Re: Ambiguity in John 12:31?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Mar 26 1997 - 06:54:13 EST

At 11:51 PM -0600 3/25/97, Micheal Palmer wrote:
>At 1:01 PM -0600 3/25/97, Martin A. Childs wrote about John 12:31:
>>But looking at 31 : [nun krisis estin tou kosmou] I am unable to discern
>>who is rendering the judgment.
>>In other words, should it be "judgment BY this world" or "judgment UPON
>>this world" or is it ambiguous?
>Of course we can't answer this question of GRAMMATICAL grounds, since both
>readings are possible. The question is, which reading is best supported by
>the context. I have always understood NUN KRISIS ESTIN TOU KOSMOU TOUTOU in
>this verse to mean judgment UPON this world (taking TOU KOSMOU TOUTOU as
>objective genitive), but that doesn't mean that this is the only or even
>the best choice. What support would you see for reading it as subjective
>(judgment BY this world)?

Let me piggy-back on Micheal's succinct response and try to be brief about
what seems to me to be an immense matter. I say that because I have a
lengthy unpublished piece on the strange and fascinating way that realized
eschatological themes seem to work in John's gospel, and central to this is
the proposition that KRISIS is a double-edged term offundamental importance
in Johannine eschatology (at least so far as the gospel is concerned; I
think the eschatology of 1 John is much more "conventional" in the sense of
being consistent with synoptic and Pauline eschatology). My thesis is
beyond brief explication here, but I would invite anyone really interested
to do his/her own exploration of passages in John based on the KRI- verbal
stem, particularly the verb KRINW and the nouns KRISIS and KRIMA.

Briefly: I see KRISIS as a two-fold "impeachement"--of the world (KOSMOS =
humanity) by Jesus and of Jesus by the world; Jesus on the cross (at his
hWRA of hUYWQHNAI AND DOXASQHNAI) draws all humanity to himself for a
KRISIS that determines their own future as AIWNIOS ZWH in covenant
existence with him or as annihilation, consignment to remain forever in the
darkness of their blindness to him as light. The KRISIS is simultaneously a
determination by humanity as to WHO Jesus is in relationship to themselves
and WHO they are in relationship to him and his revelation and a
determination by Jesus of the status of individuals with regard to their
blindness or vision. Paradoxically Jesus judges no one and judges everyone,
because he is the criterion, the light shining, the one that illuminates
with revelation or remains unseen by the blind--and so, paradoxically,
individuals believe or do not believe and thereby determine their own
destiny by their decison regarding Jesus, the criterion. Finally, this
judgment of Jesus is at the same time a creation, a separation of the light
>from the darkness, of the seeing from the blind, of "his own" from "the
world" (which henceforth becomes a negative term). It seems to me that
Chapter 12 is central in the economy of the gospel because it declares in
these verses (31ff.) the significance of the hWRA for all humanity and the
KRISIS that is at the heart of the event of the Cross. But the KRISIS theme
is hinted at already in the Prologue in the notion of the creation and
separation, it is expressed in discourses about Light and Blindness, and it
is deeply implicit in the account of the Paraklete who is to continue the
work of KRISIS begun by Jesus as the Light incarnate. A word about the
impeachment of Jesus: already in chapter 1 there is the MARTURION of John
the Baptist: he does not DENY, but he TESTIFIES, he CONFESSES the idenity
of Jesus; in the Passion narrative, the world, through the paradigmatic
action of Pilate, KRINEI (condemns) Jesus, and asks the sarcastic question,
"What is Truth?"

That, I think, is enough of a sketch of what seems to me to be a consistent
theme worked out throughout the gospel in pointed recurrent uses of a
number of words, many of them linked directly to the verbal root KRI-. And
12:31 really is central as a public scene, a sort of "public" Gethsemane
scene where what is a private scene in the synoptics is played out before
the eyes of the public--and then at the end of chaper 12, we are told that
the darkness descends. There's a curious and paradoxical chronology in
John's gospel: it is not linear, but rather several discourses point to the
one central event, the light shining on the upraised and glorified Christ
on the cross, and several narrated sequences seem to overlap
chronologically (which is why I can say that Chapter 12 is a Gethsemane
scene, a scene which otherwise does not appear in John's gospel).

I'll leave it at that, I think.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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