Re: telelestai

From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Wed May 20 1998 - 20:38:09 EDT

---"Jeffrey B. Gibson" wrote:

> It is important, I think, to note (as Martin Hengel details in his
> _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
> 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.

This is a perspicuous, valid observation, Jeffrey. But, I think the
comments of GRB Murray are also pertinent here.

According to the prominent Johannine scholar, hUPER [in Jn. 11:51-52]
is "associated with the IDEA of a LUTRON, an "equivalent payment" or
"ransom." In this connection, Josephus records that Eleazar (guardian
of the temple trasures) gave Crassus a beam of solid beaten gold as a
LUTRON ANTI PANTWN--"to spare the rest" (See Murray, GRB. John [Word
Biblical Commentary Series]. Waco: Word, 1987. P. 198).

Clearly, Caiaphas felt that Jesus' death would save the Jewish nation
from annihilation. But, more importantly, what did the apostle John
understand by Caiaphas' expression? Based on other passages in John
(even 19:30), there are ransom overtones in 11:51-52 (Cf. John 3:16;
12:31, 32). Note Murray's comments on 19:30 (pp. 352-53). There is
solid linguistic evidence that John 19:30 can be read in a
sacrificial, expitiatory light (this is not to say that I advocate
Anselmic "satisfaction").

> (Note, too, the use of the formula in the Maccabean literature).
> Moreover, this expression was used very much along the lines for
> 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
> death ("my kingdom is not of this world...", cf. also Jn 6) is the one
> who "saves" Israel".

I would respectfully disagree on the irony issue, Jeffrey. John 11:51
explicitly says: TOUTO DE AF' hEAUTOU OUK EIPEN.


Edgar Foster

Lenoir-Rhyne College

Classics Major

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