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Archive for the ‘John’ Category

August 3rd, 2016 by Jeremy Shank

Wrestling with the Two Headed Monster of John 3.16


My name is Jeremy Shank.
I am pastor at Thornville UMC in the Foothills District.
I am currently blogging about and hoping to form ideas for a new book I’m working on.

“Inclusion/Exclusion – a look at how salvation works in the Bible” is the topic I am working with and I could use your thoughts on some things.  I was hoping you might weigh in on a couple of issues I am wrestling with right now. www.inclusionexclusion.wordpress.com

I am looking at John 3.16, probably the most well known verse concerning our salvation. I am weighing how much inclusion we see in this verse as well as the wording here that would suggest there is some exclusion to deal with, also. Some translations would put the entire conversation with Nicodemus as the words of Jesus (in red) all the way down to verse 21. (NKJV, CEB, NLT) Most notably, the NIV stops Jesus speaking (words in red) at verse 15. Which leaves the rest of the section looking like a re-capping of the conversation with Nicodemus by the author of the Gospel.

My wonderings….
1) a penny for your thoughts on John 3.16 and whether you feel more inclusive about the verse or exclusive as you read it.
2) does putting the actual words of John 3.16 into the hands of Jesus shape your feelings about how salvation works itself out in our lives.
3) any material you might suggest that I research that would help support your viewpoint and help me shape mine.

Blessings on your day

Thank you for your help

July 14th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Review, “Reading John”

Christopher W. Skinner’s latest work, Reading John, stands out as a bridge to a wider world of Johannine scholarship.

At the beginning of my dissertation process, I had in mind the goal of rendering Gospel of John to a reduction of quotes, citations, allusions, and echoes of Deuteronomy. In doing my due diligence, I discovered the grandness of the Gospel of John cannot be measured by literary sources predating it or completely captured by later Christian theology. Rather, the Gospel of John still has many caveats for those adventurous spelunkers willing to risk calmness in reading and seek to better understand our Fourth Gospel.

Christopher W. Skinnner‘s recent contribution is not a grand commentary on the text, or a theological diatribe meant to sway one into reading John as if it contains fully developed Christian theology, but it is meant to be something a quite bit more substantial than an small group study book. Rather, Reading John is aimed at the student, new and old, capturing the current scholarship around the nascent Text that relies neither on Christian theology or the rest of the New Testament canon, but insists that it be understood on its own terms and merits. This doesn’t mean Reading John is absent Christian theology or contributions from the study of the Synoptics, only that Reading John examines the Gospel of John as an independent work.

English: Beginning of the Gospel of John, deco...

English: Beginning of the Gospel of John, decorated headpiece (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading John is divided between 8 chapters, with chapters 1 and 8 serving as bookends to the intervening chapters that are focused on the Text itself. It is not a straightforward reading, as in chapter 7, Skinner returns to GJohn’s third chapter to finally explain the summation of the entire book — Skinner doesn’t end John at chapter 21, but in John 3. In the meantime, Skinner examines the various theories of the composition of John, including the hypothesis of the two-level drama (chapter 3). Likewise, he explores the possibilities of an identity crisis in John — Jewish or anti-Jewish? — in chapter 4. (Skinner maintains hoi Ioudaioi  is used against the Jewish leaders rather than Jews.) In chapter 5, we read about the uniqueness of language of both Jesus and the narrator (such as the literary aside — I’d like to have seen Skinner deal with John 12.33, a universally important aside) while in chapter 6, Skinner invites us to explore the rhetoric of GJohn and why people simply do not understand. Along the way, he includes small details that are often left out of books this size — such as literary connections in John and those hidden clues that the narrator is actually writing for the audience to understand (such as the connection between Peter and Judas). Through it all, we are given our own asides via space-saving charts and sidebars, that insure we get our author’s point in minute detail. Accompanying each chapter is a plethora of bibliographical notes and sources, containing a wide-ranging view on Johannine scholarship. Skinner does not simply stick to one school of thought, but is quick to bring in various (sometimes countering) viewpoints to give a fuller picture.

Skinner does not leave the theology behind, but does not insist that it is the same as later Christian theology. Rather, what you see is the beginning (and I believe a natural trajectory) of a theological strain that leads to current Christian theology; however, that may be my reading of it rather than Skinner’s intent. Regardless, what is everpresent is sound scholarship, an easy reasoning, and a needed approach to the Gospel of John informing the reader of current academic approaches without a complete deconstruction of the reader’s cognitive environment.

I am always concerned with a book this size (a mere 145 pages) — that a reader will simply not get enough information for it to matter. I am happy to have had my concerns alleviated. While only 145 pages, Reading John is efficacious in dealing with the material at hand, without straying down rabbit-holes or leaving us wondering if there may be more.  Skinner writes with a scholar’s pen, and a classical pedagogue’s finesse, delivering to his students (that would be us) a well-lit door into the study of the Gospel of John.

Dr. Christopher W. Skinner blogs here, where you will find his engagement with scholars and the wider-world. 

April 27th, 2015 by Joel Watts

in the mail: “Reading John”

I’ve flipped through it and read the introduction. Thus far, it looks like a great tool to have for those teaching John:

The Gospel of John is often found at the center of discussions about the Bible and its relation to Christian theology. It is difficult to quantify the impact John’s Gospel has had on both the historical development of Christian doctrine and the various expressions of Christian devotion. All too often, however, readers have failed to understand the Gospel as an autonomous text with its own unique story to tell. More often than not, the Gospel of John is swept into a reading approach that either conflates or attempts to harmonize with other accounts of Jesus’ life. This book emphasizes the uniqueness of John’s story of Jesus and attempts to provide readers with a road map for appreciating the historical context and literary features of the text. The aim of this book is to help others become better, more perceptive readers of the Gospel of John, with an ability to trace the rhetoric of the narrative from beginning to end.

August 14th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Review of @fortresspress’s “The Vine and the Son of Man: Eschatological Interpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism”

In the last few decades, academia has produced few, but great intertextual scholars. I suspect that soon we will add a name such as Andrew Streett to that list. His work, The Vine and the Son of Man traces the interpretation and reinterpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism, ending with the Gospel of John. But, it does more than that. Indeed, Streett offers an interdisciplinary approach — Second Temple Judaism, rhetoric, canonical theism, and intertextuality — to understanding not just how the Fourth Evangelist used Psalm 80, but so too the inherited methodology allowing him, or requiring him, to employ the strategy. This volume is a richly rewarding experience whereby the reader is able to digest the complete context of Psalm 80.

And a very detailed introduction, Streett begins the work in earnest with an examination of Psalm 80 in its historical context. He presents his speculation that it was originally a response to the end of the Northern Kingdom, offered to call to God’s remembrance the covenant. Already, we can see why this particular psalm could become important to early apologists defending the messiahship of Jesus. It includes vine imagery, the request for a strong leader, and the restoration of the nation. Thus, the original context supplied the needed theology to develop John’s Son of Man imagery.

Following this, Streett examines the psalm within it’s setting of the psalter. This first use of the psalm allowed the receptive audience (the 6th century BCE) to see it pertaining to them. Further, by placing it within Book III of the psalter, Psalm 80’s already rich royal connection is magnified, assuming an eschatological presence that produces the connection to the Temple and Jerusalem. This is interesting in of itself because it allows the reader to see how portions of Scripture are shaped by their literary placement.

I a (not-as) convincing chapter on Daniel 7, the author argues that the natural imagery of Daniel’s Son of Man vision is supplemented by Psalm 80. He bases this on the beasts, primarily. I remain unconvinced, wishing he had devoted more time to intertextual clues — or included this chapter either in, or after, the following chapter in which he examines our psalm within Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (chapter 4). In this portion, Streett investigates such works as pseudo-Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls to understand how Psalm 80 figured into their works. It is during this time, and with the help of the developing eschatological hope, Psalm 80 is reworked to represent better what early Christians would have recognized as the “real” meaning. Had Street placed his chapter on Daniel within this framework, it would be more convincing.

Streett’s chapters on Mark are completely convincing — not simply because he delves deep into the concept of allusion and what this means when reading texts into, or out of, of another. In chapter 5, he stands out from the crowd(s) — the crowds arguing neither for Daniel 7 or Isaiah 53 as the genesis for the suffering Messiah — holding Psalm 80 as the theological instigator for seeing Jesus’s passion as necessary and “biblical.” Chapter 6 deals well with Mark 12.1-12 and its allusive connections to Psalm 80. Streett continues to build upon the idea of intertextuality, connecting Mark to his theological heritage — Second Temple Judaism. By doing so, he gives a literary depth to Mark rarely seen by a surface reading.

In his seventh chapter, Streett tackles Psalm 80 in John 15.1–8. He does not simply offer the psalm as the only intertext, but examines it next to the passages commonly associated with pericope such as Isaiah 5.1–7 and Sirach 24.17–21. He maintains that while other passages may contribute to John’s choice of words here, it is Psalm 80 supplying the spine of the passage.

How did we read the New Testament without the aid of Psalm 80 before? Sure, we did pretty well for ourselves, having rested easily enough on Psalm 110 — but, it seems we were lacking something. And if we ever believed christology suddenly sprang forth ex nihilo, we missed something there as well. Often times, we are told scholars live to find something new. Here, Streett brings back something old and gives us more things to consider in reading the New Testament. He helps us to understand just how Jewish, and continuous, New Testament theology really is. It is a rewarding experience for those seeking to understand the zygote of the New Testament as well as how previous texts were used, reused, and transformed by later writers.

May 30th, 2014 by Joel Watts

The Use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel, Part 3 (former prospectus)

English: beginning of the Gospel of John

English: beginning of the Gospel of John (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am changing my dissertation focus from a literary analysis of the Fourth Gospel’s use of Deuteronomy to something else. Therefore, I am posting what I have already written. I’ll upload it on Academia.edu later. Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here.

3.         Goal

3.1       Statement of Purpose

As noted above, Deuteronomy is recognized by scholars as the book most used by Jewish exegetes of the Second Temple Period. Equally noted is the lack of pointed scholarship investigating the use of Deuteronomy by the Fourth Gospel. While there are studies meant to engage the Mosaic role of Jesus, drawn from Deuteronomy 18, in the Fourth Gospel, along with Christology, monotheism and a few other Deuteronomic artifacts are easily accessible, there is no monograph examining the role Deuteronomy as a whole plays in the Fourth Gospel. We have such studies on various other books, such as Ezekiel, in John, but nothing as of yet for Deuteronomy, clearly the exegetical muse of the cognitive environment of the Second Temple authors. This is a problem I propose to solve.

I propose the author of the Fourth Gospel used Deuteronomy with a discoverable intention. While we cannot fully know the author’s mind, we can attempt to place the author of the Fourth Gospel next to similar authors in hopes of narrowing in on the author’s intention. The goal of this work is first to examine and catalogue the myriad ways the Evangelist may have used Deuteronomy as an intertext and then to propose a literary connection between the two books, a connection I propose is a stark difference between the use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel and that of all of the other literary sources John employs to fashion his Gospel. The Fourth Gospel does not merely use Deuteronomy to validate messianic claims or other theological tenants, but develops a distinctive interpretative instantiation of Deuteronomy so that the fifth book of Moses is the key to the Fourth Gospel. To that end, I will examine the Johannine use of Deuteronomy on three levels. The first will examine unique features, such as word choice and use of unique stylistic features. The second will examine both books for a shared literary imagery including theological constructs. The third will examine the designs of both books, looking for a pattern to be used by and then argue for its use in the Fourth Gospel. This third level, rightly falling after the other two, will make use of the ground work laid in the previous, to suggest John is intimately familiar with Deuteronomy and, like other Jewish exegetes, uses the end of the Pentateuch to buttress his own work.

Research will focus on deciphering the uses of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel. I will examine proposed quotations and allusions with the intention of identifying a Johannine knowledge, use, and reliance upon the fifth book of Moses. The questions here will relate to the use of Deuteronomy as opposed to the use of other books likely available to the author of the Gospel. A deeper petition will seek to examine an overarching use of Deuteronomy, for such things as structure. While it is rather easy to accept a Johannine motivation for using Deuteronomy 18 to present Jesus and other use of theological motifs, the better question is whether or not the entirety of Deuteronomy may serve as a literary infrastructure. I will suggest it does. Finally, the question of inherent authority transferred to John (and thus John’s subjects) by Deuteronomy will be explored.

3.2       Value of Research

The value of the study will be manifold. First, I will work within current models of literary imitation in the New Testament to refine a methodology and then use this methodology in investigating the hypertext for quotations and allusions to the hypotext. Second, this will serve as an explanative catalogue for quotations and allusions, providing an interpretative piece to the methodology. Finally, this work will serve to propose an addition to John’s intention in that the Evangelist’s use of Deuteronomy is significant in understanding the intention of the author’s presentation of his narrative in a way not met by the use of other sources. Simply, Deuteronomy is John’s essential shape whereby he molds the Jesus plot.

3.3       Scope of Work

This study is divided into 2 parts. In the following chapter I will examine literary theory of quotations, allusions, and echoes as well as literary designs. In the Greco-Roman world the use of previous texts as a form of rhetorical practice is named mimesis or imitatio. We have no such well-ordered designation in the Jewish world of literary traditions, although it is clear this happened.[1] The use of mimesis in Gospel criticism began with Thomas Brodie’s work on the Fourth Gospel and is currently the tool of choice for those researching the literary sources of the Gospel of Mark.[2]  It will be used here not so much as to provide for the literary sources, but for the framing quality of the Fourth Gospel as well as for the “appeal to emotion” often employed by ancient writers through this process. To follow this reasoning, in chapter 3 I will develop a more complete methodology for exploring allusions and literary designs. This methodology will work with current models while allowing for a refined process to conservatively decipher John’s use of Deuteronomy.

In Part II, I will begin by surveying the uses of Deuteronomy by other exegetes of the Second Temple Period, focusing on Deuteronomy in rewritten Scripture and the use of Deuteronomy in narratives. As Deuteronomy features heavily in Second Temple Judaism — including mainstream and the highly sectarian Judaisms — I will first posit a certain interpretative must for any exegete of the time to use Deuteronomy and then give examples of how exegetes not only employed Deuteronomy, but crafted and re-crafted it to serve a plethora of needs in manifold communities. Finally, I will closely examine the reception of Deuteronomy by Second Temple exegetes and the intentional transference of authority, e.g., validation, through their use of quotes, allusions, and literary structures drawn from fifth book of Moses in their writings.

In chapter 5 I will explore, catalogue and offer a small measure of interpretative guidance to possible quotations and allusions, focusing first on items from the Greek Deuteronomy, such as neologisms, we might expect to find in the hypertext as clues to the use of the hypotext. Much of the groundwork for this chapter is already well laid by Hans Hübner. I work with the citations he has offered and propose several more while attempting to offer a more complete literary design as to the author ultimate purpose. The following chapter will focus on comparing the structure of Deuteronomy and John and looking for overall narrative frameworks the Evangelist may have borrowed from the Deuteronomist. The discoveries made in this chapter along with shared theology will feature heavily in determining these connections.

Finally, chapter 7 will serve as the conclusion for this study. As the proposal of this work is to discover the use of ­Deuteronomy by the Evangelist, the final chapter will seek to solidify my insistence on an intimate use of Deuteronomy to provide for something more than validation, but authorization. I will first analyze and compare the two discourses, using the methodology established in the previous chapter. Then, I will propose a function of the discourses focusing instead on its use for authorial weight rather than on a message intended for the audience, natural or implied. Finally, this chapter will explore the role of Deuteronomy in final chapters of the Fourth Gospel and how it aids in understanding Gospel and its author.

3.4 Conclusion

The present study will attempt to present at length the case for a considerable useage between Deuteronomy and the Fourth Gospel that goes beyond allusions or scriptural citations. Rather, the intent of this work is to show the author of the Fourth Gospel to have used Deuteronomy to present not only Jesus in a particular view, but more importantly, this study will show the author hoped to present not only his work but himself as well in a particular light and in keeping with the tradition of Deuteronomic exegesis in Second Temple Judaism.

[1] For instance, the use of Isaiah and Exodus in the Wisdom of Solomon could certainly fit the Roman restrictions placed on mimesis. A later chapter is devoted to the exploration of the Jewish preservation of previous texts.

[2] For Brodie’s work, see The Gospel According to John: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Oxford University Press, 1997); The Quest for the Origin of John’s Gospel: A Source-Oriented Approach (Oxford University Press, 1993). For recent studies on the use of mimesis in the Gospel of Mark see Dennis R. MacDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (Yale University Press, 2000); Two Shipwrecked Gospels: The Logoi of Jesus and Papias’s Exposition of Logia About the Lord (Early Christianity and Its Literature) (Brill, 2012); Does the New Testament Imitate Homer?: Four Cases from the Acts of the Apostles (Yale University Press, 2003); Adam Winn, Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material (Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick Publications, 2010); and Joel L. Watts, Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2013).





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