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Discussions of Conway and Newheart Papers

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  • 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 1 of 7 , Feb 4, 2001
      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

      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

      Peace to one and all!
      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
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    • Steve Puluka
      ... From: Thomas (Tom) Butler ... problematic. I have ... borrowed from ... context it serves ... Jerusalem. I contend that ...
      Message 2 of 7 , Feb 4, 2001
        ----- 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

        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 3 of 7 , Feb 4, 2001
          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
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