Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
May 30th, 2014 by Joel Watts

The Use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel, Part 2 (former prospectus)

Bible de Gutenberg Deuteronomy 6:16-7:16

Bible de Gutenberg Deuteronomy 6:16-7:16 (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.

  1. Overview of research on the Fourth Gospel’s use of Deuteronomy

Craig Keener calls Deuteronomy “the most popular book among early Jewish interpreters.”[1] Further, he notes the large number of Deuteronomic allusions, least of which are the Mosiac allusions. There are several monographs worth noting regarding Deuteronomy’s use in the New Testament. The first is David Lincicum’s work on Paul and Deuteronomy.[2] Lincicum’s labor translates well to our purposes in this work due to his allowance not only of a heavy influence of Deuteronomy on Paul, but so too the picture of the ideal Jewish interpreter of Deuteronomy. Brandon Crowe sees a Deuteronomic influence on Matthew’s Christology.[3] David Allen has written a work exploring the use of a refiguring of Deuteronomy by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.[4] There is also a monograph on seeing the end of Deuteronomy in Paul’s epistles.[5] Following these is the recent monograph co-edited by Maarten J. J. Menken and Steve Moyise exploring Deuteronomic quotations and allusions in each of the New Testament books.[6]

Given the use of Deuteronomy by New Testament writers, one would hope for some attention given in exploring Deuteronomy and the Fourth Gospel. However, as of yet, there are no distinctive monographs devoted to solely examining the role Deuteronomy plays in the Fourth Gospel. There are, however, monographs examining the role other Old Testament books play in John’s work. Severino Pancaro has written in regards to the Law in the Fourth Gospel, although this work is primarily meant to examine Torah legalities in relation to Jesus, his claims, and the relationship to the Jews.[7] Gary T. Manning, Jr likewise examines Ezekiel’s role.[8] As already discussed, Daly-Denton has written about the reception of the Psalms in John’s Gospel while Andrew C. Brunson follows this somewhat and has examined a specific psalm, 118, as employed by the Evangelist.[9] Young has produced an article on Isaiah’s relationship to the Fourth Gospel.[10] There is even a monograph on John’s flirtation with the Song of Solomon.[11]

1.1.         Quotations

If we were to suggest, unlike Isaiah or the Psalms, direct quotations of the fifth book of Moses by John, we would find ourselves walking in darkness. There are no clearly easily rescued direct quotations in John’s Gospel of the book that is the air of the New Testament writers’ cognitive environment.[12] Michael Labahn, however, tempers this claim only slightly by suggesting John 8:17, with its introductory formula of καὶ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ δὲ τῷ ὑμετέρῳ γέγραπται may act as a quotation of Deuteronomy.[13] He protests regarding the exclusion of a Deuteronomic source here simply because it does not contain enough verbal connections, citing for this defense Deuteronomy 17:15, 19:15 and Numbers 35:30.[14] What we see, I would contend, is not a direct quotation, but perhaps a quotation alluding to a series of passages. Likewise is Labahn’s suggestion of the quotation by the Fourth Evangelist of Deuteronomy 6:4 as found in John 5:44 and 8:54.

1.2.         Allusions

In regards to allusions, Labahn begins by defining allusions rather loosely — “if they are not marked like quotations by some kind of quotation formula or by a recognizable verbal identity.”[15] He cites John 5:5 as using Deuteronomy 2:14.[16] This is based on the use of time.[17] He also sees an allusion in John 5:21 to Deuteronomy 32:39 and Deuteronomy 4:12 in John 5:37.[18] This latter allusion provides something more introspective, however, as following Michael Theobald, Labahn sees a Johannine response to the Deuteronomic message.[19] This response, then, is used in favor of Jesus’s arguments with the Jewish leaders.

Following Labahn’s allowance for a rather loose definition of allusion, we may allow for Minear’s insistence connecting Deuteronomy 33:12 with the identification of the disciple writing the work based on the appellate ἀγαπάω.[20] The connection between the disciple in the Fourth Gospel and the legends surrounding the patriarch Benjamin is not difficult to see. Several times, the unnamed disciple whom tradition tells us is a young man named John is said to be the one Jesus loved. Further, Minear is able to show a positive allusion between the promises made to Benjamin in Deuteronomy and the promises thought to be made to the disciple in final chapter of the Fourth Gospel.[21]

Beyond Labahn’s singular devoted essay to the subject, the most vital works on examining John for quotations and allusions to Deuteronomy are found in Menken’s work on Old Testament Quotations as well as Hans Hübner’s volume, Evangelium secundum Iohannem.[22] These two works provide a textual search for connections between the two books; however, they are limited at only literary borrowing. The real measure of John’s use of Deuteronomy should not be limited to exacting measures of word choice, but expanded to include, as with the whole of the Old Testament, allusions based on theology. To that, we shall now turn.[23]
1.3.         Use of Deuteronomy in John’s theology

At first glance, it is not difficult to see an even rudimentary use of Deuteronomy in John’s Gospel. In this next section, we will examine only a few of the theological points John likely draws from Deuteronomy, or perhaps it is better said, the Deuteronomy-influenced-schools around him. Again, we cannot help but to turn to Labahn’s essay in Menken and Moyise’s monograph. Like before, our considerations are rather brief; however, this time, monotheism is combined with Christology. Monotheism is the first of the more noticeable features in John likely drawn from Deuteronomy, although it suffers some Christian interference as especially in regards to the deity of Jesus as the Son of God.

1.3.1.     Christology
Immediately, the reader of the Fourth Gospel will hear the echoes of Deuteronomy 18 when approaching the soundings of who Jesus is.[24] The role of Jesus as bread of life and the use of hungry imagery may likewise develop from Deuteronomy, although a Deuteronomy interpreted through the Greco-Roman world.[25] Jesus is also seen as delivering God’s “giver.”[26] Similarly, John’s Christology based in the Shema would lead to a different community as well.[27] It is possible John has in mind something of Deuteronomy 32:39 in Jesus’s constant refrain of εγώ εἰμι. According to Bauckham, this passage was “frequently read as an eschatological prophecy of the salvation God would achieve for his people in the end times.”[28]

This concept, that something may be implied rather than clearly stated or patterned is something J. Louis Martyn takes up in his work on the theology of the Gospel of John.[29] He has cited several implicit affirmations of the prophet-like-Moses Christology including the use of the Law (John 7:19), the Am Ha’arets (7:49), and the study of scriptures (5:39). It may be that these implied connections exist more to the realm of the audience. If this is true, one cannot easily separate the understood allusions to such an audience from the audience themselves especially when, instead of the “Disciples of Moses” as a positive appellation it becomes a pejorative in the hand of John. Rather, while the audience has used allusions to Deuteronomy, John can use the same allusions in a split-level attack so that the author is found drawing from the allusions twice — to support his claims as well as to attack those he desires to. Thus, when reading for Christological allusions, we can allow for a dual use of previous material, first by the germane audience and second by the author or author’s community.[30] John incorporates, in various ways, allusions known by the audience, even the audience in opposition to his own.

[1] Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John, Volume One & Volume Two (Reprint, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 51n451.

[2] David. Lincicum, Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter with Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013. See also “Paul and the Temple Scroll: Reflections on a Shared Engagement with Deuteronomy,” Neotestamentica 43 (1), pp. 69-92; and “Paul’s Engagement with Deuteronomy: Snapshots and Signposts.” Currents in Biblical Research 7, no. 1 (2008): 37–67.

[3] Brandon D. Crowe, The Obedient Son: Deuteronomy and Christology in the Gospel of Matthew (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter), 2012.

[4] David M. Allen, Deuteronomy & Exhortation in Hebrews: A Study in Re-presentation (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008).

[5] G. Waters, The End of Deuteronomy in the Epistles of Paul (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 2. Reihe 221, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck), 2006. Much like Lincicum’s monograph, Waters sees a certain typological use of Deuteronomy by Paul, mirroring other Second Temple interpreters.

[6] Maarten J. J. Menken and Steve Moyise (editors), Deuteronomy in the New Testament: The New Testament and the Scriptures of Israel (1st ed.; London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark), 2007.

[7] Severino Pancaro, The Law in the Fourth Gospel: The Torah and the Gospel, Moses and Jesus, Judaism and Christianity According to John (Leiden: Brill Academic Pub, 1975). See also Alan Watson, Jesus and the Jews: The Pharisaic Tradition in John (First Edition; Athens: Univ of Georgia Pr, 1995), 42–3.

[8] Gary T. Manning Jr, Echoes of a Prophet: The Use of Ezekiel in the Gospel of John and in Literature of the Second Temple Period (1st ed.; London: T&T Clark), 2004.

[9] Andrew C. Brunson, Psalm 118 in the Gospel of John: An Intertextual Study on the New Exodus Pattern in the Theology of John (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003).

[10] Franklin W. Young, “A Study of the Relation of Isaiah to the Fourth Gospel.” Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der Älteren Kirche 46, no. 3–4 (1955): 215–233.

[11] Ann Roberts Winsor, A King Is Bound in the Tresses: Allusions to the Song of Songs in the Fourth Gospel (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999).

[12] M. Hengel, “Die Schriftauslegung des 4. Evangeliums auf dem Hintergrund der urchristlichen Exegese”, JBTh 4 (1989), p. 276 n. 95; Schnelle, Johannes, p. 16; Scholtissek, “‘Die unauflösbare Schrift’ (Joh 10,35)”, p. 159

[13] Labahn, “John” in Maarten J. J Menken and Steve Moyise, Deuteronomy in the New Testament: The New Testament and the Scriptures of Israel(London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2007).

[14] The use of Deuteronomy as the source for John 8:17 is supported by Menken as well (Menken, Old Testament Quotations, p. 16: “The legal content of Deut. 19:15 has evidently been rephrased in Johannine language.”)

[15] Labahn,“John” in Menken and Moyise, Deuteronomy in the New Testament, 88. Labahn is not the only one to take this train of thought. Wolfgang Roth likewise sees a connection here with the matter of the “38” years. W. Roth, “Scriptural Coding in the Fourth Gospel”, Biblical Research 32 (1987): 6–29 (11).

[16] Labahn, “John,” in Menken and Moyise, Deuteronomy in the New Testament, 89-90.

[17] Following Hengel (Hengel, “Schriftauslegung”, 286), Labahn sees his as a typological recast of Israel’s punishment spent in the wilderness. He then assigns a narrative function to the sick man, mimicking Israel’s rebellion. Labahn, as to be expected in a brief essay, misses the rather outstanding use of Deuteronomic theology as exemplified in John 5:14.

[18] Between these two verses is an allusion identified by Wolfgang Roth. He points to John 5:30 (κρίσις ἡ ἐμὴ δικαία) as alluding to Deut. 16:18–20. (Roth, Biblical Research, 12.)

[19] M. Theobald, Die Fleischwerdung des Logos: Studien zum Verhältnis des Johannesprologs zum Corpus des Evangeliums und zu 1 Joh. (NTA, 20; Münster: Aschendorff, 1988), pp. 363-64. For Labahn’s allowance, see Menken and Moyise, 92-3.

[20] Minear in Orton, The Composition of John’s Gospel, 191.

[21] Minear in Orton, The Composition of John’s Gospel, 192–3

[22] Maarten J. J. Menken, Old Testament Quotations in the Fourth Gospel, and Hans Hübner, Antje Labahn, and Michael Labahn, Evangelium Secundum Iohannem (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), 2003.

[23] There is something of this expansion in Minear in David E. Orton, The Composition of John’s Gospel: Selected Studies from Novum Testamentum (Leiden: Brill Academic Pub, 1999), 190–2. Here, Minear compares the discourses in both John and Deuteronomy, finding an echo of a similar structure. This is supported by Thomas L. Brodie also (The Quest for the Origin of John’s Gospel: A Source-Oriented Approach, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993, 166­­–7). Brodie goes further than Minear in drawing a direct connection between the discourses so that topics shared between the Fourth Gospel and Deuteronomy are evident. See also M. Winter, Das Vermächtnis Jesu und die Abschiedsworte der Väter: Gattungsgeschichtliche Untersuchung der Vermächtnisrede im Blick auf Joh. 13—17 (Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments 161, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994); Aelred Lacomara sees a psychological aspect in the parallel (“Deuteronomy and the Farewell Discourse (Jn 13:31-16:33)”, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 36, no. 1 (Jan 1974): 65–84). Marc Girard sees a typological structure of John based on the seven days of Creation in Genesis (“La Structure Heptapartite du Quatrième Évangile”, Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 5, no. 4 (March 1, 1976): 350–359). Brown and Moloney allow for the connection based on thematic grounds. (Introduction to the Gospel of John, 135–6.) Keener denies that such a connection exists (The Gospel of John, Vol 1, 51), at least in similar structures, although he does allow for a similarity to exist between the Farewell Discourses in John and Deuteronomy (53) and that Deuteronomy serves as a model of writing for John (291).

[24] See W. A. Meeks, The Prophet-King: Moses Traditions and the Johannine Christology (NovTSup, 14; Leiden: Brill, 1967); M. E. Boismard, Moses or Jesus: An Essay in Johannine Christology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993); K. S. Fuglseth, Johannine Sectarianism in Perspective: A Sociological, Historical, and Comparative Analysis of Temple and Social relationships in the Gospel of John, Philo, and Qumran (NovTSup, 119; Leiden et al.: Brill, 2005), p. 266.; A. Obermann, Die christologische Erfüllung der Schrift im Johannesevangelium. Eine Untersuchung zur johanneischen Hermeneutik anhand der Schriftzitate (WUNT, 11/83 Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996), pp. 138-39, 370 n. 14. See also Anderson in Semeia 85: 34, God the Father in the Gospel of John (ed. Adele Reinhartz; Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 1999) where he posits the Father-Son relationship prevalent in Fourth Gospel is based on the “prophet-like-Moses typology.” Anderson also sees the prophet-like-Moses as a buffer against any sort of “gnostic redeemer myth.” See Paul N. Anderson, Felix Just, and Tom Thatcher, eds. John, Jesus, and History, Volume 1: Critical Appraisals of Critical Views (First Edition; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007), 28. It is telling that in this massive volume, the only use of Deuteronomy is specifically 18:15–22, and only by Anderson. A brief but essential dialogue with the various motifs branching away from the prophet-like-Moses motif can be found in Paul S. Minear’s essay in Orton, The Composition of John’s Gospel, 186–204, (189–90). Anderson also notes the use of Deuteronomy 34:10–12 when discussing Moses as Prophet. (Anderson, The Christology of John’s Gospel, 176.) Keener would argue against the consensus here, suggesting that the disciples are more like Moses while Jesus serves the role of God’s glory (Keener, The Gospel of John, 51.)

[25] See J.G. van der Watt, “I Am the Bread of Life. Imagery in John 6:32–51,” Acta Theologica 2007:2, 195. He references several Greco-Roman works while pointing to Deuteronomy 8:3; 28:48; 32.24. As well, the use of the imagery here compounded with εγώ εἰμι in John 6:35 is also connected to Deuteronomy 32:39. van der Watt, 198. McGrath (John’s Apologetic Christianity, 177) suggests a Deuteronomic background for this imagery as well, citing Deuteronomy 8:3. Paul Anderson (The Christology of the Fourth Gospel (1st ed.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck), 1996, 59) sees a reflection in John 6:31 of Deuteronomy 8:2f (along with Isaiah 55:1f).

[26] Keener, The Gospel of John, 567. Keener calls attention to the role Moses takes in giving the Torah (as directed by God) to Israel in Deuteronomy (cf. Deut 4:8, 40; 5:22, 29; 9:10–1; 10:4; 11:32 and 31:9 LXX).

[27] Beutler, “Die Johannesbriefe in der neuesten Literatur (1978-1985)”, in Beutler, Studien, pp. 121–40 (132).

[28] Bauckham, Testimony of the Beloved Disciple, 246–7.

[29] J. Louis Martyn, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel, Revised and Expanded (3rd ed; Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 101–2, especially the outline provided by Martyn.

[30] This fits well with Hans Hübner’s explanation of the development of early Christology. See Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testaments. 3 Vols. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), 1995.


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Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. 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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