Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More John Chapter Two

In reading my most recent post, I realized that I entirely failed to say the one thing that is the most interesting about the literary structure of the passage, and that my absolute love for the genius of John may, as a result, not have been quite so infectious as it ought to be. I'm naming all of my kids after John (especially Mordecai and Judah). He is absolutely amazing, and here is why.

The entire point of a chiasm is to focus a story around a single, central point. Everything else in the story serves to buttress and flesh out that one point. The entire point of a miracle is the event: the natural before the event and the natural after the event are bridged by this one tremendous act that violates all "laws" that the universe abides by: the blind man is not extraordinary, and neither is the seeing man. The extraordinary fact is that it's the same man. The tremendous and unnatural event is what connects the two, the hungry people with no food to the full people with twelve extra baskets; the dead girl and the teenager needing to be fed; the cripple and the man carrying his stretcher home.

In this passage, both are missing: the chiasm has no point, and there is no miracle. The miracle would occur between verses seven and eight of chapter two, but it doesn't. They pour water into the pots, and they draw wine out of it. The center of the chiasm is right between these same verses, but it isn't there. It is exactly as if there is one verse omitted from the absolute center of the story, as if some disillusioned monk decided to have a bit of fun with the next twenty thousand years of Biblical scholarship by removing the entire point of the story.

But, the omission is clean, neat, and entirely intentional. The point of the story? The point of the story is that there isn't one. And this is why I love John.

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