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[John_Lit] Re: John and the Infancy Gospels

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  • Joseph Codsi
    Matthew Estrada wrote on February 21, 2004:
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 22, 2004
      Matthew Estrada wrote on February 21, 2004:

      <Your "example" does not take into account the literary technique of irony
      that John uses throughout his gospel. John's gospel is an artistic piece of
      literature. As such, it would not follow the rules of your example of
      everyday conversation.>

      If I understand you correctly, you see in John a great artist, who is guided
      by a specific logic of his own. The literary technique of irony is part of
      his artistic approach. On the other hand, I see in John a great theologian
      who is not contemptuous of common sense. If I may take an analogy that can
      illustrate our differences, I would say this: According to my ordinary logic
      1+1=2 in all cases. But according to your artistic logic 1+1=X (where X is
      something that can vary from artist to artist).
      I am sorry if my insistence on "elementary logic" and "common sense" upsets
      your artistic sensitivity. But if we cannot agree on the most elementary
      things, how can we have meaningful discussions? Gospel scholarship is still
      to a great extent speculative. We desperately need the rigor of scientific
      research and the invention of a methodological approach to the study of our
      sacred texts. In this regard, I think we must learn from all the human
      sciences instead of hiding in our ivory towers. I know this can be difficult
      at times. But this is the narrow path that can lead to a better
      understanding of the gospels.
      Instead of fighting one another, let us work together and let us begin by
      agreeing on the importance of logic in the field of scientific research. I
      have no quarrel with art. What I cannot admit is the claim that art and
      science are one and the same. It is OK to express very subjective views in
      art. Science is a constant effort to reach a minimum of objectivity.
      * * *
      STEP 3
      Let me go now to the third step.
      In your post of February 19, you wrote:

      <Third, in Jn 7:52 John has "the Jews" state to Nicodemus: "Are you from
      Galilee, too. Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come
      out of Galilee." What do you think more likely? That John is actually
      showing "the Jews" to be correct in their argument against Jesus? Or, that
      John is using irony, once again, showing "the Jews" to be mistaken in this
      assumption of theirs that Jesus was from Galilee?>

      I think that John agrees with the Pharisees when they say to Nicodemus,
      "Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of
      Galilee." Reference is made here to the scriptural evidence. This argument
      means that the scripture does not say anywhere that the Messiah will come
      out of Galilee. This statement is the negative counterpart of the first
      statement, "Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from
      David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?" (John 7:42)
      Neither John nor the Pharisees are trying to change the scriptures. The
      argument here is not about the scriptures, but about Jesus. Is he the
      fulfillment of the messianic prophecies or not? The Jewish theologians of
      the time refused to recognize in him the Messiah, because his case did not
      correspond to the requirements of the scriptures, as they understood them.
      What is amazing here is that John would not contradict the common opinion
      concerning Jesus, namely that he is from Nazareth in Galilee, not from
      Bethlehem in Judah. He does not disagree with the common knowledge on this
      point. The disagreement is not about facts, but about theology. John
      maintains that Jesus is the Prophet and the Messiah in spite of the fact
      that he does not correspond to the material specifications found in verse
      42, Micah 5:2, or Matthew 2:6. In this regard, John's theology is radically
      different from Matthew's and Luke's.
      At an early stage in the post-Easter history of the Christian movement, the
      believers were confronted with objections, which attacked the eligibility of
      Jesus to the post of Messiah. One way to overcome this difficulty was to
      adjust the historical facts so that they would conform to the requirements
      of certain scriptures. This is what the infancy gospels did. They invented
      pious legends, which bridged the gap between history and theology. But there
      is also another way to overcome the objection. Instead of changing the
      historical facts, one could accept them as they are and elaborate a theology
      that proves that Jesus is the Messiah in spite of the fact that he was from
      Nazareth and had no relation to David. John has chosen this second approach.
      In this regard, John is very modern indeed. Instead of falsifying the
      evidence, he has the courage to take it into account in his theological

      STEP 4
      You wrote:
      <Fourth, in my opinion, the reason why John does not outright state that
      Jesus was born in Bethlehem was not because he did not know of this
      tradition nor because he did not agree with this tradition. Rather, he was
      showing Moses to be a type of Jesus, and thus showing Jesus to be the new
      but greater Moses as foretold in Deut 18:18.>

      You are correct to say that John portrays Jesus as the prophet foretold in
      Deut. 18:18. Of the two traditions that existed in those days, John avoids
      the first one, which portrays the Messiah as a second David. He favors the
      second tradition, which portrays the Messiah as a second Moses. The reason
      for this choice is dictated by the fact that Jesus was not of the house of
      David and was not born in Bethlehem, the village of David. For the
      theologian John, Moses was the figure of the Christian Messiah, not David.
      GMatthiew, GLuke and Acts adopt a different theology.
      What I am saying here does not mean that John does not believe that Jesus is
      the Christ. He shares the same Easter faith with Matthew and Luke, but not
      the same theological views. His theological discourse is very different from
      theirs. The difference is obvious to the most ordinary reader of the
      gospels. Any attempt at bridging the theological gap between John and the
      synoptics is a risky business. It can be characterized as a pious exercise,
      not as a scholarly work, not even as a theologically acceptable endeavor.

      Joseph Codsi
      P.O.Box 116-2088
      Beirut, Lebanon
      Telephone (961) 1 242-545
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