining process – showing how it
              could lead to unwarranted justifications and perpetuations of hatred and
              discrimination.

              Thanks also to those who participated in this discussion, although I wish a
              few more people would have done so (I intended to myself, but had too many
              teaching duties and departmental meetings recently - and I suspect many
              academics are in the same boat right now!) But since several of the
              upcoming papers also deal with "the Jews" in the Fourth Gospel, we will
              hopefully have a chance to revisit this issue and go into greater depth in a
              few weeks (see http://bellarmine.lmu.edu/~fjust/John/SBL-Discussions.html
              for the full schedule).

              Meanwhile, it's time to begin our discusion of Michael Newheart's 1999 SBL
              paper, “Bye-Word: A "Soul Reading" of Jesus' Farewell Discourse (John
              13-17)”. For those who haven't read it yet, it is available at
              http://bellarmine.lmu.edu/~fjust/John/SBL99-Newheart.html.

              Peace to one and all!
              Felix
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              Felix Just, S.J. - Dept. of Theological Studies
              Loyola Marymount University - 7900 Loyola Blvd.
              Los Angeles, CA 90045-8400 - Ph (310) 338-5933
              Homepage: http://bellarmine.lmu.edu/~fjust
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


              > -----Original Message-----
              > From: Colleen M. Conway [mailto:cconway@...]
              > Sent: Saturday, February 03, 2001 6:43 PM
              > To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
              > Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Johannine Drama (off list)
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > > The discussion of Colleen Conway's article is most
              > illuminating. For me it
              > > raises the question, What are our shared values that enable
              > us to classify
              > > certain canonical texts, as "problematic," "dangerous," or even
              > > "life-threatening"? Are these values in fact shared, or are
              > they rather
              > just
              > > individual values?
              >
              > >
              > > Conservative scholars have long lamented that we are sunk
              > in a morass of
              > > relativism, but "values," even absolute values, seem to be
              > alive and well
              > in
              > > the academic community, so alive and well in fact that we
              > find ourselves
              > > quite capable of fretting about biblical texts being
              > "problematic," or
              > > "dangerous." I am curious as to just what these shared values are.
              > >
              >
              > I don't assume that we can all share the same values,
              > especially in terms of
              > assumptions about canonical authority. Still, I would hope
              > that we could
              > agree that texts such as John 8 are problematic, dangerous and
              > life-threatening given the legacy of the Jewish-Christian
              > relations for the
              > last two thousand years. I also hope that we do more than
              > "fret about" such
              > texts. Part of the motivation for my paper comes out of my
              > experience of
              > teaching the Gospel of John from a historical critical
              > perspective, relying
              > on Martyn's two-level analysis to "explain" why Jesus was
              > telling "the Jews"
              > that their father is the devil. In spite of my best efforts
              > to defuse such
              > language (to pick up on conversation earlier this week), my
              > student's papers
              > were often unrelentingly critical towards the Jews--in a
              > word, anti-Semitic.
              > I realize that there may be many honest points of disagreement between
              > academics, but could we not agree that this is problematic?
              >
              > Colleen Conway
              >
              >
              > SUBSCRIBE: e-mail johannine_literature-subscribe@egroups.com
              > UNSUBSCRIBE: e-mail johannine_literature-unsubscribe@egroups.com
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              >
            • Steve Puluka
              ... From: Thomas (Tom) Butler ... problematic. I have ... borrowed from ... context it serves ... Jerusalem. I contend that ...
              Message 6 of 7 , Feb 4, 2001
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                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "Thomas (Tom) Butler" <butlerfam5@...>


                > Yes, I agree that the references in the Gospel of John to "the Jews" is
                problematic. I have
                > found, however, that the FG makes extensive use of semeiotic language
                borrowed from
                > Hebrew texts, especially the Septuagint version of the Pentateuch.
                >
                > "The Jews" is a symbolic term borrowed from Nehemiah 2: 16. In that
                context it serves
                > as a collective term for "the priests, the nobles, the officials" of
                Jerusalem. I contend that
                > this term is used in the FG when reference is being made to the
                establishment leaders in
                > Jerusalem.
                >
                I was also taught this same distinction. The term "The Jews" functions here
                in the same way people in the United States might derisively refer to those
                people from Washington. The designation is a political group with whom we
                disagree.

                This does not make this any less of a pastoral problem. Clearly, the
                current translations and much of the supporting liturgical texts in the
                Orthodox Christian Churches where I serve would strike the average person as
                anti-Semitic. I've been told that Holy Week (the time when these pericope's
                from John were read in Church) was a dangerous time to be a Jew in the
                Eastern European countries of my ancestors.

                I have not yet seen a translation that removes this apparent bias that does
                not do violence to the spirit of the text. For the present I must be
                content to place the quotations in context and make it clear that they
                cannot be used to justify anti-Semitic behavior or thoughts.

                Steve Puluka
                Chair of the Adult Education Committee
                Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh
              • Richard Anderson
                I would to suggest that calling a person a Jew can not be considered anti-Semitism when the caller himself is Jewish; it is merely strong polemics. The entire
                Message 7 of 7 , Feb 4, 2001
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                  I would to suggest that calling a person a Jew can not be considered
                  anti-Semitism when the caller himself is Jewish; it is merely strong
                  polemics. The entire Bible was written by Jews with the possible exception
                  of Job and Luke-Acts. Consequently I am pleased to read the suggestion of
                  Tom Butler that
                  "The Jews" is a symbolic term borrowed from Nehemiah 2:16. We need to tell
                  the congregation that: "strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause" [from
                  a Chinese fortune cookie I received on Friday].


                  Richard H. Anderson
                  Wallingford PA
                  http://www.geocities.com/gospelofluke
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