Re: telelestai

From: Jeffrey B. Gibson (
Date: Tue May 19 1998 - 21:21:49 EDT

Carl W. Conrad wrote:
> At 6:49 PM -0400 5/19/98, John M. Moe wrote:
> >Carl W. Conrad wrote:
> >
> >snip
> >
> > But one might question whether John's soteriology is fully in
> >harmony with a notion
> > of paying off a debt as a ransom; the image of Jesus as a Passover
> >lamb
> > belongs to John's gospel, and to be sure, the death of Jesus on the
> >cross
> > is salvific, but the question whether JOHN's gospel conceives of that
> >death
> > as paying a ransom is hard to find evidence WITHIN JOHN'S GOSPEL to
> > support, in my opinion. We've got to be careful in responding to this
> >one,
> > as it will be difficult to stay away from hermeneutic assumptions
> >when what
> > we're really after is the precise sense and intent of TETELESTAI in
> >John
> > 19.30.
> >
> >
> >snip
> >
> >Dr. Conrad,
> >
> >Perhaps I should ask this off list because I think this probably goes
> >beyond the parameters of B-Greek, but I was just wondering; In the
> >light of what you say above, how do you take hUPER in the ironic
> >"prophecy" of the high priest at John 11:50-51?
> I don't think there's a question what the Greek of John 11:50f. means, but
> I do think one is entitled to question whether the evangelist intends it to
> be taken ironically in any sense of atonement. Personally I think that the
> high priest means precisely that the death of Jesus protects the Jewish
> people (TOU LAOU) from annihilation.

It is important, I think, to note (as Martin Hengel details in his book
_the Atonement_) that the expression APOQNHSKEIN hUPER (and its
equivalent (EPI)DIDONAI hEAUTON hUPER or similar formulae with PERI or
PRO) is a stereotypical expression in Greek literature from the
Classical period onwards for the voluntary sacrifice of a person's life
in the interest of his/her native city, friends, family, and sometimes
even philosophical truth. These deaths were certainly regarded as
salvific, but not because anyone or anything was "paid" by a death.
(Note, too, the use of the formula in the Maccabean literature).
Moreover, this expression was used very much along the lines for which
modern eulogies for soldiers dying in war are employed, to encourage a
certain type of "service" for one's country which involves a readiness
to deal death to the enemy. If there *is* any irony in John when the
phrase in question is spoken, perhaps it is that one who refuses to deal
death ("my kingdom is not of this world...", cf. also Jn 6) is the one
who "saves" Israel".

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