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Re: [John_Lit] The Authority of J's Mother

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  • frideslameris
    Hi Mike, ... From: Mike Grondin To: Sent: Friday, January 02, 2004 7:01 AM Subject: [John_Lit]
    Message 1 of 4 , Jan 3, 2004
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      Hi Mike,


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Mike Grondin <mwgrondin@...>
      To: <johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Friday, January 02, 2004 7:01 AM
      Subject: [John_Lit] The Authority of J's Mother


      --- Frides Laméris wrote:
      >> I think the story of Jn 2:1-11 is an abreviated or condensed
      >> version of things that have significance on many levels, but have
      > >their solid base in the facts of history.

      >Thanks, Frides, for giving me an opportunity to add a fourth item to
      >he original list of three prima facie indicators that the Cana
      >story is not to be taken literally in the main.

      You please inform me also about the first three indicators?
      Thanks!

      Mike
      >I'm not denying that
      >there may have been some historical incident serving as underpinning
      >to the story, but the "solid base" you speak of seems to me to be
      >extraordinarily slim - either because a lot of factual detail has
      >been left out by the author, or because there simply wasn't any
      >other factual basis to the story.

      I choose for the 'lot of factual detail having been left out', which would
      apply for sure to a greater part of the gospel stories. (By the way, I
      graduated from University writing on Jn 2:13-22 and synoptic parr., where
      matters of historical reconstruction have had central attention in recent
      years).

      >That there may have been a wedding
      >in Cana attended by Jesus and his disciples seems plausible enough,
      >but almost nothing else rings true to my ear. Here I concentrate on
      >what would have been the fourth item on my original list, had I
      >thought of it at the time - the instructions of J's mother to the
      >servants.

      When you say: "Almost nothing rings true in this story" I can
      understand your problem.

      I think a 'reconstructional try' should still be done first, before assuming
      the evangelist has phantasised or created the biggest part of the
      story himself.

      Today there are many spiritual masters around and a lot of stories
      about their lives and incidents are being writen up, including miracles.
      Their students (followers) are quite able to give good reports
      (though maybe still unbelievable to many outsiders).

      Here is the title of such a book:

      Don Mario Mazzoleni: A catholic priest meets Sai Baba, Leela Press Inc,
      Faber, Virginia, USA, 1993 (I have a dutch translation copy).
      Here we have a devotional type of person, who also exercises
      his critical abilities.

      These types of books offer a lot of comparison between Indian
      Masters and Jesus. It will open up possibilities for modern theological
      discussions which are not (mainly) done from studyrooms!

      .
      Concerning Mary's instructions to Jesus (Jn 2:5):

      I suggest an (imagined) solution:

      In a family who is on friendly terms or has close ties to Jesus'
      family (there is no big distance between Nazareth and Cana),
      a marriage happens. Now Mary, having been asked to give a
      hand with the preparations, goes a little earlier to the feast
      than her son Jesus.

      Like the other family members Jesus is also invited with the group
      of followers which he has gathered around him thusfar. So at
      the wedding they seem to be aware they have invited a spiritual teacher
      ('would be messiah?) with some following to their feast!

      (The most remarkable thing of the whole story is of course
      that Jesus ( a spiritual teacher with a message) actually
      CAME to the marriage)! He must have forseen some spiritual
      things happening there (also).

      >How is it that J'is mother would have been in a position to order
      >the servants to "Do what he tells you"? What authority does she have
      >in this setting?

      >The intro in 2.1-2 doesn't help much. In 2.1, we're
      >simply told that she was there. In 2.2, we read that both Jesus and
      >his disciples were invited. Or does that KAI mean that they were
      >ALSO invited (implying that his mother was invited as well), as some
      >translations have it? The problem with the latter reading is that
      >it implies that his mother had no authority over the servants.

      Why? When KAI means also, and I agree with that, why should that
      cause an 'authority problem' for Mary?

      When she is a close ally to that family and her son is (also) invited to
      the marriage, being a rising spiritual teacher, and the consciousness
      and authority of the master attending is already in the air, a strong
      clear lady, who has noticed a supply problem and who knows
      what kind of son she has, must be able to have some command over
      helpers (servants) at the feast, etc.

      Seems no big thing to me!

      >So is it part of the "solid base" of this story that she was an integral
      >part of the wedding, rather than an invitee?

      You seem to create a dichtomy between 'integral part..' and 'invitee'?

      I thinks she is as invitee and an 'integral part' of the feast , and thus
      an
      important aspect of the 'solid base'.

      >Was she perhaps the mother of the bride or groom? So that this would be
      >the marriage of one of J's siblings - so that the "six stone waterpots"
      >might represent his brothers and sisters - as suggested, perhaps, by the
      >sudden appearance of his brothers "after this" in 2.12?

      >I'm open to this interpretation, but it seems unlikely that the author
      >would have left out this important detail simply for the sake of making
      >the story shorter (how many words would it have taken, after all,
      >to say that it was, e.g., his sister's wedding?)

      Because of the things said above the need for this kind of interpretation
      does not arise in my text universe.

      I hope my interpretational universe makes (some) sense to you.

      Best wishes

      Frides
    • Mike Grondin
      ... The first three prima facie indicators that the Cana story is not to be taken literally in the main are contained in:
      Message 2 of 4 , Jan 3, 2004
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        --- Frides Lameris wrote:
        > You please inform me also about the first three indicators?

        The first three "prima facie indicators that the Cana story is not
        to be taken literally in the main" are contained in:
        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/johannine_literature/message/3913

        > When you say: "Almost nothing rings true in this story" I can
        > understand your problem.
        >
        > I think a 'reconstructional try' should still be done first,
        > before assuming the evangelist has phantasised or created the
        > biggest part of the story himself.

        If you intended this statement to be directed at the members in
        general, I think I can safely say that almost nobody who takes the
        Cana story metaphorically has ASSUMED that to be so. Rather, that's
        a CONCLUSION that they've drawn from the nature of the elements of
        the story. I don't think, however, that they've engaged in
        "reconstruction tries" of the type you seem to have in mind - nor,
        IMO, should they. For if by "reconstructional try" you mean
        imagining all kinds of possibilities that could make the story look
        like a literal report of events, then I'd have to disagree that it
        should be done first - or at all. The problem with this innocent-
        sounding concept is that there are no apparent constraints on such
        an effort, hence it's logically guaranteed that it will "succeed"
        in every case, and thus that every story in the bible will have at
        least one literal "reconstruction". As a result, a reconstructionist
        will never conclude that a story wasn't intended as literal history.
        As evidence, I submit your own attempt at reconstruction below:

        > Concerning Mary's instructions to Jesus (Jn 2:5):
        >
        > I suggest an (imagined) solution:
        >
        > In a family who is on friendly terms or has close ties to Jesus'
        > family (there is no big distance between Nazareth and Cana),
        > a marriage happens. Now Mary, having been asked to give a
        > hand with the preparations, goes a little earlier to the feast
        > than her son Jesus.

        Where is there any indication in the text that J's mother was "asked
        to give a hand with the preparations"? Evidently, from the wording
        "the mother of Jesus was there", you infer that she arrived BEFORE
        he did - in fact, that she arrived before ANY of the other guests.
        Further, you infer that *the reason* she arrived early was that she
        had to be there early to help with the preparations. Well, that's
        possible of course, but the textual basis seems slim at best.

        > Like the other family members Jesus is also invited with the group
        > of followers which he has gathered around him thusfar. So at
        > the wedding they seem to be aware they have invited a spiritual
        > teacher ('would be messiah?) with some following to their feast!

        OK, that makes sense.

        > (The most remarkable thing of the whole story is of course
        > that Jesus ( a spiritual teacher with a message) actually
        > CAME to the marriage)! He must have forseen some spiritual
        > things happening there (also).

        Since this conclusion is inconsistent with the text - wherein J's
        words to his mother indicate that he did NOT foresee anything
        happening there - it's fortunate that it's unnecessary for your case.

        > When she is a close ally to that family and her son is (also)
        > invited to the marriage, being a rising spiritual teacher, and
        > the consciousness and authority of the master attending is
        > already in the air, a strong clear lady, who has noticed a supply
        > problem and who knows what kind of son she has, must be able to
        > have some command over helpers (servants) at the feast, etc.

        You seem to be adding a second element to your argument here ("must
        be able to" indeed!) Your first argument was that her supposedly
        getting to the wedding before her son implied that she had a role
        in preparing for it - hence her authority. Here you argue that her
        authority ALSO came from the fact that she was the mother of a
        prominent guest. But this second element has no teeth to it. Simply
        being the mother of a prominent guest didn't give one authority over
        the servants in someone else's house, as far as I know. So the
        element of authority in your scenario derives entirely from the
        several inferences you draw from 2.1-2, as noted earlier.

        Regards,
        Mike Grondin
        Mt. Clemens, MI
      • frideslameris
        Hi Mike, Thanks greatly for your reply. ... From: Mike Grondin To: Sent: Sunday, January 04,
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 4, 2004
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          Hi Mike,

          Thanks greatly for your reply.


          ----- Original Message -----
          From: Mike Grondin <mwgrondin@...>
          To: <johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Sunday, January 04, 2004 8:52 AM
          Subject: Re: [John_Lit] The Authority of J's Mother


          > --- Frides Lameris wrote:
          > > You please inform me also about the first three indicators?
          >
          > The first three "prima facie indicators that the Cana story is not
          > to be taken literally in the main" are contained in:
          > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/johannine_literature/message/3913

          Thanks. I have just read it and I'l see what I can do with it.
          >
          > > When you say: "Almost nothing rings true in this story" I can
          > > understand your problem.
          > >
          > > I think a 'reconstructional try' should still be done first,
          > > before assuming the evangelist has phantasised or created the
          > > biggest part of the story himself.
          >
          > If you intended this statement to be directed at the members in
          > general, I think I can safely say that almost nobody who takes the
          > Cana story metaphorically has ASSUMED that to be so.

          I have become (more) aware now, this is certainly NOT the passage which
          is most fit or easy for such a reconstructional try. Not because I
          consider the details of the story to be unhistorical, but more out
          of the nature and circumstances of this particular event.

          >Rather, that's
          > a CONCLUSION that they've drawn from the nature of the elements of
          > the story.

          So I can at least partially agree. It probably stretches the mind or
          imagination
          too much for most scientists?

          >I don't think, however, that they've engaged in
          > "reconstruction tries" of the type you seem to have in mind - nor,
          > IMO, should they. For if by "reconstructional try" you mean
          > imagining all kinds of possibilities that could make the story look
          > like a literal report of events, then I'd have to disagree that it
          > should be done first - or at all.

          It's my personal joy to work out some rationale for this kind of
          approach. I am however, conceded, only in the beginning stage.

          >The problem with this innocent-
          > sounding concept is that there are no apparent constraints on such
          > an effort, hence it's logically guaranteed that it will "succeed"
          > in every case, and thus that every story in the bible will have at
          > least one literal "reconstruction". As a result, a reconstructionist
          > will never conclude that a story wasn't intended as literal history.

          >no appararent constraints ...will 'succeed' in every case ..

          This can' t be true. Probability, logic, sound imagination, I think
          they all have already a place in gospel interpretation. I don't consider
          myself at all a kind of 'exclusive literalist'.

          But once more: I agree, that the reading of John 2:1-11 causes on
          the intellectual level almost unsurmountable problems to many who
          want to scrutiny that story intellectually.

          So maybe the story is or functions like a big KOAN (a term from Zen) which
          is a device that tries to help us out of our intellect in order to see the
          Light!

          John 2:1-11 can be viewed as a certain kind of 'literary history',
          the facts formulated within a literary framework. OK

          I like Mark Stibbes try to formulate a narrative history approach to this
          gospel. He points out that often the history part of the stories is
          neglected or too quickly dismissed.

          >As evidence, I submit your own attempt at reconstruction below:
          >
          > > Concerning Mary's instructions to Jesus (Jn 2:5):
          > >
          > > I suggest an (imagined) solution:
          > >
          > > In a family who is on friendly terms or has close ties to Jesus'
          > > family (there is no big distance between Nazareth and Cana),
          > > a marriage happens. Now Mary, having been asked to give a
          > > hand with the preparations, goes a little earlier to the feast
          > > than her son Jesus.
          >

          > Where is there any indication in the text that J's mother was "asked
          > to give a hand with the preparations"? Evidently, from the wording
          > "the mother of Jesus was there", you infer that she arrived BEFORE
          > he did - in fact, that she arrived before ANY of the other guests.

          I do infer from the text that she arrived before Jesus. I do not at all
          infer that she arrived before ANY other of the guests.

          In the text itself there is of course no direct indication of 'the
          helping a hand with the preparations'. I do not deny the (partly)
          speculative
          nature of reconstructional tries, and their role in exegesis may be
          a limited one.

          I DO believe that the reason why John mentions Mary's presence
          already in 2:1b is that , true to history(also), she was there before Jesus
          (the reason which is not revealed by John).

          > Further, you infer that *the reason* she arrived early was that she
          > had to be there early to help with the preparations. Well, that's
          > possible of course, but the textual basis seems slim at best.

          Right. I just gave an illustration of the fact that your 'authority
          problem' can be viewed or solved from some angles. Is not that
          exactly what science is doing all the time, creating or trying out
          many interpretational views or theories to explain a phenomenon!?
          >
          > > Like the other family members Jesus is also invited with the group
          > > of followers which he has gathered around him thusfar. So at
          > > the wedding they seem to be aware they have invited a spiritual
          > > teacher ('would be messiah?) with some following to their feast!
          >
          > OK, that makes sense.
          >
          > > (The most remarkable thing of the whole story is of course
          > > that Jesus ( a spiritual teacher with a message) actually
          > > CAME to the marriage)! He must have foreseen some spiritual
          > > things happening there (also).
          >
          > Since this conclusion is inconsistent with the text - wherein J's
          > words to his mother indicate that he did NOT foresee anything
          > happening there - it's fortunate that it's unnecessary for your case.

          OK.

          It can' t be seen directly from the text. But from these few words
          exchanged by Mary and her son I can' t make the conclusion that
          Jesus cannot have had a paranormal foreseeing ability what was going
          to happen at that feast! I think he 'saw' a lot of things in advance!

          The special status of Jesus's mind or consciousness
          is anyway the sole clue to the whole of gospel interpretation.
          For that we need a lot of spiritual consciousness ('faith') and
          our intellect may have a very limited role in that!

          >
          > > When she is a close ally to that family and her son is (also)
          > > invited to the marriage, being a rising spiritual teacher, and
          > > the consciousness and authority of the master attending is
          > > already in the air, a strong clear lady, who has noticed a supply
          > > problem and who knows what kind of son she has, must be able to
          > > have some command over helpers (servants) at the feast, etc.
          >
          > You seem to be adding a second element to your argument here ("must
          > be able to" indeed!) Your first argument was that her supposedly
          > getting to the wedding before her son implied that she had a role
          > in preparing for it - hence her authority. Here you argue that her
          > authority ALSO came from the fact that she was the mother of a
          > prominent guest. But this second element has no teeth to it.

          >Simply being the mother of a prominent guest didn't give one authority
          >over the servants in someone else's house, as far as I know. So the
          > element of authority in your scenario derives entirely from the
          > several inferences you draw from 2.1-2, as noted earlier.

          Being able to command in this case derives of course mainly from
          the fact that she knows what her son is able to. He is not 'just
          a prominent guest', he is a Master of Life (spiritual teacher) and a
          master of circumstances (see all of the gospel stories).

          So, I am looking forward to hear a point of you in the story
          which is supposed to be absolutely unhistorical. When we read
          Robinsons Priority of John it seems very difficult to catch the
          fourth evangelist in 'flagrante delicto'.

          I think the modern distinction or dichotomy
          between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of Faith (or the
          spiritual Jesus) is just an illusion. The historical facts are
          presented in a certain spiritual light, that's true!
          Every body is free to 'denounce' John as a 'spiritual historian',
          unwanted in the world of science where up till today a different paradigma
          (or ideology) is reigning.

          My feeling is much reflected by Robinson who after a thorough scrutiny
          of this gospel, suggests:

          'He, John, I believe, got it right, both theologically AND historically'.

          Best wishes

          Frides
        • Mike Grondin
          ... I don t doubt that, since your general remarks give testimony to it, but I think you re of two minds, for when one examines the details of your
          Message 4 of 4 , Jan 5, 2004
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            --- with respect to "reconstructional tries" frides lameris wrote:
            > ... no appararent constraints ...will 'succeed' in every case ..
            >
            > This can't be true. Probability, logic, sound imagination, I think
            > they all have already a place in gospel interpretation. I don't
            > consider myself at all a kind of 'exclusive literalist'.

            I don't doubt that, since your general remarks give testimony to it,
            but I think you're of two minds, for when one examines the details
            of your reconstruction, they turn out to be (IMO) largely
            uncontrolled by the textual evidence of the story in question.
            Instead, all sorts of other considerations are brought in - not only
            from other parts of GJn, but from other NT materials, from general
            faith considerations, etc. Some of these imaginary details are
            consistent with the story, but others are not. If your methodology
            is, as you say, subject to "probability, logic, sound imagination",
            then surely the text itself, and its probable historical mileau,
            should be used to constrain the imagination. In some cases in your
            first note and again below, you seem not to have followed this rule.

            > I do infer from the text that [J's mother] arrived before Jesus.
            > I do not at all infer that she arrived before ANY other of the
            > guests.

            A minor point, but if she had been given a hand in pre-parations,
            as you suggest, she would have had to have been, no?

            > .. from these few words exchanged by Mary and her son I can't make
            > the conclusion that Jesus cannot have had a paranormal foreseeing
            > ability what was going to happen at that feast! I think he 'saw'
            > a lot of things in advance!

            But this is reading your personal beliefs into the story. In the
            story, Jesus speaks to his mother the equivalent of our "What have
            you got against me?" (that you would suggest that I do something
            here and now about the lack of wine). "My hour has not yet come."
            Prima facie, these words only make sense if we suppose that Jesus
            DIDN'T foresee what his mother would ask of him. So the author -
            inconsistent as may seem - presents Jesus as not having foreseen
            the situation. This prima facie inconsistency with the author's
            general views (as we know them to be from other parts of the text)
            may itself be taken to be an indicator that the Cana story had a
            metaphorical function in the author's mind, but what we cannot do
            is to ignore the clear implications of elements within the story in
            the interest of harmonizing it with our own beliefs about Jesus. (I
            think there are ways of resolving this anomaly within the author's
            presentation, but a valid resolution requires a text/author focus,
            not allowing ourselves to bring in just any of our religious beliefs
            willy-nilly as we please.)

            > The special status of Jesus's mind or consciousness
            > is anyway the sole clue to the whole of gospel interpretation.
            > For that we need a lot of spiritual consciousness ('faith') and
            > our intellect may have a very limited role in that!

            I don't agree with your first statement, so I don't agree with the
            second, either. I'm sure you believe that the evangelists had some
            special insight into J's mind or consciousness, but how is it then
            that GJn presents a very different self-consciousness than that of
            the Synoptics? My own answer to this question would be that the
            evangelists projected onto Jesus their own diverse ideas of his
            self-consciousness, and that those ideas derived from their faith
            that Jesus was something other than "merely" an extraordinary human
            being. With respect to GJn in particular, I would say that its very
            raison d'etre was to present a Christ who - in clear contrast to
            the Synoptics - talked and acted at all times as if he not only
            were, but knew he were, a divine being essentially alien to the
            world, only temporarily inhabiting the body of Jesus of Nazareth.
            (Unfortunately for John, this corrective to the Synoptics probably
            encouraged the docetism about which he complained in letter.) This
            is, however, a side issue, so we return now to our regularly
            scheduled program:

            > Being able to command in this case derives of course mainly from
            > the fact that she knows what her son is able to. He is not 'just
            > a prominent guest', he is a Master of Life (spiritual teacher) and
            > a master of circumstances (see all of the gospel stories).

            Your own words ("see all of the gospel stories") demonstrate a
            violation of the reconstructional norms mentioned earlier. If
            the "reconstruction" is to be considered valid, it has to restrict
            itself to the text in question and to historical probabilities.
            "Being able to command in this case" doesn't AT ALL derive from
            what she might have believed her son to be able to do. It's a
            question of whom the servants would have obeyed - and they did not
            obey just anybody who thought themselves (or their sons) important.
            The servants would presumably have obeyed only their master, members
            of the immediate family, and others whom the master designated. If
            it's true that J's mother was designated to help with the wedding,
            then she would have derived her authority from that fact - and from
            nothing else.

            > So, I am looking forward to hear a point of you in the story
            > which is supposed to be absolutely unhistorical. When we read
            > Robinsons Priority of John it seems very difficult to catch the
            > fourth evangelist in 'flagrante delicto'.

            From what I've read about Robinson's views, he seems to have no
            interest in catching historical anomalies. My own view - with which
            I'm sure you'll disagree - is that the literal changing of water
            into wine is absolutely unhistorical. Furthermore, I don't believe
            that the author intended it to be taken literally.

            > I think the modern distinction or dichotomy
            > between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of Faith (or the
            > spiritual Jesus) is just an illusion. The historical facts are
            > presented in a certain spiritual light, that's true!

            Oh, I don't think it's an illusion that the Jesus of Faith has
            "Lord of Lords and King of Kings" emblazoned on his thigh (see Rev),
            whereas the Jesus of history didn't, but I'm interested to know how
            this "spiritual light" you speak of might be manifest if it doesn't
            amount to adding to or altering the facts in some way. Is it like
            tacking on a suggested interpretation to a parable, such as was
            done in some cases in the Synoptics? If so, where else do you see
            it at work in a way that doesn't add to or alter the facts?

            > Every body is free to 'denounce' John as a 'spiritual historian',
            > unwanted in the world of science where up till today a different
            > paradigma (or ideology) is reigning.

            John's "history" may be no worse than others of the time, but I
            don't think you would really trust a biography of FDR, say, that
            attributed to him the divine characteristics, legendary stories,
            and metaphorical contrivances present in ancient "biographies" of
            important personages. Are you really suggesting a return to that
            ancient paradigm of historiography?

            > My feeling is much reflected by Robinson who after a thorough
            > scrutiny of this gospel, suggests:
            >
            > 'He, John, I believe, got it right, both theologically AND
            > historically'.

            I haven't read Robinson, but what's been said here, his chief
            interest seems to lie in propping up the supports of Christianity.
            Not exactly an impartial authority. Especially not if he takes the
            Cana story to be an example of John "getting it right historically".

            Regards,
            Mike Grondin
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