Friday, October 15, 2010

John 1 Shall be Continued

I have not forgotten to continue in John 1, I'm just a bit slow in grasping the importance of the next section. I'll state my questions, and perhaps my readers shall proffer opinions (ideally helpful ones: please refrain from criticizing my parent's failings in the contraceptive department; they knew not who they spawned).

Not surprisingly, John 1:35-51 is a chiasm. However, there is an absolutely fascinating shift that takes place between the first half (preceding John 1:43 "follow me", which I hold to be the chiastic center) and the second, and I don't yet understand what John is telling us with it.

1. The most notable shift is in the language: in the first half he translates both "Rabbi" and "Messiah" from the Hebrew into Greek, but in the second half, he doesn't bother: he simply leaves them in Hebrew, and they are from this point assimilated into the Greek vocabulary.

2. Also, he translates Simon Peter's name in the first half: Σιμον becomes Κεφας, which means Πετρος: (Simon, Cephas, Petros), but in the second Simon and Cephas simply disappear, and we are left with the translation of Cephas from Hebrew into Greek: Peter. This is another pregnant ("is that the word I'm looking for, Jeeves?" "Yes, sir.") shift. And, I think it is significant that Christ refers to Peter (in the first half) as Simon the son of Jonah, but I'm already swimming in my time-honored tradition of one nostril above the surface, so I'm not pushing any further: I've got enough that I don't understand already.

My understanding of the significance of this, and my current overall thesis for John chapter one is twofold, and is as follows:

1). John 1 begins in a Jewish perspective, aimed almost solely at the Jews, but... 2). ends in a Jewish/Greek perspective, aimed at the Jews in particular, but also inclusive of the Greek world.

Defense for this thesis:

1.a. The language solidly links John 1 to Genesis 1, as any Jew would know and as no one unfamiliar with the Jewish Scriptures would realize: "εν αρχε εν ο λογος" ("en arche en ha logos:" in the beginning was the word, which is obviously a reference to "בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים" ("bereshit bera elohiym:" in the beginning, created God).
1.b. The order links John to the creation account in Genesis 1, as any Jew would know and as no one unfamiliar with the Jewish Scriptures would realize: God/Word, then God/Light: "וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י אֹ֑ור" (Said God, let there be light).

2. The shift in the narrative focus from a Jew speaking to an audience of Jews (John 1:1-1:43) to a Greek-friendly narration (John 1:38-51). You will notice the overlap, but I feel that it's accurate.


1. This is obviously extremely rough and oversimplified with an almost blasphemous nescient nonchalance: the entire text is for the entire world. However the author is telling us something important not only with what he says, but also with how he says it.

More posts will follow as I continue to dig; in the meantime, feel free to give me whatever input you like, if you like. At the moment I'm mostly trying to assemble my thoughts cogently, but nothing serves to tighten a shield-wall like a light arrow-fire from the opposition, so please: let them fly.

Jesse Broussard

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