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Re: RE: Re(2): [John_Lit] Post Colonialism, Jeff?

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  • panderso@georgefox.edu
    Thanks, Jeff, for engaging these issues with me. ... Okay, but John asserts that the truth will set people free. Do post-colonialists take issue with that?
    Message 1 of 4 , May 18, 2000
      Thanks, Jeff, for engaging these issues with me.

      johannine_literature@egroups.com writes:
      >
      >>What is meant by "colonial"? Jesus is a king,
      >>but his kingdom is one of truth; this is why his followers do not fight.
      >
      >Many would argue this is not much of an improvement, if the Johannine
      >community is the one defining truth . . . cf., Musa Dube's essay on John
      >4 in
      >a recent Semeia volume.

      Okay, but John asserts that the truth will set people free. Do
      post-colonialists take issue with that? (See Walter Wink's work on
      engaging the powers. Truth versus deception is paramount for liberation.)
      If it is felt Johannine Christianity did an inadequate job of truth
      advocating (a view I do not hold) how are post-colonialists going to do it
      better?
      >
      >
      >the fact that John's
      >>universalizing inclinations emerged within a context of opposing the
      >>imperial wiles of Rome (Cassidy), pointing to the ultimate value and sway
      >>of the truth, restores an authentic reading of John over its distortions.
      >
      >"Restores an authentic reading" is problematical language, I think. It
      >gives
      >us another option? opens up new, more helpful (less destructive?)
      >possibilities, perhaps? Why does it have to be "more authentic"?

      This is my point above. If Dube or others believe Johannine Christianity
      is an imperial group running over Roman soldiers undaunted with its
      rhetorical polemicizing, and if it to be considered that sort of
      colonialism, this is misconception, and asserting so is a distortion.
      Likewise Johannine dialogues with larger and more established Jewish
      communities. Johannine Christianity was the smaller and more vulnerable
      partner in these first-century dialogues, and to build a theory of
      interpretation upon an anachronistic notion of Johannine domination is
      highly problematic.

      So, if you prefer "less destructive" over "more authentic" does this mean
      you value the hermeneutical outcomes over exegetical faithfulness to the
      text? I imagine you agree with me that an adequate reading of the text is
      the first responsibility of the exegete. Nonetheless, outcomes are
      important too.
      >
      >
      >>Likewise for monological distortions: John contains the scandal of
      >>particularity (14:6f.), but it also contains the herald of universalism
      >>(1:9)
      >
      >Yes, I like to read these texts against each other, too. Though, as you
      >know,
      >many do not, and probably the history of most Johannine interpretations
      >support the monological readings. An interesting historical study of
      >Johannine
      >interpretation could be done here!

      Absolutely! This, I think is the problem, and the main place I think
      Post-Colonial interpretation has a contribution to make. The employment
      of a dialectical gospel narration in ways monological and dogmatic is not
      only problematic in terms of outcomes; it falls short of an authentic
      reading of the Johannine text, which has its own correctives to dogmatism
      built into it.

      After your (and others') reviews of the social-sciences commentary on John
      in the Boston meetings, I spoke with one of its authors about his concern
      over John's particularistic dogmatism. I asked him what he did with John
      1:9 and 6:45, and he said he had not thought about those passages. Sigh.
      >
      >
      >I must say it smarts
      >>a bit to have one's work on the human sources of the pre-Marcan and
      >>Johannine traditions presented as something I'm trying to "prove" and
      >>devoid of all its nuance;
      >
      >Sometimes internet responses do not leave much time for nuance! Sorry!

      Good point, Jeff. What we must guard against is the tendency of scholars
      to be lazy and to take reductionistic statements as representing a work or
      an approach, forming positive or negative opinions on the basis of such.
      I'm just reminded that there's no substitute for reading the secondary
      literature, and even re-reading it in the light of further deliberations.
      It's amazing to note, for instance, how many people will tell you what
      Bultmann thought without having read anything he wrote.
      >
      >
      >I also realize you've given up on the historical-critical enterprise, so
      >I
      >understand.
      >
      >Oops, maybe I'll nuance this! I use elements of the "historical-critical
      >enterprise" nearly every day in my teaching and research. I read a
      >critical
      >Greek text of John (telling my students about nuances of the language),
      >talk
      >about text-critical problems, chief priests, Pharisees, etc. Yikes, I
      >was a
      >Greek major in college, and have taught it for 8 years.

      >I read with historical-critical issues in mind, but I don't want to
      >NECESSARILY give "historical-critical" questions precedence over others,
      >or
      >imply NECESSARILY a hierarchy of values when I choose to speak of them
      >first.
      >In this sense I have "given up on historical-criticism."

      This background is helpful. Thanks. We always need to be about the task
      of asking better questions.
      >
      >
      >>It's a mistake, though, to see the particularity of personalities as
      >>something I'm trying to prove. Whoever the traditional sources of Mark
      >>and John might have been, though, we need to look at these traditions as
      >>persons, full stop, rather than disembodied sets of ideas floating around
      >>docetically.
      >
      >What is the value, the payoff in "looking at these traditions as persons"
      >for
      >you? I can see the value of thinking of you as a person (you are alive,
      >and
      >can be hurt, helped, loved, killed, etc). But with the thing we call
      >"John?"

      The payoff is great, I feel, but my primary interest has been
      epistemological. Where did these ideas (John's unitive and disunitive
      christology) come from? Did they simply result from borrowing religious
      ideas (religionsgeschischliche) from Jewish and pagan sectors? Is John
      based upon alien sources or derivative from the Synoptics? Is John a
      historicized drama and fictionally so? Having investigated much of the
      evidence for all these theses, none of them stacks up as convincing. Here
      historical/critical theses are also subject to historical/critical
      analysis, and as theses, they themselves are largely unconvincing, which
      compels one to explore other approaches to the Johannine riddles.

      This traditionsgeschichlich approach also emerged as I began considering
      the particular contacts between Mark and John. None of them are identical
      contacts, and this implies engagement in the oral stages of the tradition
      rather than the written, which would have involved preachers (human ones)
      telling and hearing each other telling traditional stories. I began to
      ask why they told the stories in the particular ways they did, as well as
      how persons come to think dialectically, and this has led me to explore
      cognitive aspects of tradition formation.
      >
      >
      >I am indeed trying to rehumanize our approaches to gospel traditions.
      >They
      >tend to be far too mechanistic and operational.
      >
      >Both are quite fictional, are they not? So is the payoff: ethical?
      >theological? authority? something else?

      Many payoffs, I believe. It depends on whether and how others also take
      up the approach.
      >
      >
      >P.S., I hope others will contribute to one of this listserve's first
      >hermenuetical discussions!
      >
      >Jeff

      Hope so.

      Paul
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