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Re: [John_Lit] Re: 'The Word was toward God' question

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  • bill ace
    Thank you every one who has responded to my query. It appears that there is actually a diversity of opinion on this matter, or at least a group of ways to
    Message 1 of 15 , Dec 27, 2008
      Thank you every one who has responded to my query. It appears that there is actually a diversity of opinion on this matter, or at least a group of ways to understand 'pros' as 'with'.

      I think this shows either how much we know about the Bible, or how little, or somehow both.

      Martin C. Arno





















      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Gary Henecke
      A lot of assumptions her as fact: assumptions on the language of the first readers, and the community of the first readers, and John s intent or understanding
      Message 2 of 15 , Dec 27, 2008
        A lot of assumptions her as fact: assumptions on the language of the first readers, and the community of the first readers, and John's intent or understanding from the Midrash writings - even John's knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures versus the LXX.

        Your brother
        Gary Allen Henecke
        -----Original Message-----
        From: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com [mailto:johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Kevin Snapp
        Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 3:39 PM
        To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [John_Lit] Re: 'The Word was toward God' question

        May I suggest a different angle, that the Greek in this context can
        best be understood by way of Semitic idiom. When I first learned Greek
        a long time ago I had the exact same question -- the usual translation
        was "with God," but "with" was not the usual meaning of pros with
        accusative object. Many years later after a Jewish education I returned
        to John and have been reading it through Jewish eyes, beginning with the
        prologue. John's first language is Aramaic, he knows the Bible in
        Hebrew, and he is writing for a Jewish-Christian community, or at least
        a community with an insider group of Jewish Christians, as there are a
        number of things that only someone with Jewish background would be
        expected to notice. Please excuse the style of the following, which I
        cut and pasted from a draft paper I am working on. I slipped footnotes
        into the text, and the Greek font didn't quite translate, but it's
        readable.

        **********************

        A Jewish reader would understand “the Word” in
        John’s context as referring to Torah -- not the Torah read in
        synagogues, but God’s supernal Torah, the “King of
        King’s Authorized Version,” as it were. Jewish midrash
        portrays God as consulting His Torah as a blueprint, as it were, before
        creating the world, and for John’s Jewish readers this would have
        been the image in play. Midrash Rabbah - Genesis I:1 [Although Genesis
        Rabbah is a third to fourth century collection, it is plausible that
        this image, based upon Pr.8:22, “The Lord made me as the
        beginning of His way,” was commonly known among educated Jews in
        the first century.]

        Although the New Testament normally renders “Torah” as
        “νομος,” “law,” here John is speaking
        of God’s Torah, which for God is not “law,” but the
        divine reason, intelligence and design-- a concept appropriately
        rendered as “λόγος.”

        I contend that the accepted translation, “the Word was with
        God,” does not properly express the relationship between the
        Word/Torah and God that would have been conveyed to John’s Jewish
        readers. In the New Testament, as in classical Greek, the preposition
        πρὸς with an accusative object normally denotes motion
        towards the object, e.g., Jn. 1:42, “ἤγαγεν
        αὐτὸν πρὸς τὸν
        Ιησοῦν,” “he brought him to Jesus.” It
        does not mean “with” in the sense that something is
        together with something else, as demonstrated by Jn. 7:33,
        “Ετι χρόνον μικρὸν μεθ'
        á½`μῶν εἰμι καὶ á½`πάγω πρὸς
        τὸν πέμψαντά με,” “I will be
        with you (μεθ' á½`μῶν) a little while longer, and then I
        am going to him who sent me (πρὸς τὸν
        πέμψαντά με).”

        With a static verb, πρὸσ can mean “with respect
        to,” “in relation to,” as in Acts 24:16, a
        blameless conscience “before God and men,”
        “πρὸσ τὸν θεὸν καὶ τοὺσ
        ἀνθρώπουσ,” or in Rom. 5:1,
        “εἰρήνην á¼"χομεν πρὸσ τὸν
        θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν
        Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,” “we have peace
        with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

        But to translate “ὁ λόγοσ ἦν πρὸσ
        τὸν θεόν” as “the Word was in relation to
        God” doesn’t work. The indefinite expression
        “τὰ πρὸσ τὸν θεόν” can be
        rendered “things pertaining to God,” or “religious
        matters,” as in Rom. 15:17, “I have found reason for
        boasting in things pertaining to God,” but surely John did not
        intend readers to understand that the Word was a “religious
        object.”

        It should be kept in mind that the native language of both John and his
        “insider” audience was not Greek. In Semitic idiom,
        “in front of,” in Hebrew, “lifnei,”
        literally “to-the-face-of-” someone, in Aramaic,
        “kadam,” “before,” is used metaphorically to
        mean “in his presence” and at a higher remove,
        “mentally present,” i.e., in his awareness.

        When Paul says in Rom. 4:2, “if Abraham was justified by works,
        he has something to boast about, but not “πρὸσ
        θεόν,” he does not mean “but not [boasting] toward
        God,” but rather, not boasting “before God,” or
        “in God’s presence.”

        This is the sense in which the Word/Logos is said to be πρὸσ
        τὸν θεόν, reflecting a shift from the literal meaning
        of the Greek, “toward God,” through the literal Semitic
        “to God’s face,” “in front of God,”
        to the metaphorical Semitic, “in God’s presence,”
        “in God’s awareness.” When speaking of what was
        “in the beginning,” the temporal sense of
        “before” would render “the Word was before
        God” confusing; an appropriate translation might be “the
        Word was in God’s awareness,” or perhaps making God the
        subject, “God was conscious of the Word.”

        C.F. Burney, who argued that John’s Gospel is a translation of an
        Aramaic original, distinguished between New Testament
        “Hebraisms,” usages or idioms derived from biblical Hebrew
        via the Septuagint, and “Aramaisms,” which could be
        derived from Aramaic but not from Hebrew, although acknowledging
        “Semitisms” common to both languages. C.F. Burney, The
        Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922),
        7-17. Burney states that “the phrase πρὸσ τὸν
        θεόν in the sense ‘with God' is remarkable,” id.
        28, noting that in the Synoptics it is only found in Mark or material
        taken from Mark, and is an Aramaism. He hypothesized that “[i]n
        Aramaic the common preposition לְוָת (possibly akin to the
        verb לְוִ×" ‘join’) denotes (i) connexion with,
        apud, παρα , (2) motion towards, ad, πρόσ. It may be
        suggested that feeling for the second meaning so commonly borne by
        לְוָת has moved the translator of an Aramaic original to
        represent the preposition by πρόσ even when used in the
        former sense.” Id. 29.

        The Peshitta (the Aramaic translation of the New Testament) also uses
        לְוָת. However, I suggest both Burney and the translator of
        the Peshitta passed over the possible alternative Semitic sense of
        πρόσ because, in accordance with traditional Christian
        understanding they assumed that “the Word” is a person of
        equal dignity with God and consequently that πρὸσ τὸν
        θεόν was intended to mean “[together] with God”
        and not “in God’s presence.” According to Burney,
        this usage of πρόσ occurs only this once in John’s
        Gospel. John (or his translator) elsewhere knew and used the usual
        Greek prepositions meaning “with.”

        The universal English translation, “the Word was with
        God,” inclines the reader toward understanding “the
        Word” as it has traditionally been understood in Christian
        theology, as a separate hypostasis. But this would not necessarily have
        been the sense of the original Greek, particularly to one whose native
        idiom was Aramaic. To give an English example, if we read, “when
        the builder constructed the house, X was before him,” without
        being told what X might be, we naturally infer that X is something like
        a plan or model, either literally in front of the builder, or at least
        figuratively in front of him, “in his mind’s eye.”
        If instead we read, “when the builder constructed the house, X
        was with him,” we infer that X is not a thing, but a person, even
        though X could be replaced with “a blueprint,” or even
        “a hammer.”

        So at the creation, the Word, God’s ineffable Torah, was present
        to God’s consciousness, and we are told “καὶ
        θεὸσ ἦν ὁ λόγοσ.” But Torah, even
        personified in Jewish lore as “Wisdom,” is not God. John
        omits the definite article, and does not say, “καὶ ὁ
        θεὸσ ἦν ὁ λόγοσ,” as might be
        expected after “καὶ ὁ λόγοσ ἦν
        πρὸσ τὸν θεόν,” but “καὶ
        θεὸσ ἦν ὁ λόγοσ,” permitting
        θεὸσ to be read adjectivally, “and divine/supernal was
        the Word/Torah,” as if to make clear that this is not
        God’s Word in the form of the Torah we know, but the wholly
        divine version in God’s own consciousness.

        So even in this first verse, John may not be saying what we are
        accustomed to understanding him to say. Verse 2, “οὗτοσ
        ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸσ τὸν
        θεόν” “this was in the beginning in God’s
        awareness,” can be read as re-emphasizing the separation and
        distinction between Logos/Torah and God, so that verse 3,
        “πάντα δι? αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο,
        καὶ χωρὶσ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο
        οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν,” should be
        read, “all things came to be through it (Logos/Torah), and apart
        from it nothing came to be that came to be,” rather than
        “all things came to be through him. A Jew would have no
        difficulty in affirming that all things came to be
        “through” or “by means of” (Greek δια,
        Hebrew ×`-) God’s primal Torah.
        *************************************
        Kevin Snapp
        Chicago
      • Gary
        Hi Mark, Thanks for the encouraging comment. Sorry about the unintentional anonymity on the earlier posts (perhaps like John? :). Here s my normal email
        Message 3 of 15 , Dec 30, 2008
          Hi Mark,

          Thanks for the encouraging comment. Sorry about the unintentional
          anonymity on the earlier posts (perhaps like John? :). Here's my normal
          email signature:
          _________________________________________
          Gary Manning, Ph.D.
          http://eutychusnerd.blogspot.com/
          Interim Academic Dean
          Associate Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages
          Pacific Rim Bible College
        • Kevin Snapp
          Hello, Gary, If the purpose of your post was to warn someone without background in NT scholarship that what I suggested should not be taken as authoritative,
          Message 4 of 15 , Jan 1, 2009
            Hello, Gary,

            If the purpose of your post was to warn someone without background in
            NT scholarship that what I suggested should not be taken as
            authoritative, fine, but I doubt that anyone could make that mistake.
            If you want to teach me or advance the discussion, you will need to
            be specific.

            "Fact" and "assumption" are a false dichotomy. We have no "facts"
            in the sense of generally undisputed historical truths concerning the
            author of the Fourth Gospel and his community; there is debate even
            as to who the author was. There are only inferences, more or less
            supported (or supportable) and more or less accepted among scholars.
            In calling into question the accepted understanding of "pros ton
            theon" I was proposing something outside the scholarly "mainstream,"
            but in proposing it I don't believe I was assuming anything outside
            the mainstream with respect to the matters you cryptically mention.

            I did assert (or "assume") certain things without giving reasons, but
            I believe they are reasonably well-supported in the literature. I
            accept that the author of John's Gospel -- the first author, not
            necessarily the last contributor -- was a Palestinian Jew, that
            his own community was Jewish, that he knew Jewish laws and customs,
            that he was familiar with much of the Bible in Hebrew as well as in
            Greek, and that the prologue reflects familiarity with Jewish
            extra-canonical oral and written traditions relating the "Wisdom"
            figure of Proverbs, the Torah and God. The author wrote the Gospel
            intending both that it would be preserved within his own
            Jewish-Christian community and be disseminated among other Christian
            communities, Jewish, Gentile and mixed.

            I am aware that some highly-respected scholars have taken the position
            that the prologue was originally a separate composition, but my
            assumption (I have reasons, but assume it here) that it is an integral
            part of the Gospel is, if anything, a conservative one.

            I think this is all mainstream, even if not all undisputed. What
            assumptions do you believe I am making that are unsupported and/or
            outside the mainstream of Johannine scholarship?

            Kevin

            --- In johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com, "Gary Henecke"
            <ghenecke@...> wrote:
            >
            > A lot of assumptions her as fact: assumptions on the language of the
            first readers, and the community of the first readers, and John's
            intent or understanding from the Midrash writings - even John's
            knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures versus the LXX.
            >
            > Your brother
            > Gary Allen Henecke
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