John 8:58

Mike Phillips (
Thu, 15 Aug 1996 18:51:23 -0700

I note two recurring assumptions made by several participants regarding this

(1) That Jesus' response somehow directly answers his interlocuter's question.
I hold that this assumption is invalidated given the tendency of Jesus
to answer a question with a question (and to rarely answer any question
directly, particularly when addressed to him by an interlocuter, and never in a
spiral of ad hominim violence).
(2) That both parties (Jesus and "the Jews") understood the statement of the
other(s) unequivocably.
I hold that given the emotionally charged context (the (il)legitimacy
of Jesus) that it is very likely there was misunderstanding, hence, when Jesus
says "Abraham rejoiced to see my day" (disregarding the variant MSS evidence
and patristic commentary which suggests "Abraham desired to see my day") that
he could well have been commenting on Abraham's celebrating the birth of Jesus
in the presence of the saints (i.e., the bosom of Abraham). The fact that "the
Jews" understand him to be saying something different (or that a later redactor
makes a convenient change of nuance to signify something different) should not
be construed as "obvious." Jesus (in the midst of an ad hominim spiral of
violence) is commenting that Abraham (the professed Father of his
interlocuters) behaves more admirably than his interlocuters where he (Jesus)
is concerned, and finally, that YHWH is the pattern (source) of Jesus' works,
and not Abraham (which, Jesus maintains, is not the pattern (source) of his
interlocuter's actions either (which leads to the attempted stoning)).

Until an exegesis can be forwarded that doesn't make these assumptions
a priori, other alternatives which can make sense of the text without relying
on these assumptions (i.e., by not multiplying entities unnecessarily) should
hold sway given that the Greek does not differentiate _in and of itself_
(apart from theological assumptions) between the alternatives.

I am a student of Greek and not necessarily an accomplished one. I
have forwarded an analysis which fits the facts in evidence, but, I don't hold
that this is the only model to fit the facts in evidence. I do believe
(personally) that it is a model that fits the facts in evidence apart from a
desire to construe Jesus as pre-existing (either as messiah or as 2nd
trinitarian construct). Since all this pre-existing stuff apparently came late
to John in additions of prologue and epilogue, shouldn't we at least allow the
context to dictate the interpretation, rather than the rest of the Bible from
stem to stern? Hence, if context can make sense of the dialogue without
reference to multiple entities not specifically in the context, shouldn't the
simpler constructs hold sway? Unless, of course, the object is to proof text
rather than to exegete...

Willing to be instructed in Waldron,

Mike Phillips

A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanging;
it is the skin of living thought and changes from day
to day as does the air around us. - Oliver Wendell Holmes