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  • PLP/MCdeB
    I respond to Raimo Hakola s recent message and confine myself to some of the points raised. 1. Doubts about the historicity of the expulsion. In addition to
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 28, 2001
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      I respond to Raimo Hakola's recent message and confine myself to some of the
      points raised.

      1. Doubts about the historicity of the expulsion. In addition to the essay
      by Adele Reinhartz, there comes immediately to mind the article by Kimelman,
      also the book by Margaret Davies, Rhetoric and Reference, the excellent and
      challenging papers by Colleen Conway and Raimo Hakola (!) at SBL last year.

      2. The point about there not being a centralized rabbinic authority in the
      time John was written. I think this is of no central importance for weighing
      the Johannine evidence. We can think of the expulsion as a local decision,
      or perhaps a regional one (and if the Gospel took its formative shape in
      Syro-Palestine, as many believe, Jamnia may have been the most important
      influence, not to say authority, among Jews of the region). Raimo writes
      that excommunication "may not have been that kind of a shock for the
      believers as is often supposed by Johannine scholars." Well, doesn't the
      Gospel itself gives sufficient evidence that the Johannine Christians
      experienced the expulsion (and more) as a terrific shock?

      3. Raimo writes: "I cannot see why the Johannine Christians should be
      regarded as liars if the expulsion from the synagogue or the persecution of
      Johannine Christians in the hands of the Jewish authorities of this time is
      denied." Well what else should they be called if (as you say) the expulsion
      never happened whereas the Gospel says it did? What other word would be
      appropriate for the Johannine Christians if not "liars"? Can the Johannine
      Christians be excused for making such supposedly false accusations just
      because they had "a genuine feeling" of being persecuted by certain Jews in
      their environment? Your question: "how much fire is needed to create smoke?"
      is a good one, but my counter question would be: what sort of fire is needed
      to create what sort of smoke? If the issue is simply feeling persecuted and
      believing that the world is a hostile place (even though it presumably is
      not), then why would that lead to the charge that the persecutors have
      officially decided to exclude you from their fellowship and are even
      attempting to kill you (John 16:2)? Why not come up with the sort of
      generalized polemic and character assassination against opponents and
      outsiders we find, e.g., in the Pastoral Epistles (cf. e.g., 1 Tim 3:2ff.),
      the Epistle of Jude, or 1 John for that matter? That sort of smoke would
      correspond to that sort of fire. But the Gospel does not confine itself to
      polemical "topoi" or the conventions of slander (on which see L. Johnson's
      essay in JBL 108, 1989), but to quite specific charges (expulsion and
      murder). Raimo pointedly asks: "Do you really think that the Johannine
      Christians were killed by some Jewish group at the end of the first century?
      Well, what do we make of John 16:2b, combined with 12:10, and the plot
      against Jesus if, following Martyn, we read John as a two-level drama? What
      sort of fire would explain John's sort of smoke?

      4. A question of method in historical reconstruction. Raimo writes: "Is it
      not a kind of sociological commonplace that small and closed religious
      communities (sects, if you like) feel that they are hated even though the
      society they are living in is not involved in the active oppression of these
      groups?" OK, but a general truth does not for that reason necessarily apply
      to any particular instance. That has to be shown. There may well have been
      no "large-scale persecution" of Christians in the Roman Empire, but that in
      and of itself does not mean there was no persecution of Christians in Asia
      Minor where Revelation was written. Revelation is another issue entirely,
      but the point applies also to the situation in which the Gospel of John was
      written. Early Christians in general may have had an unwarrented persecution
      complex (I doubt that, but let that go), yet that general truth (if truth it
      is) does not prove that Johannine Christians shared such a complex or were
      not in fact persecuted. We may not "have evidence of large-scale
      persecutions of early Christians at the hands of Jews", but that does not
      prove that there were no small-scale, local persecutions in e.g. the
      Johannine context. Long ago, C.H. Dodd observed that there is nothing either
      in the NT or outside of it which is quite like the Fourth Gospel; his
      observation may also apply mutatis mutandis to the circumstances in which
      the Fourth Gospel originated and took its formative shape.

      Thanks Raimo for raising some fundamental questions and continuing the
      conversation. I hope our exchange will be of some use to others on the list
      as well, in agreement or in disagreement!

      Martin de Boer
    • Raimo Hakola
      Thanks again Martin for your response to my thoughts. This conversation has been most useful at least to me, and I hope that also others have learned something
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 2, 2001
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        Thanks again Martin for your response to my thoughts. This conversation
        has
        been most useful at least to me, and I hope that also others have learned
        something from it. You have made good points and given me something to
        think over. However, I am not yet convinced that the criticism that I and
        some other scholars have levelled at the two-level reading of the Gospel
        is
        ill-founded. I think that the basic disagreement between our approaches is
        a methodological one, as you suggest in your reply.

        Martin wrote:
        "Well, what do we make of John 16:2b, combined with 12:10, and the
        plot
        against Jesus if, following Martyn, we read John as a two-level drama?
        What
        sort of fire would explain John's sort of smoke?"

        The point of my criticism is precisely that it may not be legitimate to
        take this kind of details in the narrative as a direct reflection of what
        has happened actually in the life of the Johannine Christians. I do not
        suggest
        that we cannot know anything about the historical context of the Gospel,
        but I do think that the leap from the Gospel text to the real life is
        much more complicated than the two-level reading suggests. Given the
        polemical character of what the Gospel says of the Jews, we cannot take
        the
        Gospel as an impartial witness of Jewish-Christian relations at the end of
        the first century. I think we do well if we ask how the portrayal of the
        Jews in the Gospel fits to what we know of the nature of Jewish
        communities
        and Jewish-Christian relations. And as many scholars have recently
        noticed,
        we do not have much evidence of Christians who were executed by the Jews
        at
        this time. Jack T. Sanders says (against J. L. Martyn and following
        Douglas
        R. Hare) that "as far as the available evidence informs us, few if
        any such
        executions took place" (in Schismatics, Sectarians, Dissidents,
        Deviants:
        The First Hundred Years of Jewish-Christian relations. Trinity Press1993,
        p. 91) Claudia Setzer notes also in her Jewish Responses to Early
        Christians: History and Polemics, 30-150 C.E. (Fortress, 1994) that after
        100 C.E. or so, the reactions of the Jews to Christians are in the verbal
        sphere only (pp. 182ff.) In case of John, Setzer notes that "given
        the
        context of anti-Jewish polemic and persecution in the FG, it is perhaps
        suprising that there are only two possible references (16:2 and 12:10) to
        Jews killing Christians, and very general ones at that." On the basis
        of
        this kind of general statements that may not be supported by other
        contemporary sources, I hesitate to take the Johannine references as
        evidence that the Christians were killed by the Jews at the end of the
        first century. As I earlier said, I do not deny that some Christians were
        killed by some of the Jews earlier, maybe prior to the destruction of the
        temple. These indicents are also referred to by Frank McCoy in his recent
        message, even though I am not convinced that on this basis we could date
        the gospel back to the period between 62 CE and c. 65 CE.

        Martin, let me conclude this message by developing the metaphor of fire.
        Is
        it not true that the greatest smoke is caused by the fire that does not
        burn properly? And if you throw water upon a fire in order to extinguish
        the flames, then you really have smoke. So this metaphor is actually a
        very
        ambiguous one. Once again, thanks for this conversation.

        Raimo Hakola
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        Raimo Hakola
        Department of Biblical Studies
        P.O. Box 33
        FIN-00014 University of Helsinki
        tel. +358 9 191 22518
        fax + 358 9 191 22106
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