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RE: [John_Lit] [John-Lit]John and Mandaeanism

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  • Paul Anderson
    Thanks, Elizabeth, theories of Mandaean origins of Johannine material have dwindled significantly since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Up until the
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 21, 2007
      Thanks, Elizabeth, theories of Mandaean origins of Johannine material have dwindled significantly since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Up until the middle of the 20th century, it was often assumed that dualistic thought in the NT must have been Hellenistic and perhaps Gnostic, so given the Johannine connections with some Mandaean literature, the assumption was that an earlier form of Mandaean thought might have been the basis for John's distinctive revelation-sayings material. Bultmann's connecting also of John the Baptist with the inferred origin of the Johannine sayings conjectured a proto-Mandaean baptistic worship cult of which the Johannine evangelist was a member before he became a follower of Jesus. After all, some Mandaean literature also presents John the Baptist as a hero. That is why it was inferred that the I-Am sayings in John had a Gnostic origin. Moody Smith's Composition and Order of the Fourth Gospel lays out much of this lucidly.

      In order to argue this thesis fully, however, Bultmann sketched an overly-complex theory of textual displacement and wrong re-ordering by the Redactor, allowing the modern scholar license to "restore" the order of the Johannine text, alleviating a few problematic transitions, but more pervasively, functioning to "reveal" the "original" appearance of strophic revelation sayings, being made to seem like a Mandaean revelation-sayings source. Bultmann's student, Heinz Becker, worked much of this out, which Bultmann then built upon in his own work and later published after Becker's untimely death (in the war, I believe). Assuming, though, that there were ten textual displacements in John 6 alone, and each of them was both "unmotivated" (accidental) and falling precisely between sentences (an average of 80 Greek characters per sentence) and you have odds of 1:80 to the 10th power of this happening. Rationalists will therefore find this hard to believe. While the signs-source hypothesis has fared a bit better, sayings-source hypotheses have fallen on hard times--primarily because of the relative dearth of evidence. Also, the pervasive connection of sign and discourse together make it all the more improbable that connections between these were late and of disparate origins, rather than more intrinsic to the Johannine tradition, proper.

      Given the considerable dualism in Qumran, however, the attribution of Johannine dualism and revelation sayings to Hellenistic origins rather than Jewish ones has fallen by the wayside. Hengel's book on the inferred Hellenistic background of the NT put more than one nail in that coffin, although no one can deny the Hellenistic setting of first century Judaism. John's Jewishness has thus been demonstrated compellingly over the last half century, and the works of Brown, Barrett, Martyn, and others make that clear. Nonetheless, a Hellenistic setting and audience is likely for the final crafting and presentation of the Johannine Gospel, so your reader-response questions are on the right track. In my judgment, though, I see the antichristic rejection of the flesh of Jesus in the Johannine Epistles not as Gnosticism, but as Hellenistic Christians whose Christology is docetic. After they get expelled from Johannine and other Jewish-Christian communities they may have evolved into second-century Christian Gnosticism, eventually taking Johannine motifs with them into Mandaean strains of development, but that is probably later still. I therefore think it is a mistake to infer any Gnostic origination of John's content; all of it can be readily explained as a Jewish tradition finalized in a Hellenistic setting.

      Bread of Life and Living Water would have been welcome metaphors for Jewish and Gentile audiences alike, so the culture-spanning reach of John's material would have had a broad appeal. What I have argued at some length is going on in John 6, in the appeal to ingest the flesh and blood of Jesus, is not an invitation to a rite, but a calling to martyrological faithfulness if required by the truth. In that sense, it is parallel to Jesus' question to the sons of Zebedee in the Synoptics as to whether they are willing to drink the cup of Jesus and to be baptized with his baptism. It is the martyrological association that posed a scandal to the disciples, not because they misunderstood the metaphor, but because they caught full well the reference to the Way of the Cross (6:51), leading some of them to abandon Jesus and walk with him no longer. Some excellent essays on John 6 can be found in Culpepper's collection, Critical Readings of John 6 (just out this year in paperback!), and I infer at least four crises in the Johannine situation that are mirrored in the discussants' engagements with Jesus in John 6 (the Sitz im Leben essay, pp. 1-59). I think one can do with John 6 what Martyn did with John 9, but rather than exposing one primary crisis, several largely-sequential-yet-somewhat-overapping crises may be inferred (the meaning of the feeding, Jewish-Johannine, docetizing-Johannine, and Petrine-Johannine). So, I actually think the narrative had several levels of meaning, but in every case, later audiences aretaken back to the exhortative fulcrum of the chapter in vs. 27: seek not the death producing food, but the food that leads to eternal life. Parallel to the Didache's "two ways" (the way of life and the way of death), the invitation to receive the life-producing nourishment which Jesus gives and is becomes the primary rhetorical thrust of the Johannine feeding narrative and its related discussions.

      I hope that helps; good questions, there!

      Paul Anderson

      ________________________________

      From: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com on behalf of Elizabeth Danna
      Sent: Wed 2/21/2007 5:30 PM
      To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [John_Lit] [John-Lit]John and Mandaeanism



      It is often said that Mandaean literature influenced the Gospel (though some say the influence must be the other way because Mandaean literature is too late). My question is, how widely read was the Mandaean material? Would the Greek or Roman "Man in the street" have recognised a reference to it if he heard it?

      On a related note - I 'm looking into Greco-Roman reader response to the predicated "I am" sayings. What would it mean to a Gentile to hear Jesus saying "I am the bread of life", etc.? Has any work been done on this? Thanks.

      Elizabeth Danna





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    • Horace Jeffery Hodges
      Just to echo Paul s arguments for seeing the influence more from Christianity (and other religions) to Mandaeism than from Mandaeism to Christianity, let me
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 21, 2007
        Just to echo Paul's arguments for seeing the influence more from Christianity (and other religions) to Mandaeism than from Mandaeism to Christianity, let me add that the John-the-Baptist material in the Mandaean corpus seems to date from the Muslim conquest of the region, when the Mandaeans probably found themselves under pressure to prove their status as a legitimate, prophetic religion so as to warrant Dhimmi status as a people of the book. John's name in the Mandaean writings is "Yahya," the Arabic form for "John," which fits the hypothesis that the Mandaean 'reverence' for John the Baptist was after the rise of Islam.

        Incidentally, one even finds quotes from Matthew at places in the Mandaean texts.

        Jeffery Hodges

        Paul Anderson <panderso@...> wrote:
        Bultmann's connecting also of John the Baptist with the inferred origin of the Johannine sayings conjectured a proto-Mandaean baptistic worship cult of which the Johannine evangelist was a member before he became a follower of Jesus. After all, some Mandaean literature also presents John the Baptist as a hero. That is why it was inferred that the I-Am sayings in John had a Gnostic origin. Moody Smith's Composition and Order of the Fourth Gospel lays out much of this lucidly.


        University Degrees:

        Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
        (Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic Texts")
        M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
        B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

        Email Address:

        jefferyhodges@...

        Blog:

        http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/

        Office Address:

        Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
        Department of English Language and Literature
        Korea University
        136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
        Seoul
        South Korea

        Home Address:

        Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
        Sehan Apt. 102-2302
        Sinnae-dong 795
        Jungrang-gu
        Seoul 131-770
        South Korea

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Horace Jeffery Hodges
        Could someone suggest articles on John and Gnosticism? I m teaching a seminar for Korean graduate students in the Theology Department of Ewha Womans
        Message 3 of 5 , Aug 31, 2008
          Could someone suggest articles on John and Gnosticism?

          I'm teaching a seminar for Korean graduate students in the Theology Department of Ewha Womans University, and I'd like to know some articles that treat the Gnostic thesis -- supposed pre-Christian Gnosis, Bultmann's views, more recent articles, etc.

          Survey articles would be helpful.

          Jeffery Hodges


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • celucien joseph
          Barrett, C.K., The Theological Vocabulary of the Fourth Gospel and of the Gospel of Truth, CINIT, 210-23.   Brown, R.E., The Gospel of Thomas and St.
          Message 4 of 5 , Aug 31, 2008
            Barrett, C.K., "The Theological Vocabulary of the Fourth Gospel and of the Gospel of Truth," CINIT, 210-23.
             
            Brown, R.E., "The Gospel of Thomas and St. John's Gospel," NTS 9 (1962-63):155-177
             
            C. H. Dodd, Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, 97-114
             
            Dubois, J.-D., "Le quatrieme evangile a la lumiere des recherches gnostiques actuelles," Foi et Vie 86 (1987):75-87
             
            Lieu, J.M., "Gnosticism and the Gospel of John," Exp Tim 90 (1978-79):233-37
             
            Perkins, P., "John's Gospel and Gnostic Christologies: The Nag Hammadi Evidence," ATR Supplement 11 (1990):68-76
             
            Sloyan, G.S., "The Gnostic Adoption of John's Gospel and Its Canonization by the Catholic Church," BTB 26 (1996):125-32
             
            Regards,
             
            Celucien Joseph
            PhD candidate (NT)
            University of Wales

            --- On Sun, 8/31/08, Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges@...> wrote:

            From: Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges@...>
            Subject: [John_Lit] [John-Lit] John and Gnosticism
            To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Sunday, August 31, 2008, 5:13 PM






            Could someone suggest articles on John and Gnosticism?

            I'm teaching a seminar for Korean graduate students in the Theology Department of Ewha Womans University, and I'd like to know some articles that treat the Gnostic thesis -- supposed pre-Christian Gnosis, Bultmann's views, more recent articles, etc.

            Survey articles would be helpful.

            Jeffery Hodges

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















            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Horace Jeffery Hodges
            Thanks. I ll add these to my bibliography for the students. I hope that they can find these. Unfortunately, these don t seem to be accessible online. What
            Message 5 of 5 , Aug 31, 2008
              Thanks. I'll add these to my bibliography for the students. I hope that they can find these. Unfortunately, these don't seem to be accessible online.

              What would be really helpful would be a recent English language article surveying the question of Gnosticism and John's Gospel. Has anything been done on this?

              Jeffery Hodges

              --- On Sun, 8/31/08, celucien joseph <celucien_joseph@...> wrote:
              From: celucien joseph <celucien_joseph@...>
              Subject: Re: [John_Lit] [John-Lit] John and Gnosticism
              To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
              Date: Sunday, August 31, 2008, 7:09 PM

              Barrett, C.K., "The Theological Vocabulary of the Fourth Gospel and of the
              Gospel of Truth," CINIT, 210-23.
               
              Brown, R.E., "The Gospel of Thomas and St. John's Gospel," NTS 9
              (1962-63):155-177
               
              C. H. Dodd, Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, 97-114
               
              Dubois, J.-D., "Le quatrieme evangile a la lumiere des recherches
              gnostiques actuelles," Foi et Vie 86 (1987):75-87
               
              Lieu, J.M., "Gnosticism and the Gospel of John," Exp Tim 90
              (1978-79):233-37
               
              Perkins, P., "John's Gospel and Gnostic Christologies: The Nag Hammadi
              Evidence," ATR Supplement 11 (1990):68-76
               
              Sloyan, G.S., "The Gnostic Adoption of John's Gospel and Its
              Canonization by the Catholic Church," BTB 26 (1996):125-32
               
              Regards,
               
              Celucien Joseph
              PhD candidate (NT)
              University of Wales

              --- On Sun, 8/31/08, Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges@...>
              wrote:

              From: Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges@...>
              Subject: [John_Lit] [John-Lit] John and Gnosticism
              To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
              Date: Sunday, August 31, 2008, 5:13 PM






              Could someone suggest articles on John and Gnosticism?

              I'm teaching a seminar for Korean graduate students in the Theology
              Department of Ewha Womans University, and I'd like to know some articles
              that treat the Gnostic thesis -- supposed pre-Christian Gnosis, Bultmann's
              views, more recent articles, etc.

              Survey articles would be helpful.

              Jeffery Hodges

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















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


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