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Re: [John_Lit] Radical Chic: J of A, Nic,

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  • Tom Butler
    Tim, ... to a Roman authority as having been a secret ... Jesus and judging for himself, becomes a secret ... Here are my considerations regarding your
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 29, 2006
      You said:

      > Later though, Nicodemus will separate himself from
      > his former group [7:50] and will identify himself >
      to a Roman authority as having been a secret
      > disciple of Jesus [19:38].
      > The story of Nicodemus thus provides a template: a
      > Jewish religious leader, having personally "heard" >
      Jesus and "judging for himself," becomes a "secret
      > follower" of Jesus, eventually becoming "willing to
      > identify with Jesus in his death," even before a
      > Roman procurator.

      Here are my considerations regarding your observations
      and conclusions:

      Jn. 7:50 does indicate that Nicodemus is willing to
      challenge the process being taken by the Chief Priests
      and Pharisees (the Sanhedrin?) in response to a
      challenge (Jn. 7:48), but concluding that Nicodemus
      has "separated himself from his former group" seems to
      be a stretch to me.

      IMO, at this point in the narrative, Nicodemus still
      considers himself to be a part of this group, whether
      it is a loose collection of Chief Priests and
      Pharisees or the official and complete assembly of the
      Sanhedrin. Otherwise, if he had dissassociated
      himself from them, he would not likely be meeting with
      them and would not likely speak a critical word to
      them about the process they are following. Raising an
      objection grounded in a sincere understanding of the
      usual process they follow (IE: the Law) suggests that
      he is a minority voice, but still a respected voice
      WITHIN the group.

      It is possible that he has become a "secret disciple"
      of Jesus by this point, which is why he speaks in
      response to the challenge but does not argue his case
      when he is personally challenged with an inference
      that he is identifying with Jesus (Jn. 7:52).

      The reference in Jn. 19: 38 only says directly that
      Joseph of Arimathea is a secret disciple and that he
      was assisted by Nicodemus in the preparation of the
      body of Jesus for burial. (This in itself is
      significant, since in so doing both men became unclean
      and would not have been permitted to participate in
      the Passover ritual after sunset, that is, as the
      following day began.)

      It seems to me that a more defensible approach to the
      question of whether or not Nicodemus was a secret
      disciple using these three passages is as follows:

      In Jn. 3: 1-10 or 15 or 21 (depending upon when the
      narrator(s) intend(s) to stop quoting Jesus in order
      to insert his/her/their own Christological assertion)
      Nicodemus, acknowledged by Jesus as a great teacher of
      Israel, becomes a student (disciple) of Jesus, when
      the prospect of (spiritual) rebirth is presented to
      him. While Nicodemus clearly does not understand what
      Jesus is teaching, there is no indication that the
      relationship between them ended as a result of that
      lack of understanding. Indeed, not understanding the
      teachings of Jesus is one of the ways that disciples
      are characterized in the 4G.

      The fact that Nicodemus speaks out among his peers
      (Chief Priests and Pharisees - possibly members of the
      Sanhedrin, whether or not the entire membership of the
      Sanhedrin is being described), when a challenge is
      issued suggesting that none of that group's members
      actually believes in Jesus, infers to the reader that
      Nicodemus may well be a secret disciple of Jesus,
      maintaining at least for the moment his membership
      among "the Jews" (the leadership core in Jerusalem).
      Not willing to profess his belief in Jesus among his
      peers at that moment suggests that he has chosen to be
      ONLY a secret disciple.

      This raises an important question: What is the
      difference between a disciple of Jesus and a secret
      disciple of Jesus? In my study of the Gospel, it
      seems that disciples are identified by the
      satisfaction of three criteria: (1) They see the
      Christ in Jesus, (2) They give witness to what they
      have seen in Jesus, and (3) They bring others to
      Jesus. Nicodemus (and apparently Joseph of Arimathea,
      though we have no specific narrative about him except
      Jn. 19: 38) does (do) not fulfill all three of these
      criteria. We can infer from the fact that Nicodemus,
      a teacher, becomes a student (IE: disciple) of Jesus
      in their first encounter, but his opportunity to give
      witness among his peers falls short. It is at best a
      weak defense of Jesus and of himself, but it does not
      rise to the level of a witness, and there is no
      indication that I can see that Nicodemus (or Joseph of
      Arimathea) ever brings anyone else to Jesus (IE:
      invites others to become disciples of Jesus).(See my
      study in Let Her Keep It, pp. 123-128 for a complete
      list of persons in the 4G who do satisfy these
      criteria to be listed as disciples as well as a list
      of those who do not satisfy them.)

      Why, then, if the criteria I've suggested hold, is it
      necessary to create the category of secret disciple?
      By the definition inferred by these criteria, a secret
      disciple is not a disciple at all. Either the
      criteria do not hold or the category of secret
      disciple is inconsistent with the presentation of
      disciples in the rest of the narrative. Could the
      latter be the result of an inadequately informed

      Tom Butler

      <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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