Working on my Dissertation – something I’ve murdered, for now

Image taken from page 97 of 'The Chinese as th...

Image taken from page 97 of ‘The Chinese as they are: their moral, social, and literary character. A new analysis of the language; with … views of their … arts and sciences’ (Photo credit: The British Library)

I had to remove some stuff from the prospectus when I turned it into chapter 1. I am studying under Dr. Francois Tolmie, at the University of the Free State, doing a literary analysis of the Fourth Gospel and its use of Deuteronomy. What I hope to do is to do a complete analysis of every way the author of the Fourth Gospel has used the Fifth Book of Moses to tell his tale. I will invest a heavy portion of the dissertation into quotations, allusions, and echoes — then, I hope, I will over something by way of the way “John” structures his book to look something like Deuteronomy. 

I *think I see something I would like to explore, so we will see.

What follows is an unedited portion I removed.

3.4       Example of Quotations and Allusions

In looking for possible quotations and allusions, I will begin with Hans Hübner’s work, Evangelium Secundum Iohannem.[1] This portion of my work will attempt to show a Johannine appreciation of Deuteronomy as well as his use of quotes and allusions to alert his readers to his grander literary design based on Deuteronomy. As Labahn has demonstrated, the use of Deuteronomy as a quotable source is limited.[2] He points to John 8:17 as the only likely quote attributed to Deuteronomy (calling to his side two Deuteronomic witnesses, 17:6 and 19:15). We must eliminate Deuteronomy 17:15 given (with the methodology to be developed later), the passage around it does not give itself to acting as a mnemonic cue.

That leaves us with two contending passages for John’s source, either Numbers 35:30 or Deuteronomy 19:15. The passage in John presents a challenge to Jesus by the Jewish leaders who questioned his manner of truth if he could only offer testimony on his own behalf. The passage in Numbers 35:30, following the discussion on the murderer, relates the requirements to have two witnesses to put the criminal to death. Deuteronomy 19:15, on the other hand, speaks to the accusation against someone who has sinned. Deuteronomy declares the priests must judge the accusation while including a warning against the false accuser. John’s passage includes Pharisees, the Temple setting, and a passive proclamation that Jesus’s accusers are making false statements. It is much more likely John is quoting from Deuteronomy rather than Numbers.

I will now offer, based on a proposed allusion by Hübner, an example of the work I plan to accomplish.[3] He proposes a possible connection between Deuteronomy 16:2 and John 2:15 based on πρόβατα καὶ βόας.[4] Exodus 12:32 contains the exact word order found in John, πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας, while the word order matching Deuteronomy 16:2 is found in Psalm 8:8. As to be discussed in the chapter on critical theory of allusions, for an allusion to work as an intentional ploy of the author, the allusion must serve as a cue to a larger intertextual frame. Neither Exodus 12:32 nor Psalm 8:8 give to John the needed imagery to allow us to consider this phrase an allusion. Only Deuteronomy does. Again, I must refer back to the imagery present to identify the likelihood of the allusive allowance. In John, Jesus is presenting his body as the Temple whereas in Deuteronomy, the Temple is in only view. This is not all. The Johannine passage takes place near the Passover (John 2:13) whereas Deuteronomy calls for the Passover to take place in the Temple (16:1). Both passages share the Passover and Temple imagery, as well as the ultimate Passover as an expected future event.[5] For Deuteronomy, it is the building of the Temple whereas for John, it is with the death of Jesus.

If we can find more allusions between Deuteronomy, using them to act as signs for larger intertextual frames, we will begin to see the larger role the Fifth Book of Moses plays in the Fourth Gospel. Such allusions, I contend, are replete, adding structure to John’s writing so that John should not be interpreted apart from Deuteronomy, but nestled in an almost inter-linear fashion. The search for allusions, rather than direct quotations will give us this possibility as well as allow us to examine what, if any, these additional recognized intertextual frames contribute to understanding an overall Johannine theology and intent.

3.5       Example of Neologism Work

The word dedicated to allusions will included a specialized section focused on examining the possibility of John’s use of the neologisms created by the septuagintal translator of Deuteronomy. There are two lists of neologisms, based on two different critical texts. The first is found in Wevers’ Notes on the Greek Text of Deuteronomy.[6] The second is in Göttingen Septuagint. The second list is found in Cécile Dogniez and Marguerite Harl’s work, based on Rahlfs’ critical edition.[7] What I intend to do here, briefly, is to show a positive end to the search of neologisms as a possible allusion in John as well as a negative.

Towards the negative boundary of exploration is the exploitation of the neologism that evolved into the name of the fifth book of the Torah, Δευτερονόμιον (Deut. 17:18). In several instances, we find John referring to an action of Jesus with δεύτερος.[8] While we may wish to see something in the passages relating to a second birth of sorts, nothing quite approaches an allowance to see δευτερονόμιον behind the various instances of δεύτερος in the Fourth Gospel.

We may find a positive allusion to a Greek Deuteronomic neologism in John 19:5, referring to Deuteronomy 1:31.[9] The neologism created by the translator of Deuteronomy is τροφοφορέω, used twice in this verse. Likewise, it is used in 2 Maccabees 7:27. Both books are likely in John’s cognitive environment. Equally, both passages under review contain images likely to have influenced the author of the Fourth Gospel. However, whereas 2 Maccabees relates the natural course of the mother and the child, the passage in Deuteronomy contains the imagery of God who fights for Israel and, more importantly, εἴ τις τροφοφορήσει ἄνθρωπος τὸν υἱὸν. God is bearing Israel as a man bears his son. John uses this hapax legomenon to imagine Jesus φορῶν τὸν ἀκάνθινον στέφανον καὶ τὸ πορφυροῦν ἱμάτιον. Given the similarity in imagery, if only in theology, it is possible John uses for the only time in his Gospel a word to harken back to God bearing Israel as a man bears his son.We must admit, however, beyond the theological allusions, the use of a neologism in Deuteronomy with a similar hapax legomenon in the Fourth Gospel is not in of itself completely convincing.[10] It may be that we are seeing a Deuteronomic theological allusion in use by John because of a hyper-focus by the examiner; to remedy that, I will not insist on these as allusions, if the evidence is this flimsy, but seek to present them as echoes indicating some contextual verbal hints in John’s vocabulary.

Admittedly, this is a rather weak connection and while I will use one or two of these weak analogies to showcase the stronger ones, it is less likely such a exposed allusion will be used to prove any substantial connections between Deuteronomy and John. Of course, I will beg the reader to allow for echoes to abound in John’s vocabulary so that while choice may imply purpose, there are those choices in the author’s mind we cannot so well gauge as to remain confident as to their purpose, as if one purpose is more explicable than one accident.


[1] Hans Hübner, Antje Labahn, and Michael Labahn, Evangelium Secundum Iohannem 2003.

[2]Labahn in Menken and Moyise, 84.

[3]Hübner, Evangelium Secundum Iohannem, 59–60

[4] πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας (John 2:15)

[5] See Michael A. Daise, Feasts in John: Jewish Festivals and the Jesus’ “Hour” in the Fourth Gospel (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007). Daise proposed the use of feasts to denote a narrative aspect of John. If his premise is correct, then we can see more easily an allusion to Deuteronomy 16 (as opposed to Exodus 12 or Psalm 8) due to this particular pass of Deuteronomy focusing on the proper celebration of the feasts.

[6] John William Wevers, Notes on the Greek Text of Deuteronomy (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1995.)

[7] Cécile Dogniez and Marguerite Harl, La Bible d’Alexandrie LXX, Tome 5: Le Deuteronome (Paris: Le Cerf, 1992).

[8] John 3:4, 4:54, 9:24, 21:16

[9] The ultimate purpose of using this neologism is to first show the work under the soon-to-developed methodology and not argue convincingly for its determined purpose.

[10] There are natural arguments against the allowance of this as a intertextual allusion. The first is the use of the figurative language in the LXX, something John either ignores or misses as the Evangelist strips the word (as with the removal of τροφο) of the language needed to conjure the image of a caring, or nursing, person. Jesus is not the caring individual here, but in need of care. Second, there are the other New Testament usages, such as in Matthew 11:8 and 1 Corinthians 15:49. The answer to a possible weakness in this example is to beg allowance that John may simply use the word to call attention to the larger intertextual framework he may employ here while the answer to the second opposition is to suggest we examine vocabulary in John as Johannine rather than as New Testament.

Post By Joel Watts (10,109 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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