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Re: [John_Lit] 4G redactions

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  • Tom Butler
    Marco, Thank you for your eloquent and rapid reply to my response to your list of reasons for asserting that Jn. 21 was written by a redactor. Like you, I
    Message 1 of 21 , Dec 29, 2006

      Thank you for your eloquent and rapid reply to my
      response to your list of reasons for asserting that
      Jn. 21 was written by a redactor. Like you, I will
      respond with a brief note, perhaps to be followed by a
      more careful and systematic defense of my assertions
      when time allows.

      Thank you for clarifying your intention and
      understanding of the role that source criticism plays
      in the study of the Gospel of John. I appreciate your
      watch analogy very much. It works well as a defense
      against the fairly common assumption or practice that
      disassembling the Fourth Gospel is a necessary first
      step toward understanding it.

      Your analogy of the watch gives rise in my mind to
      the effort made by physicians to understand how the
      human body works by studying cadavers. While being
      able to describe the relationship between the organs
      and pose theories about how each one functions,
      physicians have long been frustrated in trying to
      describe what it is that makes the whole organism

      I suspect much more will be learned as the study of
      the human body continues into the future by those who
      have developed ways to see the live organs
      functioning, even down to the cellular level.
      Studying the Gospel of John as a whole and living
      document is much more satisfying than trying to reduce
      it to a skeleton, then replacing its parts as their
      function becomes clear or as a theory develops that
      offers an explanation of why each part is where it is
      in the body of the text as we have it.

      A brief word of explanation is due regarding my
      contention that multiple authors have contributed to
      The Fourth Gospel. I am fascinated by Culpepper's
      theory that the Gospel emerged as a work in progress
      from a school. The most likely first century school,
      in my opinion, from which such a product as the Fourth
      Gospel could have emerged is a rabbinical school using
      the Midrash method.

      I begin from the assertion that the first generation
      of Christians were almost entirely Jewish, and that
      the first Christian theologians were most likely
      trained in rabbinical schools, using the method most
      popularly used to develop the ability of student
      rabbis to expound upon the meaning of the Hebrew
      Scriptures: the Midrash method, which I define simply
      as the challenge of expounding on the meaning of
      scripture by using the language of scripture.

      The source material most often used in this method
      is the Torah. I suspect, given that the Gospel is
      written in Greek, that the Septuagint version of the
      Torah was the primary source.

      The challenge to the school would have been to
      expound upon the meaning of the Jesus tradition using
      the (Greek version) language of the Torah. That is
      where the signs originate.

      My burden of proof, as you have reminded me, is to
      show that numerous different authors have contributed
      to the content of the Fourth Gospel. I believe that
      the "different hands" that can be identified in the
      text are not necessarily the work of a final redactor,
      but simply indicators that multiple authors
      contributed to the document we now have. (In other
      words, I am moving in a direction opposite to the one
      being taken by those who are trying to identify the
      hand of the redactor in order to "see" the "original"
      text, assuming that this "original" text was a whole
      organism before the redactor began tinkering with it.
      My starting point is the assumption that the various
      components of the text were separate units, originally
      composed by different authors before being linked
      together as one Gospel.)
      The Jesus tradition was, at the end of the first and
      beginning of the second century CE, both written and
      oral. I can imagine that the Midrash reflections upon
      that tradition began as oral commentaries (like oral
      finals in a modern graduate school), but that they
      were written as the community, under the inspired
      leadership of the Beloved Disciple, recognized the
      profound level of truth being revealed in them. These
      written components would have been carefully guarded,
      studied and used by the community of scholars as they
      worked together to refine each component before
      writing that edited component, tentatively, into the
      body of the emerging text, a role most likely
      carefully overseen by, if not actually composed by the
      small number of key leaders of the community,
      including the Beloved Disciple and an Elder of the
      community. The emerging text then became the basic
      tool used to train students in what we would now call
      theological reflection.

      The easiest place to begin to offer the proof for
      this theory is with the Lazarus story, recognizing
      that its inspiration most likely comes from the
      parable told by Jesus according to the Gospel of Luke.
      The Johannine Lazarus story, of course, is an
      elaboration that goes far beyond the parable, while
      still addressing the basic themes of death and
      resurrection. In the Fourth Gospel this story plays a
      pivotal role as a sort of denuement, making the
      transition from the Book of Signs to the Book of

      You ask why there are no signs in the Book of
      Glory. I believe there are signs in the Book of
      Glory, but they are not as obviously placed as in the
      Book of Signs. Essentially the Book of Signs is a
      primer for the community, designed to train students
      to find the signs, understand the context from which
      they were taken (usually the Torah, but occasionally
      from other parts of the Septuagint) and then apply
      their meaning to the Johannine context in order to
      offer a theological reflection on the meaning of that
      part of the Jesus tradition.

      The Book of Glory requires that the students have
      already completed that basic course in expounding upon
      the meaning of the tradition themselves, so that their
      minds and souls can receive the reflections offered by
      Jesus (according to the witness of the Beloved
      Disciple?) to His own (followers) on the meaning of
      His ministry and passion.

      I have done some work on the use of the word "hour"
      in the text of the Gospel. I believe that the 24
      places where that word is used constitute markers at
      the end of portions of the material where readers were
      encouraged to contemplate the material they had just
      read in order to discern the signs therein and
      therefore to delve more deeply into the meaning of
      what they had read. With some trepidation I find
      myself disagreeing with Brown, who contends that there
      is no reason to believe that the use of "hour" (ora)
      is a component in the structure of the Gospel!

      My study will be called "A Day with Jesus," because
      I believe the 24 "hours" constitute one mystical day
      in which those who seek to abide with Jesus may come
      to know that Christ abides within them.

      Well, I said I would be brief. Apparently my
      intention to be brief has failed. Obviously defending
      my thesis will require much more detail and scholarly
      effort. I appreciate your challenge to bear the
      burden of proof. A critical ear is an essential tool
      to the shaping of any theory. Your time and attention
      are extremely valuable to me. Thank you for offering
      what you have offered so far. If you choose to
      continue the dialogue, I pray that we will both grow
      through the exchange, and that others may choose to
      engage in the discussion with us.

      Yours in Christ's service,
      Tom Butler

      --- "Marco V. Fabbri" <mv.fabbri@...> wrote:

      > Tom,
      > thank you for your reply. You promised it, and you
      > kept your promise.
      > I will write a short anwer, first, because there was
      > some misunderstanding.
      > I am not trying to divide the Gospel into a number
      > of preexisting
      > documents. I am just trying to understand the
      > Gospel as we have it. There
      > is no need to persuade me of the shortcomings of
      > documentary theories,
      > because I am already persuaded.
      > When I teach John, I start by studying the Gospel as
      > a whole, in order to
      > find its structure. Only when I know the structure,
      > I am able to recognize
      > some part of the text as not belonging to the
      > structure.
      > The man that opens his watch and separates his
      > components can learn
      > something about how it works. However, if he wants
      > the watch to work, he
      > needs to know how to put the pieces together again.
      > If he thinks that some
      > pieces have no purpose, it doesn't mean that they
      > haven't, but that he
      > doesn't know what their purpose is. And if he is not
      > prepared to learn that,
      > his watch wont't ever work as it was meant to work,
      > or it won't work at all.
      > When I look at John 20,30-31, and notice that it
      > speaks about signs, and
      > look for the signs in the Gospel, and noticed that
      > they are confined to John
      > 2-12, I am not saying that the rest does not belong
      > to the original Gospel.
      > I am trying to understand the Gospel as it stands,
      > and I as a legitimate
      > question: why are there no "signs" in John 13-20?
      > What is the function of
      > those chapters? Here I accept the contributions from
      > Dodd, who noticed the
      > importance of the coming of the "hour" of Jesus, and
      > from Brown, who
      > recognizes the importance of "glory" in those
      > chapters, and calls them "the
      > book of glory".
      > That being my stance, I think that whoever affirms
      > that a part of the
      > Gospel, whether it be a verse or a chapter, has been
      > added later, he takes
      > on himself the burden of proof. If he also maintains
      > that the added part has
      > been written by a different author, he takes on
      > himself an additional burden
      > of proof. This is why I took pains to prove a later
      > origin of John 21. We
      > can discuss my reasons, but I think that we agree
      > that I need to prove my
      > point. If I can't, then I have to admit that John 21
      > is by the same hand as
      > the rest of the Gospel, until somebody else can
      > prove the point.
      > As to the content of the reasons, you say that you
      > refuted them. On my part,
      > I don't agree, and I still think that the point is
      > proved, as do the
      > commentaries that you quote. But there are no
      > discussions that are closed on
      > the authority of anybody. Therefore, I wont' try to
      > defend my option and
      > pass judgement at the same time. Maybe I will engage
      > in discussion later.
      > Before that, I will raise a more general point. I
      > think we agree that
      > whoever affirms that different authors are at work
      > has to prove that. If so,
      > how can you assume that the Fourth Gospel is the
      > work of a plurality of
      > authors? It seems to me that you take on yourself a
      > heavy burden of proof.
      > Since the time I wrote the text you are answering
      > to, I wrote on this same
      > list that I don't believe that written texts in the
      > antiquity were written
      > by many people at the same time. There was no way
      > that a text could be
      > shared by many unless it was first written by one,
      > then copied, then
      > distributed, then read. And again, any intervention
      > by others wouldn't be
      > known unless it was copied by hand, then
      > distributed, then read.
      > Mind me, I don't deny that an author can draw from
      > oral tradition, of from
      > the decisions of a council, or whatever else. I
      > maintain, however, that
      > writing was a job that was done by one person at a
      > time. This is why,
      > whenever a scholar affirms joint authorship, he has
      > to prove it. He can't
      > assume it. So, I believe that I am right when I
      > assume that John has been
      > written by an individual, until the contrary is
      > proven. I never read a proof
      > that a group wrote the Gospel. I read some proofs
      > that a different author
      > wrote chapter 21, as is maintains by most modern
      > scholars.
      > Marco Fabbri

      <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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