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RE: [John_Lit] Where did John baptise: Bethany or Bethabara? (Jn 1:28)

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  • Paul Anderson
    Thanks, Stephen, for the contribution, and also for mentioning Pierson Parker s essay. With Schackenburg, I find very little of Parker s essay on the
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 10, 2006
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      Thanks, Stephen, for the contribution, and also for mentioning Pierson
      Parker's essay. With Schackenburg, I find very little of Parker's essay
      on the non-identity of the Beloved Disciple critically convincing, but I
      also appreciate Parker's larger interest--given the impossibility of
      authorship theory A (John the son of Zebedee), the plausibility of
      authorship theory B (John Mark, companion of Paul) is forwarded.
      Interestingly, Parker hangs a great deal of his argument (although it is
      only one of 20+ other points) on the "mistake" of "Bethany beyond the
      Jordan," which I'm coming to understand differently.

      a) The first conclusion is that "beyond the Jordan" is actually
      confirmed archaeologically and textually as at least one of the places
      that John the Baptist had done some of his work. So, those connections
      confirm the Johannine witness rather than disconfirm it.

      b) The real problem is thus the naming of the site as "Bethany" when the
      Bethany of the Lazarus family is explicitly mentioned as being near
      Jerusalem. So, our present question of how Bethany got attached to the
      site is of central interest, given that Bethabara may actually be the
      name for the historical site, but Origen's addition of it may be later
      than some of the references to Bethany.

      c) I'm in the process of gathering Henry Cadbury's NT essays, so this is
      something of a Cadburian question: is it possible that the later
      addition by Origen (for whatever reason) might be the more
      accurate--even if there is little or nor other textual evidence
      suggesting a more primitive rendering of Bethabara? Put negatively
      (versus Parker), given the likelihood that the redactor claims to have
      edited the work of the Beloved Disciple (whoever he might have been),
      not all "mistaken details or clarifications" (if
      "Bethany-versus-Bethabara" might have been one) can be attributed to the
      evangelist.

      The implications here, though, seem to be the most important. If Bethany
      might have been a mistaken clarification, even at some early stage of
      the composition-transmission process, at least one problematic aspect of
      John's historicity is elucidated.

      Paul Anderson


      -----Original Message-----
      From: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      [mailto:johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Stephen C.
      Carlson
      Sent: Thursday, March 09, 2006 1:33 PM
      To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [John_Lit] Where did John baptise: Bethany or Bethabara?
      (Jn 1:28)

      At 11:20 AM 3/9/2006 -0800, Paul Anderson wrote:
      >I can appreciate Origen's puzzlement over the 2nd C. codices and their
      >inclusion of Bethany, but his trip to the site and primary
      investigation
      >seems significant. Whatever the name of the town was, the cross-Jordan
      >site indeed seems historically correct. While it may be impossible to
      >know whether "Bethabara" was in the original text, it does make me
      >wonder if the change to "Bethany" might have even been added as a
      >"clarification" by the redactor, just as he has "clarified" Jesus'
      words
      >to Peter in 6:71. Therefore, the place-name might not have been an
      >original "mistake" by the evangelist, but attributable to harmonizing
      >editors or copyists down the line.
      >
      >If the Fourth Gospel were to have been finalized in a distant setting
      >(Asia Minor or elsewhere), by someone preserving the witness of
      another,
      >might such a "clarification" be understandable, even if it might have
      >been a mistake? This is a highly speculative hunch, so I think I'll
      >leave it as a question rather than putting it as a claim.

      If the "Bethabara" reading at John 1:28 was original, the change to
      "Bethany" can easily be explained as an assimilation to the better
      known Bethany (e.g. John 11:1, 18, 12:1). A similar assimilation is
      found in Mark 8:22 where Codex Bexae (D) and various Old Latins
      changed Bethsaida to Bethany. (The scribal error at Mark 8:22 must
      have been fairly early.) This variant, as you note, is even more
      understandable if the person who did it hailed from a distant setting.

      Whether that person was a very early copyist or even the Johannine
      redactor is a more difficult question to answer. Based on the MSS
      that attest to the Bethabara reading, which includes the correctors
      to 01, C, as well as fam. 1 (whence the TR's reading), fam. 13, and
      fam. Pi, it seems plausible to me that their testimonies all stem from
      Origen's commentary rather than an independent stream of textual
      transmission. Thus, if a change from "Bethabara" to "Bethany" in
      John 1:28 ever happened, it must have happened so early in the
      transmission of the text that a Johannine redactor is as likely a
      candidate as any other.

      On the other hand, Pierson Parker, "Bethany Beyond Jordan," JBL 74
      (1955): 257-261, argued that Bethany is both original and correct, but
      that John 1:28 should be understood to mean "These things took place
      in Bethany, which is across from the Jordan where John had been
      baptizing." Such a proposal also helps if the audience is not
      Palestinian, because PERAN TOU IORDANOU in 1:28 would have more
      likely understood by the local Judeans as "Beyond the Jordan" (i.e.
      Perea).

      Thus, the internal evidence (instrinsic or transcription) does not
      seem helpful to me in deciding between "Bethany" or "Bethabara."
      Plausible reasons can be given for going from reading to the other
      in either direction. The external evidence, on the other hand, for
      "Bethany" is excellent, so the MSS evidence is going to be decisive.
      If "Bethany" is original to the text of John as it was published, then
      the Johannine redactor is a good candidate for the reading.

      Yuri Kuchinsky wrote:
      >Nevertheless, it is too bad that, in his book, Brown doesn't even
      >mention the alternative reading "Bethabara" in Jn 1:28, and what it
      >may indicate for us...
      >
      >Unfortunately, it is all too typical for modern biblical scholars to
      >completely disregard textual criticism. In general, I liked Brown's
      >MARK'S OTHER GOSPEL -- it's a great book overall, and he obviously
      >spent many years of hard work researching this whole subject area in
      >depth. So his disregard of this particular textual problem in his book
      >is unfortunate. (Actually, he does mention the Bethabara reading
      >briefly in his Revue Biblique article.)

      If John 1:28 had originally read "Bethabara," not Bethany, then it
      indicates that the author of Secret Mark is dependent on a scribal
      error in John. This would place the composition of Secret Mark
      rather later's than Brown's own theory that it was written by no
      one other than Mark himself. Nevertheless, Brown is in good company
      with most scholars for accepting the Bethany reading based on the
      strength of the external evidence.

      >Still, in my view, it's not impossible that a late editor of John's
      >gospel may have inserted "Bethany" into Jn 1:28 because he saw the
      >mention of it in LGM in connection with baptism. Nevertheless, such an
      >idea will remain speculative at this point.

      "Not impossible" is one thing, but this suggestion is nonetheless
      highly unlikely. As Brown notes in his book on Secret Mark, "[t]here
      is no mention of water or depiction of baptism" (p. 145), and that
      "the text discourages every attempt to perceive Jesus literally
      baptizing him" (p. 146). The baptismal interpretation is very subtle
      and even the scholar who originally identified it (Cyril Richardson)
      backed away from it.

      Stephen Carlson
      --
      Stephen C. Carlson
      mailto:scarlson@...
      Weblog:
      http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/
      Author of: The Gospel Hoax,
      http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1932792481



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    • Tom Butler
      Yuri, Paul and Stephen, Thank you for engaging in this stimulating discussion. I m learning a great deal from it. Thank you for teaching! I was struck most
      Message 2 of 4 , Mar 11, 2006
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        Yuri, Paul and Stephen,
        Thank you for engaging in this stimulating
        discussion. I'm learning a great deal from it. Thank
        you for teaching!
        I was struck most of all by what may have been a
        passing comment made by Yuri:

        Quote:**********************************************
        "Thus, the place name "Bethany" was probably added to
        this passage ca 150-170 CE, during a later expansion
        of John. And whoever added this name wasn't really
        concerned all that much, it seems, with the matters
        of geography. It's the symbolic/mythical geography
        that they primarily cared about, most likely."
        End Quote: *****************************************

        I suggest that "Bethany" may not have been either a
        mistake or an intentional editorial change, but that
        it was used, as Yuri suspects, for the sake of
        symbolism, though not, as Yuri suggests, by a later
        redactor.

        I see evidence that the name "Bethany" was used
        intentionally by the author or authors of the earliest
        form of the Fourth Gospel. The symbolic meaning of
        the place name "Bethany" is important to the
        underlying structure of the Gospel. That symbolic
        meaning is "Gateway."

        The Fourth Gospel makes reference to a "near" Bethany.
        Rainer Riesner, in his article on Bethany and Bethany
        Beyond the Jordan in the Anchor Bible, vol. 1, pp.
        702-705 suggests, among other theories, the theory
        that the name "Bethany" may be derived from "the House
        of Ananiah" (Beth Ananiah). This theory is grounded a
        reference in Nehemiah 3:23, where Azariah, the
        grandson of Ananiah, is identified as one who rebuilds
        part of Jerusalem's walls that were adjacent to his
        own house (the House of Ananiah?).

        Nehemiah 3 is a record of the rebuilding of the walls
        and especially the rebuilding of the gates of the City
        of Jerusalem. If this theory as to the origin of the
        name Bethany is correct, then it would explain the
        location cited as a town outside of (near) Jerusalem
        (Jn. 11: 1, 18; 12: 1) as just outside of Jerusalem's
        walls.

        In Nehemiah 11:32 where the House of Ananiah is
        mentioned, it is mentioned in the same context as as
        the abiding places of priests and Levites. Indeed, it
        may even be the town (neighborhood?) where the priests
        and Levites lived, because it was located close to the
        temple.

        In Jn. 1: 28 John the Baptist is acknowledging that he
        is not worthy to untie the thongs of the sandals of
        the one (that the priests and Levites do not know) who
        "comes after me." John, and I submit his baptisms, is
        the far gate to what the Gospel of John considers the
        new temple (the body of Jesus - Jn. 2: 19-22.)

        While John does not consider himself a disciple (a
        student who follows after a teacher, one who WOULD be
        worthy to untie the thong of The Teacher's sandals)
        (See David Daube, The New Tesament and Rabbinic
        Judaism, "Offices of a Disciple," pp. 267, 268), he
        informs the priests and Levites that his (John's) role
        has to do with preparing the way (opening a gateway?)
        for the one who "comes after" him.

        Bethany beyond Jordan, I submit, is the "far" Bethany.
        It's location is beyond (on the far side of?) the
        Jordan where John the Baptist baptizes. This far
        location may be intentionally used to identify John's
        baptism with the long reach of God's grace,
        functioning as the Cities of Refuge did for sinners
        (Nu 35: 9-12; Dt. 19: 1-13). This is the "far gate."

        My theory is that the Gospel of John is written using
        symbols (signs) borrowed, or as we would say it
        "recycled" from the Septuagint version of the
        Pentateuch. There is a near gate (the Nicanor Gate)
        and a far gate (the Beautiful Gate) in the temple
        itself, if proximity is defined from the perspective
        of one who stands on the altar (a priest), looking
        away from the Holy of Holies.

        In the Fourth Gospel, upon re-defining The Temple as
        the Body of Jesus, Bethany and Bethany beyond the
        Jordan are seen symbolically as the new gateways to
        The Temple.

        In brief, I believe this pair of place names, Bethany
        and Bethany Beyond Jordan, would have been understood
        by the Johannine community to mean that baptism and
        discipleship (defined by the faith of Mary and Martha
        of Bethany in Jn. 11: 1 - 12: 8) are temple gates, the
        gateways to Jesus. These names are, therefore, not
        mistakes or editorial changes brought about by an
        inability to locate a geographical location called
        Bethany beyond the Jordan. They are symbolic names
        whose function is important to the structure and theme
        of the whole gospel.


        <DIV><STRONG><EM><FONT face=system color=#0000ff>Yours in Christ's service,</FONT></EM></STRONG></DIV>
        <DIV><STRONG><EM><FONT face=System color=#0000ff>Tom Butler</FONT></EM></STRONG></DIV>
      • Bill Bullin
        Without wishing to break the flow of discussion concerning Bethany beyond the Jordan can I be picky and insist that in John 1:27 the reference is to one
        Message 3 of 4 , Mar 12, 2006
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          Without wishing to break the flow of discussion concerning 'Bethany beyond
          the Jordan'
          can I be picky and insist that in John 1:27 the reference is to one thong
          and not two.
          Only trivial if we fail to recognise that John is not using the synoptic
          saying but a saying that Luke finds in his source for Acts 13:25.

          If John's reference to 'beyond the Jordan' comes from an early edition of
          John and was written from and for a Jerusalem church that had taken flight
          to Pella, then 'beyond the Jordan' would of course conform to Bethany
          outside Jerusalem. This is a note of caution only.

          The early oral and pilgimage tradition along with Origen's perspective and
          the recent archaeological discoveries are nevertheless intriguing and the
          political implications of John's evangel may have required the border
          protection afforded by baptising East of the Jordan. The association of of
          John the Baptist baptising at a traditional site for the 'chariot of fire
          ascent' of Elijah would have profound implications for those of us who
          consider the Fourth Gospel and its high christology brings us nearest to
          both a pre-Christian merkavah tradition associated with the movement of the
          Baptist and a pre-Christian messianic christology feeding disciples into
          primitive Johannine Christianity with an early yet high christology. Are we
          a little nearer the origin of the pre-gnostic phase of primitive Johannine
          christology without wandering down the path of tales of the fisher king?

          Absolutely intriguing stuff. Incidentally, do we have a translation for the
          traditional name of the archaeological site East of the Jordan?

          Bill Bullin (Private Student), England.

          > In Jn. 1: 28 John the Baptist is acknowledging that he
          > is not worthy to untie the thongs of the sandals of
          > the one (that the priests and Levites do not know) who
          > "comes after me." John, and I submit his baptisms, is
          > the far gate to what the Gospel of John considers the
          > new temple (the body of Jesus - Jn. 2: 19-22.)
          >
          > While John does not consider himself a disciple (a
          > student who follows after a teacher, one who WOULD be
          > worthy to untie the thong of The Teacher's sandals)
          > (See David Daube, The New Tesament and Rabbinic
          > Judaism, "Offices of a Disciple," pp. 267, 268), he
          > informs the priests and Levites that his (John's) role
          > has to do with preparing the way (opening a gateway?)
          > for the one who "comes after" him.
          >
          > Bethany beyond Jordan, I submit, is the "far" Bethany.
          > It's location is beyond (on the far side of?) the
          > Jordan where John the Baptist baptizes. This far
          > location may be intentionally used to identify John's
          > baptism with the long reach of God's grace,
          > functioning as the Cities of Refuge did for sinners
          > (Nu 35: 9-12; Dt. 19: 1-13). This is the "far gate."
          >
          > My theory is that the Gospel of John is written using
          > symbols (signs) borrowed, or as we would say it
          > "recycled" from the Septuagint version of the
          > Pentateuch. There is a near gate (the Nicanor Gate)
          > and a far gate (the Beautiful Gate) in the temple
          > itself, if proximity is defined from the perspective
          > of one who stands on the altar (a priest), looking
          > away from the Holy of Holies.
          >
          > In the Fourth Gospel, upon re-defining The Temple as
          > the Body of Jesus, Bethany and Bethany beyond the
          > Jordan are seen symbolically as the new gateways to
          > The Temple.
          >
          > In brief, I believe this pair of place names, Bethany
          > and Bethany Beyond Jordan, would have been understood
          > by the Johannine community to mean that baptism and
          > discipleship (defined by the faith of Mary and Martha
          > of Bethany in Jn. 11: 1 - 12: 8) are temple gates, the
          > gateways to Jesus. These names are, therefore, not
          > mistakes or editorial changes brought about by an
          > inability to locate a geographical location called
          > Bethany beyond the Jordan. They are symbolic names
          > whose function is important to the structure and theme
          > of the whole gospel.
          >
          >
          > <DIV><STRONG><EM><FONT face=system color=#0000ff>Yours in Christ's
          service,</FONT></EM></STRONG></DIV>
          > <DIV><STRONG><EM><FONT face=System color=#0000ff>Tom
          Butler</FONT></EM></STRONG></DIV>
          >
          >
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        • Yuri Kuchinsky
          Dear friends, Thank you for all your valuable comments in regard to my article. While researching about Bethabara, I came across an interesting note in
          Message 4 of 4 , Mar 13, 2006
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            Dear friends,

            Thank you for all your valuable comments in regard to my article.

            While researching about Bethabara, I came across an interesting note
            in Eusebius' Onomasticon.

            Here's what he said, according to the following website,

            [quote]

            Eusebius of Caesarea, Onomasticon (1971) Translation. pp. 1-75.
            http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/eusebius_onomasticon_02_trans.htm

            Bethaabara (Bethabara). "Where John was baptizing" (the penitent)
            "across the Jordan." The place is pointed out where many of the
            brothers even now consider it an honor to wash. (Where today many of
            the brothers, the believers, desiring a renewal of life are baptized
            in the Depths.)

            [unquote]

            Now I'm not sure what are these words in parentheses, is it some
            alternative translation?

            Does someone have the original Greek for this quote?

            Eusebius' words seem to indicate that Bethabara was "across the
            Jordan", and that this was a place for baptism. But I'm not quite sure
            if the word "wash" means the same as "baptism" for Eusebius. I think
            we need the Greek text to understand fully what he is saying.

            Some clarification would be welcome.

            All the best,

            Yuri.

            Baqqesh shalom verodpehu -- Seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:15)

            Yuri Kuchinsky -- http://www.trends.ca/~yuku/bbl/bbl.htm -- Toronto
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