Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter and the Sunday after Easter

Okay, the weirdest thing about about the story in John 20:19-31 is that fact that the Sunday after Easter there were more people cloistered in the room than on Easter Sunday. That's just not how it rolls at the churches that I've served.
Oh well, below is my rough translation of John 20:19-31. I think the point of the Thomas story is less about what happened on the Sunday after Easter and more about what the "60 years after the fact" community was experiencing. If John were written for a Christian community in the late 90's, the question of "Can we believe like those who were there to see it with their own eyes believed?" had to be a real question, yes?
The answer - thankfully for those of us who live much later - is "You can believe by hearing the testimony of others, and in believing you can experience life with Christ." At least that's my take on it.

As usual, I look forward to your responses, comments, etc.

John 20:19-29

19 Οὔσης οὖν ὀψίας τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ σαββάτων, καὶ τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων ὅπου ἦσαν οἱ μαθηταὶ διὰ τὸν φόβον τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν.
Then - being evening on that one day of Sabbath, and the doors having been shut, where the disciples were for fear of the Judeans - Jesus came and was in the midst and says to them, “Peace to you.” 
Οὔσης: PAPart, GFS, εἰμί to be
κεκλεισμένων: PerfPPart, GFPl, from  κλείω, to shut

20 καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἔδειξεν τὰς χεῖρας καὶ τὴν πλευρὰν αὐτοῖς. ἐχάρησαν οὖν οἱ μαθηταὶ ἰδόντες τὸν κύριον.
And having said this he showed the hands and side to them.  Then, the disciples were overjoyed having seen the Lord. 
εἰπὼν: AAPart, nms λέγω, to say, to speak
ἔδειξεν: AAI, 3sg, from   to exhibit, to show
ἐχάρησαν: API 3p, χαίρω, 1) to rejoice, be glad  2) to rejoice exceedingly  3) to be well, thrive  4) in salutations, hail!  5) at the beginning of letters: to give one greeting, salute
ἰδόντες: AAPart nmp, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know

21 εἶπεν οὖν αὐτοῖς [ὁ Ἰησοῦς] πάλιν, Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν: καθὼς ἀπέσταλκέν με ὁ πατήρ, κἀγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς.
Then [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace to you; just as the father has sent me, I also send you.”
ἀπέσταλκέν: PerfAI, 3sg ἀποστέλλω to order (one) to go to a place appointed
πέμπω: PAI, 1sg ἀποστέλλω to order (one) to go to a place appointed

22 καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἐνεφύσησεν καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Λάβετε πνεῦμα ἅγιον:
And having said this, he breathed and says to them, “Receive a holy spirit; [or, “Receive a holy breath”] 
εἰπὼν: AAPart, nms λέγω, to say, to speak
ἐνεφύσησεν: AAI 3sg, ἐμφυσάω, to blow or breathe upon
The online lexicons that I use say that this verb is rooted in the verb ἐμφυσάω. I’ll have to take that as true, but the aorist singular form here, ἐνεφύσησεν, sure looks like the root is νεφύσ, which looks like the Hebrew nephesh, the word for soul/mind/spirit. 
John 7.39: Now he said this about the spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Here is an interesting pattern: 
19: “Peace to you” 
20: “Having said this, …” 
21: “Peace to you” 
22: “Having said this, …” 

23 ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἀφέωνται αὐτοῖς, ἄν τινων κρατῆτε κεκράτηνται.
If you would release the sins of any, they are released to them; if you would retain, they are retained.  
ἀφῆτε: AASubj 2p, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  1a) to bid going away or depart  1a1) of a husband divorcing his wife  1b) to send forth, yield up, to expire  1c) to let go, let alone, let be  1c1) to disregard  1c2) to leave, not to discuss now, (a topic)  1c21) of teachers, writers and speakers  1c3) to omit, neglect  1d) to let go, give up a debt, forgive, to remit
ἀφέωνται: PerfPI 3p, ἀφίημι (see above)
κρατῆτε: PASubj 2p, κρατέω, 1) to have power, be powerful  1a) to be chief, be master of, to rule  2) to get possession of  2a) to become master of, to obtain  2b) to take hold of  2c) to take hold of, take, seize
κεκράτηνται: PerfPI 3p κρατέω (see above)
The word ἀφίημι is often translated “forgive,” especially when it is used in relation to “sin” (ἁμαρτία). But, as one can see above, the potential definitions are quite varied and ‘forgive’ is not among the first choices. It may be that in the Christian church we have a more moralistic understanding of ‘sin’ than in the first century. What if ἁμαρτία means “brokenness,” rather than some kind of moral failing, often associated with ‘sin’? What would be the meaning of Jesus’ gathered followers having the spirit and power to “release” or “retain” brokenness? 
This seems to be the whole point of receiving the holy breath/spirit from Jesus – to release or to retain ἁμαρτία. Is this John’s version of the church’s commission? It is certainly not in the imperative voice, implying that the church is sent to go and release sins or to retain sins. It is in the subjunctive mood – “if you do this, this happens; if you do that, that happens.” It may be less of a commissioning and more of a statement, even a warning – “This holy breath empowers you to do this, or to do that.” 

24 Θωμᾶς δὲ εἷς ἐκ τῶν δώδεκα, ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος, οὐκ ἦν μετ' αὐτῶν ὅτε ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called the twin, was not with them when Jesus came.  
λεγόμενος: PPPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain  1b) to teach  1c) to exhort, advise, to command, direct  1d) to point out with words, intend, mean, mean to say  1e) to call by name, to call, name
I read one commentator who suggested that, if we did not know Matthew and Luke, it would appear that Thomas is Jesus’ twin. Talk about turning one’s world around! 

25 ἔλεγον οὖν αὐτῷ οἱ ἄλλοι μαθηταί, Ἑωράκαμεν τὸν κύριον. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἐὰν μὴ ἴδω ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτοῦ τὸν τύπον τῶν ἥλων καὶ βάλω τὸν δάκτυλόν μου εἰς τὸν τύπον τῶν ἥλων καὶ βάλω μου τὴν χεῖρα εἰς τὴν πλευρὰν αὐτοῦ, οὐ μὴ πιστεύσω.
Then the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and put my finger into the mark of the nails and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  
Ἑωράκαμεν: PerfAI 3p ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἴδω: AASubj 1s, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
βάλω: AASubj 1s, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls  1a) to scatter, to throw, cast into  1b) to give over to one's care uncertain about the result  1c) of fluids  1c1) to pour, pour into of rivers  1c2) to pour out  2) to put into, insert
πιστεύσω: AASubj 1s, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place  confidence in  1a) of the thing believe
Thomas makes “see” (and “touch”) a prerequisite for “believe.” The pair returns in v. 29. 

26 Καὶ μεθ' ἡμέρας ὀκτὼ πάλιν ἦσαν ἔσω οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ Θωμᾶς μετ' αὐτῶν. ἔρχεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων, καὶ ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον καὶ εἶπεν, Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν.
And on the eighth day again his disciples were inside and Thomas with them.  Jesus enters the [having been] locked doors and stood in the midst and said, “Peace to you.”  
ἔρχεται: PMI 3s, ἔρχομαι 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
κεκλεισμένων: PerfPassPart, gfpl, to lock, close up, shut
ἔστη: AAI 3s, ἵστημι, 1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set  1a) to bid to stand by, [set up]  1a1) in the presence of others,
I am translating ἔρχομαι as ‘enters’ instead of ‘comes’ because it is in the middle voice. 

27 εἶτα λέγει τῷ Θωμᾷ, Φέρε τὸν δάκτυλόν σου ὧδε καὶ ἴδε τὰς χεῖράς μου, καὶ φέρε τὴν χεῖρά σου καὶ βάλε εἰς τὴν πλευράν μου, καὶ μὴ γίνου ἄπιστος ἀλλὰ πιστός.
Then he says to Thomas, “Place your finger here and see my hand, and place your hand here and put [it] onto my side, and do not become unbelieving but believing.”  
φέρε: PAImp 2s, φέρω, 1) to carry   1a) to carry some burden   1a1) to bear with one's self   1b) to move by bearing; move or, to be conveyed or borne, with   the suggestion of force or speed
γίνου: PMImp 2s, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being  2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen

28 ἀπεκρίθη Θωμᾶς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου.
Thomas answered and said to him, “My lord and my God.”  
ἀπεκρίθη: API 3s, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer

29 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οτι ἑώρακάς με πεπίστευκας; μακάριοι οἱ μὴ ἰδόντες καὶ πιστεύσαντες.
Jesus says to him, “Because you have seen me you have believed?  Blessed those who have not seen and who believe.”  
ἑώρακάς: PerfAI, 2sg ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
πεπίστευκας: PerfAI, 2sg πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place  confidence in  1a) of the thing believed
ἰδόντες: AAPart npm, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
πιστεύσαντες: AAPart npm, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in 1a) of the thing believed
1. There is no main verb in the latter part of this verse. Perhaps the verb ‘to be’ (“are”) is implied, because the οἱ follows the μακάριοι, making μακάριοι the subject and οἱ the predicate nominative. I guess. In any case, the οἱ is the definite article for “who have not seen and who believe.” 
2. This sentence is set up as a chiasm. But, a true chiasm would posit seeing and believing against not seeing and not believing. This one has seeing and believing, then not seeing and yet believing. I believe this is a dramatic ending to John, summarizing all that Jesus has said before about “seeing and believing,” both positive and negative. 
3. On this point, I would point (like last week) to the article, “The Faith of the Beloved Disciple and the Community of John 20”, by Brendan Byrne (Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Feb., 1985, p.89). One comment in particular sums up Byrne’s point, I think: “'Sign' faith is, of course, variously evaluated in John's Gospel. But where such faith is negatively rated (e.g., 2.23-24; 3.2-3; 4.45-48; 6.14-15; 7.3-7) the problem is not so much that a sign initiates the process of faith as that the preoccupation with the sign proceeds from purely human categories and needs in a way that obscures rather than serves the divine revelation in Jesus.”  

30 Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἄλλα σημεῖα ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐνώπιον τῶν μαθητῶν [αὐτοῦ], ἃ οὐκ ἔστιν γεγραμμένα ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τούτῳ:
Indeed Jesus made many other signs in the presence of the disciples [his], which are not having been written in this book; 
ἐποίησεν: AAI 3s, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc
γεγραμμένα: PerfPPart npm, γράφω, 1) to write, with reference to the form of the letters  1a) to delineate (or form) letters on a tablet, parchment,  paper, or other material

31 ταῦτα δὲ γέγραπται ἵνα πιστεύ[ς]ητε ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ἵνα πιστεύοντες ζωὴν ἔχητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ.
yet these things have been written in order that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ the son of God, and in order that while believing you may have life in his name.  
γέγραπται: PeftPI 3p, γράφω, 1) to write, with reference to the form of the letters  1a) to delineate (or form) letters on a tablet, parchment,  paper, or other material
πιστεύ: AASubj 2p, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place  confidence in  1a) of the thing believed
πιστεύοντες: PAPart nmp, πιστεύω, 1) to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place  confidence in  1a) of the thing believed
ἔχητε: PASubj 2p, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold  1a) to have (hold) in the hand, in the sense of wearing, to have  (hold) possession of the mind (refers to alarm, agitating  emotions, etc.), to hold fast keep, to have or comprise or  involve, to regard or consider or hold as
1. The point of vv.30-31 seem to be building on the comment of v.29. The disciples saw signs and believed, but the readers do not have the signs, they have the writings. Through them, John’s community can believe as authentically as the disciples. 


  1. v26: That verb "enters" is really in the present, not the past? They were inside, he enters, he stood? and v27, then he says?

    This is different from the earlier part of the pericope where it is all in the past tense: they were, he came, he was, he says (oh woops, almost all), he showed, they were, he said again, he breathed, he says.

    What's going on here? Is there something about the Greek verbs that just can't be conveyed in English? Or is this similar to the English use of present tense when telling a story? (Although in that case I'd expect consistent present tense for all the verbs...)

    Pardon me if this is a basic question: I've gathered that Greek has verb forms that have no correspondence to English, but that's about all I know. ;) (I've studied some Latin, if that helps.)

    It caught my attention because I wondered if John were using a literary device to indicate the continuing and ongoing presence of Jesus among the disciples. Is this plausible, or am I overthinking it?

  2. Victoria, since my translation is a rough one, I try to show unrefined verbal forms the best that I can. So, the idiosyncrasies that you are noticing are in the texts themselves (when I get it right).
    The problem you are perceiving in this case is well-studied under the name "the historical present." It is also well-argued. The question is what the significance is when using the present tense while speaking of a past event. It is not unique to the NT.
    Some folks say that the present tense indicates prominence more than actual tense. Others say it depends on the writers' and contexts' use, rather than a general rule.
    Kudos to you for picking up on the same issue that has perplexed Greek (and Latin) scholars for years.

  3. I'm a new-ish reader (this past month), so I'm not sure whether you have already addressed this question elsewhere...

    The translation of the word "Judeans." I have never used this, but have begun to hear it used more frequently. Can you tell me, contextually, is it a religious/ ethnic designation only or might it also account for fear of Roman authorities (since they too are in Judea)?

    I so appreciate your work here. Thanks!


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