Irony in John 8:33
- Greetings to All:
An element of irony is generally understood in John 8:33.
_sperma Abraam esmen kai oudeni dedouleukamen popote_
( we are the seed of Abraam, and never enslaved to anyone ).
In a recent paper, I relegated to a footnote the evangelist's play with the
possibilities of how this irony might work (leaving most of my observations
in the form of questions). Let me summarize: These particular Judaeans who
utter these words appear to have a different self-understanding from their
co-religionists---they trace their ancestry to Abraham but apparently not
through the experience of the Exodus.
1) does the evangelist know something about the demographics of the Judean
community at large---that some members could trace their genealogies to the
Exodus and some could not ( some current archeological data seem to support a
smaller number of Israelites enslaved in Egypt than assumed by older data,
and that there were Israelites who did not participate in the Exodus)?
2) does the evangelist use this possible dichotomy to challenge the authority
of some in the community and use this dichotomy metaphorically to retaliate
against those who expelled the Johannine community from the Synagogue?
3) does the evangelist play off participation in the Exodus as a formative
and authenticating event, challenging the authenticity and authority of the
antagonists of the Johannine Jesus and the Johannine community?
4) what does it therefore mean for Judeans to say that they have been
enslaved by no one?
5) does this kind of strategy on the part of the evangelist/Johannine
community backfire, and impugn his/their own authenticity and authority,
discovering, as it might, a Judaean "straw man"? In other words, does putting
such words on the lips of Judeans betray a vicious ignorance on the the part
of the evangelist, whose goal is to vilify "the Jews."
6) Luke and Matthew are proleptic in the matter of the link to Abraham. They
both have John the Baptist anticipate an appeal to Abrahamic ancestry (Mt 3;
Luke 3). Neither Matthew nor Luke, however, considers the denial of Israel's
enslavement in Egypt. Is there anything to be gained from an analysis of this
Synoptic prolepsis in relation to the Johannine offensive?
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