Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
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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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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