Gospel Lection, April 27, 2014, John 20:19-31; Comments on the Greek text

Jn 20:19 Οὔσης οὖν ὀψίας τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ σαββάτων, καὶ τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων ὅπου ἦσαν οἱ μαθηταὶ διὰ τὸν φόβον τῶν Ἰουδαίων[A], ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν[B]. Then, when it was evening on that day, the first of the week, and the doors [were] locked where the disciples were, because of the fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and says to them, “Peace to you!”
Jn 20:20 καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἔδειξεν τὰς χεῖρας καὶ τὴν πλευρὰν αὐτοῖς. ἐχάρησαν οὖν οἱ μαθηταὶ ἰδόντες τὸν κύριον. And having said this, he showed them  the hands and the side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
Jn 20:21 εἶπεν οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς πάλιν· Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν· καθὼς ἀπέσταλκέν με ὁ πατήρ[C], κἀγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you.  As the Father has sent me, I also send you.”
Jn 20:22 καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἐνεφύσησεν[D] καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· Λάβετε πνεῦμα ἅγιον[E]· And having said this, he breathed on [them] and says to them, “Receive Holy Spirit.
Jn 20:23 ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε[F] τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἀφέωνται αὐτοῖς· ἄν τινων κρατῆτε κεκράτηνται. Whoever’s sins you forgive have been forgiven for them; whoever’s you hold have been held.”
Jn 20:24 Θωμᾶς δὲ εἷς ἐκ τῶν δώδεκα, ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος, οὐκ ἦν μετ’ αὐτῶν ὅτε ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς. But Thomas,  one of the twelve, the one called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
Jn 20:25 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[G] τὸν δάκτυλόν μου εἰς τὸν τύπον τῶν ἥλων καὶ βάλω μου τὴν χεῖρα εἰς τὴν πλευρὰν αὐτοῦ, οὐ μὴ πιστεύσω[H]. 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 stick my finger into the mark of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will surely not believe.”
Jn 20:26 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 after eight days again his disciples were inside, and Thomas [was] with them.  Jesus comes (the doors being shut) and stood in [their] midst and said “Peace to you.”
Jn 20:27 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[I] ἄπιστος ἀλλὰ πιστός[J]. Then he says to Thomas, “Bring your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and stick [it] into my side, and stop being faithless, but [instead be] faithful.
Jn 20:28 ἀπεκρίθη Θωμᾶς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου.[K] Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jn 20:29 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ὅτι ἑώρακάς με πεπίστευκας; μακάριοι οἱ μὴ ἰδόντες καὶ πιστεύσαντες.[L] Jesus says to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed [are] the ones who, not seeing, also have believed.”
Jn 20:30 Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἄλλα σημεῖα ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐνώπιον τῶν μαθητῶν, ἃ οὐκ ἔστιν γεγραμμένα ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τούτῳ·[M] So Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book;
Jn 20:31 ταῦτα δὲ γέγραπται ἵνα πιστεύητε[N] ὅτι Ἰησοῦς[O] ἐστιν ὁ χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ἵνα πιστεύοντες ζωὴν ἔχητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ. but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

 

 

[A] It’s worth doing a scan on the places where the phrase “fear of the Jews” shows up throughout John.  Some commentators suggest translating “Judeans” rather than “Jews,” since the whole gospel itself has a strongly Jewish tone, and the fear seems to be directed primarily toward the religious authorities (centered in Judea).

[B] A simple form of “Hello” in Aramaic.

[C] Another interesting study would be to explore all the earlier texts in John where the Father is said to have sent Jesus.  What exactly is it about the Father’s sending of Jesus that is replicated in the Son’s sending of the disciples?  That’s an important key to interpreting this text.  The immediate context suggest at least two dimensions:  The ministry of the disciples, like that of Jesus, is done in the power of the Holy Spirit, and involves the forgiveness of sins.

[D] It’s interesting that the one on whom Jesus breathes (them) is not explicitly mentioned in the text.  Perhaps because all of us are included in this “Johannine Pentecost”?

[E] The absence of the definite article leaves it unclear how “definite” or personalized this use of “Holy Spirit” is.

[F] Are we to envision any sort of sin here, or sins against the disciples in particular?  I would suggest that the latter is in view.  It is specifically when the disciples forgive their own enemies that they are acting like God, in the power of the Spirit.

[G] Literally “throw” my finger into the mark, etc.!

[H] οὐ μὴ + the aorist subjunctive = emphatic future denial!

[I] μὴ + a present imperative = stop doing an action already in process.

[J] The same word can mean either “faithful” or “believing.”  In john, the two are intimately related.

[K] Note that Thomas apparently doesn’t take Jesus up on the offer to actually put his finger in the wounds, or his hand in Jesus’ side.  Note that Thomas says this αὐτῷ, to him (i.e. to Jesus), and not as a general acclamation of faith in God.

[L] This includes, of course, all the readers of the gospel!

[M] An interesting acknowledgement on the part of the author that this gospel is selective in its recounting of the story.

[N] There’s a crucial textual variant here.  Is it the aorist “come to believe” or the present “continue to believe”?  Textual evidence is pretty evenly divided.  Some assume that the intended readership is centrally at stake here—either non-Christians, who are expected to “come to believe” (aorist) or existing Christians, who are invited to “continue to believe” (present).  But I think this may be overdrawn, and the envisioned audience may include both sorts of readers.  Consider the dual use of “believe” in John 4:50 and 53.  If he believed the first time, why the second mention?  But for John, believing is a never-ending journey, deeper and deeper into mystery.  That’s why I would differentiate too sharply between the present and the aorist here.

[O] Some commentators suggest that this verse should be rendered “that you may believe that the Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus,” assuming agreement on “Christ, Son of God” in a Jewish context, but focusing on identifying Jesus in this role.  The presence and absence of the definite articles favors such a reading, though this is not decisive, since the articles could be there because these are titles.  But I find it hard to believe that John assumes that his readers already know what “Christ” and “Son of God” mean, and simply have to link these categories to Jesus.  In fact, Nicodemus exclaims Jesus as “King of Israel” and Son of God” in 1:49, before he has seen much of anything!  There is far too much energy devoted in John to expanding and expounding on these terms to assume that the author takes them for granted and simply assumes his readers already understand them.

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