Re: Allegorical interpretation
- --- Bob wrote to Matt E.:
> The point is ... whether the author of John, in the particularFrom my point of view, FWIW:
> passage you are trying to interpret, INTENDED to use the literary
> device you are claiming that he used. And also, on the assumption
> that he wanted those reading or hearing what he wrote to
> understand his intended meaning, what clues did he provide in the
> text to help the reader/hearer understand the meaning he intended
> to convey?
1. GJn uses OINOS (wine) only in connection with the Cana miracle.
Furthermore, the banquet-master refers to the wine produced by Jesus
as "the good wine" - in evident contrast to the wine served earlier
at the wedding-banquet (and which they've now run out of). This is
referred to as the beginning of J's signs, but an apparently
unplanned one, since he protests that "My hour is not yet come".
Now one might think from this story alone that "my hour" refers to
his public life in general, but later in GJn the locution "my hour"
is used to refer to the passion. The author might not be consistent,
or maybe, as you suggest, parts were written by various authors.
What we do know, however, is that just prior to saying "It is
finished", J is given some vinegar (OXOS) or "sour wine". So we
have an apparently-intentional contrast here between the good wine
_he gives them_ at the beginning of "my hour" and the sour wine
_they give him_ at the end of it.
2. The treatment of J's mother: Some years ago, I argued that J's
mother could not have been intended to be treated disrespectfully
in Jn 2:4 because there was no evidence elsewhere in GJn that the
author held her in low esteem. Yet the locution "What is there
between us?" in its various usages throughout the OT and NT means
something like "What do you have against me?" In Mark, for example,
some demons use the same locution in asking Jesus "What do you have
against us?" So why is Jesus made to ask this of his mother at 2:4?
Evidently, because she has tempted him to do something not in the
plan. To tempt the Lord is a serious thing, mind you, so why would
the author of this passage portray J's mother as tempting him? It
doesn't seem that he needed to. Even assuming (as I do) that this
story was new with GJn, and so the author had to explain its absence
from the tradition in some way, yet this seems a rather unlikely way
to do so. An allegorical interpretation - in which "the mother of
Jesus" in this story represents something or someone other than
herself - holds promise of resolving that difficulty. (To which
might be added that it's not unheard of for "Mary" or "the Virgin"
to have been used in symbolic ways. If the BD was symbolic, as some
commentators hold, then proclaiming him to be the "son" of "the
mother of Jesus" suggests that the latter phrase may have been
being used symbolically in GJn as well.)
3. Unexplained specificity: My intuition is that when specific
numbers (as well as names) were used for no apparent reason, there
was usually a reason. In the present case, the phrase "on the third
day" of 2:1 doesn't connect up with the series of days that precede
it, and so the question arises why the author is so specific about
it. One possibility is that the preceding two days feature the call
of the first five disciples, and so maybe the third day represented
the call of six others. But in that case, the Cana story is
allegory. On the other hand, if the intention was to specify an
interval of three days AFTER the call of the five disciples, then
the question is why the author would specify a three-day interval
when he knew full well that the phrase "on the third day" would
invoke in his readers' minds the day of the resurrection? The
likelihood that that time-period and that phrase to denote it
was the result of random authorial decision is unbelievably remote.
On the third day was a wedding - a celebration - a banquet.
Of course there was! No accidental coincidence there.
- fmmccoy wrote:
> Further, this phrase immediately follows this part of Gen 22:4 quoted byOh come on, Frank. It is petitio principii to assume, as you do, that what
> So, it is Philo's interpretation of something in this quote.
> Further, it cannot be his interpretation of the phrase, "at the place
> (TOPON) which God had told him of"--for Philo interpreted this place to be
> the Logos. See Som i (65-66), "'He came to the place (TOPON) of which God
> had told him; and lifting up his eyes he saw the place (TOPON) from afar.'
> Tell me, pray, did he who had come to the place see it from afar? Nay, it
> would seem that one and the same word is used of two different things: one
> of these is a divine Logos, the other God Who was before the Logos. One who
> has come from abroad under Sophia's guidance arrives at the former place,
> thus attaining in the divine Logos the sum and consummation of service."
Philo was allegedly up to in his use of (a somewhat different) portion of Gen.
22:4 in On Dreams is the key to understanding what he was up to when he uses Gen
22:4 in Migration or that the key to the terms he uses Migration is to be found
in their use in On Dreams. This never allows for variance in Philo. More
importantly, it takes no account of how the Rabbinic technique Philo employs in
both texts -- midrashic appeal to a biblical text as a warrant for some truth he
has derived from elsewhere -- was never employed as you think it was, with there
meaning that was drawn by a particular Rabbi from one biblical text always being
the same one he drew from that same text when employed within a different
context or argument. Besides that, was not On Dreams written **after**
Migration? Why do you expect that the meaning that Philo draws in On Dreams from
a different portion of Gen 22:4 than is drawn upon in Migrations, to support a
point that is entirely different from the one he is trying to make in Migration
with the Genesis quotation, is the meaning that the terms of that quote have in
Have you actually looked at what the purpose of Migration is? Of On Dreams?
> By elimination, then, Philo's comment, "having passed the greater number ofUm, no it doesn't. It has to do with the Platonic idea of distinctions between
> the divisions of time and already quitting them for the the existence that
> is timeless (which means, "having passed the first two of the three
> divisions of time (i.e., the past and the present) and entering into the
> third division of the future that merges into timeless eternity")"
appearance and reality, and how the true seeker of wisdom will not allow himself
to be guided by appearance, rather than chronological divisions of past present
> isSee above. And also -- to interpret it this way makes nonsense of the appeal to
> his.interpretation of this phrase, "TH hMERA TH TRITH". Hence, in the
> context of Mig (139), Philo allegorically interprets this phrase to mean "on
> the third "day" of the future"
the biblical text and the interpretation he places upon it and of the larger
context preceding 139 which is discussing ethics.
>Sorry, but this is a shifting of the burden of proof. So I won't answer.
> >what on earth makes you think that John's readers, never mind
> > were familiar with The Migrations of Abraham?
> What makes you think they weren't familiar with On the Migration of Abraham?
> Doesn't there appear to be something anomalous about (5)? Why call it theIt's an idiom, as Barret and others note..
> third day when there already has been a third day?
But knowing that yo won't trust me on what I say above, let me suggest that you
run your interpretation of Migrations 139 by David Satran, at the Department of
Comparative Religion at Hebrew University? He is the fellow who has been
commissioned by the editorial board of the Brill Philo of Alexandria Commentary
Series (see http://www.nd.edu/~philojud/38.htm) to write the commentary on
I'd be curious to know not only if he thinks your interpretation of the
expression in question is correct, but whether he agrees with you that at Jn 2
John was drawing upon a(n alleged) meaning of TH hHMERAS TH TRITHS that
**only** Philo gave to it.
He may be contacted at: satran@...
Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.)
1500 W. Pratt Blvd. #1
Chicago, IL 60626