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[John_Lit] The Johannine Community

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  • McGrath, James
    Before this discussion gets any further I want to raise a parallel question: in view of the fact that the Fourth Gospel (indeed, the Johannine corpus as a
    Message 1 of 10 , Sep 1, 2003
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      Before this discussion gets any further I want to raise a parallel
      question: in view of the fact that the Fourth Gospel (indeed, the
      Johannine corpus as a whole) never uses esthiw (or however one is
      supposed to transliterate it into English!), mightn't a linguistic
      explanation be simpler? For whatever reason, the author simply did not
      have this word as part of his vocabulary. Whenever he speaks of 'eating'
      in the present tense, he uses trwgw, and for the aorist he uses ephagon
      and cognates. What might be REALLY interesting would be to see if there
      is other Koine Greek literature with this same linguistic peculiarity -
      perhaps it was a regionalism, and might help us localize the 'Johannine
      community' (if there ever was such a creature). But my main question is
      whether this characteristic of John's vocabulary is best explained
      theologically, or simply linguistically.

      Looking forward to the ongoing discussion!

      James



      *****************************
      Dr. James F. McGrath
      Assistant Professor of Religion
      Butler University, Indianapolis
      http://blue.butler.edu/~jfmcgrat/
      *****************************



      -----Original Message-----
      From: John M. Noble [mailto:jonob@...]
      Sent: Monday, September 01, 2003 2:05 AM
      To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [John_Lit] The Johannine Community


      Thankyou to everybody for the ongoing discussion. It has been
      extremely valuable.

      With reference to Raymond Brown, he writes (paraphrased) '4G stresses
      what, for John, is truly essential; namely, the living presence of
      Jesus in the Christian through the Paraclete ..... This outlook and
      emphasis would give Johannine ecclesiology *a different tone from
      that of the Apostolic Christians*'. (p88 The Community of the Beloved
      Disciple). This follows (p21) 'The Johannine failure to mention
      Jesus' eucharistic action over the bread and cup .... can scarcely be
      accidental given the tradition in the three synoptics and Paul'.

      <snip>
    • Mike Grondin
      ... It seems not to have been a regionalism, since I m unable to find a single usage of esthiw in the entire NT! But thanks for pointing this out, since it
      Message 2 of 10 , Sep 1, 2003
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        --- James McGrath wrote:
        > ... in view of the fact that the Fourth Gospel (indeed, the
        > Johannine corpus as a whole) never uses esthiw (or however one is
        > supposed to transliterate it into English!), mightn't a linguistic
        > explanation be simpler? For whatever reason, the author simply did
        > not have this word as part of his vocabulary. Whenever he speaks
        > of 'eating'in the present tense, he uses trwgw, and for the aorist
        > he uses ephagon and cognates. What might be REALLY interesting
        > would be to see if there is other Koine Greek literature with this
        > same linguistic peculiarity - perhaps it was a regionalism, and
        > might help us localize the 'Johannine community' (if there ever
        > was such a creature).

        It seems not to have been a regionalism, since I'm unable to find a
        single usage of 'esthiw' in the entire NT! But thanks for pointing
        this out, since it would explain why GJn doesn't follow the LXX in
        quoting Ps 41.9 (even assuming that it was the Greek text in view
        and not the Hebrew, which is questionable, I admit).

        > But my main question is whether this characteristic of John's
        > vocabulary is best explained theologically, or simply
        > linguistically.

        I'm inclined to think at this point that his use of TRWGW harkens
        back to Mt 24.38. It's only there that I can find another occurrence
        of the word, and the context is suggestive:

        24.37: For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days
        of Noah.
        24.38: For in those days which were before the flood, they were
        eating (TRWGONTES) and drinking - they were marrying and giving in
        marriage - until the day that Noah entered the ark.
        24.39: and they did not understand until the flood came and took
        them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

        Now then, (most? all?) English translations have it that Jn 6.51
        and 6.58 are to be read as referring to "eternal life" or "living
        forever". But the literal reading is that one who eats the heavenly
        bread of Jesus will live "to the age (AIWN)". That isn't exactly
        eternal life - it's life until the time when the Son of Man comes
        (back) to institute a new age. Similarly, in Paul one finds that
        the Eucharistic meal is to be eaten until (and only until) Jesus
        returns - and that was thought to be relatively sooner rather than
        later.

        Going back to the Judas-related parallel terminology, I note that
        GJn says nothing about Judas' eventual fate. Given this omission,
        might the author's choice of words indicate that he (the author)
        was granting to Judas the same "life to the age" granted the other
        disciples, since he (Judas) had eaten the heavenly bread with them?
        Yet, however, when "the age" arrived, Judas would presumably be
        among those cast out. If such an explanation seems implausible,
        one might consider the GThom saying that the weeds are not to be
        separated from the good plants until "the day of the harvest",
        when they will be "plainly visible" and will be thrown into the
        fire. Is it possible that the author(s) of GJn had such a view,
        i.e., that sharing in the communion would guarantee one "life to
        the age", even if one was among the "weeds" that didn't have a
        pure heart - and hence would be cast out when "the age" did come?

        Regards,
        Mike Grondin
        Mt. Clemens, MI
      • Bob Schacht
        At 10:59 AM 9/1/2003 -0500, McGrath, James ... James, Your hypothesis is a bit strained. While it seems to be true that the present
        Message 3 of 10 , Sep 1, 2003
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          At 10:59 AM 9/1/2003 -0500, "McGrath, James" <jfmcgrat@...>
          wrote:
          >Before this discussion gets any further I want to raise a parallel
          >question: in view of the fact that the Fourth Gospel (indeed, the
          >Johannine corpus as a whole) never uses esthiw (or however one is
          >supposed to transliterate it into English!), mightn't a linguistic
          >explanation be simpler? For whatever reason, the author simply did not
          >have this word as part of his vocabulary. Whenever he speaks of 'eating'
          >in the present tense, he uses trwgw, and for the aorist he uses ephagon
          >and cognates. What might be REALLY interesting would be to see if there
          >is other Koine Greek literature with this same linguistic peculiarity -
          >perhaps it was a regionalism, and might help us localize the 'Johannine
          >community' (if there ever was such a creature). But my main question is
          >whether this characteristic of John's vocabulary is best explained
          >theologically, or simply linguistically.

          James,
          Your hypothesis is a bit strained. While it seems to be true that the
          present tense of esthio does not seem to appear in GJohn, it does appear in
          other Gospels, such as Matthew 26:21 "while they were eating...", Luke 15:2
          , etc.

          Bob



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Mike Grondin
          ... Sorry. Bob is right; I m wrong. My search technique was obviously faulty. Mike G.
          Message 4 of 10 , Sep 1, 2003
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            --- In replying to James McGrath, I wrote:
            > It seems not to have been a regionalism, since I'm unable to find
            > a single usage of 'esthiw' in the entire NT!

            Sorry. Bob is right; I'm wrong. My search technique was obviously
            faulty.

            Mike G.
          • Tobias Hägerland
            ... the ... of ... by ... Perhaps this summary of the late Fr Brown s theological agenda may be derived from reading his Community of the Beloved Disciple
            Message 5 of 10 , Sep 2, 2003
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              John M. Noble wrote:

              > Raymond Brown's agenda seems to be to present the teaching about
              the
              > paraclete in 4G and 1J in the context of a community divided and in
              > the process of self destructing, thus bringing into question this
              > aspect which he claims gives a 'different tone from apostolic
              > Christianity'. I personally don't see how 1J could be used to help
              > interpret 4G; it seems to go the other way around. So when RB makes
              > statements like 'the use of the epistles as a correct guide to
              > interpreting the Gospel finally won for John a place in the canon
              of
              > the church', I believe that he is really questioning the canonicity
              > of 4G. Particularly when he claims that the beloved disciple wasn't
              > John at all and anyway the letter wasn't written by him but rather
              by
              > an unreliable community.

              Perhaps this summary of the late Fr Brown's theological 'agenda' may
              be derived from reading his 'Community of the Beloved Disciple' in
              isolation? I do not think it will fit into the broader picture that
              one gets from reading other books written by this scholar.

              First, as a loyal Roman Catholic, Brown would hardly have arrogated
              for himself the authority to redefine the canon of Scripture. In his
              commentaries on the Gospel and Epistles of John, Brown frequently
              discusses the enduring theological import of particular passages, and
              gives his views regarding to what extent the contents is binding on
              contemporary Catholics. Besides showing himself to be not only an
              academic exegete but also a sensitive theologian, Brown thus
              demonstrates his full acceptance of the canon as defined by the
              Church. However, he would probably have been reluctant to treat any
              of the biblical books as canonical in and by itself. The canonical
              interpretation of a certain passage presupposes the entire canon.
              None of the different biblical books present a perfect theology in
              isolation, so each writing has to be 'balanced' by the other
              canonical writings. I think Brown would say that the Gospel according
              to John cannot function as a reliable norm for Christian faith and
              morals if it is not read as one of many voices in the canon. As far
              as I can remember, Brown spelled these things out quite clearly in
              his 'Introduction to the New Testament'.

              Second, Brown did not exactly depict the 'Johannine community' as
              self-destructing; rather, he thought that it had been incorporated
              and assimilated into the 'Great Church'. He may have held the view
              that the Johannine community could not survive as an isolated
              community, just as the Johannine literature had to be assumed into
              the larger biblical canon in order to retain enduring significance.
              But he certainly did not depict Johannine Christians as the bad guys.
              Brown, as I have understood him, was welcoming different 'tones' both
              in primitive and contemporary Christianity.

              Third, I doubt that Brown's reconstruction of the Johannine community
              (a reconstruction which I, incidentally, find quite removed from
              reality) was part of any 'agenda'. In his commentary on the Gospel,
              Brown still held to the traditional view which identified the Beloved
              Disciple as John, son of Zebedee. It was scholarly argument and
              hardly anything else that forced him to revise his opinion on this
              matter. To my mind, this sets an example for all of us who try to be
              honest scholars and truth-seekers.

              Tobias Hägerland, M.Th.
              Ph.D. Candidate
              Göteborg University
              Department of Religious Studies and Theology
            • Moloney, Francis J
              As someone who has worked extensively on Ray Brown s contribution, especially in editing, updating, introducing and concluding his posthumous Introduction to
              Message 6 of 10 , Sep 2, 2003
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                As someone who has worked extensively on Ray Brown's contribution, especially in editing, updating, introducing and concluding his posthumous "Introduction to the Gospel of John" (ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 2003), I very much appreciate Tobias' contribution. It matches my own conclusions, soon to be delivered at the Baltimore Conference: "The Gospel of John: The Legacy of Raymond E. Brown and Beyond." For an earlier reflection, see my "Raymond Brown's New Introduction to the Gospel of John: A Presentation and Some Questions," CBQ 65 (2003): 1-21.

                Thanks.

                Frank Moloney, SDB

                -----Original Message-----
                From: Tobias Hägerland [mailto:tobias.hagerland@...]
                Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2003 4:17 AM
                To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: Re: [John_Lit] The Johannine Community


                John M. Noble wrote:

                > Raymond Brown's agenda seems to be to present the teaching about
                the
                > paraclete in 4G and 1J in the context of a community divided and in
                > the process of self destructing, thus bringing into question this
                > aspect which he claims gives a 'different tone from apostolic
                > Christianity'. I personally don't see how 1J could be used to help
                > interpret 4G; it seems to go the other way around. So when RB makes
                > statements like 'the use of the epistles as a correct guide to
                > interpreting the Gospel finally won for John a place in the canon
                of
                > the church', I believe that he is really questioning the canonicity
                > of 4G. Particularly when he claims that the beloved disciple wasn't
                > John at all and anyway the letter wasn't written by him but rather
                by
                > an unreliable community.

                Perhaps this summary of the late Fr Brown's theological 'agenda' may
                be derived from reading his 'Community of the Beloved Disciple' in
                isolation? I do not think it will fit into the broader picture that
                one gets from reading other books written by this scholar.

                First, as a loyal Roman Catholic, Brown would hardly have arrogated
                for himself the authority to redefine the canon of Scripture. In his
                commentaries on the Gospel and Epistles of John, Brown frequently
                discusses the enduring theological import of particular passages, and
                gives his views regarding to what extent the contents is binding on
                contemporary Catholics. Besides showing himself to be not only an
                academic exegete but also a sensitive theologian, Brown thus
                demonstrates his full acceptance of the canon as defined by the
                Church. However, he would probably have been reluctant to treat any
                of the biblical books as canonical in and by itself. The canonical
                interpretation of a certain passage presupposes the entire canon.
                None of the different biblical books present a perfect theology in
                isolation, so each writing has to be 'balanced' by the other
                canonical writings. I think Brown would say that the Gospel according
                to John cannot function as a reliable norm for Christian faith and
                morals if it is not read as one of many voices in the canon. As far
                as I can remember, Brown spelled these things out quite clearly in
                his 'Introduction to the New Testament'.

                Second, Brown did not exactly depict the 'Johannine community' as
                self-destructing; rather, he thought that it had been incorporated
                and assimilated into the 'Great Church'. He may have held the view
                that the Johannine community could not survive as an isolated
                community, just as the Johannine literature had to be assumed into
                the larger biblical canon in order to retain enduring significance.
                But he certainly did not depict Johannine Christians as the bad guys.
                Brown, as I have understood him, was welcoming different 'tones' both
                in primitive and contemporary Christianity.

                Third, I doubt that Brown's reconstruction of the Johannine community
                (a reconstruction which I, incidentally, find quite removed from
                reality) was part of any 'agenda'. In his commentary on the Gospel,
                Brown still held to the traditional view which identified the Beloved
                Disciple as John, son of Zebedee. It was scholarly argument and
                hardly anything else that forced him to revise his opinion on this
                matter. To my mind, this sets an example for all of us who try to be
                honest scholars and truth-seekers.

                Tobias Hägerland, M.Th.
                Ph.D. Candidate
                Göteborg University
                Department of Religious Studies and Theology



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              • John M. Noble
                Hej, Tobias! Thanks for your mail. I admit I was being a little (only a little) provocative in the tone of the last paragraph; I was trying to see what sort of
                Message 7 of 10 , Sep 2, 2003
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                  Hej, Tobias!

                  Thanks for your mail. I admit I was being a little (only a little)
                  provocative in the tone of the last paragraph; I was trying to see
                  what sort of reaction there would be if I applied to RB's work the
                  sort of techniques he applied to holy scripture (namely, seeing
                  spooks under the carpet and agendas in places where there probably
                  aren't any). The reply was pretty much as I expected, but it was
                  quite satisfying to get it anyway.

                  You brought in an extra element; namely, the beliefs, loyalties and
                  sincerely held faith of RB. I had simply pointed to apparently
                  disparaging remarks he had made concerning 1J and 4G and suggested
                  that such a view essentially questioned whether the works were
                  canonical. I'll respond briefly to my views on RB's faith, but only
                  briefly, since I feel that it is off topic for this list.

                  >First, as a loyal Roman Catholic, Brown would hardly have arrogated
                  >for himself the authority to redefine the canon of Scripture. In his
                  >commentaries on the Gospel and Epistles of John, Brown frequently
                  >discusses the enduring theological import of particular passages, and
                  >gives his views regarding to what extent the contents is binding on
                  >contemporary Catholics. Besides showing himself to be not only an
                  >academic exegete but also a sensitive theologian, Brown thus
                  >demonstrates his full acceptance of the canon as defined by the
                  >Church.

                  I didn't get that impression from his work. He quotes that the church
                  teaches 'a qualified estimation of the gospels' (footnote on p.26 of
                  Community of Beloved Disciple' and then goes on to use this
                  qualification fairly liberally. I noted the 'nihil obstat' and
                  'imprimatur' labels inside the front cover and imagined that the
                  censors must have given approval through clenched teeth,
                  understanding that technically RB had not erred, but wondering if the
                  1964 Biblical Commission Instruction (which he quotes to show that he
                  really is such a good sensitive Catholic interpreter and teacher)
                  knew what they were letting themselves in for by permitting such
                  interpretational liberty.

                  In response to your question: no, my view does not come from reading
                  'Community' alone. It comes primarily from statements in his
                  commentary on 1J, one statement in particular.

                  Looking at 1J3v6, on sinless perfection, he says quite bluntly 'No
                  other NT author contradicts himself so sharply within such a short
                  span of writing.'

                  I personally would never claim that an NT author had contradicted
                  himself. Yes, anyone who makes such a statement does arrogate himself
                  above scripture in so doing. It's quite all right for an academic and
                  scholar to do this, but it is incompatible with a Christian
                  confession of faith, RC or otherwise.

                  He does go on to modify this initial blunt statement, but the
                  statement has already been clearly made. The author of the epistle is
                  referring to two different things. RB seems to be suggesting that the
                  two types of perfection discussed in 1 John are heretical and
                  orthodox; these are somehow supposed to represent heretical and
                  orthodox interpretations of 4G. I find this resolution deeply
                  unsatisfactory, since there is no evidence in the text to suggest
                  that the author believes that one of his two positions concerning
                  sinless perfection is wrong.

                  I personally would never presume to suggest that there is any
                  contradiction in the Holy Writ. If there appears to be one and I
                  can't resolve it, I simply take the view that my brain isn't big
                  enough and hopefully I'll be able to resolve it later.

                  At this point in particular, it is my sincerely held belief that to
                  reject the idea that both 1J1v8,9 and 1J3v6 are true in a believer's
                  life at one and the same time is to reject the heart and guts of the
                  Christian faith. That is my heartfelt belief about RB's faith; he has
                  rejected Christ and Him crucified. I base my conclusion entirely on
                  his own confession, the statement he made concerning 1J3v6. I didn't
                  want to mention this (because I prefer to avoid thinking about such
                  things and reaching such conclusions and anyway it is off the topic
                  for the list), but you forced it by mentioning that RB was a loyal
                  Roman Catholic, who wouldn't arrogate himself above scripture. Here
                  he has stated that scripture is self contradictory which very much is
                  arrogating himself above scripture. Much more importantly, he has
                  missed something utterly vital in the process of so doing.

                  I believe that Luther's lecture on Romans 7v14-25 lead to a good
                  understanding of the dichotomy found in 1J1v8,9 and 1J3v6.

                  >However, he would probably have been reluctant to treat any
                  >of the biblical books as canonical in and by itself. The canonical
                  >interpretation of a certain passage presupposes the entire canon.
                  >None of the different biblical books present a perfect theology in
                  >isolation, so each writing has to be 'balanced' by the other
                  >canonical writings. I think Brown would say that the Gospel according
                  >to John cannot function as a reliable norm for Christian faith and
                  >morals if it is not read as one of many voices in the canon. As far
                  >as I can remember, Brown spelled these things out quite clearly in
                  >his 'Introduction to the New Testament'.

                  A fine theoretical statement, if you take it to mean that one needs
                  the whole canon to understand the true meaning of any individual
                  part. I'm sure that many would agree with this statement of theory,
                  but would sharply differ on how to put it into practice, rendering
                  the statement vague and meaningless. Whatever he might have said to
                  clarify this in his 'Introduction to the New Testament', it seems
                  incompatible with his statement that scripture is self contradictory.

                  >Second, Brown did not exactly depict the 'Johannine community' as
                  >self-destructing; rather, he thought that it had been incorporated
                  >and assimilated into the 'Great Church'. He may have held the view
                  >that the Johannine community could not survive as an isolated
                  >community, just as the Johannine literature had to be assumed into
                  >the larger biblical canon in order to retain enduring significance.
                  >But he certainly did not depict Johannine Christians as the bad guys.
                  >Brown, as I have understood him, was welcoming different 'tones' both
                  >in primitive and contemporary Christianity.

                  OK ... If these are the good guys, then I certainly wouldn't like to
                  meet the bad guys!!!! I already quoted from his book in previous
                  submission statements that give this impression and left them looking
                  pretty bad, at least to me.

                  >Third, I doubt that Brown's reconstruction of the Johannine community
                  >(a reconstruction which I, incidentally, find quite removed from
                  >reality) was part of any 'agenda'. In his commentary on the Gospel,
                  >Brown still held to the traditional view which identified the Beloved
                  >Disciple as John, son of Zebedee. It was scholarly argument and
                  >hardly anything else that forced him to revise his opinion on this
                  >matter. To my mind, this sets an example for all of us who try to be
                  >honest scholars and truth-seekers.

                  With reference to your second point, the reasons he gives for placing
                  the beloved disciple as someone different from the big three are
                  hardly complimentary! either for the beloved disciple, or for the big
                  three, or for the community.

                  Whether there is an intentional 'agenda' or not, the community
                  certainly enables him to bypass the clear and plain resolution of the
                  dichotomy between 1J1v8,9 and 1J3v6 and give a somewhat strained
                  explanation of something that is intended to apply to each and every
                  individual believer in terms of two points of view within the
                  community, thus conveniently removing the Christian content of the
                  letter.

                  John M. Noble

                  >
                  >Tobias Hägerland, M.Th.
                  >Ph.D. Candidate
                  >Göteborg University
                  >Department of Religious Studies and Theology
                • Tobias Hägerland
                  John M. Noble, You obviously posted your message on this list before we had our off- list e-mail exchange on this topic. I think that the latter sorted some
                  Message 8 of 10 , Sep 8, 2003
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                    John M. Noble,

                    You obviously posted your message on this list before we had our off-
                    list e-mail exchange on this topic. I think that the latter sorted
                    some things out, and I feel that the discussion is rapidly moving
                    away from matters exegetical, so I will not continue the debate here.

                    One final comment though: sometimes provoking language can be quite
                    healthy and inspiring, but you should be careful not to go too far in
                    that direction. And to suggest that someone has 'rejected Christ' is,
                    to my mind, an accusation too serious to be launched on such shaky
                    foundations.

                    Respectfully,
                    Tobias Hägerland, M.Th.
                    Ph.D. Candidate
                    Göteborg University
                    Department of Religious Studies and Theology
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