Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Jewishness of John 1:1-5

The identification of Jesus as the logos is a great literary technique in my opinion, however, it is open to what I see as a misuse in moving beyond the appropriate context. For example, one stems from the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule. These arguments parroted here and there are that the use of logos and identification of Jesus as divine was simply a copy-paste job of Greco-Roman Paganism. Albeit, no parallel of such a thing is every established - but it is still making its rounds. However, I believe this is an issue that should be contended. Is it necessary to, as Richard Bauckham puts it, interpret the logos of John 1:1 necessarily with the Graeco "metaphysical baggage" that many other scholars emphasise? I do not think we should - and to do such may very well be forcing outdates anachronisms into the Gospel of John.

As noted by James H. Charlesworth on numerous occasions, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has shed a light on the Gospel of John very different to those previously put forward by the German radicals of yeaster year. Namely, the Gospel of John emerged from a thoroughly Jewish context and those ideas that previously forced a later date such as the developed Dualism (as well as the discovery of P52 that set a cap on authorship to very early 2nd century at the latest) were actually erroneous argumentation. He states:
Now, primarily due to the unique ideas preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls and to a refined appreciation of the social conflicts reflected in the Gospel of John and the Johannine epistles, there is a consensus among New Testament experts that John is the gospel most clearly engaged with Judaism…The Gospel of John is perhaps the most Jewish of the canonical gospels. (James H. Charlesworth (1989), John and the Dead Sea Scrolls pp.xiii-xv)
Evidently, in light of the the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries, the Gospel of John is heavily influenced by Palestinian Judaism of the Second Temple Period. I agree with such - however, I still have my qualms with Charlesworth's shaky explanation and conclusions regarding the necessity of a direct causal source. For example, regarding the dualism which I will discuss in another post. (The short argument is that he sees a direct connection between John and Qumran; Raymond Brown sees the possibility of a connection, however, I myself see that there need not be a direct connection with Qumran for the main reason that if we search the other Intertestamental literature - including the light-darkness dualism of Genesis - we find an adequate explanation within the Jewish literature of the time. A causal link between John and Qumran is simply not necessary, nor can I see anyone substantiating it without further archaeological evidence.)

The Allusions

I strongly believe that the beginning of the prologue of the Gospel of John should be viewed within its context - and this context clearly depends on the literary tradition of which it finds authoritative. As Richard Bauckham notes,
We do not need to postulate any background to these verses other than Genesis 1 and the tradition of Jewish creation accounts dependent on it that speak of God's Word as his instrument or agent in creation.
Let us have a quick look at John 1:1-5 and Genesis 1:1-5 and put the hypothesis to the test.

John 1:1-5

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. 2 οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. 3 πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν 4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. (NA27)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 3 All things came into being through it, and without it not one thing came into being. 4 In it was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 5 And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it. (Own translation)
Genesis 1:1-4 (Septuagint)
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν. 2 ἡ δὲ γῆ ἦν ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος, καὶ σκότος ἐπάνω τῆς ἀβύσσου, καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἐπεφέρετο ἐπάνω τοῦ ὕδατος. 3 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός Γενηθήτω φῶς. καὶ ἐγένετο φῶς. 4 καὶ εἶδεν ὁ θεὸς τὸ φῶς ὅτι καλόν. καὶ διεχώρισεν ὁ θεὸς ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ φωτὸς καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σκότους. (Septuaginta : With morphology. Stuttgart : Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1996, c1979, S. Ge 1:1-5)

In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. 2 But the earth was unsightly and unfurnished, and darkness was over the deep, and the Spirit of God moved over the water. 3 And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. 4 And God saw the light that it was good, and God divided between the light and the darkness. (Brenton's Translation of the Septuagint - by this time I am too lazy to even bother translating)

The first and most obvious parallel is the well known opening phrase, "In the beginning" or, in the Greek of the LXX and NT, "en arche". Therefore, the Word (which is identified as Jesus in 1:14) is placed at the same level of pre-existence as the God of the Old Testament, that is, in the beginning. This clear high Christology is taken further - in drawing on the Jewish view in the Second Temple Period that YHWH was the sole Creator God the Word plays a role in creation itself.

However - to what extent does the Word play a role in creation. Must one read it in light of the works of Philo or is there something else to it. Namely,
When John uses the term "word" in the opening verses of his prologue, he means simply this: the divine Word that all Jews, on the basis of Genesis, understood to have been active in the creation of all things. (Monotheism and Christology in the Gospel of John, Richard Bauckham)
I find this argument plausible. If we are to emphasise the understanding of YHWH as sole creator we must examine the manner by which creation came about. As testified to in Genesis, which one can clearly see to be the prototype for the prologue, we should search there for the answer.

In Genesis we see that attribute of the eternal creator God that plays a role in creation are His words. Genesis 1:3 begins, "And God said" ("kai eipon ho theos") - God's logio were the eternal attribute of God responsible, the eternal attribute of God that was and is Jesus. Evidently, Jesus was divine in the most thoroughly monotheistic sense - he was the eternal Word of the creator God, and to borrow from 1 Cor. 8:6, "through whom all things came and through whom we live."

Anyway, I guess this is the end of my pointless ramblings. It really turned into nothing in the end!

1 comment:

  1. thank you.
    I like your comparison between gospel of John and the book of Genesis.
    God bless you