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Re: [John_Lit] The Jews

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  • Thomas W Butler
    On Sun, 21 Jul 2002 20:33:30 -0000 heronblu ... Lou, My thesis is that the term the Jews is taken from Nehemiah 2: 16, where it refers
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 22, 2002
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      On Sun, 21 Jul 2002 20:33:30 -0000 "heronblu" <heronblu@...>

      > Do you exclude the possibility that a better translation of the
      > term in question might be "the Judeans"? If the leadership of
      > the Christian Church (including, perhaps, the leadership of the
      > Johannine community) was or had been Galilean and if the
      > Judeans were disdainful of Galileans, one might expect that
      > "the Jews" might have been applied in a blanket fashion as a
      > pejorative to anyone with so much as a Judean accent . . .

      My thesis is that the term "the Jews" is taken from Nehemiah
      2: 16, where it refers to the leaders of the Jerusalem establishment.

      I cannot exclude the possibility that the author(s) of the Gospel
      may have ALSO meant something else. I doubt, however, that
      whatever else it might have meant would have been based upon
      a prejudicial attitude toward Judeans.

      Brown and others have convinced me that there were several
      subgroups within the Johannine community. While the Synoptics
      include language that suggests that Peter, for example, was
      identified by his Galilean accent (Mk 14: 70=Lk 22: 59 supported
      by Matt. 26: 73 which refers to Peter's accent), such a reference
      is absent in the Gospel of John.

      Your point would seem to be supported in John 4: 43-45, when
      Jesus returns to Galilee after having been in Jerusalem, expecting
      that "a prophet has no honor in the prophet's own country," but
      finding instead that the Galileans welcomed him there after they
      had seen what he did at the Passover festival (cleansing the temple).
      This would seem to indicate that Jesus earned the respect of his
      fellow Galileans by upsetting the hierarchy of the Temple, supporting
      the idea that the Galileans had a prejudice against those leaders.

      Countering this, however, is the fact that in Jn. 3: 22 Jesus appears
      to have been well received by the Judeans. Then he was well
      received by the Samaritans (Jn. 4: 40). The point is that Jesus
      did not apparently share the prejudice against the Judeans and
      there is no indication that his disciples did either. I find nothing
      in any other NT passages that suggests an enmity between the
      Galilean and the Judean factions in the early church.

      In 4: 9 the Samaritan woman asks, "How is it that you, a Jew
      (Ioudaios), ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria." Jesus does
      not dispute that he is a (Ioudaios) Jew, even though he is a
      Galilean. (Of course, it is not his purpose in this setting to argue
      ethnic origins. Again, he does not seem to have the prejudices
      of his culture - a prejudice explained by the narrator in 4: 10.)

      In 18: 35 Pontius Pilate says, "I am not a Jew (Ioudaios) am I?"
      Then exclaims that his (Jesus') own nation has turned him (Jesus)
      over to Pilate. Clearly Pilate considers Jesus a Jew, in fact a
      very important Jew, much to the chagrin of the Chief Priests,
      who appealed in vain to Pilate not to identify Jesus as the King
      of the Jews (Ioudaiwn) (19: 21). (Here, of course, is a case of
      the famous Johannine irony, since those who have pressured
      Pilate to execute Jesus are, indeed, attempting to kill their God,
      who IS their king from the theological perspective of the writer(s)
      of the Gospel.) Clearly in this case the real Jews are the Chief
      Priests, a part of the establishment - leaders of the people of the
      conquered nation of Israel, people who cooperate with those
      whose authority has been imposed upon them by the Roman
      Emperor (as is clear in this pericope).

      When the general populace of a region (except in the cases I've
      already cited) gathers around Jesus, they are identified as "a large
      crowd" (ochlus pollus). If the writer(s) were using The Jews as
      a generic term for the ethnic (Judeans AND Galileans) people of
      Israel, one might expect that it would have been used even more
      than the 67 times it IS used in the Gospel. Here is a partial view:

      In 1: 19 the Jews have been sent by priests and Levites in Jerusalem
      to question Jesus.

      In 2: 18, 20 after Jesus has cleansed the Temple, it is the Jews
      (obviously Temple officials) who questioned him, demanding that
      he give them a sign to display his authority to do what he had done.

      In 3: 1 Nicodemus, a Pharisee, is identified as a leader of the Jews.
      Later (7: 48 - 51) Nicodemus responds to a question, "Has anyone
      of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him?" Later still he
      (19: 39) comes with a secret disciple of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathia,
      to bury Jesus, indicating that he, too, is a secret disciple, though
      still (an establishment) Jew.

      In 5: 10, 18; 9: 18 the Jews act as authorities investigating healings,
      which they considered to be violations of the law or fraud.

      In 9: 22 the narrator tells the reader that the parents of a man healed
      of blindness since birth were afraid of the Jews because the Jews
      had determined that anyone confessing Jesus to be the Messiah
      would be put out of the synagog. Only Temple authorities could
      do that.

      In 11: 18 we are told that Bethany was near Jerusalem. Then in
      11: 19 we are told that the Jews had come to console Martha and
      Mary. The inference is that they had come from Jerusalem to the
      nearby town of Bethany. The point is that they were not simply
      citizens of Judea, but authorities from Jerusalem.

      In 11: 45 we are told that some of the Jews believed in Jesus after
      he called out Lazarus from the tomb, but some of them told what
      Jesus had done to the Pharisees. Then the Chief Priests and
      Pharisees call a meeting of the council (of the Sanhedrin?) to
      consider what to do. Here the Jews were clearly Temple officials
      who felt a loyalty to the establishment, though some of them
      defected to become (I suggest probably secret) disciples of Jesus.

      In 11: 54 Jesus no longer walks openly among the Jews, but goes
      to Ephraim near the wilderness. In other words, he avoided the
      area near Jerusalem where the Jews, establishment leaders, were
      laying plans to kill him.

      In 12: 9-11 the narrator tells the reader three things: the great crowd
      of Jews came to Bethany to see Jesus and Lazarus, the Chief priests
      planned to put Lazarus to death as well as Jesus, and many Jews
      were "deserting" and believing in Jesus. If they were from the general
      population, even of Judea, who were they deserting? They were
      still in Judea. However, if they had been part of the establishment,
      the Temple priests, members of the Council of the Sanhedrin, respected
      Pharisees, then the chief priests would have cause for concern. People
      were deserting their posts in parts of the established order that needed
      them to be where they had been placed.

      The powerful evidence supporting my thesis in the book of signs
      is more than matched in the passion narrative.

      18: 12 tells us that those who came to arrest Jesus were soldiers
      and Jewish police. Soldiers could have only been Roman soldiers
      in occupied Jerusalem. What the NRSV calls Jewish police the
      Greek version calls hypereta ton Ioudaion (assistants of the Jews).
      They are the enforcement arm of people in power. The only way
      that I can imagine such "assistants" being empowered to arrest
      anyone is if they were Temple guards. They are working in
      cooperation with Roman soldiers under the authority of a captain
      (chiliarchos - the thousand ruler). I would be interested if anyone
      on the J-L list knows of a Judean police force in Jerusalem other
      than the Temple guard or the Roman legion.

      In 18: 20 when Jesus is being questioned by the high priest, Jesus
      says, "I have always taught in the synagogues and in the temple,
      where all the Jews come together." Jesus taught the crowds of
      ordinary people wherever they gathered or followed him. He
      did not restrict his teaching to the general populace to the synagogs
      and the Temple. The audience to which he is refering in this
      passage is the establishment leaders, the people in power. Not
      the Roman ones, but what the radicals of our time would call
      "the collaborators," the people whose positions of power and
      prestige over a subjugated people exist as long as it pleases
      their conquerors to give it to them.

      We've already considered the significance of the interaction
      between Pontius Pilate and Jesus in 18: 33-38 as Pilate tries
      to determine if Jesus IS the King of the Jews. To convict
      Jesus of treason he must rule that Jesus has committed treason.
      Jesus must claim to be a king over a country ruled by the
      Roman emperor. Jesus doesn't. Instead he explains that
      if his kingdom were of this world, his followers would be
      fighting to keep him from being handed over to the Jews.

      If the Jews were Judeans, many of whom were his followers,
      wouldn't it be to the advantage of Jesus to have the Romans
      release him from Roman custody into the custody of the people
      who had cried out en masse to him as he made his triumphal
      entry into Jerusalem less than a week before?

      It was the Pharisees who exclaimed on that occasion (12: 19)
      "You see, you can do nothing. Look the world has gone after
      him." It was the establishment leaders who were upset, not the
      Judean people, a.k.a. "the crowd."

      The soldiers who carry out the crucifixion mock Jesus because
      they believe he has been convicted of treason (19: 3).

      It does appear that Pilate may have considered that mocking
      Jesus would cause laughter from the crowd and diffuse the
      tension. It is the chief priests and their "assistants" who raise
      the cry, "Crucify him!" (19: 6).

      Pilate tells the chief priests and their assistants to crucify Jesus
      themselves, because as an officer of Roman justice, he finds
      no case against Jesus. These same officials then present their
      charges to Pilate, first on the basis of Jewish law, then in a
      form of political blackmail on the basis of Roman law, infering
      that Pilate could be charged with treason for not executing
      anyone who claims to be a king over a Roman territory (19:
      6b-12), a point they emphasised in 19: 15b when they said,
      "We have no king but the emperor."

      Here again is the famous Johannine irony, because the Jews,
      entrusted with maintaining the covenant whose first law is
      "You shall have no other god before me," those entrusted
      with maintaining the theocracy of Israel, declare that they are not
      God's subjects, but the Roman emperor's. This is collaboration
      to the extreme, not the opinion of a crowd made up of Passover
      pilgrims, but of establishment leaders committing blasphemy
      in order to maintain their power.

      It may well be that the sign that Pilate orders printed for the cross
      is intended to remind the Jews that a man is being executed for
      the blasphemy that they had committed (19: 19-22).

      "The Jews" is a short-hand phrase used by the writer(s) of the
      Fourth Gospel to indicate the establishment leaders in Jerusalem,
      not the citizens of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the Judeans.

      Yours in Christ's service,
      Tom Butler

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