Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Breath, Touch, Sight, and Faith



Below is a rough translation and some initial comments regarding John 20:19-29, the lectionary gospel reading for Sunday, April 7. There are potentially two pericopes here, the first appearance, with its repetitious proclamations of peace and the second appearance with the intriguing struggle of Thomas and doubt. The Thomas story is so compelling that I am afraid that the first visitation gets short-changed. It contains quite a charge to the believing community. Oh, and this text also contains what I believe is the original ending of John’s Gospel. So, it could easily be the fodder of a sermon series, rather than the reading for just one Sunday.

I welcome your comments on this rich text!

19 Οὔσης οὖν ὀψίας τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷσαββάτων, 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 stood in the midst and says to them, “Peace to you.”
Οὔσης: PAPart gfs, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
κεκλεισμένων: PerfPPart gfp, κλείω, 1) to shut, shut up
ἦσαν: IAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἦλθεν: AAI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 
ἔστη: AAI 3s, ἵστημι, 1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 

20 καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἔδειξεν τὰςχεῖρας 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 3s, δεικνύω, to show, exhibit
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  
πατήρ, κἀγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς.  
Then [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace to you; just as the father has sent me, I also send you.” 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, to say, to speak 
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.”
εἰπὼν: AAPart, nms λέγω, to say, to speak 
ἐνεφύσησεν: AAI 3sg, ἐμφυσάω, to blow or breathe upon
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, to say, to speak 
Λάβετε: AAImpv 2p, λαμβάνω, 1) to take  
1. The lexicons greekbible.com and the Zondervan Analytical Greek Lexicon say that this verb is rooted in the verb ἐμφυσάω. greattreasures.org even says, “having in view the primary meaning of the words רוּחַ and πνεῦμα.” 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.
2. If this word is etymologically related to πνεῦμα, then it would be consisitent to make Jesus’ words, “Receive a holy breath.”
3. Regarding the spirit, see 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.
4. Here is an interesting pattern:
19: “Peace to you”
20: “Having said this, …”
21: “Peace to you”
22: “Having said this, …”

23ἄν 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)
1. 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?
2. 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,  λεγόμενος Δίδυμος, οὐκ ἦν μετ' αὐτῶν ὅτε 
ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς. 
But Thomas, one out 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 
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἦλθεν: AAI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 
1. One commentator suggests that, if we did not know Matthew and Luke, it would appear that Thomas is Jesus’ twin. I’m feeling a sequel to The Da Vinci Code coming.

25 ἔλεγον οὖν αὐτῷ οἱ ἄλλοι μαθηταί, Ἑωράκαμεν τὸν κύριον.  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 were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and insert my finger into the mark of the nails and insert my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 
ἔλεγον: IAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Ἑωράκαμεν: PerfAI 1p ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
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  ...  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
1. I’m curious about the use of the imperfect form of ‘to be’ (with a negative particle) in v.24 and the imperfect form of ‘to say’ in v.25. It would have been easy to use the aorist tense to say that Thomas was not with them, right at the moment that Jesus first arrived. But, by using the imperfect tense, John may be saying that Thomas was no longer with them when Jesus came the first time, as if he had given up on following Christ, with them, after the crucifixion. Likewise, if they had only said to Thomas, “While you were out getting bagels one day, Jesus came,” the aorist tense would suffice. But, the imperfect, “were saying” implies ongoing past action. Perhaps they were trying over and over to convince Thomas to return. Finally, Thomas threw down the gauntlet, “I’ll come back, but unless I see and touch, etc., I won’t believe it.” I guess I’m seeing the possibility that this was an extended conversation about Thomas’ participation in the community, and not just that Thomas happened to miss out on the first visit.  
2. Thomas makes seeing and touching prerequisites for believing. The pair return in v. 29.
3. 1. The term βάλλω is a bit more than ‘to place’ something. It is the world that is used to throw, toss, and to cast, as in casting out demons.

26 Καὶ μεθ' ἡμέρας ὀκτὼ πάλιν ἦσαν ἔσω οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ Θωμᾶς μετ' 
αὐτῶν. ἔρχεται  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 locked doors and stood in the midst and said, “Peace to you.” 
ἦσαν: IAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
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,
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
1. 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 insert [it] onto my side, and do not become unbelieving but believing.” [or ”an unbeliever but a believer.”] 
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
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
βάλε: AAImpv, 2s, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls ...  2) to put into, insert
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
1. The words ἄπιστος  and πιστός are nominative singular adjectives. They are nominative because the verb γίνομαι can take a nominative predicate. But as adjectives, it seems to me that they could pick up on the descriptive sense of the verb ‘un/believing’ or of the noun ‘un/believer.’ Most commentaries go with ‘un/believing.’

28 ἀπεκρίθη Θωμᾶς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ,Ὁ κύριός μου καὶ  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
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
1. The term “lord” seems to be a term that is often used to show respect, like “Señor” in Spanish. But, to declare Jesus “my Lord” might be Thomas’ way of declaring Jesus to be his ultimate ruler, as opposed to Caesar, for whom this term was often used. Moreover, to call Jesus “my God” would be blasphemous for a Jew. This is no small declaration. No wonder Thomas needed to work this through.

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.” 
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
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. Somewhere in the transmission of this text, someone decided that the word ὁτι (“that” or “because”) should be capitalized and set off with a comma. That is not part of the original text, but an interpretive judgment that was made along the way. Likewise, the question mark is someone’s judgment that this is a question followed by a statement. However, ὁτι  is often used as a way of setting up a quote and can go un-translated. If that were the case here, Jesus’ words would read as two statements: “You have seen me and have believed. Blessed those who have not seen and believed.” The reason I want to offer this possibility is to say that Thomas’ path may be one way of embracing Jesus, but not an inferior way. By placing two statements side-by-side, perhaps the gospel is simply acknowledging that there are two authentic ways of embracing faith – one is through seeing and the other is through not seeing. In fact, the “blessing” that is conferred here may not be a way of naming one way as superior to the other, but because the burden of proof actually lay on the latter believers, the community to whom this gospel is written, who did not ever see or touch Jesus. This blessing may be a way of assuring them that their path of not seeing or touching is equally valid and not a way of denigrating Thomas’ need to see or touch.
2. 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.”  
3. 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.
4. On this point, see 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  Ἰησοῦς ἐνώπιον τῶν μαθητῶν [αὐτοῦ],  οὐκ ἔστιν γεγραμμένα ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τούτῳ: 

Indeed Jesus made many other signs in the presence of the disciples [of 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

ἔστιν:

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

1. I wonder if this is an acknowledgement of other gospel texts. I’ve often felt that whoever wrote this gospel knew the Gospel of Mark to some extent.

 

31ταῦτα δὲ γέγραπται ἵνα πιστεύ[ς]ητε ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν  Χριστὸς  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[ς]ητε: 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. Still, they can believe because they have these writings. Through them, John’s community can believe as authentically as the disciples and can have life just like the disciples.

2. I think this is the original ending of John’s gospel, with c.21 as a later addition.


2 comments:

  1. I appreciate the commentary regarding v.24-5 and, at the least, the very real possibility that Thomas "no longer" was with them...that he may well have quit on the idea that Jesus was the real deal.
    It sure seems to me, in a world where crosses always had the last word, that it would have been natural and in some ways, seemingly pretty stupid to continue believing in Jesus as Messiah when you see crosses on the horizon. Thanks for reaffirming that in your notes.
    Dave Shaw- a UCC pastor in CO

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the note, David. I agree entirely. Sometimes it still seems that crosses and other expressions of "final violence" seem to have the last word.
    Thanks again,
    MD

    ReplyDelete

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