RE: [John_Lit] Filling to the Brim?
- Thanks, Frank, excellent points here. Your observations make some interesting connections with John the Baptizer's ministry and the role of Jesus--standing on an anti-Herodian platform, but going further with the way of the Spirit.
From: fmmccoy [mailto:FMMCCOY@...]
Sent: Monday, January 06, 2003 6:16 PM
Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Filling to the Brim?
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, January 02, 2003 3:43 PM
Subject: RE: [John_Lit] Filling to the Brim?
> Hello Frank McCoy,
> None of us both answered Jeffery's question (is there a possibility at all
> to establish in a historical sense what kind of vessels is meant, and what
> kind of rules would have applied to their use?) - but let me reflect
> on your reaction.
Dear Piet van Veldhuizen:
I think we can establish in a historical sense what kind of vessels is meant
by the stone vessels. In Excavating Jesus (pp. 165-66), John Dominic
Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed state, "Vessels made from that soft white
limestone known geologically as chalk are one of the most characteristic
finds at Jewish sites. They are called stone vessels, or sometimes Herodian
stoneware, because of their appearance throughout the Jewish homeland
beginning with Herod's rule. That, by the way, is an interesting fact.
Once again, is a special concern for Jewish purity a covert anti-Herodian
and anti-Roman statement? Be that as it may, these assemblages consist of
forms for liquids such as bowls, cups, mugs, lids, basins, and large jars."
They also state (p. 166), "They are found, notably, in large numbers at
every site in Galilee with a substantial first-century C.E. layer."
Finally, they state (p. 167), "Stone, however, was deemed impervios to
ritual defilement, so that vessels made from it were always 'clean.'"
From what they say, the large stone vessels at Cana have a religious
significance in that, they indicate, the owners of the residence were
concerned about ritual purity. They possibly might also have a political
significance in that, they possibly indicate, the owners of the residence
were anti-Herodian and/or anti-Roman.
> Of course, you would not be Frank McCoy if you had not sent in extensive
> Philo citations. As always, the parallels in use of words, concepts and
> images are interesting.
> But it is curious to see that your treatment of both authors does not urge
> you, once you have arrived at Philo, to return to John. As I read your
> contribution, you do not seem to acknowledge John's Gospel as an
> piece of literature. One remark in John is explained exhaustively by the
> thoughts, not of John, but of Philo.
I left off returning to John because I thought my post was getting pretty
long. It was not my intent to imply that, I think, John's Gospel is not an
independent piece of literature.
At the present time, I think of Johannine thought and Philonic thought as
two expressions of what might be described as a generic type of Alexandrian
Jewish conceptual universe--with Philo's version of it heavily influenced by
Hellenistic philosophy and with John's version of it heavily influenced by a
Messianic/Apocalyptic type of Judaism typified in the Dead Sea scrolls and
the preaching of John the Baptist. If so, then they are related, but
independent, systems of thought.
>> It is not to underestimate the possible, in any case complex,
> between John and Philo - but a remark of John should be explained, at
> initially, in the context of John's own thought as expressed in his own
True, but when dealing with posts you are trying to keep as short as
possible, this is sometimes impractical.
> I completely disagree with your proposition, for example, to explain the
> vessels in John 2 as an image of disciples, just because in Philo's
> meditations on Genesis 24 disciples are vessels for scriptural
> That both John and Philo speak about "hydria" is just because both write
> greek. In fact, John's line of thought will be far closer to Philo's at
> point in John 4, where John himself is recurring to Genesis 24 motifs -
> there it is their common source, not their interdependence, that accounts
> for their kinship of thought.
Philo's meditation on Genesis 24 and the Johannine Cana wedding narrative
share more than just the vessels. They also share the pouring of water into
these vessels and the filling of these vessels to their full capacity.
Too, in Genesis 24, it is Rebecca who pours the water, while in the
Johannine Cana wedding narrative, the mother of Jesus orders the pouring of
the water. Possibly, then, in the Johannine Cana wedding narrative, the
mother of Jesus is likened to Rebecca as depicted in Genesis 24. I think,
in particular of 24:16, "And the virgin was very beautiful in appearance,
she was a virgin, a man had not known her".
> In John 2, the six vessels seem to be something like the forms of law
> fulfillment, the six working days that have to be fulfilled, but that out
> themselves will never produce a shabbath. But just here a considerable
> difference between Philo and John is, that John shows no need to pin
> down to exact meanings in a rebus-like manner.
That these vessels were concerned with ritual purity lends support to this
line of interpretation. Can this line of interpretaion, though, explain why
the six vessels are of varying capacity and why each is filled to the brim
> A last difference: Philo is a commentary writer, John writes a story
> himself. That makes a big difference both in the way they use language and
> images, and in the exgegetical treatment they deserve.
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