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Re: [John_Lit] Re: Jesus as Symbol for James

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  • Thomas W Butler
    Dear Frank, Obviously I am way behind in our dialog. I regret not responding to your message sooner. ... Frank, the symbolism here is derived from the role
    Message 1 of 4 , Dec 13, 2001
      Dear Frank,

      Obviously I am way behind in our dialog. I regret not responding
      to your message sooner.

      On Nov. 23 I asked:
      > How, in the excerpt from the Second Apocalypse of James, can
      > James represent Jesus when it is Jesus speaking to James? Please
      > clarify.

      To which you replied:
      > If, as you say, it is Jesus speaking in 10:1-5, then he is both the
      > shepherd who leads the sheep through the door and the door.
      > How can this be? Isn't it more plausible to assume that it is James
      > who speaks in 10:1-5? In this case, the shepherd and the door,
      > as one would expect, are two different things: with the shepherd
      > being James and the door being Jesus.

      Frank, the symbolism here is derived from the role that shepherds
      took in guarding their flocks when the sheep were gathered in the
      sheep fold. The fold was a corral of stones, piled about three feet
      high, with a single opening. At night, the shepherd lay across the
      opening, effectively preventing sheep from exiting or wolves from
      entering. (How effective this was, I don't know.) At any rate, the
      shepherd was both the shepherd and the door.

      You continued:
      > Indeed, in line with this, in 10:7-8, Jesus (now speaking as
      > himself) declares himself to be the door of the sheep and
      > speaks of the Jewish religious leaders before himself as
      > being thieves and robbers,
      > "Amen. Amen. I say to you, that I am the door of the sheep.
      > All whoever came before me are thieves and robbers; but
      > the sheep did not hear them."
      I understand Jesus to be contrasting his symbolic role as the
      shepherd with the symbolic role of the priests who offer sacrifice,
      using the sheep as a symbol for the people of God. The shepherd
      guides the sheep into the sanctuary (sheepfold) and back out again,
      while the priests guide the sheep into the temple in order to take their
      lives. The sheep that enter the temple never leave it alive. Jesus
      expands upon the idea that as their shepherd, God's people hear and
      trust his voice, but they are not listening to the priests.

      I asked:
      > > Frank, how do you determine when the speaker is actually
      > > Jesus and when it is James speaking as though he were Jesus?

      You replied:
      > To perhaps oversimplify a tad, my SOP is to assume that the
      > speaker is actually Jesus unless there are one or more clues
      > indicating otherwise.

      I agree with that assumption.

      You said:
      > In the first example of 4:35-38, the basic clue that the speaker
      > might be James rather than Jesus is the indication that it was
      > written with the events related in Acts viii in mind. In this second
      > example of 10:1-5, the basic clue that the speaker might be James
      > rather than Jesus is that an early Christian (i.e., the author of the
      > Second Apocalypse of James) interpreted it to be an utterance
      > by James. Perhaps, I suggest, (s)he had some knowledge regarding
      > the FG that, in the intervening centuries, has been lost.

      It appears that you are placing more trust in the author of the
      Second Apocalypse of James, assuming that this author had some
      sort of knowledge that is now lost, than you are in the author(s)
      of the Fourth Gospel. Is it not more likely that this author of
      the Second Apocalypse of James borrowed from the FG rather
      than the other way around?

      In reference to your considerations of Jn. 3:10-21 I asked:
      > What evidence to you see that suggests that this "we" means that
      > James the Just is now speaking as though he were Jesus?
      > Doesn't Jesus have reason to use "we" without having to be
      > James?

      To which you replied:
      > Shortly thereafter, in 3:13-15, "Jesus" states, "No one has ascended
      > into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
      > And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the
      > Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have
      > eternal life (RSV)."
      > As far as I know, neither of these two doctrines are ascribed to
      > Jesus in any of the other gospels. Therefore, I suggest, they are
      > two doctrines formulated in a post-crucifixion sitz em leben.
      > This lends support to the idea that "Jesus" becomes James in 3:10-11
      > and that this continues to be the case through 3:21. In this case,
      > these two doctrines were formulated by the Jerusalem Church
      > Council headed by James--thereby explaining why they are
      > nowhere else attributed to Jesus.

      I have not found it useful to compare the FG to the Synoptics.
      They are different kinds of gospels. It generally does not work to
      use the tools of historical criticism on the FG (at least I have found
      the results of doing so to be more confusing than helpful).

      While it would seem accurate to claim that all of the gospels
      come from "a post-crucifixion sitz em leben," the doctrines you
      have selected do represent a more highly developed Christology
      than is found in the Synoptics. I fail to see, however, how that
      leads to the conclusion that they were formulated by the Jerusalem
      Church Council headed by James.

      You continued:
      > The point made is not that the Son of Man has ascended (which
      > he has done, and this is duly noted by an early commentator who
      > adds: 'he who is in heaven') but that he descended."
      > Even as rendered this way, the first doctrine is not attributed to
      > Jesus in any of the other gospels. In particular, in none of them
      > does he speak of the Son of Man as having descended from
      > heaven in the person of himself.
      > So, even as rendered this way, the first doctrine appears to be a
      > post-crucifixion creation and, so, might have been formulated and
      > preached by the Jerusalem Church Council.)

      The symbolism from the Jacob's Ladder Dream (Gen. 28: 10) is
      used in Jn. 20: 12 (where the sign is given that angels sit where
      the head and feet of Jesus would have been). I have shown that
      ascending and descending language is a sign pointing the reader
      to the Mosaic understanding of the temple which Jesus is
      reestablishing. (This goes much further than this single passage,
      of course. The typology of "head, hand, side and feet" is used
      in both the Mosaic texts and in the FG with reference to the
      temple, the priesthood and the rituals of sacrifice.

      Your point seems to be that this is not likely, from a historical
      point of view, to have been one of the teachings of Jesus, but
      was, rather, a lesson of the early church community from which
      the FG came. It seems to me that the entire gospel is a midrash-
      like commentary on the Jesus tradition. It is a theological treatise,
      expounding upon the stories of Jesus that were widely known
      within the Christian community and for the most part found in
      the synoptic gospels. The relationship is a theological one,
      however, not a historic one IMO.

      You said:
      > I'm glad that, you recognize, at some point in 3:10-21 the speaker
      > likely ceases to be Jesus. As pointed out above, I suggest that
      > the transition occurs right away, in 3:10-11--with, thereafter,
      > "Jesus" representing James. You say that the transition, if it occurs,
      > does so later, in 3:16--with, thereafter, "Jesus" representing the
      > author of John.
      > What reasons do you have for this conclusion? Are there other
      > examples of where, in the midst of a speech of Jesus, there is an
      > invisible seam separating the speech of Jesus from an addition to
      > it by the author of John?

      Well, of course the soliloquy of the narrator is one of the qualities
      of the FG that deserves all of the attention it is currently getting
      through reader-response analysis. Culpepper, in his Anatomy
      of the Fourth Gospel, does a better job of answering your question
      than I can. (I'm sorry I don't have a copy of his book right now or
      I would cite particular pages.) My recollection of his analysis is
      that he sees the interruption by the narrator as a means of allowing
      the implied reader an opportunity to know more than the characters
      in the stories know, for example what Jesus is thinking or knowing.

      I had said to you previously:
      > > It seems to me that your theory requires a revisionist approach,
      > > suggesting that the FG was written in light of what most historians
      > > have understood to be historically later events. How do you deal
      > > with the possibility that these *historically later events* may
      > > have been influenced by the gospel, rather than, as you suggest,
      > > the other way around? I see the correlation that you see (I think),
      > > but I'm not convinced that the order you suggest has been proven."

      You replied:
      > Tom, I need more information before responding to you. Please
      > amplify on what you mean by "a revisionist approach". Also, what
      > is the historical event that immediately precedes what you refer to
      > as *historically later events*?

      The revisionist approach to history (or tradition) suggests that the
      commonly held understanding of events in the past is incomplete
      and probably inaccurate. The revisionist sets out to offer more
      information, details that may not have been known by previous
      historians, in an effort to support a different understanding of the
      events than the traditional or generally accepted one.

      I am suggesting that you are offering a revised view of history,
      suggesting that the passages that you have considered from the
      Gospel of John are actually records of something that tradition
      (the book of Acts) has accepted as happening AFTER the
      historical context of the Gospel of John.

      Hey, Merry Christmas!

      Yours in Christ's service,
      Tom Butler
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