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Re: [John_Lit] Was[hy] Irony: "Witness" in John (part 2)

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  • GustavSym@aol.com
    In a message dated 3/10/2003 2:28:23 PM Eastern Standard Time, ... Dear Tom: I do indeed see a relationship between the Baptist s *kago eoraka kai memartureka*
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 10, 2003
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      In a message dated 3/10/2003 2:28:23 PM Eastern Standard Time,
      butlerfam5@... writes:

      > Do you see a relationship between these binary categories
      > and the model for discipleship / witness established in the
      > gospel by John the Baptist at Jn. 1: 34?
      >

      Dear Tom:

      I do indeed see a relationship between the Baptist's *kago eoraka kai
      memartureka* (I have seen and given witness) and the disciple's *eiden kai
      episteosen* (he saw and believed).

      >>I wonder, however, if you
      have considered that all of the antinomies you have listed are
      not simply means of testing the primary category: seeing and
      believing.<<

      These antimonies are not "simply" anything, especially not a simply "means of
      testing," though such testing might indeed be a Johannine strategy, as I have
      speculated. These antimonies, or binary oppositions are not the strategy to
      meaning however, if meaning is simply the privileging of one pole over
      another. 'Seeing and believing' cannot be privileged simply because it is not
      'not seeing and not believing.' The evangelist has seen to this, quite
      poignantly, in his representation of Thomas, who, after all, wants only to be
      included in the community of those who believe: he simply wants what the
      disciple has--to have seen and believed. The radical structure in the
      narrative is to 'have not seen yet believe.' Thomas, et al confront a radical
      faith that bears radical witness: one need not see to believe, and one need
      not see to witness. One only need to be 'begotten of God' (cf. 1 John) to
      both believe and to witness. Hence, the evangelist can say he was a witness
      without having seen anything. A witness to Christ is one who fosters a faith
      in him, and this is the evangelist's stated goal for the FG (John 20:31). And
      yet there is nothing simple about any of this.

      >>In this case, the disciple does not see the body of Jesus with her
      eyes.  (As you know, I contend that this disciple is Mary of Bethany.)
      Instead, what she "sees" is a sign in the grave cloths that had been
      used to cover the body and head of Jesus.<<

      I cannot commit to this reading, even though I am comfortable with how you
      arrive at this reading. The narrative admits only that Mary sees two angels
      *en leukois*, and does not represent her seeing the grave cloths at all; yet,
      as I have noted she might possibly be "seeing" more than the burial cloths,
      as she has already understood these cloths as messenger/message, as the
      transformational and generative morpheme that the cloths are--for Mary, the
      burial garments are no longer present, but their meaning, transformed by
      their witness of the resurrection into angels who can speak plainly, is read
      by her. She is moved to turn around where she is about to meet the
      resurrection in the flesh. The "sign" of the burial cloths, whose
      signification had been read by the disciple, has, for Mary, already made the
      paradigm shift to another level of signification--from the fragmented old
      episteme, to the resurrection--she is the first to know, the narrative
      withholds this knowledge from Peter and the disciple, as these characters had
      not understood the scriptures.

      >>In my exegesis of the Lazarus story, the grave cloths are the vestments
      of the temple priesthood, a priesthood which has spiritually died.  The
      removal of those vestments is a sign of the release of those priests from
      the spiritual death to which they have been consigned by the religious
      authorities of their time.  *The (beloved) disciple* (Mary of Bethany)
      *sees* the same sign in the tomb to which the religious / secular
      authorities of the time had attempted to consign Jesus.  Their removal
      means the same thing that the removal of the *grave cloths* from
      Lazarus meant: Jesus is no longer bound by the death imposed upon
      him.<<

      Ours readings complement each other nicely. Jesus' burial cloths are not
      simply removed; they are reconfigured: they are no longer what they were.
      Lazarus is freed from their mantle; Jesus has subverted an entire
      discourse. The Temple priesthood, remains intact for those outside the
      Johannine community; for those within the community this priesthood has been
      transformed (sublimated?) into the structures of the Johannine community.
      Foucault would very likely point out that if the transformation is this
      simple, then the new discourse is complicit with the old, and therefore old
      skins attempting to contain new wine (or ,to maintain a Johannine imagery,
      the best wine at the end of the wedding feast). But I reject any simplicity
      here, as I reject any complicity ( I'm sticking with new wine in new skins
      :-) . But I hold this conviction is very likely because I consciously end my
      reading at the point where the new discourse appears to become unstable. That
      is an entirely different matter, one of ecclesiology: I would like to avoid
      this topic in this context.

      >>However, it is significant that the writer(s) do(es) not use a word
      for *read,* but uses *see and believe.*  I very much appreciate
      your work, but would choose to define what *see and believe*
      mean in the Johannine context rather than require that we
      transform that Johannine category into *read (meaning).*<<

      Fair enough, Tom. 'To witness' is a mode of seeing and believing, as it is of
      not seeing and believing. 'To read,' as I have suggested, is to witness. I do
      not suggest that the evangelist could articulate a post-structuralist sense
      of reading; yet he has taken great pains to keep his readers/hearers from an
      inadequate reading--he forces his hearers/readers into the play between his
      binary oppositions and prods them away from a simple (structuralist, if you
      will) privileging of one term over another, prods then away from a thought
      pattern of "either/or", and toward one of "both/and," toward the dialectical
      play within the conceptual space between the terms (cf. J. Hillis Miller's
      "The Critic as Host" in _Deconstruction and Criticism_ ([1979]). In this
      sense, the fourth evangelist is a postmodern reader indeed.

      Joe C.







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