Monday, July 23, 2018

Two-and-a-Half Stories

Below is a rough translation and some preliminary comments about John 6:1-21, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel reading for the 10thweek after Pentecost.  

1Μετὰ ταῦτα ἀπῆλθενὁ Ἰησοῦς πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης τῆς Γαλιλαίας τῆς Τιβεριάδος. 
With these things Jesus departed beyond the sea of Galilee of Tiberias. 
ἀπῆλθεν: AAI 3s, ἀπέρχομαι,1) to go away, depart 
1. While it literally reads “the sea of Galilee of Tiberias,” most translations interpret this as an explanation, “which is the sea of Tiberias.” 
2. It is worth noting that John feels the need to explain this to the reader, raising the question of how familiar the reader might be with Galilean geography. See notes for vv.4 and 8 below. 

2ἠκολούθειδὲ αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς, ὅτι ἐθεώρουντὰ σημεῖα ἃ ἐποίειἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενούντων
Yet a large crowd was following him, because they were beholding the signs which he was doing among those who were enfeebled. 
ἠκολούθει: IAI 3s, ἀκολουθέω,1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant,  accompany him
ἐθεώρουν: IAI 3p, θεωρέω,1) to be a spectator, look at, behold
ἐποίει: IAI 3s, ποιέω,1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc. 
ἀσθενούντων: PAPart gpm, ἀσθενέω,1) to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless  
1. John notes that the crowd is following Jesus because of “the signs,” (τὰ σημεῖα) that he was doing. Signs are a significant (so to speak) matter in John, one of the key differences between John and the synoptics. The word σημεῖα will arise three more times in this chapter alone (vv. 14, 26, and 30), and they are not incidental references. Many scholars feel that the heart of this gospel (cc. 2-12) was originally an independent “Book of Signs.” 
2. As significant as the signs are in telling this story, there seems to be some ambivalence toward them throughout the gospel. At times, they seem to be the one thing that one cannot argue with (3:2, 6:14, 9:16), or maybe one can (12:37).  Jesus says, at one point, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (4:48), but later says to the crowd, “You are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (6:26). As late as the original ending of John (20:30), the narrator refers to the book with reference to the “signs,” but in the other ending (c.21), the point of the Thomas story seems to be that those who have not seen can still believe (although there is no mention of “signs” in c.21).  

3ἀνῆλθενδὲ εἰς τὸ ὄρος Ἰησοῦς, καὶ ἐκεῖ ἐκάθητομετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ.
Yet Jesus went up into the mountain, and there was sitting with his disciples. 
ἀνῆλθεν: AAI 3s, ἀνέρχομαι,1) to go up 
ἐκάθητο:IMI 3s, κάθημαι,1) to sit down, seat one's self  

4ἦνδὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα, ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων. 
Yet the pascha was near, the festival of the Judeans. 
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present  
1. It is worth noting that John feels the need to explain what the πάσχα is to the reader, raising the question of how familiar the reader might be with Jewish holy days. See. v.1 above and v.8 below. 

5ἐπάραςοὖν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ θεασάμενοςὅτι πολὺς ὄχλος ἔρχεταιπρὸς αὐτὸν λέγειπρὸς Φίλιππον, Πόθεν ἀγοράσωμενἄρτους ἵνα φάγωσινοὗτοι; 
Therefore having lifted the eyes and beholding that a large crowd was coming to him Jesus says to Philip, “Where shall we purchase bread in order that these may eat?” 
ἐπάρας: AAPart nsm, ἐπαίρω,1) to lift up, raise up, raise on high  2) metaph. to be lifted up with pride, to exalt one's self 
θεασάμενος: AMPart nsm, θεάομαι,1) to behold, look upon, view attentively, contemplate (often  used of public shows)
ἔρχεται: PMI 3s, ἔρχομαι,1) to come
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω,1) to say, to speak
ἀγοράσωμεν: AASubj 1p, ἀγοράζω,1) to be in the market place, to attend it 
φάγωσιν: AASubj 3p, ἐσθίω,1) to eat  
1. Having never written a gospel myself, I don’t want to seem overly critical, but this story seems to be taking its time getting out of the chute. This is the second reference to the large crowd gathering where Jesus is, which is on the other side of the sea of Galilee and now up a mountain. 
2. Unlike other accounts of the feeding story, Jesus anticipates the need even before the crowd has grown hungry and weary. 
3. One of the unique features of John is the centrality of Philip in many of the stories. The disciple named Philip is only mentioned in the synoptic gospels when they are listing the twelve. In John there are numerous references to him. See below. 

6τοῦτο δὲ ἔλεγενπειράζωναὐτόν, αὐτὸς γὰρ ᾔδειτί ἔμελλενποιεῖν
Yet he was saying this testing him, for he knew what he was about to do. 
ἔλεγεν: IAI 3s, λέγω,1) to say, to speak
πειράζων: PAPart nsm, πειράζω,1) to try whether a thing can be done 
ᾔδει: PluperfectAI 3s,
ἔμελλεν: IAI 3s, μέλλω,1) to be about  1a) to be on the point of doing or suffering something  1b) to intend, have in mind, think to
ποιεῖν: PAInf, ποιέω,1) to make  
1. The southern vernacular of my childhood would interpret this nicely, “he knew what he was fixing to do.” 
2. An impression that I get reading John which I do not get reading the synoptics is that Jesus seems to have everything figured out ahead of time. 

7ἀπεκρίθηαὐτῷ [ὁ] Φίλιππος, Διακοσίων δηναρίων ἄρτοι οὐκ ἀρκοῦσιναὐτοῖς ἵνα ἕκαστος βραχύ [τι] λάβῃ
Philip answered him, “Loaves of two hundred denarii are not sufficient in order that each would take a little.”  
ἀπεκρίθη: API 3s, ἀποκρίνομαι,1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer 
ἀρκοῦσιν: PAI 3p, ἀρκέω,1) to be possessed of unfailing strength  1a) to be strong, to suffice, to be enough 
λάβῃ: AASubj 3s, λαμβάνω,1) to take 
1. The word “loaves” is in the nominative case, so I am trying to keep it prominent. In a refined translation I would do what all the others do, “Two hundred dollars worth of bread …” 
2. I have no idea what to do with the [τι] that shows up in some of the later manuscripts. 

8λέγειαὐτῷ εἷς ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, Ἀνδρέας ὁ ἀδελφὸς Σίμωνος Πέτρου, 
One out of his disciples says to him, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, 
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω,1) to say, to speak 
1.It is worth noting that John feels the need to explain this to the reader, raising the question of how familiar the reader might be with the twelve. See. vv.1 and 4 above. 

9 Ἔστινπαιδάριον ὧδε ὃς ἔχειπέντε ἄρτους κριθίνους καὶ δύο ὀψάρια: ἀλλὰ ταῦτα τί ἐστινεἰς τοσούτους; 
“A child is here who has five barley loaves and two little fish; but what is this into so many?”
Ἔστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἔχει: PAI 3s, ἔχω,1) to have,
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. Because the verb ‘to be’ (εἰμί) can take a nominative as a predicate, this could be “Here is a child” or, treating the verb substantively, “There is a child here.”  
2. I am tempted to use “sardines” to translate , because it has this definition, per thebible.org: “a little fish (diminutive of ὄψον; whatever is eaten with bread, which later came to be applied particularly to fish).” This is the same kind of fish that Jesus cooks and serves in c.21. 
3. It is a little curious that Andrew would know this, unless perhaps the child were a nephew or something. 

10εἶπενὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ποιήσατετοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἀναπεσεῖνἦνδὲ χόρτος πολὺς ἐν τῷ τόπῳ. ἀνέπεσανοὖν οἱ ἄνδρες τὸν ἀριθμὸν ὡς πεντακισχίλιοι. 
Jesus said, “Make the people to sit.” Yet there was a lot of grass in the place. Therefore the men sat down the number about five thousand.  
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω,1) to say, to speak
Ποιήσατε: AAImpv 2-, ποιέω, 1) to make 
ἀναπεσεῖν: AAInf, ἀναπίπτω,1) to lie back, lie down  2) to recline at a table, to sit back
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἀνέπεσαν: AAI 3p, ἀναπίπτω,1) to lie back, lie down  2) to recline at a table, to sit back 
1. The last sentence seems to come out as a run-on sentence. Sorry. 
2. I don’t know why we have shifted the language from ἀνθρώπους (which I hear as ‘people’) to ἄνδρες (which I hear as ‘men.’) 

11ἔλαβενοὖν τοὺς ἄρτους ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ εὐχαριστήσαςδιέδωκεντοῖς ἀνακειμένοις, ὁμοίως καὶ ἐκ τῶν ὀψαρίων ὅσον ἤθελον
Therefore Jesus took the loaves and having given thanks distributed to the ones who were sitting and out of the little fish as they wanted. 
ἔλαβεν: AAI 3s, λαμβάνω,1) to take
εὐχαριστήσας: AAPart nsm, εὐχαριστέω,1) to be grateful, feel thankful  2) give thanks
διέδωκεν: AAI 3s, διαδίδωμι, 1) to distribute, 2) to give or deliver through, as through various hands, from one to another; deal out.
ἀνακειμένοις: PMPart dpm, ἀνάκειμαι,1) to lie at a table, eat together, dine
ἤθελον: IAI 3p, θέλω,1) to will, have in mind, intend 

12ὡς δὲ ἐνεπλήσθησανλέγειτοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Συναγάγετετὰ περισσεύσαντακλάσματα, ἵνα μή τι ἀπόληται
Yet as they were filled he says to his disciples, “Gather up the pieces having been leftover, in order that nothing may be lost. 
ἐνεπλήσθησαν: API 3p, ἐμπίπλημι,1) Passive to be filled (as with food)  
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω,1) to say, to speak
Συναγάγετε: AAImpv 2p, συνάγω,1) to gather together, to gather
περισσεύσαντα: AAPart apn, περισσεύω,1) to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and  above a certain number or measure  
ἀπόληται: AMS 3s, ἀπόλλυμι,1) to destroy (perish) 

13συνήγαγονοὖν, καὶ ἐγέμισανδώδεκα κοφίνους κλασμάτων ἐκ τῶν πέντε ἄρτων τῶν κριθίνων ἃ ἐπερίσσευσαντοῖς βεβρωκόσιν
Therefore they gathered, and filled twelve baskets of fragments out of the five barley loaves which were left over by the ones who had eaten. 
συνήγαγον: AAI 3p, συνάγω,1) to gather together, to gather 
ἐγέμισαν: AAI 3p, γεμίζω,1) to fill, fill full
ἐπερίσσευσαν: AAI 3p, περισσεύω,1) to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and  above a certain number or measure 
βεβρωκόσιν: PerfAPart, dpm, βιβρώσκω,1) to eat 

14Οἱ οὖν ἄνθρωποι ἰδόντεςὃ ἐποίησενσημεῖον ἔλεγονὅτι Οὗτός ἐστινἀληθῶς ὁ προφήτης ὁ ἐρχόμενοςεἰς τὸν κόσμον.
Therefore the people having seen the sign which he did said, “This is truly the prophet who has come into the world.”  
ἰδόντες: AAPart npm, ὁράω,1) to see with the eyes, 2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἐποίησεν: AAI 3s, ποιέω,1) to make
ἔλεγον: IAI 3p, λέγω,1) to say, to speak 
ἐρχόμενος: PMPart nsm, ἔρχομαι,1) to come  
1. Here is an instance where seeing the sign leads to some sort of belief. 

15Ἰησοῦς οὖν γνοὺςὅτι μέλλουσινἔρχεσθαικαὶ ἁρπάζειναὐτὸν ἵνα ποιήσωσινβασιλέα ἀνεχώρησενπάλιν εἰς τὸ ὄρος αὐτὸς μόνος.
Therefore Jesus knowing that they were about to come sieze him in order to make a king withdrew again into the mountain himself alone. 
γνοὺς: APPart nsm, γινώσκω,1) to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel
μέλλουσιν: PAI 3p, μέλλω,1) to be about  1a) to be on the point of doing or suffering something
ἔρχεσθαι: PMInf, ἔρχομαι,1) to come
ἁρπάζειν: PAInf, ἁρπάζω,1) to seize, carry off by force  2) to seize on, claim for one's self eagerly  3) to snatch out or away 
ποιήσωσιν: AASubj 3p, ποιέω,1) to make 
ἀνεχώρησεν: AAI 3s, ἀναχωρέω,1) to go back, return  2) to withdraw 
1. Again, in John, Jesus seems to know what is about to happen, similar to v. 6, n.2 above. 

16Ὡς δὲ ὀψία ἐγένετοκατέβησανοἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν,
Yet as it began to become late his disciples went down to the sea, 
ἐγένετο: AMI 3s, γίνομαι,1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
κατέβησαν: AAI 3p, καταβαίνω,1) to go down, come down, descend

17καὶ ἐμβάντεςεἰς πλοῖον ἤρχοντοπέραν τῆς θαλάσσης εἰς Καφαρναούμ. καὶ σκοτία ἤδη ἐγεγόνεικαὶ οὔπω ἐληλύθειπρὸς αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, 
And having embarked into a boat began along the sea to Capernaum. And darkness now happening and Jesus had not yet come to them, 
ἐμβάντες: AAPart npm, ἐμβαίνω,1) to go into, step into
ἤρχοντο: IMI 3p, ἄρχω,1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
ἐγεγόνει: PluperfectAI 3s, γίνομαι,1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being 
ἐληλύθει: PluperfectAI 3s, ἔρχομαι,1) to come 

18ἥ τε θάλασσα ἀνέμου μεγάλου πνέοντοςδιεγείρετο
The sea also a great blowing wind was being raised. 
πνέοντος: PAPart gsm, πνέω,1) to breathe, to blow  1a) of the wind
διεγείρετο: IPI 3s, διεγείρω,1) to wake up, awaken, arouse (from sleep) 
1. Again, this seems to be a run-on sentence, but the rough and literal translation does not have hyphens or commas to make it read better.

19ἐληλακότεςοὖν ὡς σταδίους εἴκοσι πέντε ἢ τριάκοντα θεωροῦσιντὸν Ἰησοῦνπεριπατοῦνταἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ ἐγγὺς τοῦ πλοίου γινόμενον, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν
Therefore having rowed twenty-five or thirty stadia they were beholding Jesus walking on the sea having come near the boat, and they were afeared. 
ἐληλακότες: PerfAPart npm, ἐλαύνω,1) to drive  1a) of the wind driving ships or clouds
θεωροῦσιν: PAI 3p, θεωρέω,1) to be a spectator, look at, behold 
περιπατοῦντα: PAPart asm, περιπατέω,1) to walk 
γινόμενον: PMPart asm, γίνομαι,1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being 
ἐφοβήθησαν: API 3p, φοβέω, 1) to strike with fear, scare, frighten. Middle or passive as here, to be put in fear, take fright.
1. What I am translating phonetically as twenty-five or thirty stadia, modern translations call “three or four miles.” That’s a long way out from the shore and quite a bit of a walk for Jesus. 
2. And I know that this is a story, so I don’t want to make too much of it, but how, exactly, does one even walk on a sea that’s being wind-tossed? Jesus is amazing.

20ὁ δὲ λέγειαὐτοῖς, Ἐγώ εἰμι, μὴ φοβεῖσθε
Yet he says to them, “I am, do not be afeared.” 
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω,1) to say, to speak
εἰμι: PAI 1s, εἰμί,1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
φοβεῖσθε: PMImpv 2p, φοβέω, 1) to strike with fear, scare, frighten. Middle or passive as here, to be put in fear, take fright. 
1. Both in v.19 and here I have used “afear” to translate the middle/passive use of φοβέω. I’m trying to capture a state of being that is a result of something from the outside, rather than just a disposition or something that happens to one. 

21ἤθελονοὖν λαβεῖναὐτὸν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον, καὶ εὐθέως ἐγένετοτὸ πλοῖον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς εἰς ἣν ὑπῆγον.
Therefore they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat arrived at the shore to which they were going.  
ἤθελον: IAI 3p, θέλω,1) to will, have in mind, intend 
λαβεῖν: AAInf, λαμβάνω,1) to take  
ἐγένετο: AMI 3s, γίνομαι,1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
ὑπῆγον: IAI 3p, ὑπάγω,1) to lead under, bring under 
1. The ESV has “they were glad to take him into the boat,” a stark change from being “afeared” just a moment before. 

The Feeding
John 6:1-21 contains two stories (feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on the water) and a half-story (the crowd’s reaction and potential action). The two stories would be familiar to readers of the Synoptic gospels, but John has some uniquely characteristic ways of telling them. In the feeding story, the narrator presents Jesus knowing from the beginning what he is going to do, rather than the story presenting the crisis first, with Jesus responding to it.  

Walking on Water
The story of Jesus walking on water is also a story that John shares with the Synoptics, without the details that the disciples thought Jesus was a ghost or with Simon Peter asking to get out of the boat with Jesus, then having to be rescued, or even Jesus speaking to the storm and calming it. In John, Jesus just walked a few miles on a boisterous sea before they took him into the boat and immediately landed it. There is no mention that the storm was perilous or that the disciples were bailing water, etc. They simply rowed out a long distance, which is probably a wise piece of seamanship. What frightened the disciples was Jesus walking on the water as he neared the boat – with no explanation. And, as far as the story goes, the storm might still be raging out there. 

Making Jesus a Prophet-King
What we ought not to miss is the moment in between these two fascinating stories, in vv.14-15, the people responded to the mass feeding by proclaiming Jesus as the prophet who is to come into the world. Jesus then perceives that they were about to seize him and make him king – which gives the expectation of a “prophet who is to come into the world” a LOT more meaning than one might have anticipated. 

I’ve interpreted the explanations in vv. 1, 4, and 8 as perhaps showing that the readers may not be familiar with the geography of Israel, Jewish festivals, or the persona of the disciples very well. One other possibility is that whoever wrote the “book of signs” in cc.2-12 did not knew the geography, festivals, and persona very well. The attempt to coronate a prophet might fit within that lack of familiarity, or it might demonstrate that there was far more to 1stcentury messianic expectations than our traditional offices (prophet, priest, king) would let on. 

Philip
Philip and Lazarus are key players in John’s gospel, but not in the Synoptic gospels. Lazarus – the brother of Mary and Martha - is not mentioned in Matthew, Mark, or Luke, while Philip is only mentioned when the Synoptics are listing the twelve. Leaving Lazarus for another day, there are three other references to Philip the Disciple in John’s gospel and each of them is part of what strikes me as a key story. 
John1:43-48is the story of Jesus calling Philip, who then goes and finds Nathanael and brings him to Jesus. 
John 12:20 -26is a story of some Greek persons at the festival who came to Philip wishing to see Jesus. Philip told Andrew and together they go to tell Jesus, who marks the moment as the time that “the son of man is to be glorified.” Jesus then speaks of the seed that must fall into the ground and die before bearing fruit. This passage seems to be a critical disclosure, not unlike the texts in Mark 8, 9, and 10, when Jesus discloses his forthcoming suffering and death. 
John 14:1-14is part of the “final discourse” that Jesus has with the disciples, which begins with the supper and washing the disciples’ feet in c.13, and ends with the prayer “that they may be one” in c.17. As that discourse begins in c.14, Jesus says, “If you know me you will know my Father also,” a key Christological argument in John’s gospel. In response (v.8), Philip replies, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” This seems to be one of the places where the disciples in John come close to being the befuddled, always-missing-the-point disciples of Mark’s gospel. 


3 comments:

  1. One big difference for me between this gospel and the synoptics is that in this gospel, Jesus feeds the crowd himself...in the synoptics, he gives the bread and fish to the disciples to distribute.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great point, BC.
      In this case, the feeding story and its following discourse will result in many 'disciples' leaving Jesus before the chapter ends.
      MD

      Delete
  2. Friends,
    I had erred in an earlier comment that I made comparing John's feeding story to the synoptic story. I have since removed the error. Sorry for any confusion.
    MD

    ReplyDelete

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