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Eucharistic eating in John 6:51-58

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  • Bob Schacht
    With apologies for cross-posting: ... Mike, Thanks again for your analysis. I d like to expand a little on my original posting, supplemented by your data: * In
    Message 1 of 4 , Aug 31, 2003
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      With apologies for cross-posting:

      At 02:06 PM 8/28/2003 +0000, Mike Grondin wrote:
      >Hi Bob-
      >
      >Following up on your lead, I see that not only the root word TRWGW,
      >but the precise phrase hO TRWGWN is used the four times in 6.54-58
      >and also in 13.18. Were the former four occurrences of the author's
      >(or redactor's) making intended to be connected with the latter,
      >from Ps 41.9? Our friend H. Jeffery Hodges opines in his 1999 paper
      >that the reason for the Eucharistic references occurring in ch.6
      >rather than ch.13 is that to show the other disciples eating the
      >bread in ch.13 would conflict with the intent to use the psalm to
      >refer to Judas alone. Be that as it may (and apologies to Jeffery
      >if I've hacked up his point), the wording in 6.54-58 does seem to
      >be in intentional parallel to 13.18 (=Ps 41.9):
      >
      >13.18: The one chewing my bread lifted up his heel against me.
      >
      >6.54: The one chewing my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal
      >life.
      >6.56: The one chewing my flesh and drinking my blood remains in
      >me, and I in him.
      >6.57b: The one chewing me, he also will live because of me.
      >6.58b: The one chewing this bread will live eternally.
      >
      >I thought at first that PHAGH was used with respect to outsiders,
      >with TRWGW being reserved for the disciples, but that seems not to
      >be the case (6.50 being a counter-example). Nor does it seem to be
      >the case that TRWGW is used whenever bread is equated with flesh
      >(6.53 being a counter-example). Perhaps it's the conjunction of
      >the two, i.e., that TRWGW is used only of the disciples eating
      >the "bread" of J's flesh (= believers consuming the Eucharist).
      >Other than that, the only possibility I can think of is that the
      >author of 6.54-58 was mimicking the exact wording (hO TRWGWN) of
      >Ps 41.9. But why? How can one who has eternal life "lift up his
      >heel" in order to stomp on Jesus?

      Mike,
      Thanks again for your analysis. I'd like to expand a little on my original
      posting, supplemented by your data:
      * In verses 51-53, the verb is the conventional PHAGH, as you indicate.
      We have an opening statement by Jesus, a response, and the first part of
      Jesus' reply. Merrill C. Tenney, writing in the Expositor's Bible
      Commentary, notes that that the use of the aorist tense of esthio in these
      verses implies "a decisive action at the outset, an acceptance." (p.78)
      * The verb changes in v. 54 to hO TRWGWN, as you indicated. The Jesus
      Seminar decided to translate the verb here as "feeds on". This is the
      second part of Jesus' reply. Tenney comments that the verb used here is in
      the present tense, which "refers to a progressive action that applies to
      the maintenance of a continuing state." The tense is clearly important,
      because it implies that although one baptism might be sufficient, communion
      with Jesus was an on-going process. But that sense could have been conveyed
      by using the present tense of esthio/phago, couldn't it?
      * Immediately after this conversation, we read in v. 60: When many of
      his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can
      accept it?" (NRS). This appears in other translations as a "hard saying."
      What was it that made it hard? Was it only, or primarily, that the
      disciples were challenged to eat his body and drink his blood (bad enough,
      certainly, to contemporary sensibilities), or was it made even more
      difficult by the use of hO TRWGWN?
      Indeed, was the author's choice of hO TRWGWN influenced by a desire to make
      the saying even more difficult to take?

      I think Jeremias commented at length on this passage, but I don't have his
      essay handy. Anything of interest in that?

      Bob Schacht
      Northern Arizona University




      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Mike Grondin
      Hi Bob- I see that you and others are focusing on the switch from FAGW to TRWGW in 6.51-58. That s certainly an interesting question, but it doesn t seem to me
      Message 2 of 4 , Sep 1, 2003
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        Hi Bob-

        I see that you and others are focusing on the switch from FAGW to
        TRWGW in 6.51-58. That's certainly an interesting question, but it
        doesn't seem to me to be nearly as hard a question as the one I
        raised, which is this: WHY did the author/redactor use the very
        same verb-phrase (hO TRWGWN) for the Eucharist in 6.54-58 that he
        used of Judas in 13.18? I think I can sharpen this up a bit now,
        with reference to the LXX. Brenton's translation of Ps 41.7-10 is
        as follows:

        41.7: All my enemies whispered against me; against me they devised
        my hurt.
        41.8: They denounced a wicked word against me, saying, 'Now that
        he lies, shall he not rise up again?'
        41.9: For even the man of my peace, in whom I trusted, who ate of
        my bread, lifted up his heel against me.
        41.10: But thou, O Lord, have compassion upon me, and raise me up,
        and I shall requite them.

        Given the reference to "rise up again", it's easy to see why this
        passage would have seemed appropriate. But the Greek of the relevant
        portion of 41.9 is different than that of GJn 13.18. The LXX has:

        hO ESTHIWN ARTOUS MOU (he who eats my bread)

        ... whereas 13.18 has:

        hO TRWGWN MOU TON ARTON (he who eats the bread of me)

        ... which is strikingly similar to a portion of 6.58:

        hO TRWGWN TOUTON TON ARTON (he who eats this bread)

        With apologies in advance for possible errors in transliteration,
        what seems to be important here is that the originator of 13.18 has
        changed the verb of Ps. 41.9, and has then used that very same verb
        in 6.53-58. Of course, it's always possible that we're paying much
        closer attention to the exact wording than he did, but if, as H.
        Jeffery Hodges suggests, the author/redactor placed the Eucharistic
        formula in ch.6 instead of ch.13 in order to avoid connection with
        the Judas reference in 13.18, why would he (the author/redactor)
        have used the very same verb in 13.18 that he's so careful to
        distinguish from FAGW in 6.51-58? Why not use the LXX's hO ESTHIWN
        in 13.18 instead of hO TRWGWN?

        It looks as if the author/redactor of 6.53-58 has deliberately set
        up the very connection with 13.18 that Jeffery H. suggests he wanted
        to avoid. In doing so, he's presented us with a puzzle: on the one
        hand (6.58), anyone who eats the bread of heaven will gain
        unconditional eternal life (if that's what the literal "living to
        the age" means), but on the other hand, if one doesn't eat it with
        a pure heart (as in 13.18), he evidently won't. Hodges posits that
        eating the "holy bread" activated Judas' intrinsic evil (my
        wording), but if so, why not make the "pure heart" condition clear
        in 6.53-58, instead of issuing the unconditionals? Again, a
        difference in verb would have helped to point to this difference,
        but the author/redactor didn't choose to do that.

        Puzzled,
        Mike Grondin
        Mt. Clemens, MI

        Ref:
        > 13.18: hO TRWGWN my bread lifted up his heel against me.
        >
        > 6.54: hO TRWGWN my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal life.
        > 6.56: hO TRWGWN my flesh and drinking my blood remains in me,
        > and I in him.
        > 6.57b: hO TRWGWN me, he also will live because of me.
        > 6.58b: hO TRWGWN this bread will live eternally.

        p.s.: I've made up the sub-verse letter 'b' because I don't know
        where one can find the standard sub-versification. Can anyone help
        with that? (MWG)
      • Horace Jeffery Hodges
        [Apologies for crossposting, but I just noticed that Mike posted both at crosstalk and here.] Mike Grondin wrote:
        Message 3 of 4 , Sep 1, 2003
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          [Apologies for crossposting, but I just noticed that
          Mike posted both at crosstalk and here.]

          Mike Grondin wrote:

          <[I]f, as H. Jeffery Hodges suggests, the
          author/redactor placed the Eucharistic formula in ch.6
          instead of ch.13 in order to avoid connection with the
          Judas reference in 13.18, why would he (the
          author/redactor) have used the very same verb in 13.18
          that he's so careful to distinguish from FAGW in
          6.51-58? Why not use the LXX's hO ESTHIWN in 13.18
          instead of hO TRWGWN?>

          I'd better interject a clarification here. My point
          about the evangelist's placing of the eucharist in
          John 6 rather than John 13 was not to avoid linking
          Judas with the eucharist. Rather, I argue that the
          evangelist fully intended to link Judas to the
          eucharist and to focus upon Judas eating the eucharist
          unworthily. Verse 13:18 requires specificity to act as
          a prophecy of Judas's betrayal, but if the eucharistic
          formula were presented in John 13, with all of the
          disciples partaking, then the specificity to Judas
          alone would be lost since everyone would be shown
          eating the bread.

          I don't think that the evangelist intends to deny that
          the eucharist was instituted at the last supper; I
          think that he (most likely) presupposes its
          institution. Be that as it may, my argument is that
          the evangelist intended the reader to understand the
          morsel that Jesus gives to Judas as a eucharistic
          morsel of bread and that the evangelist made this link
          through verse 13:18, which uses trogein to allude to
          6:54, 56, and 57, which also use trogein.

          I'll have to look again at my article to see if my
          point was less than clear.

          <It looks as if the author/redactor of 6.53-58 has
          deliberately set up the very connection with 13.18
          that Jeffery H. suggests he wanted to avoid.>

          It should be clear by now that the connection with
          6:54-58 is precisely what I meant to show.

          <In doing so, he's presented us with a puzzle: on the
          one hand (6.58), anyone who eats the bread of heaven
          will gain unconditional eternal life (if that's what
          the literal "living to the age" means), but on the
          other hand, if one doesn't eat it with a pure heart
          (as in 13.18), he evidently won't. Hodges posits that
          eating the "holy bread" activated Judas' intrinsic
          evil (my wording), but if so, why not make the "pure
          heart" condition clear in 6.53-58, instead of issuing
          the unconditionals? Again, a difference in verb would
          have helped to point to this difference, but the
          author/redactor didn't choose to do that.>

          This is a good question. Partly, it's what my article
          intended to explore through the interrelated concepts
          of holy/common and impure/pure. The holy and the
          impure are at odds with each other, and Judas, by not
          truly belonging to the community, is an impure
          outsider who has already inwardly chosen to follow
          Satan (6:70; 13:2)

          But we could also look at 6:47, which states that the
          one who believes has eternal life. The evangelist
          closely links believing and eating. Both proper faith
          and sacrament seem to be important for the evangelist.

          Jeffery Hodges

          =====
          Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges (Inv.) [Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley]
          Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)
          447-791 Kyunggido, Osan-City
          Yangsandong 411
          South Korea

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        • Bob Schacht
          ... Ditto. [snip] ... Well, I m not so sure. If there s one near certainty about the Jesus of history, it was traveling around with his disciples, which would
          Message 4 of 4 , Sep 1, 2003
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            At 02:31 PM 9/1/2003 -0700, Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote:
            >[Apologies for crossposting, but I just noticed that Mike posted both at
            >crosstalk and here.]

            Ditto.
            [snip]


            >I don't think that the evangelist intends to deny that the eucharist was
            >instituted at the last supper; I think that he (most likely) presupposes
            >its institution. ...

            Well, I'm not so sure. If there's one near certainty about the Jesus of
            history, it was traveling around with his disciples, which would have
            involved table fellowship. Indeed, there are many anecdotes about eating.
            The question of course, is about the "Institution," whether after traveling
            around with his friends for years, Jesus all of a sudden springs the
            Institution on them? I think that perhaps one of the purposes that the
            author of GJohn had in mind was to foreshadow the Institution, and to
            suggest that the basic ideas behind the Institution were developing.

            Also, it seems to me that the choice of hO TRWGWN by John was meant to
            stress that 'eating with' meant communion; it was not sufficient to have
            done it just once, as with baptism. Of no particular relevance is the
            English idiom "to chew on," as in "You think that's weird. Well, I'll
            really give you something to chew on," meaning a challenging idea that
            really requires thoughtful rumination. The background metaphor, I think, is
            the dog chewing on a bone. Sure is different from celebrating communion
            with a wafer.

            As for Mike Grondin's point,
            >The four occurrences of hO TRWGWN in 6.54-58 are unconditional statements;
            >one supposedly gets the benefits mentioned
            >by the mere fact of "eating the flesh/bread" in a deliberative way (on
            >your account). Judas evidently does that in 13.18, and yet
            >(apparently) gets none of the benefits. *Of course*, it's because he has
            >an impure heart, but 6.54-58 in itself says nothing of
            >failing to get the benefits if one has an impure heart. Therefore, I think
            >we need to look elsewhere in GJn for an explanation of the anomaly.

            I'm not sure what to make of this.

            We need to remember that the author of GJohn was not only writing *about*
            someone who was no longer with them in the body, but writing *to*
            contemporary followers of Jesus. What did these issues mean to *them,* and
            how does that affect telling the story? The problem of Judas was a problem
            for them, too. You can't really introduce a theology of communion right at
            the point where you know someone's going to cheat on it. You need to
            establish the general concept more in the abstract, yet concretely, as in
            John 6:51-58. The problem of what happens when the communion is violated is
            a separate issue. The synoptics present both issues at once, which somewhat
            confuses things, doesn't it?

            Bob
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