Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

[John_Lit] John 1:1-18, Col. 1:15-20 and GTh 77

Expand Messages
  • James McGrath
    Dear Frank, Thank you for your lengthy reply, which adds a lot of the details that I was missing regarding your viewpoint. Although you argue your case well, I
    Message 1 of 6 , Jul 7 8:41 AM
      Dear Frank,

      Thank you for your lengthy reply, which adds a lot of
      the details that I was missing regarding your
      viewpoint. Although you argue your case well, I still
      have a few questions. First, given the way that
      certain authors during the first and even second
      century CE seem to use Word, Wisdom and Spirit almost
      interchangeably or in synonymous parallelism, would it
      not be quite plausible to suggest that these various
      writings are all discussing the same thing, albeit in
      slightly different terms and with slightly different
      approaches - namely the manner of God's 'interface'
      with creation? Why should we make a hard and fast
      distinction between Word and Wisdom on the basis of
      the 'titles' that are not used for both, rather than
      identifying them based on the many attributes they
      clearly share in common?

      >
      > Both the Logos and Wisdom
      > are the Image of God. However, as far as I know,
      > only the Logos has the
      > title of the Beginning. The conclusion: It is a
      > product of the Jesus as
      > Philo's Logos christological Wisdom sub-tradition.
      >

      Certainly in the rabbinic corpus, on the basis of the
      Scriptural references which state that:
      1) God created her (Wisdom) the beginning of his ways
      and
      2) In the beginning, God created the heavens and the
      earth
      the conclusion is reached that:
      3) God created through Wisdom
      There is an elaborate attempt to read Col.1:15-20 in
      this light, which I think may originally have been
      proposed by Burney (my library is currently in boxes
      in a ship somewhere in the Atlantic ocean, so I
      apologize for not double-checking!), but at any rate
      there is a discussion conveniently available in
      W.D.Davies' book, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism.

      However, I have no reason to dispute the possible
      influence of Philo on any of the passages in question,
      and certainly in the case of John a very strong case
      can be made indeed. However, in the case of Colossians
      I still think there is less in the specific content
      that requires us to posit Philo's influence.
      Nevertheless, the problem is precisely that there was
      so much Jewish speculation about the place where God
      and the created order meet, that it is always
      difficult to work out precisely who influenced whom,
      how much, and how directly.

      I apologize for replying so briefly and superficially
      to your detailed presentation of your viewpoint. I
      hope to have time to read your message more carefully
      and attentively over the coming days.

      Best wishes,

      James McGrath






      __________________________________________________
      Do You Yahoo!?
      Get personalized email addresses from Yahoo! Mail
      http://personal.mail.yahoo.com/
    • FMMCCOY
      ... From: James McGrath To: Sent: Saturday, July 07, 2001 10:41 AM Subject: [John_Lit]
      Message 2 of 6 , Jul 9 6:00 PM
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "James McGrath" <jamesfrankmcgrath@...>
        To: <johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Saturday, July 07, 2001 10:41 AM
        Subject: [John_Lit] John 1:1-18, Col. 1:15-20 and GTh 77


        > Dear Frank,
        >
        > Thank you for your lengthy reply, which adds a lot of
        > the details that I was missing regarding your
        > viewpoint. Although you argue your case well, I still
        > have a few questions. First, given the way that
        > certain authors during the first and even second
        > century CE seem to use Word, Wisdom and Spirit almost
        > interchangeably or in synonymous parallelism, would it
        > not be quite plausible to suggest that these various
        > writings are all discussing the same thing, albeit in
        > slightly different terms and with slightly different
        > approaches - namely the manner of God's 'interface'
        > with creation?
        >
        Dear James:

        I absolutely agree that, in many varieties of early Christianity, there was
        a tendency to use Word, Wisdom, Spirit (and, I would add, Christ)
        interchangeably or in synonymous parallelism. One can see this tendency (at
        least for Wisdom, Spirit, and Christ) already starting to develop in Paul's
        correspondence to the Corinthians, so it began by c. 55 CE and might even
        have begun earlier.

        However, I think it is an error in judgment to conclude, from this, that
        these various writings are all discussing the same thing. The Logos of a
        Stoic is not the Logos of Philo. The picture of Wisdom in the Wisdom of
        Solomon is not the same as the picture of Wisdom in Ecclesiasticus.

        For example, let us take this excerpt from a Nag Hammadi text, The Teaching
        of Silvanus (112-113), "It is Thou who hast given glory to Thy Word in order
        to save everyone, O Merciful God. (It is) he who has come from Thy mouth
        and has risen from Thy heart, the First-born, the Wisdom, the Prototype, the
        First Light. For he is a light from the power of God, and he is an
        emanation of the pure glory of the Almighty. He is the spotless mirror of
        the working of God, and he is the image of his goodness."

        Here, Jesus is being identified as being the Logos and as being, as such, a
        number of things: including Wisdom. Further, there is a clear influence of
        Wisdom of Solomon 7:25-26 on the last part of this passage. Wisdom of
        Solomon 7:25-26 reads, "For she (i.e., Wisdom) is the breath of the power of
        God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty...For she
        is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the
        power
        of God,. and the image of His goodness."

        This evident influence of Wisdom of Solomon 7:25-26 on Silvanus 112-113
        might be quite valuable for purposes of scholarly research, e.g., for a
        scholar trying to determine what texts were known to, and used by, the
        author of Silvanus and the members of his community. Again, it tells a
        scholar that the author of Silvanus was influenced by the concept of Wisdom
        to be found in the Wisdom of Solomon and, so, gives the scholar a "clue" as
        to what the author of Silvanus means when he declares that Jesus is, as the
        Logos, also "Wisdom"

        You continue:
        .
        Why should we make a hard and fast distinction between Word and Wisdom on
        the basis of the 'titles' that are not used for both, rather than
        identifying them based on the many attributes they
        clearly share in common?

        (My response)
        Because I was specifically referring to Philo's Logos in my two posts, I
        would like to change your question to this, "Why should we make a hard and
        fast distinction between Philo's Logos (Word) and Wisdom on the basis of the
        'titles' that are not used for both, rather than identifying them based on
        the many attributes they clearly share in common?"

        In my opinion, there are a number of reasons why such a hard and fast
        distinction should be made. For one thing, whenever one of the unique
        titles for Philo's Logos
        appears in an early Christian text, this tells us that there likely is
        Philonic influence on that early Christian text. This is also the case
        whenever a unique attribute of Philo's Logos appears in an early Christian
        text. Also, whenever a unique title or attribute for Philo's Logos is
        attributed to Jesus in an early Christian text, it is a "clue" that,
        possibly, Jesus is being identified in this text as being Philo's Logos.


        You also say:

        > Certainly in the rabbinic corpus, on the basis of the
        > Scriptural references which state that:
        > 1) God created her (Wisdom) the beginning of his ways
        > and
        > 2) In the beginning, God created the heavens and the
        > earth
        > the conclusion is reached that:
        > 3) God created through Wisdom
        > There is an elaborate attempt to read Col.1:15-20 in
        > this light, which I think may originally have been
        > proposed by Burney (my library is currently in boxes
        > in a ship somewhere in the Atlantic ocean, so I
        > apologize for not double-checking!), but at any rate
        > there is a discussion conveniently available in
        > W.D.Davies' book, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism.
        >
        > However, I have no reason to dispute the possible
        > influence of Philo on any of the passages in question,
        > and certainly in the case of John a very strong case
        > can be made indeed. However, in the case of Colossians
        > I still think there is less in the specific content
        > that requires us to posit Philo's influence.
        > Nevertheless, the problem is precisely that there was
        > so much Jewish speculation about the place where God
        > and the created order meet, that it is always
        > difficult to work out precisely who influenced whom,
        > how much, and how directly.
        >
        Thank you for the information that, in Rabbinic circles, there appears to
        have been an identification of Wisdom with the "beginning" of Gen. 1:1. I
        didn't know this.

        This means that I was incorrect in saying that the Beginning is a unique
        title of Philo's Logos. This, in turn, means that I was rash and, likely,
        wrong in stating that Jesus is Philo's Logos in the postulated hymn-like
        composition underlying Col. 1:15-20. So, you are correct in saying that
        it is not necessary to posit Philo's influence on Col. 1:15-20.

        This means that the postulated hymn-like composition underlying Col 1:15-20
        might differ from the other two postulated compositions (i.e., the one in
        John 1:1-18 (except v. 15) and the one in GTh 77) in two very important
        respects. First, as I pointed out in my last post, unlike them, it might be
        pre-Christian. Second, unlike with them, the subject of this postulated
        composition might not Philo's Logos.

        This raises the question of whether the invention of this class of hymn-like
        compositions, with their very rigid structures, was invented in a
        pre-Christian Hellenistic Jewish environment where there considerable
        speculation about Wisdom rather than in a Christian environment..
        .
        I want to thank you for discussing the ideas raised in my first post. From
        your responses, I see that I need to do more research, particularly on Col
        1:15-20, and that I need to formulate some new hypotheses and put them to
        the test. You've given me just the kind of input I was looking for. Thanks
        again.

        Regards,

        Frank McCoy
        Maplewood, MN USA
      • James McGrath
        Dear Frank, The development of christology is an area that particularly fascinates me. My PhD research was precisely on the origins and development of John s
        Message 3 of 6 , Jul 10 10:04 AM
          Dear Frank,

          The development of christology is an area that
          particularly fascinates me. My PhD research was
          precisely on the origins and development of John's
          Christology and its links to and development of
          earlier ideas and traditions. Even after spending
          years on a topic, there is still so much left unsaid
          and so many questions left unanswered! My particular
          area of interest now relates to this topic - the
          question of early Jewish and Christian monotheism. It
          seems clear that, regardless of whether they would
          have understood themselves to have a common viewpoint
          or would have made sharp distinctions between their
          views, Jews like the first Christians accepted the
          possibility of something like the Logos or Wisdom
          bridging the gap between God and creation. The similar
          language that John and Philo use (with God...was God;
          neither uncreated...nor created) convinces me that
          there is at least a common underlying worldview at
          this point; I imagine the language of Wisdom as the
          beginning of creation, so that sometimes she appears
          to be part of the created order, while at other times
          it is clear that she predates creation, is part of the
          same world of ideas. This seems to me to be one
          characteristic of early Jewish (and Christian
          monotheism), and one reason why there was no conflict
          (even in John) over the possibility of there being
          such a thing as the Logos.

          As to whether these various authors would have
          understood themselves to all be speaking about the
          same thing, it is probably impossible to know. Some
          Christians would consider the Muslim God Allah to be
          the same monotheistic God as Jews and Christians
          worship although they would differ as to how he is to
          be conceived of and understood; others would say they
          are not the same. Muslims and Jews likewise differ on
          their view of Christians - some would say we worship
          the same God as them and just have some strange
          notions about the Trinity, others would say that the
          difference is so great that we are no longer
          worshipping the one true God of monotheism. It is very
          possible that such differences existed in the first
          century as well, and that Wisdom and Logos meant
          rather different things to different people, even
          within the same basic tradition.

          Thanks again for this stimulating line of thought and
          conversation!

          Looking forward to conversing more about this,

          James McGrath







          __________________________________________________
          Do You Yahoo!?
          Get personalized email addresses from Yahoo! Mail
          http://personal.mail.yahoo.com/
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.