From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Oct 17 1997 - 11:43:43 EDT

[Preliminary note: I'm clipping a lot of this out. As will be noted when
the BG-Survey Report is issued (to be expected pretty soon now), there have
been numerous complaints about inclusion of the entire previous thread in
continuations of it rather than of only those parts essential to
understanding the current reponse. I hope that I have gone to the other
extreme here and included too little for what I'm saying to be intelligible
AS a response.]

At 8:29 AM -0500 10/17/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>I've always wondered why Mary responds by saying to the servants "do
>whatever he says to you", and her reply makes much more sense if OUPW
>hHKEIhH hWRA MOU is read as a question. Micheal and Carl both see this as
>shaky. They may well be right, but I want to pull out some more information
>and see how they respond to it, because I am still uncertain.
>Carl suggests that this is not possible on grammatical grounds:
>>I guess I didn't catch this when Jonathan first posted it, but it also
>>seems to me that there's no way that OUPW hHKEI hH hWRA MOU could be
>>seriously taken as a question. The sense of OUPW is essentially "not
>>yet"--I don't see any use of it as separable into an interrogative particle
>>in the sense of "Isn't it so that ... already?"
>OUPW does introduce questions in other places in the New Testament:
> . . .
>None of these really have the sense of "Isn't it so that ... already?" -
>e.g. Mark 4:40 does NOT mean "Isn't it so that you have faith already?" But
>might it be legitimate to interpret it like this:

No, actually it is "Is it so that ... not yet (predicate)." To be still
more precise, it's an emphatic front-and-center positioning of the negative
adverb: "Not yet [predication], right?" or for Mk 4:40: "You STILL DON'T
have faith, do you?"

>Jesus: TI EMOI KAI SOI, GUNAI? OUPW hHKEI hH hWRA MOU? "Is this such a big
>deal to you and me? Is my hour still not come?"
>Mary: hO TI AN LEGHi hUMIN POIHSATE "do whatever he says to you"

If it's a question, we'd have to understand it as "My hour STILL HASN'T
come, has it?"

But I think that if we want to put it as an interrogative in that fashion,
the question must be understood rhetorically: "Don't you realize, Lady,
that even if this is the right kind of place for that sort of miracle, it
still is not the right time?--the right time has not yet arrived." And
Jonathan's last phrasing does imply that, doesn't it. It's quite different
from the earlier understanding of it as "Hasn't my hour already come?"

> ...
>This is an interesting issue *regardless* of whether you take it as a
>question. In this context, Jesus is implying that the coming of his hour has
>something to do with the current situation. When I was a kid in Sunday
>School, we were told that Jesus really wasn't ready to start doing miracles
>yet, but when his mother told him to, he was obedient. I doubt that this is
>the real explanation, but still, this reference to his hour coming seems to
>have more to do with working miracles in the immediate context than with
>Jesus going to the cross. If "my hour is not come" means basically the same
>as "my time is not come", then it could be applied to more than one time:
>the time to start working miracles, the time to go to the cross, etc.

This is a good question and it is phrased in a context that carries me too
back to Sunday School and even later contexts where the uncanniness of
John's gospel seemed to mock the occasions for its reading and the
interpretations offered with such reckless confidence (sometimes by me!).
For instance, this is an assigned Epiphany text, and it may well be that
the evangelist (or perhaps some prior composer of a "Book of Signs"--I have
no brief for or against such a hypothesis) meant it to be understood as
such. It's also part of the Greek Orthodox wedding liturgy, and reasons can
be adduced for that readily enough, I think. But of course the gospel of
John (and every NT book, for that matter) has to be read as a whole if any
part of it is to be understood rightly, and in the context of the whole
gospel of John, the "hour" is clearly the time of hUPSWQHNAi and
DOXASQHNAI, is the whole event of crucifixion and resurrection combined,
when Jesus on the cross stands revealed as God speaking clearly and
unmistakably what He has always meant to tell humanity--and when the
comprehension of that speaking evokes in those who envision it a response
that makes them alive with ZWH AIWNIOS, then it becomes evident that the
event of that HOUR is the real miracle that underlies and gives substance
to any other miracle ever reported in John's gospel. I offer this reading
of Jn 2:4 as nothing more than what I take the meaning of OUPW hHKEI hH
hWRA MOU to be in the context of the gospel of John. But in that context,
it seems to me that within its own pericope Jesus' statement, OUPW hHKEI hH
hWRA MOU, is pointing a typical Johannine paradox: that (to use
Conzelmann's phrase originally meant as a title of his book on Luke's
gospel) the HOUR thus understood is the Center-of-Time ("die Mitte der
Zeit") that marks a convergence of human time and eternity, a point from
which all preceding miracles in human time and all miracles ever to follow
in human time derive their significance and their power. I think that the
evangelist was pointing to the very same paradox when he told us that Jesus
said, PRIN GENESQAI TON ABRAAM, EGW EIMI--the BEING of Jesus is retroactive
and forward-reaching throughout all human time, so that it "substantiates"
whatever has true meaning and significance within human time--when ever,
and for ever.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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