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[John_Lit] Wisdom Christology or Spirit Christology?

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  • McGrath, James
    First, I d like to thank Leonard for his detailed reply to my rather impulsive response to his posting. Your brief comment sounded dismissive, and so it is
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 13, 2004
      First, I'd like to thank Leonard for his detailed reply to my rather impulsive response to his posting. Your brief comment sounded dismissive, and so it is helpful to have the bigger picture. I really do think that this John list is probably a great place to discuss this topic. I particularly like Tom Wright as an example of a historian who is also a believer. As a historian, he knows that he can never say that certain things are the most likely explanation based on the evidence, because of the nature of historical inquiry. But both as a historian and a believer he believes that many very unlikely things have happened in human history. In the case of the Gospel of John, I am still not sure that being a believer enables one to circumvent historical issues, because my understanding of historical study is that one must play by common ground rules regardless whether one is a believer or not. I usually compare it to a court of law when talking to students. If I am cross examining a witness in court as a lawyer, I may know the individual personally and feel confident that I can trust everything he says. But in my capacity as a lawyer I cannot rely only on his testimony in the absence of any other evidence. I also cannot rely on hearsay, and on certain other kinds of evidence. And a cause and effect explanation is always going to win the day over one that suggests that a miracle occurred, because that is the way the world usually seems to work and thus probability weighs in favor of such explanations. Anyway, this is the way I depict the historical enterprise to my students, and on this approach much of John rightly gets left out of discussion of the historical Jesus (although perhaps more than needs to). Is this a fair and accurate way of depicting historical methodology? Can a believer contribute something distinctive to a historical approach to Biblical texts, or do believers simply engage in other types of readings than merely historical ones? I'd appreciate further discussion of this topic, since it is one that I continue to wrestle with both professionally and personally.

      My second question relates to Frank's message. In a world in which Word, Wisdom, Spirit, Name, and other terminology seems to have referred to the same thing - namely God's interaction with the world - might it not be preferable to conclude that John DID in fact identify Word and Spirit? This has been argued rather cogently by a number of exegetes, including Charles Talbert, Francis Watson, and Reginald Fuller. On this reading, the Word becoming flesh (1:14) describes the same event as the Spirit descending and remaining on him. I suspect that even someone who was familiar with Philo might have read John's Gospel this way - I'm not sure that Wisdom and Word were truly two distinct entities in his thinking any more than God and the Word were two completely distinct entities, rather than aspects of the same reality. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?


      James McGrath
      Assistant Professor of Religion
      Butler University
      Currently at home with the flu :-(

      -----Original Message-----
      From: fmmccoy [mailto:FMMCCOY@...]
      Sent: Sat 3/13/2004 8:26 AM
      To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Wisdom Christology or Logos Christology?

      A problem with this approach arises in the last sentence by Ringe: where
      Wisdom has a new dwelling place on earth (as the Spirit/Paraclete), even
      while returning to be with God (as Jesus).

      The problem is this: taken to its logical conclusion, this approach of
      seeing both the Johannine Jesus and the Johannine Spirit as being Wisdom
      figures reduces the Johannine Jesus and the Johannine Spirit from two
      distinct divine beings to two manifestations of a single divine being, i.e.,

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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