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Re: [John_Lit] Fw: Reinhartz and Hakola

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  • Raimo Hakola
    Dear Martin, Again -- thank you for your thoughtful response. Your questions really hit the heart of the matter and give me a reason to clarify my thoughts.
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 7, 2001
      Dear Martin,
      Again -- thank you for your thoughtful response. Your questions really hit
      the heart of the matter and give me a reason to clarify my thoughts.
      Martin wrote:
      Raimo writes: "the Jews from whom salvation comes, are described as the
      children of the devil". This statement assumes as a matter of course that
      the term "the Jews" has a univocal meaning for John and is shorthand for
      "the Jewish people". Is this what Raimo means to say?

      The problem of who "the Jews" are in John is a very difficult one, and I
      cannot give a comprehensive answer to it in this connection. But I make
      some points that show quite well what I think of this problem:
      I think that we both agree that the term does not have a geopraphical
      meaning ("Judeans") in John. You note this quite explicitly in one of your
      earlier messages when you write:
      "Shaye Cohen has recently shown (in The Beginnings of Jewishness) that the
      term Ioudaios in the ancient world had attained a predominantly religious
      meaning among Greek and Roman authors in the late first century, 'a
      designation for anyone who venerates the God of the Judeans' ... The
      English term "Judeans" thus does not seem to do justice to the religious
      nuances of the Greek term in John's time or John's Gospel."
      Thus far I totally agree with you. The term "the Jews" has predominantly a
      religious meaning in John. (Of course, it was not easy to separate
      religious and ethnic dimensions of the word in the ancient world). But I
      think that the problems begin, when you (and also other scholars) want to
      restrict the Johannine use of the word to a certain limited group among
      those (using Cohen's words) who "venerate the God of the Judeans," i. e.
      who practice the rites of the Jews and share their religious beliefs. If
      the writer had had in his mind only (as you suggest) "certain
      authoritative, learned (Pharisaic) Jews who, with their followers among the
      synagogue rank-and file, rejected and opposed Jesus and his followers," why
      would he use the very same term in a more "neutral" sense to designate
      Jewish festivals etc. You suggest that the term is used in an ironic sense
      for those who "claim to be the arbiters of a genuinely Jewish identity." I
      have some doubts with this explanation. I think that the writer uses the
      word "the Jews" for example for the Pharisees, because for him they are
      representatives of all those who practice the religion that, from the
      writer's point of view, is now superseded by the new revelation. The
      Pharisees are not called the Jews in certain passages because they are a
      group that is distinct from "other Jews," but because they illustrate what
      the writer thinks is a typical response of "the Jews": unbelief and
      hostility. It should be noted that the Pharisees are not the only group
      that has a hostile attitude towards Jesus and that is called "the Jews" in
      the narrative. In the passion narrative the narrator uses the words " the
      Jews" and "the chief priests" interchangeably, and again I think this is
      because he thinks that the action of the chief priests typifies the
      reaction of "the Jews." And I think that many scholars have not paid enough
      attention to some passages of the Gospel where the word "the Jews" is used
      for the common crowd that is in conflict with Jesus. This is the case in
      John 6 where Jesus' interlocutors are at first called the crowd (v. 22, 24)
      but are later identified as "the Jews" (v. 41, 52). In 7:33-36 Jesus is
      discussing with a group of people who are called the Jews (v. 35). They
      cannot be the Pharisees who are absent from the scene (cf. v. 32 and v.
      45). In 7:44 it is told that some of the crowd wanted to arrest Jesus. The
      context does not suggest that these people are "followers of the
      Pharisees," because they seem to act independently. So unbelief and
      hostility are not just characteristics of the Pharisees or the Jewish
      leaders in the Gospel. This is well illustrated in John 12:37-42. It is
      almost universally acknowledged among the scholars that these verses form
      the conclusion to the first part of the Gospel, that is sometimes called
      the Book of Signs (John 112). Most scholars take these verses as the
      narrator's final explanation for the unbelief of "the Jews," that has been
      a recurrent theme in the previous narrative. It is noteworthy, however,
      that in their immediate narrative context, these verses do not speak about
      "the Jews," or about the Pharisees. In ch. 12 Jesus has been discussing
      with the crowd or the common people, and in v. 36 it is told how Jesus
      departed and hid from them. The fact that the narrator's concluding remarks
      about unbelief follow right after the discussion with the crowd suggests
      for me that he did not make a clear cut distinction between the response of
      the crowd and that of "the Jews."
      The narrator acknowledges earlier in the Gospel that there were some among
      the common people who had an initial faith in Jesus, but he also
      acknowledges that there were some among the leaders or the Pharisees who
      were open to Jesus. But in the end, as John 12:37-42 suggests, the response
      of these both groups was rejection and unbelief from the narrator's point
      of view. So when Pilate says in 18:35 to Jesus that "your own nation and
      the chief priests have handed you over to me," these words reveal how the
      writer and his community approached the events leading to Jesus' death.
      They regarded all those Jews who did not share their faith in Jesus as
      culpable for these events.
      So, I am finally ready to answer your question: I think that the word "the
      Jews" in John designates all those different groups among the Jewish people
      who did not share the faith of the writer and his community.
      The term may not quite be a shorthand for the Jewish people, but it surely
      comes very close to this meaning. As unfortunate as this is, I think that a
      significant step has been taken in John toward the view that does make any
      distinction between different Jewish groups but in general regards them as
      responsible for what happened to Jesus. Yes, I think that is unhistorical,
      untrue and morally wrong, but I cannot help thinking that some believers at
      the end of the first century thought so. I know that my claims may sound
      provocative and offensive, and so, please, let me cite a higher authority
      to conclude my long response. In his excellent book Related Strangers: Jews
      and Christians 70-170 C.E. (Fortress 1995), Stephen G. Wilson reaches a
      following conclusion concerning the use of the word "the Jews" in John (p.
      76): "There is every reason to think that the term has shifted decisively
      from a local to a universal plane of meaning. HOI IOUDAIOI have become the
      Jews in general."

      I apologise my all too long answer. I try to return to another part of your
      question in my later response. However, I have dealt with some of those
      questions concerning Moses in John in my earlier (and also too long)
      response to Frank McCoy. Thanks again for your interest in my thoughts.


      Raimo Hakola

      Department of Biblical Studies
      P.O. Box 33
      00014 University of Helsinki

      tel. +358 9 191 22518
      fax +358 9 191 22106
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