Re: [John_Lit] The Authority of J's Mother
- Hi Mike,
Thanks greatly for your reply.
----- Original Message -----
From: Mike Grondin <mwgrondin@...>
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:
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.
> 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
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
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)
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.
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'.
- --- with respect to "reconstructional tries" frides lameris wrote:
> ... no appararent constraints ...will 'succeed' in every case ..I don't doubt that, since your general remarks give testimony to it,
> 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 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.A minor point, but if she had been given a hand in pre-parations,
> I do not at all infer that she arrived before ANY other of the
as you suggest, she would have had to have been, no?
> .. from these few words exchanged by Mary and her son I can't makeBut this is reading your personal beliefs into the story. In the
> 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!
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 consciousnessI don't agree with your first statement, so I don't agree with the
> 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!
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
> Being able to command in this case derives of course mainly fromYour own words ("see all of the gospel stories") demonstrate a
> 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).
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
> So, I am looking forward to hear a point of you in the storyFrom what I've read about Robinson's views, he seems to have no
> 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'.
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 dichotomyOh, I don't think it's an illusion that the Jesus of Faith has
> 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!
"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',John's "history" may be no worse than others of the time, but I
> unwanted in the world of science where up till today a different
> paradigma (or ideology) is reigning.
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 thoroughI haven't read Robinson, but what's been said here, his chief
> scrutiny of this gospel, suggests:
> 'He, John, I believe, got it right, both theologically AND
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".