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Re: [John_Lit] The Johannine Community

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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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