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Sophia and the Johannine Jesus


Scott, James Martin Clark

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SOPHIA AND THE JOHANNINE JESUS

by

JAMES MARTIN CLARK SCOTT

The copyright of this thesis rests with the author.

No quotation from it should be published without

his prior written consent and information derived

from it should be acknowledged.

A Thesis
Submitted to the

U N I V E R S I T Y OF DURHAM

I n F u l f i l m e n t of the Requirements
for the Degree of

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY <PhD>

i n the

DEPARTMENT o f THEOLOGY

A p r i l 1990

MAR 19SI
SOPHIA AND THE JOHANHINE JESUS Janes M a r t i n Clark S c o t t

This thesis examines the r e l a t i o n s h i p between t h e Jewish f i g u r e


of Sophia and t h e Johannine Jesus. Recognising the problem of
identifying t h e female Sophia with t h e male Jesus, we ask how the
F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t has t a c k l e d i t and what e f f e c t , i f any, t h e s o l u t i o n
may have had on t h e p o r t r a y a l o f women w i t h i n t h e Gospel.
Following an i n t r o d u c t o r y chapter o u t l i n i n g t h e scope of the
t h e s i s , Chapter Two examines t h e c o n t e x t from which John has drawn on
Sophia. B e a r i n g i n mind always t h e m o n o t h e i s t i c c h a r a c t e r of Judaism,
we d i s c o v e r t h e way i n which t r a i t s of ANE Goddesses have influenced
the development o f Sophia as a f i g u r e w i t h i n Jewish thought. We f i n d
that by t h e time o f t h e w r i t i n g of John's Gospel, on t h e one hand
there was a highly developed picture of Sophia as a feminine
e x p r e s s i o n o f God a c t i v e i n I s r a e l ' s h i s t o r y , w h i l e on the other hand
t h e r e were e f f o r t s t o r e p r e s s her gender significance.
Chapter Three examines the relationship between this female
f i g u r e and John's p i c t u r e o f Jesus. The Logos of t h e Prologue, found
t o be i n f l u e n c e d a t almost every t u r n by Sophia s p e c u l a t i o n , proves t o
be a useful cover employed by t h e F o u r t h Evangelist t o e f f e c t the
s w i t c h o f gender from Sophia t o Jesus. F u r t h e r study shows t h a t a l l
the main themes o f t h e Prologue a r e worked o u t i n d e t a i l i n t h e body
of t h e Gospel. H a r d l y a major Johannine theme remains untouched by
some measure of Sophia's i n f l u e n c e . T h i s leads us t o the c o n c l u s i o n
that John has i n t e n t i o n a l l y presented us w i t h Jesus as Jesus Sophia
incarnate.
Chapter Four examines t h e p o s s i b i l i t y of a connection between t h e
d i s c e r n e d Sophia c h r i s t o l o g y and t h e prominent r o l e played by women i n
the Gospel. We f i n d t h a t a l l t h e s t o r i e s c o n c e r n i n g women appear a t
Important c h r i s t o l o g i c a l points i n t h e Gospel. Further investigation
shows t h a t a l l t h e women demonstrate t h e e s s e n t i a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of
disclpleship, i n a way i n which t h e t r a d i t i o n a l male d i s c i p l e s of the
Synoptic tradition do n o t . The women a r e seen to function as
paradigms of discipleshlp f o r t h e community t o which t h e Gospel i s
addressed. I n addition, traces of influence f r o m Sophia speculation
are a l s o t o be found I n t h e way I n which t h e s t o r i e s concerning women
are told.
Finally, some r e f l e c t i o n s a r e o f f e r e d on t h e wider implications
of the findings i n chapters three and four, along with some
s u g g e s t i o n s f o r f u r t h e r research.
SOPHIA AND THE JOHANNINE JESUS

TABLE OF CONTENTS I l l

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS vii 1

ABBREVIATIONS x

1. INTR(M)UCTION

1. I SETTING THE SCENE 2

1.2 SETTING THE CONTEXT 5

1.2.1 Methodology 6

1.2.2 Wisdom S t u d i e s 17

1.2.3 The C h r i s t o l o g y o f John 24

1.2.4 S t u d i e s on Women 30

1. 3 SETTING OUT 37

2. "VfflO I S SOPHIA, WHAT I S SHE?"

2. 1 INTRODUCTION 39

2.2 SOPHIA IN THE CONTEXT OF ANE GODDESSES 40

2.2.1 The F e r t i l i t y C u l t 41

2.2.2 The S a c r a l Marriage 44

2.2.3 The Goddess o f Love 45

2.2.4 The B i b l i c a l O p p o s i t i o n 47

2.2.5 Conclusions 50

2.3 WHO I S SOPHIA? 53

2.3.1 Sophia and Yahweh i n Proverbs 54

2.3.2 Sophia and Yahweh i n t h e Apocryphal L i t e r a t u r e 58

2.3.3 Sophia and P h i l o 63

2.3.4 Conclusions 68

2.4 WHAT I S SHE? 69


Iv

2.4.1 The Gender S i g n i f i c a n c e o f Sophia 69

2.4.1.1 L i n g u i s t i c Remarks 70

2.4.1.2 Sophia and t h e Goddess 71

2.4.1.2.1 Sophia and Canaanlte Goddesses . . . . 72

2.4.1.2.2 Sophia and E g y p t i a n Goddesses 74

2.4.1.2.2.1 Sophia and MAAT 74

2.4.1.2.2.2 Sophia and I s l s 76

2.4.1.2.3 The Goddess i n P h l l o 79

2.4. 1.3 Conclusions 82

2.4.2 Hypostasis: P e r s o n i f i c a t i o n : What i s She? 82

2.5 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 85

3. SOPHIA AND THE JOHANNINE JESUS

3.1 JESUS - THE WISDOM OF GOD 93

3.1.1 Jesus and Wisdom i n Paul 94

3.1.2 Jesus and Wisdom i n t h e Synoptic T r a d i t i o n 95

3.1.3 Jesus and Wisdom i n Hebrews 1:1-3 97

3.2 JESUS, LOGOS AND SOPHIA IN JOHN 98

3.2.1 Logos and Sophia i n Wisdom of Solomon 99

3.2.2 Logos and Sophia i n P h i l o 102

3.2.3 Logos and Sophia i n John 1:1-18 105

3.2.4 Sophia i n t h e Body o f John's Gospel 128

3.2.4.1 The eya eT.)it Sayings 129

3.2.4.1.1 EY<6 EXjii o atp-coq Tf(q 4<Bffq (6:35) . . . 130

3.2.4.1.2 Ey(i> elfiv t d <pS<; xoC x6a^ou (8:12). . . 134

3.2.4.1.3 Ey<)i e i f i i f| 8upa xav npo^aiav (10:7)


elfiv 6 j i o i ^ r i v 6 xaKoq (10:11). . . 135
V

3.2.4.1.4 Ey<i> e\^l^. t\ avaavaaiq x a t r\ Catf


(11:25) 139

3.2.4.1.5 Ey& e l ^ v r\ oSoq x a l f) a\rieeia x a i

rj Cuif <14:6) 141

3.2.4.1.6 EY<£> elfix rj afineXoq aXn^xvif (15:1). . 145

3.2.4.2 R e l a t i o n s h i p t o God 148

3.2.4.2.1 Pre-Existence 149

3.2.4.2.2 Descent and Ascent 152

3.2.4.2.3 I n t i m a c y w i t h God 160

3.2.4.2.4 Jesus t h e Revealer 166

3.2.4.2.5 Ey6 e i ^ v 170

3.2.4.2.6 Humanity and D i v i n i t y 172

3.2.4.3 Jesus t h e Teacher 175

3.2.4.3.1 Jesus as Teacher 175

3.2.4.3.2 The Teacher's D i s c i p l e s 180

3.2.4.3.3 The M o t i f o f 'Abiding' ( n e v e l v ) . . . . 182

3.2.4.4 The R e j e c t i o n o f Jesus 184

3.2.4.5 Jesus and t h e Law 185

3.2.4.6 Jesus and t h e S p i r i t 189

3.2.4.7 The anjieHa o f Jesus 192

3.3 SOPHIA AND THE JOHANNINE JESUS 196

3.3.1 Jesus and Sophia: A Gender Problem Resolved? 198

3.3.2 The Disappearance o f t h e Logos 201

4. IM THE GOSPEL OF JOHW

4.1 JESUS SOPHIA AND HIS MOTHER AT CANA (Jn 2:1-11) 205

4.1.1 E x e g e t i c a l Comments 207

4.1.2 The Role o f Jesus' Mother 208

4.1.3 The I n f l u e n c e o f Sophia C h r i s t o l o g y 214


vl

4.2 JESUS SOPHIA AND THE SAMARITAN WOMAN (Jn 4:1-42) 215

4.2.1 E x e g e t l c a l Comments 216

4.2.2 The Samaritan Woman's Role 218

4.2.2.1 The T h e o l o g i c a l Discussion 218

4.2.2.2 The R e c i p i e n t o f R e v e l a t i o n (4:26) 223

4.2.2.3 The Woman as M i s s i o n a r y / W i t n e s s 224

4.2.2.4 The Woman and t h e MAGHTAI 230

4.3 JESUS SOPHIA AND THE WOMEN AT BETHANY (Jn 11:1-44; 12:1-8) . . 232

4.3.1 Martha a t t h e Tomb o f Lazarus (11:1-44) 233

4.3. 1. 1 Martha's Role 234

4.3.1.1.1 The R e c i p i e n t o f R e v e l a t i o n (11:25). . 235

4.3.1.1.2 Martha's Confession o f F a i t h 236

4.3.1.1.2.1 Martha and Peter 237

4.3.1.1.2.2 Jn 11:27 = Jn 20:31. . . . 239

4.3. 1.2 Mary's Role 242

4.3.2 Mary o f Bethany - The A n o i n t i n g (12:1-8) 243

4.3.2. 1 Mary's Role 245

4.3.2.2 Martha's Role (12:2) 249

4.3.3 Sophia I n f l u e n c e on t h e Martha/Mary Accounts 251

4.4 JESUS SOPHIA AND THE WOMEN AT THE CROSS 253

4.4.1 E x e g e t l c a l Comments 254

4.4.2 The I n f l u e n c e o f Sophia 258

4.5 JESUS SOPHIA AND MARY OF MAGDALA (Jn 20:1-18) 261

4.5.1 E x e g e t l c a l Comments 261

4.5.2 The Role o f Mary Magdalene 264

4.5.3 The I n f l u e n c e o f Sophia C h r i s t o l o g y 271

4.6 CONCLUSIONS 275


vii

5. CONCLUSIONS AND REFLECTIONS

5. 1 SUMMARY 283

5.2 FURTHER REFLECTIONS 290

5.3 THE WAY AHEAD 296

NOTES 300

BIBLIOGRAPHY 353
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The completion o f a t h e s i s of t h i s k i n d i s o n l y made p o s s i b l e

w i t h the c o - o p e r a t i o n and a s s i s t a n c e o f many people. A comprehensive

list would be both impractical and i m p o s s i b l e given the available

space, b u t I do wish t o acknowledge t h e s p e c i a l r o l e which some have

played i n h e l p i n g me t o reach t h i s stage.

Without the grounding I n t h e o l o g i c a l study received during f i v e

years a t t h e B a p t i s t T h e o l o g i c a l Seminary, RUschlikon, Switzerland, i t

would have been i m p o s s i b l e t o have s e t o u t on t h i s course. To the

Faculty and s t u d e n t s o f my g e n e r a t i o n there I offer my heartfelt

thanks. Above a l l , however, t h i s t h e s i s owes whatever academic worth

it may have t o the scrupulous attention given i t , from planting

through t o r e a p i n g , by Prof. J.D.G. Dunn. I am indebted t o him not

only f o r s h a r i n g so f r e e l y his internationally recognised and acute

sense o f s c h o l a r s h i p , but a l s o f o r the f r i e n d s h i p , encouragement, and

many p r a c t i c a l h e l p s he has w i l l i n g l y o f f e r e d a l o n g the way, I t has

indeed been a p r i v i l e g e t o have had the o p p o r t u n i t y t o work under t h e

s u p e r v i s i o n o f t h i s C h r i s t i a n s c h o l a r and gentleman.

The difficulty o f c o m p l e t i n g a t h e s i s w h i l e conducting a full-

time m i n i s t r y was c o n s i d e r a b l y eased by the h e l p and support of the

staff a t t h e N o r t h e r n B a p t i s t College, Manchester, and i n p a r t i c u l a r

by t h e P r i n c i p a l , Rev.Dr. B r i a n Haymes. His c o n t i n u e d i n t e r e s t i n my

work, generous provision o f accommodation and study space, and

pastoral awareness o f t h e pressures i n v o l v e d were o f immeasurable

value i n t h e f i n a l a n a l y s i s .

To my w i f e , friend and c o l l e a g u e , Jayne, my debt i s enormous.

She i s not mentioned out o f any sense o f c o n v e n t i o n i n these matters,


Ix

but because she has c o n t r i b u t e d g r e a t l y t o t h e t h e s i s through many

v a l u a b l e i n s i g h t s and c o r r e c t i o n s . Her p a r t n e r s h i p i n m i n i s t r y has

enabled me t o f i n d time which o t h e r w i s e would have been impossible,

and i n addition t o a l l her own r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s she has o f f e r e d a

continuous back-up service i n times of depression, a n x i e t y and

apparent hopelessness! I t i s t o her t h a t t h i s work i s dedicated i n

l o v e and i n t h e hope t h a t she w i l l one day t r u l y be able t o experience

the freedom t o e x e r c i s e f u l l y her many g i f t s I n t h e f o o t s t e p s o f t h e

Johannine women.

Jarrow, April 1990.


ABBREVIATIONS

ANET PRITCHARD,J.B., (ed. ) Ancient Near Eastern Texts R e l a t i n g


t o t h e O l d Testament ( P r i n c e t o n , P r i n c e t o n U n i v e r s i t y
Press, 1955/2J).

BAG BAUER,W., A Greek-English Lexicon o f t h e New Testament and


Other E a r l y C h r i s t i a n L i t e r a t u r e , t r a n s , and rev. W.F.
Arndt/F.W. Gingrich (Chicago/London, U n i v e r s i t y o f Chicago
Press, 1S7912J).

BDB BROWN,F./DRIVER,S.R./BRIGGS,C.A., A Hebrew and E n g l i s h


Lexicon o f t h e O l d Testament (Oxford, Clarendon Press,
1979=1951).

Hatch-Redpath HATCH,E./REDPATH,H.A., A Concordance t o t h e Septuaglnt


and Other V e r s i o n s o f t h e Old Testament (Graz, Akademische
Druck- und V e r l a g s a n s t a l t , 1954=1897).

IDB BUTTRICK.G.A., e t a l . (eds.) The I n t e r p r e t e r s D i c t i o n a r y


of t h e B i b l e (New Y o r k / N a s h v i l l e , Abingdon Press, 1 9 6 2 f f ) .

NIDNTT BROWN, C. ( e d . ) . The New I n t e r n a t i o n a l D i c t i o n a r y o f New


Testament Theology 3 vols (Exeter, P a t e r n o s t e r Press,
1978).

TDNT KITTEL,G./FRIEDRICH.G. , (eds.) T h e o l o g i c a l D i c t i o n a r y o f


the New Testament, trans. G.W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids,
Eerdmanns, 1 9 6 4 f f ) .

LXX S e p t u a g l n t a , I d e s t Vetus Testamentum graece l u x t a LXX


I n t e r p r e t e s . 2 vols ed. A.Rahlfs e t a l . ( S t u t t g a r t ,
Deutsche B l b e l g e s e l l s c h a f t , 1982=1935).

MT B l b l l a Hebralca S t u t t g a r t e n s l a . ed. R . K l t t e l , e t a l .
( S t u t t g a r t , Deutsche B l b e l s t l f t u n g , 1977).

Abbreviations of Journals, Periodicals, Commentary S e r i e s and


Monograph S e r i e s , when used f o l l o w t h e standard a b b r e v i a t i o n s g i v e n
in: S.Schwertner (ed.) Theologlsche Realenzvklopaedie AbkUrzungs-
v e r z e l c h n l s (Berlin/New York, Walter de Gruyter, 1976) 3-343.

T h i s symbol i s used a t p o i n t s i n t h e t h e s i s t o I n d i c a t e an
i d e n t i t y between two s u b j e c t s , which i s more than can be
expressed s i m p l y by an 'equals' (=) s i g n ; e.g., Jesus »
God.

The 'equals' s i g n i s used t o I n d i c a t e a p a r a l l e l t e x t or


an e q u a l i t y i n r e l a t i o n s h i p .
The c o p y r i g h t of t h i s t h e s i s r e s t s w i t h the
author. No q u o t a t i o n f r o m i t should be published
w i t h o u t h i s p r i o r w r i t t e n consent and i n f o r m a t i o n
d e r i v e d from i t should be acknowledged.

I c o n f i r m t h a t no p a r t of the m a t e r i a l o f f e r e d has
p r e v i o u s l y been submitted by me f o r a degree i n
t h i s or i n any o t h e r U n i v e r s i t y .
CHAPTER ONE

1. INTRODUCTION

There can be few more d a u n t i n g tasks i n the l i f e o f church

m u s i c i a n s than a t t e m p t i n g t o w r i t e Passion music i n t h e wake o f Bach:

whatever they do will either appear imitative and so secondary,

innovative and so r a t h e r risky, o r downright irrelevant! For a

m u s i c i a n t u r n e d t h e o l o g i a n approaching the Gospel o f John, t h e w r i t i n g

of a t h e s i s appears a s i m i l a r l y overwhelming task. There has been

such a vast volume o f s c h o l a r l y work o f immense v a r i e t y w r i t t e n on t h e

F o u r t h Gospel by so many g i a n t s o f New Testament s c h o l a r s h i p , t h a t t h e

task o f w r i t i n g something new and o r i g i n a l becomes more d i f f i c u l t as

t h e months o f research t i c k by. Thus, as we s e t o u t on t h i s present

work, i ti s vital t o delineate the precise contribution we seek t o

make. At times i t will certainly appear imitative, but a t o t h e r s

h o p e f u l l y also innovative, w i t h a l l the r i s k that e n t a i l s . Above a l l ,

however, i t seeks t o a v o i d the p i t f a l l o f our t h i r d a l t e r n a t i v e , but

t h a t must be l e f t t o t h e reader!

Some comments on t h e o r i g i n o f t h e t h e s i s may be h e l p f u l i n

understanding i t s final outcome. Initially interest was s t i m u l a t e d

through t h e author's participation i n a seminar on t h e s u b j e c t o f

'Women i n t h e Gospels' i n t h e s p r i n g o f 1981, f o r which seminar he

shared r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r t h e examination of t h e r o l e o f women i n t h e

F o u r t h Gospel. At t h a t time, t h e o n l y s i g n i f i c a n t m a t e r i a l a v a i l a b l e

on t h e s u b j e c t was t h e a r t i c l e by Raymond Brown b r i e f l y o u t l i n i n g some

of t h e n o t a b l e f e a t u r e s o f t h e Johannine women'. This l e d t o f u r t h e r

reflection, amongst which t h e most striking observation was t h e

prominence o f women a t c r u c i a l christological points i n the unfolding

drama o f t h e Johannine account. The unexplained connection between


- 2 -

c h r i s t o l o g y and t h e r o l e of women proved t o be t h e germ o u t o f which


the p l a n t has grown. The r e c o g n i t i o n o f t h e c r u c i a l I n f l u e n c e o f
Wisdom s p e c u l a t i o n on t h e Johannine p i c t u r e o f Jesus, e s p e c i a l l y as
noted a l r e a d y by Brown i n h i s commentary* and f u r t h e r encouraged by
P r o f e s s o r Dunn's own c o n c l u s i o n s ^ , l e d t h e author t o i n v e s t i g a t e t h e
s i g n i f i c a n c e o f t h e gender o f Sophia f o r u n d e r s t a n d i n g t h e Johannine
p e r s p e c t i v e i n g e n e r a l and t h e r o l e o f women I n p a r t i c u l a r .

We s h a l l now t u r n to outline t h e methodology employed in the

construction of t h i s thesis, t h e d i r e c t i o n i n which our i n v e s t i g a t i o n

will take us and some o f t h e q u e s t i o n s w i t h which we seek t o grapple.

In addition, we w i l l attempt t o s e t t h e t h e s i s i n c o n t e x t amongst t h e

whole range o f s t u d i e s on Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e , Johannine Christology,

and t h e r o l e o f women i n New Testament times.

1.1 SETTING THE SCENE

As t h e o v e r a l l title a l r e a d y suggests, t h i s t h e s i s sets out t o

examine i n detail the relationship between t h e Jewish figure of

Wisdom, known by her Greek t i t l e , Sophia, and t h e Jesus o f t h e F o u r t h

Gospel. The d e c i s i o n to refer t o her by her Greek name I s a

deliberate one, taken on two counts. F i r s t l y , by i t s use, her gender

is immediately made c l e a r , a factor not evident i n the abstract

English word. Wisdom. This w i l l be a v i t a l i s s u e when we come t o

examine t h e way t h a t New Testament w r i t e r s , i n p a r t i c u l a r John, seek

to identify an exclusively female figure with t h e male Jesus.

Secondly, t h e use o f t h e Greek name r e v e a l s t h i s a u t h o r ' s assumption

that t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t used Greek as t h e language f o r w r i t i n g t h e

Gospel from t h e beginning, rather than Aramaic, "even though t h e


- 3 -

language d i s p l a y s many Semitisms or Semitic c o l o u r i n g " * . This


p r e s u p p o s i t i o n i s o f some importance i n r e s p e c t o f our h a n d l i n g o f
m a t e r i a l s i n chapter t h r e e , where r e f e r e n c e w i l l be made t o t h e
S e p t u a g i n t (=LXX) t e x t o f t h e w r i t i n g s under c o n s i d e r a t i o n r a t h e r than
to t h e Hebrew t e x t (=MT>, even v^ere t h i s i s e x t a n t ( i . e . , Proverbs).

In order t o approach t h e q u e s t i o n o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p o f Jesus

and Sophia i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel, i ti s f i r s t necessary t o e s t a b l i s h

who, or what she i s and means f o r Judaism i n the f i r s t c e n t u r y of t h e

C h r i s t i a n era. T h i s w i l l e n t a i l a review o f t h e I n f l u e n c e s which were

e x e r t e d on t h e f o r m a t i o n and development o f Sophia i n the p e r i o d from

her first major appearance i n Proverbs 1-9, through t o the h i g h l y

sophisticated p r e s e n t a t i o n s o f her i n t h e Wisdom of Solomon and the

work o f t h e f i r s t c e n t u r y A l e x a n d r i a n Jewish p h i l o s o p h e r , P h i l o . Our

purpose i n chapter two w i l l thus o b v i o u s l y be t o s e t the c o n t e x t o u t

of which t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t uses t h e Sophia t r a d i t i o n s i n r e l a t i o n

to Jesus, b u t we w i l l a l s o be concerned t o e s t a b l i s h more c l e a r l y t h e

exact r e l a t i o n s h i p envisaged by t h e Wisdom w r i t e r s between Sophia and

the t r a d i t i o n a l male m o n o t h e i s t i c God o f I s r a e l , Yahweh. This i n t u r n

will r a i s e t h e q u e s t i o n , which i s v i t a l t o t h e t h e s i s as a whole, o f

the gender significance o f Sophia. To what e x t e n t , i f any, was t h e

gender o f Sophia an issue f o r t h e Wisdom w r i t e r s themselves, and

further f o r t h e author o f t h e Fourth Gospel i n p o r t r a y i n g Jesus

Christ?

All o f t h i s assumes t h a t Sophia r e a l l y i s a v i t a l figure f o r the

F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t ' s process o f c h r i s t o l o g i c a l r e f l e c t i o n . The purpose

of chapter t h r e e i s t o p u t t h i s assumption t o t h e t e s t , as t h e r e we

shall examine t h e way i n which Sophia s p e c u l a t i o n has shaped the


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f i g u r e o f Jesus i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel. I n i t i a l l y we w i l l look a t t h e


Logos o f t h e Prologue i n r e l a t i o n t o t h e Sophia o f Jewish Wisdom
s p e c u l a t i o n , b e f o r e t u r n i n g t o an examination o f the connection
between Prologue and Gospel i n t h e l i g h t o f t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p .
N a t u r a l l y much o f t h i s work w i l l draw on p r e v i o u s s t u d i e s o f both
Johannine c h r i s t o l o g y and t h e r e l a t i o n o f Prologue t o Gospel, but i t
w i l l do so under a d i f f e r e n t aspect, t h a t o f t h e q u e s t i o n o f t h e
gender s i g n i f i c a n c e o f Sophia. I t w i l l a l s o be concerned w i t h
thematic r e l a t i o n s h i p r a t h e r than merely w i t h l i n g u i s t i c p a r a l l e l s
w i t h i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel I t s e l f , though these w i l l s t i l l be pursued.
I n t h e end, we hope t o shed some new l i g h t both on t h e vexed q u e s t i o n
of t h e reasons f o r t h e disappearance o f t h e Logos a f t e r the Prologue
t o t h e F o u r t h Gospel, and on t h e methodology which the Fourth
E v a n g e l i s t adopts i n t h e course o f c h r l s t o l o g i c a l r e f l e c t i o n . I n
d o i n g so we w i l l hope t o demonstrate n o t o n l y t h a t Sophia s p e c u l a t i o n
i s t h e primary I n f l u e n c e on Johannine c h r i s t o l o g y , but a l s o t h a t t h e
F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t was conscious o f t h e gender problem I n v o l v e d i n t h e
i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f Sophia w i t h Jesus C h r i s t and d e a l t w i t h t h i s problem
i n t h e most s a t i s f a c t o r y way a v a i l a b l e t o him/her^,

In the f o u r t h c h a p t e r we t u r n t o an e x a m i n a t i o n o f the way I n

which the Fourth Evangelist's chrlstological 'solution' may have

affected t h e o u t w o r k i n g o f gender r o l e s i n t h e Gospel. In particular

this will Involve us i n a c l o s e r look at the r o l e o f women as

paradigms o f d l s c l p l e s h l p i n t h e Gospel and t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p t o t h e

t r a d i t i o n a l male d i s c i p l e s o f t h e Synoptic t r a d i t i o n . We w i l l hope t o

show t h a t t h e I n f l u e n c e o f Sophia extends a l s o t o t h e r o l e o f women i n

the Fourth Gospel and that this i n turn provides a "perceptive


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c o r r e c t i v e " * t o o t h e r New Testament w r i t i n g s which tend t o s t r e s s t h e


s u b o r d i n a t i o n o f women. I n a d d i t i o n , i t may cause us t o reassess t h e
r o l e which women may a c t u a l l y have played i n t h e community t o which
the F o u r t h Gospel was o r i g i n a l l y addressed. We s h a l l conclude t h e
t h e s i s by summarising our f i n d i n g s , o f f e r i n g some f u r t h e r r e f l e c t i o n s
on them, and p o i n t i n g t o some f u t u r e q u e s t i o n s which must f o r t h e
moment remain unanswered, b u t towards whose i n v e s t i g a t i o n , we b e l i e v e ,
t h i s present t h e s i s must push us.

1.2 SETTING THE CONTEXT

Since, as we have i n d i c a t e d , t h i s t h e s i s t r a v e r s e s ground a l r e a d y

well trodden by s c h o l a r s from several disciplines of theological

study, i t i s e s s e n t i a l t o c l a r i f y our p a r t i c u l a r focus w i t h precision

over a g a i n s t o t h e r works i n those d i s c i p l i n e s . Essentially there are

t h r e e main areas i n which t h i s must be done: f i r s t l y , i n r e l a t i o n t o

chapter two, t h e c o n t r i b u t i o n of the thesis t o Wisdom studies;

secondly, the i n t e r a c t i o n with studies on Johannine christology;

thirdly, the r e l a t i o n t o other s t u d i e s on women i n t h e Gospels, i n

particular those t r e a t i n g from a f e m i n i s t perspective. At times we

will be seen t o be l a r g e l y i n agreement w i t h t h e assessments made by

the a u t h o r s we review, a t o t h e r times c l e a r l y coming t o very d i f f e r e n t

conclusions, while a t other points we will seek to build upon

conclusions already made and w e l l tested i n t h e past. Before

embarking on t h i s t a s k , however, i t is vital f o r us t o c l a r i f y t h e

method by which we s h a l l attempt t o conduct our i n v e s t i g a t i o n s . Since

our ultimate conclusions may appear a t times e i t h e r c o n t r o v e r s i a l o r

tendentious (or both), i t will be i m p o r t a n t t o understand t h e method

used t o reach them.


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1.2.1 METHOTOLOGY

The purpose o f employing a s p e c i f i c m e t h o d o l o g i c a l approach i n

New Testament study I s a t least two-fold: firstly i t must aim a t

exactness, o r p r e c i s i o n i n handling the subject material. Secondly,

it s h o u l d seek t o enable t h e w r i t e r t o say something reasonably secure

about t h e s u b j e c t m a t t e r addressed. However, as Sanders has remarked,

" f i n d i n g agreement about t h e ground r u l e s by which what i s r e l a t i v e l y

secure can be i d e n t i f i e d i s very d i f f i c u l t " 7 . A l t h o u g h t h i s statement

would always have been true t o some degree i n relation t o New

Testament scholarship, i t has grown I n s i g n i f i c a n c e I n r e c e n t years

w i t h t h e I n c r e a s i n g d i v e r s i t y o f m e t h o d o l o g i c a l approaches t o B i b l i c a l

interpretation. While t h e r e a r e a number o f p r o b a b l e causes f o r t h i s

diversity, some theological, some s o c i o l o g i c a l , others ideological,

perhaps t h e most significant has been a growing sense of

dissatisfaction with the too r i g i d application of h i s t o r i c a l - c r i t i c a l

methodology t o the B i b l i c a l text. I n particular the claims put

forward f o r t h e r e s u l t s o f b o t h Form and Redaction c r i t i c i s m have a t

times i g n o r e d a p r o p e r l y c r i t i c a l a p p r a i s a l o f t h e i r own l i m i t a t i o n s .

We therefore find ourselves w r i t i n g I n an e r a o f New Testament

scholarship which, perhaps more than any b e f o r e , lacks a clear or

u n i f i e d approach t o method.

The new approach t o methodology i nBiblical s t u d y has developed

in several different directions*. The whole new L i t e r a r y movement,

which i t s e l f c o n t a i n s c o n s i d e r a b l e d i v e r s i t y ' , has sought t o move from

a concern w i t h mere h i s t o r i c a l r e c o n s t r u c t i o n t o one o f t h e study o f

t h e B i b l e as l i t e r a t u r e , whether f r o m a s e c u l a r o r from a r e l i g i o u s

starting point. While literary critics by no means r e j e c t t h e


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legitimacy of h i s t o r i c a l - c r i t i c a l techniques f o r study, they


n e v e r t h e l e s s want t o approach t h e B i b l e " w i t h q u e s t i o n s , e x p e c t a t i o n s
and t e c h n i q u e s a p p r o p r i a t e t o t h e modern study o f l i t e r a t u r e , r a t h e r
than as a h i s t o r i c a l o r t h e o l o g i c a l source"*'. Then again, from a
d i f f e r e n t p e r s p e c t i v e , C h i l d s has developed a c r i t i q u e of what he sees
as t h e excesses o f h i s t o r i c a l c r i t i c i s m , from t h e p o i n t o f view o f h i s
' c a n o n i c a l ' approach*'. H i s motives, " t h e concern t o deal s e r i o u s l y
w i t h t h e e f f e c t which t h e shape o f t h e c a n o n i c a l c o l l e c t i o n has on t h e
i n d i v i d u a l p a r t s " * 2 , and t h e n e c e s s i t y o f r e t h i n k i n g " t h e r e l a t i o n
between t h e h i s t o r i c a l c r i t i c a l study o f t h e B i b l e and i t s t h e o l o g i c a l
use as r e l i g i o u s l i t e r a t u r e w i t h i n a community o f f a i t h " * ' , a r e Indeed
l a u d a b l e , even i f he does n o t always succeed i n t a k i n g h i s own
methodology t o h e a r t * * !

The a t t e n t i o n o f modern b i b l i c a l s c h o l a r s has a l s o been drawn t o

sociological models as t o o l s f o r biblical research*'. These models

have provided new insight on both the task of historical

r e c o n s t r u c t i o n and t h e o l o g i c a l interpretation/reflection. Perhaps i n

this sociological area more than any o t h e r , t h e e f f e c t s o f a d o p t i n g

what might be c a l l e d a 'secular' methodology can be seen i n the

r e s u l t s t o which i n d i v i d u a l s c h o l a r s come. For example, t h e numerous

s t u d i e s which adopt a M a r x i s t s t a r t i n g p o i n t as a m e t h o d o l o g i c a l base

will clearly come t o v e r y different conclusions from those treating

t h e same b i b l i c a l m a t e r i a l u s i n g a Durkheimian s o c i o l o g i c a l model! At

this point we see u n d e r l i n e d t h e need f o r a proper statement of

methodological presuppositions.

Another major c o n t r i b u t i o n t o t h e debate on t h e methodology o f

biblical i n t e r p r e t a t i o n has been made by f e m i n i s t s c h o l a r s . While we


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w i l l d i s c u s s I n more d e t a i l t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between t h i s present


t h e s i s and s t u d i e s on women, p a r t i c u l a r l y those t r e a t i n g from a
f e m i n i s t p e r s p e c t i v e , l a t e r i n t h i s chapter, i t i s a p p r o p r i a t e now t o
n o t e t h e importance o f f e m i n i s t c r i t i q u e f o r t h e modern debate on
methodology. Since t h e r e I s as much v a r i e t y amongst f e m i n i s t
approaches as, f o r example, amongst t h e new L i t e r a r y schools, i t I s
d i f f i c u l t t o make g e n e r a l i s a t i o n s i n d i s c u s s i n g method. However, i t
would be f a i r t o say t h a t f e m i n i s t b i b l i c a l s c h o l a r s have developed
heuristic approaches t o t h e t e x t which a l l o w q u e s t i o n s t o be asked o f
t h e b i b l i c a l m a t e r i a l s which have l e d t o t e n t a t i v e new h i s t o r i c a l
r e c o n s t r u c t i o n s , and i m a g i n a t i v e and r e f r e s h i n g forms o f t h e o l o g i c a l
reflection which would have been I m p o s s i b l e t o achieve u s i n g
t r a d i t i o n a l h i s t o r i c a l - c r i t i c a l methodology alone. Florenza sums up
t h e I d e a l o f such method when she says; " t h e task i s , t h e r e f o r e , n o t
so much r e d i s c o v e r i n g new sources, as r e r e a d i n g t h e a v a i l a b l e sources
i n a d i f f e r e n t key"'*.

It will become c l e a r t o t h e reader i n t h e course o f t h i s thesis

t h a t i t i s t o t h i s l a s t named m e t h o d o l o g i c a l approach t h a t we a r e most

Indebted. While this thesis by definition cannot be termed a

'feminist' work ( t h e author being male!), i t does seek t o take

seriously the i n s i g h t s of feminist scholarship i n formulating an

approach t o the text. I n d o i n g so we w i l l always be keeping i n mind

the principal aims o f methodology outlined a t t h e opening o f t h i s

section. Our f i r s t methodological p r i n c i p l e o f exactness c a r r i e s

w i t h i t t h e n e c e s s i t y t o take s e r i o u s account o f t h e t e x t I t s e l f and

ultimately t o Judge the r e s u l t s o f our study i n t h e l i g h t of it,

particularly where our f i n d i n g s run contrary to traditionally held


- 9 -

interpretations. T h i s i s n o t t o i m p l y t h a t exactness should be


equated w i t h objectivity i n an e m p i r i c a l sense, f o r i t i s our
c o n t e n t i o n t h a t a l l New Testament study i s c o l o u r e d by t h e background
and s t a r t i n g p o i n t o f t h e i n d i v i d u a l commentator, a t l e a s t t o some
extent. Responding t o t h e a c c u s a t i o n o f t e n l e v e l l e d a t f e m i n i s t
w r i t e r s , t h a t they a r e merely p r o j e c t i n g back today's q u e s t i o n s onto
t e x t s which cannot p o s s i b l y answer them, E l i s a b e t h SchUssler Florenza
says:

Such an argument overlooks the f a c t that a l l


s c h o l a r s h i p on e a r l y C h r i s t i a n i t y i s determined by
contemporary q u e s t i o n s and i n t e r e s t s . . . . B i b l i c a l -
historical Inquiries a r e always determined by
e c c l e s i a l and s o c i e t a l i n t e r e s t s and q u e s t i o n s " ' .

While we would agree w h o l e h e a r t e d l y w i t h Floren2a's sentiments here,

we must a l s o r e c o g n i s e t h e danger o f l a p s i n g i n t o a methodology which

o v e r l o o k s t h e historical context o f t h e New Testament writings i n a

desire to claim authenticity for one's own understanding'*.

Responding t o t h i s p o t e n t i a l danger, Susanne Heine comments:

Over a g a i n s t t h i s I would s e t an u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f
s c h o l a r s h i p which begins from an awareness o f i t s
l i m i t a t i o n s : t h e r e i s a p a r t i c u l a r method f o r every
o b j e c t which produces a c o r r e s p o n d i n g r e s u l t . Every
method begins from a heuristic interest which
determines t h e r e s u l t s and which must a l s o be taken
i n t o account f o r exactness''.

The r e c o g n i t i o n o f t h e need t o acknowledge our contemporary interests

and I n f l u e n c e s i n t h e p u r s u i t o f exactness i s n o t , o f course, s i m p l y

an o b s e r v a t i o n made by f e m i n i s t s c h o l a r s . The n e c e s s i t y o f a l l o w i n g

h i s t o r i c a l c o n t e x t and h i s t o r i c a l p r o b a b i l i t y t o a s s i s t I n j u d g i n g t h e

v a l i d i t y o f our contemporary i n t e r p r e t a t i o n i s o u t l i n e d a l s o by Morgan

when he says:
-10-

Our u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e whole development of our


tradition, together with some understanding of
contemporary experience p r o v i d e s t h e b a s i s of most
theological reflection. I t i s therefore important t o
make our h i s t o r i c a l understanding o f C h r i s t i a n o r i g i n s
as a c c u r a t e and t r u t h f u l as p o s s i b l e . C l e a r l y the
evidence i s i n c e r t a i n r e s p e c t s one-sided, and most
r e a d i n g s o f i t biased. C o r r e c t i o n s and c o r r e c t i v e s
are t h e r e f o r e welcome^".

How then shall we proceed? Perhaps t h e best term t o d e s c r i b e our

o v e r a l l methodology would be heuristic. By t h a t we understand t h a t we

are setting out t o f i n d certain answers (which can o n l y a t best be

p r o v i s i o n a l ) t o s p e c i f i c q u e s t i o n s which we address t o t h e t e x t . This

i s not t o say t h a t these q u e s t i o n s a r e s i m p l y drawn a t random from our

t w e n t i e t h c e n t u r y i n t e r e s t s and Imposed on t h e Johannlne t e x t . On t h e

contrary, we hope t o show t h a t they a r e q u e s t i o n s which a r e both

r e l a t e d t o and determined by t h e t e x t .

There a r e two angles from which t h i s may be seen i n r e l a t i o n t o

our o v e r a l l theme o f Jesus and Sophia i n t h i s t h e s i s . On t h e one hand

we a r e faced with texts written i n a particular era, with a l l the

implications of their historical c o n t e x t , which talk about the man

Jesus, u s i n g language which, i n t h e c o n t e x t o f Jewish l i t e r a t u r e and

its environment, can be i d e n t i f i e d as c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y used o f t h e

female f i g u r e Sophia. Was t h i s language, which s c h o l a r s have c l e a r y

identified as e v o c a t i v e o f Wisdom t r a d i t i o n , used by John i n order

deliberately t o evoke Sophia? Since the language i n which the t e x t

was written itself indicates gender, we ask whether or not i t is

historically p o s s i b l e or p l a u s i b l e that the Fourth Evangelist was

conscious o f gender as an i s s u e i n identifying Jesus w i t h Sophia.

Firm conclusions here may n o t be p o s s i b l e , b u t we may look f o r

pointers both i n the h i s t o r i c a l environment leading up t o and


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s u r r o u n d i n g t h e w r i t i n g o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel, and i n the language and


method o f t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t . Whatever c o n c l u s i o n s we come t o ,
however, i t i s t h e E v a n g e l i s t ' s choice o f language, given I t s use
elsewhere, and i t s presence i n t h e t e x t which provokes our question.

On the other hand, our h e u r i s t i c method i s not completely

dependent on historical certainty in order to make a valid

i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the text. I t might be argued t h a t i t i s Impossible

t o e n t e r t h e mind o f t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t and determine t h e reasons

for t h e c h o i c e o f t h e p a r t i c u l a r language employed. However, we may

still l e g i t i m a t e l y look a t t h a t language i n t h e l i g h t o f t h a t used by

other w r i t e r s b e f o r e and up t o t h e e r a o f t h e New Testament and ask

whether or n o t i t i s p o s s i b l e t o read t h a t language i n a new way which

i n t e r a c t s a l s o w i t h our contemporary experience and s i t u a t i o n .

Our heuristic methodology seeks t o employ both these approaches

to the text. While we will agree with Morgan, that "historical

truthfulness I s a value worth p r e s e r v i n g " , we w i l l a l s o remain aware

that i t I s never absolute. Florenza reminds us t h a t "historical

'objectivity' can o n l y be approached by r e f l e c t i n g c r i t i c a l l y on and

naming one's t h e o r e t i c a l p r e s u p p o s i t i o n s and p o l i t i c a l allegiances"«^.

The word 'political' i s here used i n i t s widest sense, an i m p o r t a n t

o b s e r v a t i o n when we c o n s i d e r t h a t t h e primary s u b j e c t m a t e r i a l of t h i s

present t h e s i s touches upon two o f the most s e n s i t i v e areas o f modern

Christian ' p o l i t i e s ' , namely, the question o f t h e adequacy o f human

language ( p a r t i c u l a r l y i n i t s use o f gender terms) i n r e l a t i o n t o

t a l k i n g about God, and t h e r o l e o f women i n t h e C h r i s t i a n community.

If ' a l l e g i a n c e s ' a r e t o be d e c l a r e d i n the interests o f exactness,

then i t i s I m p o r t a n t t o a l e r t t h e reader t o two basic c o n v i c t i o n s h e l d


-12-

by t h i s p r e s e n t w r i t e r ^ * . F i r s t l y , w h i l e a J i human language i s
u l t i m a t e l y inadequate I n e x p r e s s i n g our u n d e r s t a n d i n g of God, the
t r a d i t i o n a l custom of r e f e r r i n g t o God only i n male t e r m i n o l o g y I s the
more inadequate because of i t s r e s t r i c t e d code, Secondly, the
s t r i v i n g towards e q u a l i t y of o p p o r t u n i t y f o r women and men i n a l l
avenues o f C h r i s t i a n s e r v i c e and l e a d e r s h i p (whether l a y or ordained)
I s not s i m p l y d e s i r a b l e , but i s necessary i n the search f o r a
w h o l l s t i c u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f C h r i s t i a n community.

These two Issues are not d i r e c t l y addressed i n t h i s t h e s i s , but

they are p a r t o f the c o n t e x t out of which t h i s w r i t e r approaches the

task of New Testament exegesis. L i k e Fiorenza, " I do not want to

advocate a v a l u e - f r e e exegesis but only to clarify the values at

stake"2'*. I n our h e u r i s t i c endeavour we s h a l l address q u e s t i o n s which

we b e l i e v e a r e provoked by the t e x t I t s e l f , but which may not clearly

have been heard before. This may be due to some e x t e n t to the

c o n s t r a i n i n g i n f l u e n c e of t r a d i t i o n a l h i s t o r i c a l - c r i t i c a l methodology.

The f o r m u l a t i o n of our q u e s t i o n s , however, w i l l a l s o show dependence

on t h e i n f l u e n c e of f e m i n i s t New Testament s c h o l a r s , whose w i l l i n g n e s s

t o break f r e e f r o m the dominant m a l e - o r i e n t e d p r a c t i c e of theology has

c h a l l e n g e d the r o o t s o f much o f our thinking.

Perhaps the best way of i l l u s t r a t i n g our m e t h o d o l o g i c a l approach

is to o f f e r a very b r i e f and somewhat s i m p l i s t i c example of i t . The

text of the Prologue to John's Gospel has probably had more i n k

s p i l l e d over i t than any o t h e r i n modern New Testament study. In his

classic essay on the I n c a r n a t i o n , Maurice Wiles makes the following

comments:
-13-

I n c a r n a t l o n , i n i t s f u l l and proper sense, i s not


something d i r e c t l y presented i n s c r i p t u r e . I tis a
c o n s t r u c t i o n b u i l t on t h e v a r i e g a t e d evidence t o be
found there. Increased h i s t o r i c a l knowledge has
enabled our g e n e r a t i o n t o see t h i s t r u t h about t h e way
i n which I n c a r n a t l o n a l d o c t r i n e emerged more c l e a r l y
than some e a r l i e r g e n e r a t i o n s . The New Testament
w r i t e r s were n o t s i m p l y r e p o r t e r s o f t h e t e a c h i n g o f
Jesus o r o f agreed church d o c t r i n e . They were
interpreters and d e s c r i b e t h e specialness o f Jesus t o
which they a l l bear witnesses.

I n s o f a r as t h e l a t e r developed understanding o f ' i n c a r n a t i o n ' i n both

P a t r i s t i c w r i t i n g s and modern t h e o l o g y i s concerned, Wiles may have a

case. But s u r e l y t h e t e x t o f Jn 1:14 I t s e l f p o i n t s us t o the f a c t

t h a t t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t understood 'incarnation' I n a f u l l e r sense

than o t h e r New Testament w r i t e r s ^ * . The very fact that this text,

more than any o t h e r , dominated the discussion of c h r i s t o l o g y f o r

centuries to come, reflects i t s unique contribution t o the

understanding of the specialness of the incarnation. Dunn sums t h i s

up when he says:

Now i n John t h e word o f God i s i d e n t i f i e d w i t h a


p a r t i c u l a r h i s t o r i c a l person, v*iose p r e - e x l s t e n c e as a
person w i t h God I s a s s e r t e d throughout. Now t h e
C h r i s t i a n c o n c e p t i o n o f God must make room f o r t h e
person v^o was C h r i s t , t h e Logos i n c a r n a t e * ^ .

However, this prominence of t h e Johannine Prologue i n subsequent

christologlcal d i s c u s s i o n a l s o p o i n t s us t o another Important f e a t u r e

of the text. While I t raises the issue of 'incarnation* (adp|

e-y^veto), i t does n o t define i t s meaning. The concept o f i n c a r n a t i o n

I s i n h e r e n t i n the vocabulary o f the t e x t , but the l a b e l 'incarnation'

remains a h e u r i s t i c word: we do n o t know e x a c t l y what i t means. The

subsequent d i s c u s s i o n o f c h r i s t o l o g y , from t h e second c e n t u r y t o the

p r e s e n t day, has been t h e ongoing process o f t r y i n g t o find meaning.


- 14-

Now our h e u r i s t i c approach wants t o delve as f a r as p o s s i b l e i n t o


the mind and method o f t h e E v a n g e l i s t t o ask what models, i f any, were
a v a i l a b l e f o r speaking o f Jesus C h r i s t I n t h e way i n which t h e
Prologue does. Why does t h e F o u r t h Gospel i n t e r p r e t and d e s c r i b e the
s p e c l a l n e s s o f Jesus i n t h i s p a r t i c u l a r way? What problems can we
d i s c e r n i n p r e s e n t i n g Jesus I n t h i s way and c o u l d t h e Fourth
E v a n g e l i s t have been conscious o f them?

Here we may see t h e I n t e r a c t i o n between our h e u r i s t i c approach

and the text. On t h e one hand, t h e q u e s t i o n w i t h v*ilch we come t o t h e

text i s conditioned by modern understanding o f the doctrine o f t h e

i n c a r n a t i o n , a s k i n g how t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t came t o t h e statement o f

Jn 1:14 and what problems (conscious o r unconscious) may have been

I n v o l v e d i n d o i n g so. I n terms o f our t h e s i s as a whole, t h e q u e s t i o n

of t h e model adopted by t h e F o u r t h Evangelist i n i n t e r p r e t i n g the

specialness of Jesus will be posed under two further modern

influences; the observation by numerous s c h o l a r s of the s i m i l a r i t y

between t h e Logos concept and statements concerning t h e Jewish f i g u r e

Sophia, and t h e search by some f e m i n i s t theologians f o r a less (or

non-) androcentric approach to christology. To t h i s e x t e n t we a r e

seeking t o f i n d an answer t o a modern q u e s t i o n . On t h e other hand, I t

i s o n l y because o f t h e c l a i m which t h e t e x t i t s e l f makes (6 \6yo^ adp^

e-y^veto), and because of i t s context i n a hymnlc/poetlc structure

which r a i s e s such i s s u e s as p r e - e x i s t e n c e and e q u a l i t y w i t h God, t h a t

the q u e s t i o n may be asked and an answer attempted i n the f i r s t place.

There i s , then, an I n t e r a c t i o n between t e x t and question. While

the q u e s t i o n comes o u t o f a contemporary i n t e r e s t and i s i n f l u e n c e d by

factors not necessarily part of the o r i g i n a l context o f t h e New


- 15-

Testament w o r l d , t h e t e x t n e v e r t h e l e s s remains a fundamental p a r t o f


the d i a l o g u e and I t s e l f governs t h e answer. I n terms o f our o v e r a l l
t h e s i s t h i s means t h a t t h e presence o f female Sophia i n the t e x t o f
the O l d Testament and i n t e r t e s t a m e n t a l w r i t i n g s poses t h e q u e s t i o n o f
gender in r e l a t i o n t o God (even i f some might say t h i s was n o t a
c o n s c i o u s i s s u e i n t h e mind o f t h e o r i g i n a l w r i t e r ) , and t h e
phenomenon o f t h e p a r a l l e l i s m between t h e t e x t o f John 1:1-18 and
s t a t e m e n t s c o n c e r n i n g female Sophia f u r t h e r poses t h e q u e s t i o n o f
gender i n r e l a t i o n t o t h e man Jesus.

D e s p i t e a d o p t i n g such an approach, we w i l l n o t abandon t h e t o o l s

of historical criticism. These w i l l be o f p a r t i c u l a r Importance i n

determining t h e meaning of specific texts i n context. Thus our

methodology s h o u l d n o t be c o n s t r u e d as a n t l - h l s t o r i c a l - c r l t l c a l , b u t

rather as one which seeks t o use t h e best p o i n t s o f t h a t method w i t h i n

what i s a r g u a b l y a more i m a g i n a t i v e and f l e x i b l e framework.

Apart from the p r i n c i p l e of returning t o the text and i t s

context, vdiat checks and balances may we employ with regard t o the

criterion o f 'exactness'? Here, perhaps, t h e d i c t u m proposed by

Sanders may be h e l p f u l : "how s u r e a r e we o f t h e p o s s i b l e range o f

meanings o f any g i v e n action or saying; how many l i n e s of evidence

converge towards t h e same meaning"2*. I t i s fairly obvious t h a t t h e

need t o maintain a reasonable flow of thought, taken with the

constraints o f t i m e and volume, w i l l limit t h e e x t e n t t o which we may

list and examine all t h e ranges o f meaning o f every t e x t and s u b j e c t

upon which we w i l l touch i n t h e course o f t h i s t h e s i s . However, we

will attempt to indicate the extent t o which we believe our

Interpretation s h o u l d be seen as p o s s i b l e o r probable. The second


- 16-

p a r t o f Sanders' statement w i l l be of p a r t i c u l a r importance i n our


t h i r d and f o u r t h c h a p t e r s , where t h e number o f l i n e s of evidence
c o n v e r g i n g towards our c o n c l u s i o n s w i l l , t o a l a r g e e x t e n t , h e l p t o
determine t h e i r v a l i d i t y as answers t o t h e q u e s t i o n s posed.

The actual questions t o which we seek some form o f answer

throughout t h e t h e s i s have a l r e a d y been i n d i c a t e d t o some degree i n

our attempt t o ' s e t t h e scene'2», However, f o r t h e sake o f c l a r i t y ,

we shall spell them o u t more directly here, bearing i n mind our

comments on t h e i r p l a c e w i t h i n our h e u r i s t i c framework. Firstly, we

ask t h e q u e s t i o n as t o how s i g n i f i c a n t t h e gender o f Sophia was i n her

emergence as a f i g u r e i n Jewish thought. To what e x t e n t were t h e

Jewish writers aware o f t h i s i n t h e i r r e f l e c t i o n s on her? I s there

any evidence t o suggest that her gender was seen as problematic, in

particular i n r e l a t i o n t o both monotheism and Yahwtsm?

Secondly, we ask whether o r n o t t h e r e i s evidence t o support t h e

c l a i m o f a number o f s c h o l a r s t h a t t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t used Sophia

as a background, o r model f o r t h e Prologue t o t h e F o u r t h Gospel. I f

so, c o u l d t h e E v a n g e l i s t have been conscious o f a gender problem in

identifying t h e male Jesus w i t h a female figure? I f Sophia indeed

lies behind t h e Prologue i n some measure, does she a l s o effectively

i n f l u e n c e t h e Gospel as a whole, and t o what e x t e n t ? I f t h e Fourth

E v a n g e l i s t has used Sophia as some k i n d o f model, what method i s used

t o present t h i s c h r i s t o l o g i c a l perspective?

Thirdly, we ask what e f f e c t such a use o f a Sophia christology

might have had on t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t ' s p o r t r a y a l o f female figures

in t h e Gospel. What f u n c t i o n do women have i n t h e Gospel? How do


- 17-

they r e l a t e t o John's p i c t u r e o f Jesus? I s t h e r e any evidence o f


I n f l u e n c e from Sophia t r a d i t i o n on t h e s t o r i e s concerning women?
What, i f a n y t h i n g , can we i n f e r from our c o n c l u s i o n s concerning t h e
community t o which t h e F o u r t h Gospel i s addressed?

Lastly, we w i l l want t o ask b r i e f l y what c o n c l u s i o n s our r e a d i n g

of the t e x t may a l l o w us t o draw i n relation t o t h e modern day

Christian community. With these q u e s t i o n s i n mind, we t u r n now t o

look a t t h e c o n t r i b u t i o n which t h i s t h e s i s seeks t o make i n the t h r e e

main areas o f r e s e a r c h on which I t impinges: Wisdom Studies; Johannine

c h r i s t o l o g y ; S t u d i e s on Women.

1.2.2 WISDOM STUDIES

The Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e of I s r a e l has always posed problems t o

biblical s c h o l a r s because o f i t s c o n s i s t e n t d e f i a n c e of a l l attempts

at s c h e m a t l z a t l o n o r simple c a t e g o r i z a t i o n . I n c o n t r a s t t o so much o f

the Old Testament's p r e o c c u p a t i o n w i t h t h e d i v i n e purpose and order o f

Israel's l i f e and h i s t o r y , t h e Wisdom w r i t e r s present a marked s t r a n d

of ' s e c u l a r i t y ' , which shows more I n t e r e s t i n everyday life experience

and t h e b e n e f i t s o f sound common sense than i n d i s c e r n i n g God's word

and will. This rather different approach t o l i f e p r o v i d e d by t h e

Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e was f u r t h e r u n d e r l i n e d w i t h t h e r e a l i s a t i o n t h a t I t

"was a phenomenon common t o t h e a n c i e n t East, a cultural commodity

w i t h r e s p e c t t o which I s r a e l was t o a g r e a t e x t e n t a r e c i p i e n t and n o t

a donor"*". With t h i s d i s c o v e r y , I s r a e l ' s wisdom was f i r m l y placed

within t h e c o n t e x t o f t h e wider ANE w o r l d , r a t h e r than being seen I n

the splendid i s o l a t i o n o f comparison only w i t h o t h e r Old Testament

traditions. Much o f t h e study o f Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e has consequently


- 18-

c o n c e n t r a t e d on t h e task o f making comparisons between I s r a e l ' s Wisdom


and t h a t o f o t h e r t r a d i t i o n s , n o t a b l y those Egyptian, Canaanlte and
Mesopotamlan materials unearthed this century". While this
comparative approach has p r o v i d e d many i l l u m i n a t i n g p a r a l l e l s , i t s
v a l u e now l i e s more i n t h e b a s i s I t g i v e s f o r understanding Israel's
use o f t h e wider Wisdom t r a d i t i o n s o f t h e ANE w i t h i n the c o n t e x t o f a
monotheistic framework o f f a i t h . Thus, t h e more r e c e n t q u e s t i o n has
tended t o be n o t so much what aspects o f ANE wisdom has I s r a e l
adopted, b u t r a t h e r how has what has been adopted been understood and
adapted by those who borrowed i t from t h e wider r e l i g i o u s c l i m a t e o f
t h e i r day^s. I n a d d i t i o n , t h e r e has been a growing r e c o g n i t i o n o f t h e
widespread I n f l u e n c e o f Wisdom t r a d i t i o n on t h e other written
t r a d i t i o n s o f I s r a e l , i n c l u d i n g t h e Prophets and the Deuteronomlc
h i s t o r i a n s , and t h i s t o o has helped t o place I s r a e l ' s Wisdom f i r m l y
w i t h i n t h e c o n t e x t o f t h e wider span o f Hebrew r e l i g i o u s thought^*.

I t i s a t t h i s p o i n t t h a t our present t h e s i s e n t e r s the scene, f o r

although we are vitally interested in the influence of ANE

polytheistic r e l i g i o n s on t h e development o f t h e f i g u r e o f Sophia i n

Israel, we are nevertheless concerned primarily t o understand her

meaning and function within that Jewish tradition of declared

monotheism, There have, o f course, been many t r e a t m e n t s o f t h e way i n

which various Influences have asserted themselves on Sophia, most

notably i n relation t o t h e ANE Goddesses MAAT, I s h t a r / A s t a r t e , and

Isis3«, and our c r i t i q u e o f these w i l l l a r g e l y be g i v e n i n t h e c o n t e x t

of our d i s c u s s i o n s i n c h a p t e r two. For t h e moment, however, we would

note t h a t such t r e a t m e n t s have tended t o d e a l more w i t h t h e q u e s t i o n

of Sophia's status as personification or h y p o s t a s i s , rather than


- 19-

a d d r e s s i n g d i r e c t l y t h e i s s u e w i t h v*ilch we a r e concerned, namely h e r


gender s i g n i f i c a n c e . Thus we f i n d t h a t Mack, i n h i s i n f l u e n t i a l e a r l y
study on t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between Logos and Sophia i n the l a t e r stream
of Jewish Wisdom r e p r e s e n t e d by Wisdom o f Solomon and P h l l o , can t a l k
q u i t e f r e e l y o f Sophia as r e p r e s e n t i n g p a r t o f a m y t h o l o g i c a l scheme
whereby i t became p o s s i b l e t o develop a " t h e o l o g y o f the transcendence
of God"3 5 , w i t h o u t ever r e a l l y d i s c u s s i n g t h e i m p l i c a t i o n s o f u s i n g a
feminine f i g u r e t o do so. T h i s comes across a l s o even more c l e a r l y i n
the language u ^ l c h a u t h o r s use t o d e s c r i b e Sophia's f u n c t i o n , f o r
example, i n Dunn's summary statement a s s e r t i n g t h a t she i s "a way o f
speaking about God himself, , . without compromising his
transcendence"'*!

One r e c e n t e x c e p t i o n t o t h i s t r e n d has been t h e work undertaken

by C l a u d i a Camp a t t e m p t i n g to relate t h e f i g u r e o f Sophia t o other

feminine aspects o f t h e book o f Proverbs and t o ground this i n a

plausible S l t z Im Leben^'. She sees t h e f e m i n i n e aspects o f t h e book,

including Sophia herself, as " s e r v i n g to unify t h e composition and

message o f t h e book"'*, a f a c t which i s demonstrated by t h e way i n

which t h e Sophia poems o f c h a p t e r s 1-9 a r e balanced a t t h e end o f t h e

book by two poems about women. She sums t h i s u n i f y i n g f u n c t i o n up by

c o n c l u d i n g t h a t , " i n t h e book o f Proverbs, one stands o r f a l l s I n t h e

eyes o f God and community based on one's r e l a t i o n s h i p t o various

women"*'. Camp sees t h e f u n c t i o n o f these women, t h e d i v i n e Sophia

and the idealised woman o f Prov 3 1 , as symbols l e g i t i m i s i n g the

changing s o c i e t y o f p o s t - e x i l i c I s r a e l , i n which a " g r e a t e r balance i n

the contrlbutlve roles o f women and men. . . would be expected i n a

period of economic pressure, de-urbanization, and incipient


-20-

democratlzatlon"**. While we might want a t p o i n t s t o q u e s t i o n h e r


somewhat random methodological approach and aspects o f her
u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f p o s t - e x i l i c s o c i e t y i n I s r a e l , she n e v e r t h e l e s s
p r e s e n t s a s e r i o u s and w o r t h w h i l e attempt t o make sense o f t h e gender
s i g n i f i c a n c e o f Sophia i n an overwhelmingly p a t r i a r c h a l t r a d i t i o n .

Camp's I n t e r e s t , o f course, l i e s i n the l i t e r a r y function of the

symbol within t h e book o f Proverbs, and v ^ i l e her c o n c l u s i o n s may

point us t o t h e way i n vrtiich t h e gender o f Sophia may be taken

seriously, they cannot, by n a t u r e o f h e r s t u d y ' s l i m i t e d scope, take

us f a r enough towards u n d e r s t a n d i n g Sophia's s i g n i f i c a n c e i n t h e New

Testament era. We w i l l need t o come t o some understanding of the

dichotomy which exists i n t h e book o f S l r a c h , between the exalted

figure o f Sophia, t h e embodiment o f Torah i n S i r 24, and t h e very

n e g a t i v e a t t i t u d e o f t h e book as a whole towards women. We s h a l l seek

to show that this can only be resolved by understanding her

r e l a t i o n s h i p t o Torah as an attempt a t confinement, and a move toward

the removal o f her gender s i g n i f i c a n c e .

Our investigation w i l l a l s o uncover t h i s process o f confinement

being continued i n the writings of Philo, who appears t o withdraw

Sophia from t h e lower realm of the created world as a means o f

limiting h e r gender influence. Here we s h a l l d i v e r g e c o n s i d e r a b l y

from t h e Judgements o f Baer, the only major contributor t o the

discussion o f gender issues i n Philo*', who concludes that Philo

actually has an asexual view o f God, which a l l o w s him a l s o t o view

Sophia as e i t h e r male o r female. While t h i s argument f i t s w e l l i n t o

Baer's scheme, i t h a r d l y takes s e r i o u s l y t h e reasons f o r P h i l o wanting

to view h e r i n t h i s way i n t h e f i r s t p l a c e , which reasons w i l l be t h e


-21 -

s u b j e c t o f our s c r u t i n y . P h l l o ' s a t t i t u d e t o Sophia w i l l be seen as


i m p o r t a n t because o f t h e emergence of h i s work i n such c l o s e temporal
p r o x i m i t y t o t h e w r i t i n g s of t h e New Testament, and thus as a w i t n e s s
t o t h e c u r r e n c y o f d i s c u s s i o n o f t h e gender o f Sophia as an issue i n
at l e a s t one branch o f f i r s t c e n t u r y Judaism.

The discussion of the p o s s i b i l i t y o f I n f l u e n c e o f ANE Goddesses

on Jewish Sophia speculation has raised some problems i n previous

research, but we cannot s i m p l y s i d e s t e p those problems i f we want t o

understand her gender significance properly. I n the past, some have

sought t o draw out a series of linguistic parallels between, for

example, Isls traditions and the figure of Sophia i n Wisdom of

Solomon*2, b u t t h e a t t e m p t has proved u n s a t i s f a c t o r y * ' . More h e l p f u l

have been those s t u d i e s which have p o i n t e d t o t h e way i n which g e n e r a l

c o n f i g u r a t i o n s o f i d e a s connected w i t h the Goddess have e x e r c i s e d an

influence at various stages o f Sophia's development*•. This i s of

particular significance in the case of Wisdom of Solomon, which

represents both the zenith of her exaltation and the closest

r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of her as a f i g u r e i n Jewish l i t e r a t u r e t o the era i n

which t h e New Testament w r i t e r s drew upon her as an image.

T h i s second approach i s n e a r e r t o t h e one which we will adopt,

for we will d e f i n e some s p e c i f i c areas i n which s i m i l a r i t i e s may be

seen between Sophia and t h e Goddesses. However, our aim w i l l much

more be t o e s t a b l i s h that the needs and e x p e r i e n c e s of the people of

the ANE, which were p r o j e c t e d onto t h e Goddesses, p a r t i c u l a r l y through

the fertility c u l t s , were common universal needs, t o which Jewish use

of t h e Sophia f i g u r e , o f t e n i n t h e g u i s e o f t h e Goddess m o t i f s , sought

in some measure t o respond, w h i l e r e t a i n i n g a l l e g i a n c e t o t h e concept


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of monotheism. I n o t h e r words, we w i l l be s e t t i n g out t o show t h a t


t h e r e was an I d e n t i f i a b l e d e s i r e t o f i n d an e x p r e s s i o n of the feminine
n a t u r e I n the d e i t y , which was met, a t l e a s t I n Proverbs and more
c l e a r l y I n t h e Wisdom of Solomon, through t h e use of the female f i g u r e
Sophia.

Another problem related to comparison of Sophia with ANE

Goddesses has been r a i s e d by some f e m i n i s t approaches. This may be

summed up i n a few words by Mary Daly's a s s e r t i o n , " t h a t t h e r e was a

u n i v e r s a l l y m a t r i a r c h a l w o r l d which p r e v a i l e d b e f o r e the descent i n t o

hierarchical domination by m a l e s " * T h i s c o n c l u s i o n comes from the

assumption t h a t t h e gender r o l e s of the d e i t i e s o f the ancient w o r l d ,

and i n p a r t i c u l a r the prominence g i v e n t o the Goddesses i n the e x t a n t

literature, reflects t h e a c t u a l p o s i t i o n of women r e l a t i v e t o men in

prehistoric society. While this might appear t o be an attractive

t h e o r y f o r those who see the key t o women's l i b e r a t i o n i n the present

day s i t u a t i o n as b e i n g t h e e s t a b l i s h m e n t of the f a c t t h a t i n the past

they once were a t l e a s t equals i f not the dominant f o r c e i n s o c i e t y ,

thus showing t h a t t h e r e i s no Justification f o r any view t h a t women

are Inherently inferior by nature, the fact I s that the theory is

almost Impossible to substantiate. Ochshorn has given at least a

p l a u s i b l e argument f o r t h e p o s s i b i l i t y t h a t the sexes were viewed more

or l e s s e q u a l l y i n some areas o f c u l t l c p r a c t i c e * * , but t h i s does not

necessarily imply anything about the role of women i n s o c i e t y at

large. Thus, w h i l e we s h a l l see i n the f i g u r e of t h e ANE Goddess of

l o v e and fertility the e x p r e s s i o n of human experience of the m i r a c l e

of renewal and r e g e n e r a t i o n , i n v o l v i n g a f e m i n i n e dimension, we will

a v o i d r e a d i n g back f r o m t h i s any c o n c l u s i o n about i t s relevance t o the


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actual role of women in ANE society generally, or in Israel in


particular.

I n summary then, we may d i s c e r n t h r e e areas i n which t h i s present

thesis w i l l seek t o make a small c o n t r i b u t i o n t o the ongoing task of

research into the Wisdom t r a d i t i o n s of Israel. Firstly, we shall

direct our d i s c u s s i o n t o the q u e s t i o n of t h e gender significance of

Sophia f r o m her e a r l i e s t m a n i f e s t a t i o n i n t h e book of Proverbs through

t o t h e b e g i n n i n g of the C h r i s t i a n era i n Wisdom of Solomon and P h i l o .

To a degree t h i s w i l l p i c k up on the work a l r e a d y done by Camp, and

also t o some e x t e n t t h a t of Lang. Although we cannot examine the

m a t e r i a l i n t h e d e t a i l e d way i n which t h e i r s t u d i e s on Proverbs have

been conducted, we will nevertheless cover new ground in extending

those a u t h o r s work i n t o the l a t e r Jewish Wisdom t r a d i t i o n s .

Secondly, we will seek t o i d e n t i f y much more p r e c i s e l y than I n

t h e p a s t , t h e reasons f o r Sophia's i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h Torah i n S l r a c h

and Baruch, and her confinement and t r a n s s e x u a l s w i t c h i n the w r i t i n g s

of P h i l o . T h i s w i l l again sharpen our q u e s t i o n as t o the s i g n i f i c a n c e

of t h e gender o f Sophia f o r those authors who used her i n t h e i r works.

T h i r d l y , we hope t o approach the q u e s t i o n of t h e i n f l u e n c e of the

ANE Goddesses on Sophia t h r o u g h t h e r e c o g n i t i o n of t h e i r appearance as

an e x p r e s s i o n o f a u n i v e r s a l l y f e l t need f o r f e m i n i n e p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n

the a c t of c r e a t i o n and life-giving, of which I s r a e l a l s o must have

f e l t a part. A l l t h i s we s h a l l do w h i l e h o l d i n g i n mind the need f o r

I s r a e l t o s e t such s p e c u l a t i o n i n the c o n t e x t of a m o n o t h e i s t i c faith.


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1.2.3 THE CHRISTOLOGY OF JOHH

The p r e c i s e n a t u r e of Johannine c h r l s t o l o g y has been a s u b j e c t

of d i s c u s s i o n almost from the day the Gospel was written! W i t h i n the

canon of t h e New Testament i t s e l f , t h e Johannine E p i s t l e s already seem

to r e f l e c t a s t r u g g l e a g a i n s t a d v e r s a r i e s w i t h i n t h e community itself,

whose interpretation of Johannine c h r l s t o l o g y had led them in a

gnostic d i r e c t i o n , though as Brown r i g h t l y comments, " i t may well be

that the position of the e p i s t o l a r y a d v e r s a r i e s had not yet jelled

into a distinctively gnostic system of thought"*'. However, i t I s

c l e a r t h a t a t l e a s t by the mid-second c e n t u r y , g n o s t i c movements were

f r e e l y u s i n g t h e F o u r t h Gospel as a s i g n i f i c a n t s t e p p l n g - o f f p o i n t f o r

t h e i r own p a r t i c u l a r brands of s p e c u l a t i o n * * . Indeed, the V a l e n t i n l a n

Gnostic Heracleon, wrote a commentary on the Gospel from his own

p a r t i c u l a r p e r s p e c t i v e * ' , which may w e l l have c o n t r i b u t e d t o the f a c t

t h a t t h e Gospel I t s e l f was open t o a charge of Gnostic o r i g i n s as l a t e

as the early third century^". Indeed, as Kfisemann's famous

description of the F o u r t h Gospel's c h r l s t o l o g y as a "form of nal've

docetlsm"^' shows us, the issue of John's orthodoxy has remained a

q u e s t i o n r i g h t up t o our own day. Only i n r e c e n t months has Marianne

Thompson once again f e l t the n e c e s s i t y t o r e a s s e r t the a u t h e n t i c i t y of

the Johannine picture of Jesus Christ as fully human, in a most

p e n e t r a t i n g study and c r i t i q u e of KHsemann's stance**. She points to

the f a c t t h a t d i s c u s s i o n of t h e main emphasis of Johannine c h r l s t o l o g y

will always have t o focus upon the Prologue t o the Gospel, and in

particular t h e c r u c i a l verse, 1:14. The outcome of the debate will

t u r n upon our u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h a t verse. Thus, w h i l e Bultmann sees

6 \6Yoq a&p^ kyis^exo as t h e d e c i s i v e p a r t of the verse, showing t h a t


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" t h e Revealer i s n o t h i n g but a man"*^, KSseraann takes leeaadt^eBa xf|v


56^ofv autoO as the p o i n t e r t o t h e f a c t t h a t Jesus i s "God w a l k i n g on
the face of the e a r t h " ^ * . We would agree t h a t t h i s verse, and Indeed
the whole o f t h e Prologue, i s d e t e r m i n a t i v e f o r our understanding of
Johannine c h r i s t o l o g y , but n o t merely i n terms o f the q u e s t i o n of the
h u m a n i t y / d i v i n i t y o f Jesus. I t i s a l s o v i t a l f o r understanding the
origins o f that christology and consequently d e t e r m i n i n g i t s
meaningss.

A major problem f o r modern Johannine s c h o l a r s has been t h a t o f

d e t e r m i n i n g t h e source f r o m v*iich the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t has drawn the

Logos concept. In addition, the complete disappearance of that

concept from the c h r i s t o l o g i c a l picture after Jn 1:1-18 has raised

further q u e s t i o n s as t o the i n t e g r i t y o f Prologue and Gospel as a

single units*. i f John r e a l l y i s so I n t e r e s t e d i n Jesus C h r i s t as the

Logos, why, i n t h e m i d s t o f t h e numerous ky& e i ^ i i statements do we not

find Jesus declaring himself as such? The answer t o t h i s question

will depend largely on how we understand the o r i g i n s of t h e Logos

concept. While t h e r e a r e many nuances a t t a c h e d by i n d i v i d u a l a u t h o r s

to the t h e o r i e s , there are b a s i c a l l y only t h r e e sources which have

been mooted seriously as possible source material f o r the F o u r t h

Evangelist's presentation: a Gnostic background; a link with the

P h i l o n i c concept; a c o n n e c t i o n w i t h Jewish Sophia s p e c u l a t i o n .

The classic statement of a proposed Gnostic background to

Johannine christology was g i v e n by Rudolf Bultmann, who sought to

establish links between Mandaean thought, as representative of a

G n o s t i c i s m opposed i n t h e Johannine w r i t i n g s , and t h e p i c t u r e of Jesus

in JohnS7. i n p a r t i c u l a r , Bultmann b e l i e v e d t h a t t h e Logos concept i n


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the Prologue, combined w i t h t h e a p o l o g e t i c m a t e r i a l r e l a t e d t o John


the B a p t i s t , r e p r e s e n t e d an a t t e m p t by t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t t o
c o u n t e r t h e c l a i m s o f such a Gnostic group who h e l d some a l l e g i a n c e t o
the B a p t i s t . He t h e r e f o r e sees i n t h e Prologue a reworked v e r s i o n o f
a G n o s t i c hymn i n p r a i s e o f t h e Logos, which t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t has
taken and demythologlsed f r o m i t s Redeemer Myth o r i g i n s I n t o a
p r e s e n t a t i o n o f Jesus C h r i s t as t h e Logos who has come ev ffapxt^*.
D e s p i t e h i s adherence t o t h i s v i e w p o i n t , however, even Bultmann i s
f o r c e d t o admit t h e p r o b a b i l i t y o f a c o n n e c t i o n w i t h Jewish Sophia
s p e c u l a t i o n , though t h i s he sees as t h o r o u g h l y subsumed i n t h e Gnostic
thought-patterns^».

Bultmann's methodology and c o n c l u s i o n s have been c r i t i q u e d by

numerous s c h o l a r s * * , though h i s v i e w p o i n t i s s t i l l m a i n t a i n e d a t l e a s t

i n a m o d i f i e d f o r m by some f o l l o w e r s * * . One major problem i s t h a t we

have no evidence that Gnostic speculation in the farm posited by

Bultmann actually existed i n the period up t o t h e w r i t i n g of the

F o u r t h Gospel. There i s a l s o no evidence whatsoever of a connection

of such thought w i t h John the Baptist. We may want t o agree with

Rudolph, that G n o s t i c i s m "was o r i g i n a l l y a non-Christian phenomenon

which was g r a d u a l l y e n r i c h e d w i t h C h r i s t i a n concepts u n t i l i t made i t s

appearance as Independent Christian Gnosis"*2, but t h a t the Fourth

Gospel either a t t e m p t s t o c o u n t e r such I n f l u e n c e , o r belongs t o t h e

process o f i t s emergence i s f a r from c l e a r . However, a second and

more e a s i l y verifiable objection may be made t o Bultmann's theory,

that being the f a c t that i t i s " i n many ways unnecessary"". As we

s h a l l see, t h e Logos concept can be understood q u i t e f u l l y w i t h o u t any


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r e f e r e n c e t o a supposed Gnostic Redeemer Myth f o r which t h e r e i s o n l y


t h e most i n s u b s t a n t i a l evidence a v a i l a b l e .

A second theory w i t h r e g a r d t o the o r i g i n s of the Logos of Jn

1:1-18 has proposed that i t is dependent upon Phllo. The most

forthright proponent of this idea has been A. W. A r g y l e * •, but the

argument has been more c a r e f u l l y put by C.H.Dodd**. in listing a

number o f p a r a l l e l s between P h i l o and t h e Prologue t o John, Dodd f i n d s

a "\6yoc, in many respects similar to that of Philo; and I t is

difficult not to think that the author intended this"**. However,

although Phllo might seem a better starting point for our

understanding of Johannine christology than Gnosticism, especially

because of h i s Jewish faith and the evidence of h i s use of a Logos

concept, c a u t i o n must be observed i n drawing any direct connection

between the two. Since, as we will argue, P h l l o and the Fourth

Evangelist both show dependence on the wider tradition of Jewish

Sophia speculation in the outworking of their respective Logos

concepts, the l i k e l i h o o d i s that they share a common background I n

that t r a d i t i o n , r a t h e r than t h a t they show d i r e c t l i n e s of dependence

on one another. I t i s q u i t e c l e a r t h a t P h l l o ' s understanding of the

Logos i s r a d i c a l l y different from the Johannine conception, and we

shall reinforce this o p i n i o n through our examination of the gender

significance o f Sophia and t h e way i n which b o t h authors deal very

differently with it.

The t h i r d major o p t i o n f o r understanding the Logos of the F o u r t h

Gospel i s t h e view that i t stems from a background of Jewish Sophia

speculation. T h i s was a l r e a d y suggested i n modern times as e a r l y as

1917 by J.R.Harris*^, whose t r e a t m e n t seems remarkably modern even


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today. However, due l a r g e l y t o t h e excitement r a i s e d by the I n f l u e n c e


of t h e h i s t o r y of r e l i g i o n s school and Bultmann i n p a r t i c u l a r , the
i d e a was not s e r i o u s l y taken up again u n t i l much more r e c e n t l y . The
c o n t r i b u t i o n o f Brown'* has been p a r t i c u l a r l y i m p o r t a n t , but o t h e r s " ,
i n c l u d i n g even Dodd'", have shown I n t e r e s t i n t h i s background. Most
r e c e n t l y t h e works of Dunn^' and W l l l e t t ' * have moved us towards an
even deeper a p p r e c i a t i o n o f Sophia's I n f l u e n c e , not o n l y i n the
Prologue but a l s o i n t h e Gospel as a whole. With a l l t h i s work t h e r e
has been a g r o w i n g r e a l i s a t i o n t h a t we need no longer search o u t w i t h
the boundaries of Jewish t h i n k i n g , or even o u t w i t h t h e Old Testament
and Apocryphal w r i t i n g s , i n order t o f i n d a p l a u s i b l e source f o r
u n d e r s t a n d i n g t h e Johanntne Logos concept. Thus, w h i l e P h i l o may be
u s e f u l f o r us i n a t t e m p t i n g t o t r a c e the way i n which Sophia
s p e c u l a t i o n c o u l d be developed i n t h e f i r s t c e n t u r y of the C h r i s t i a n
era, i t i s n o t t o him t h a t we must look, but t o t h a t t r a d i t i o n of
Sophia h e r s e l f i f we a r e t o make sense o f John's c h r l s t o l o g y .

It i s at t h i s point t h a t our present t h e s i s e n t e r s the f i e l d of

play. While we w i l l be b u i l d i n g very much upon t h e work of those whom

we have a l r e a d y mentioned, we shall be s e e k i n g t o make s e v e r a l new

emphases i n t h e course o f our study. I n the f i r s t i n s t a n c e , we will

take up the point raised i n our Introductory paragraph, that the

gender significance of Sophia has not yet been f u l l y recognised I n t h e

writings of those i n t e r e s t e d i n her use by the F o u r t h Evangelist'*.

We s h a l l t h u s approach t h e whole q u e s t i o n of John's use of Sophia by

a s k i n g whether t h e Logos/Sophia i s a s o p h i s t i c a t e d method employed by

the Fourth Evangelist t o deal w i t h the s w i t c h i n gender from female

Sophia t o male Jesus. I f so, t h e p i c t u r e of Jesus as Jesus Sophia i n


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the F o u r t h Gospel as a whole can then be viewed as an outworking o f


t h e s o l u t i o n p r o v i d e d by t h e E v a n g e l i s t t o t h e gender-problem through
the i n t r o d u c t i o n o f Jesus as Logos/Sophia i n t h e Prologue.

A second contribution will be made i n t h e area of Sophia

influence on t h e F o u r t h Evangelist's picture o f Jesus C h r i s t . Up

until this point, s c h o l a r s have been ready t o admit t o a considerable

influence exerted by Sophia, but we w i l l attempt t o show t h a t t h e

christology o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel i s n o t h i n g l e s s than a thoroughgoing

Sophia christology. That i s , the r o l e o f Sophia i s n o t merely

influential, but i s rather t h e very basis upon which Johannine

christology i s founded and by which i t must be understood. Thus we

shall observe that certain motifs and devices used by the Fourth

Evangelist, p r e v i o u s l y a t t r i b u t e d i n whole o r p a r t t o other sources,

are i n fact better understood from a Wisdom p e r s p e c t i v e . We shall

note t h i s , f o r example, i n t h e Descent-Ascent m o t i f , and the s o - c a l l e d

OTj^Eta source i n John. I n t h e course o f t h i s e x e r c i s e we w i l l a l s o be

able t o r e i n f o r c e f u r t h e r t h e c o n c l u s i o n t h a t t h e Prologue and Gospel

r e a l l y do form a thematic u n i t y .

The question o f the m y s t e r i o u s disappearance o f the Logos i s a

third area i n which we hope t o p r o v i d e a new p e r s p e c t i v e , t h a t being

r e l a t e d a l s o t o our f i r s t two p o i n t s . The d r o p p i n g o f t h e Logos a f t e r

Jn 1:1-18 i s very rarely discussed as an issue i n Johannine

christology, any d i s c u s s i o n being conducted more commonly on t h e l e v e l

of tradition and redaction. Generally speaking, i t I s assumed by

Johannine s c h o l a r s t h a t t h e hymnic m a t e r i a l c o n t a i n e d i n the Prologue

was a v a i l a b l e i n some form t o the Fourth E v a n g e l i s t , and t h a t this

hymn a l r e a d y c o n t a i n e d r e f e r e n c e t o t h e Logos, a c o n c l u s i o n w i t h which


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we would agree. However, t h e disappearance i s then e x p l a i n e d on t h e


b a s i s o f t h e f a c t t h a t , w h i l e John used t h e hyranlc m a t e r i a l , t h e
Logos, n o t b e i n g a p a r t o f t y p i c a l Johannine r e d a c t i o n a l language, was
dropped from t h a t p o i n t onward. But t h i s makes l i t t l e sense i f we
want t o see t h e Prologue and Gospel as a u n i f i e d s t r u c t u r e . In
c o n t r a s t , our d i s c u s s i o n w i l l make i t p o s s i b l e t o argue t h a t the Logos
i s dropped i n l i n e w i t h t h e gender s o l u t i o n brought forward by t h e
F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t : namely, t h a t Jesus appears i n i t i a l l y as Logos,
because he i s male, b u t i s then presented throughout t h e Gospel as
Sophia i n c a r n a t e both i n the works performed and the words spoken.

A f u r t h e r i s s u e which we s h a l l want t o r a i s e i n r e l a t i o n t o t h e

Sophia c h r l s t o l o g y o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel w i l l be t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p , i f

any, which that c h r i s t o l o g y bears t o the role played by women. I n

whose presence a number o f c r u c i a l c h r l s t o l o g i c a l statements a r e made.

We s h a l l wish t o examine t h e way I n which Sophia t r a d i t i o n n o t o n l y

a c t s as t h e b a s i s f o r c h r i s t o l o g i c a l r e f l e c t i o n , b u t a l s o whether t h i s

a c t u a l l y a f f e c t s t h e way i n which s t o r i e s about women a r e c o n s t r u c t e d

and told. I n this realm we a r e unaware o f any previous such

investigation.

1.2.4 STUDIES ON WOMEN

The last fifteen years has seen an e v e r - i n c r e a s i n g flow of

m a t e r i a l s produced d e a l i n g w i t h a l l manner o f Issues r e l a t e d t o women

in t h e a n c i e n t w o r l d g e n e r a l l y and t h e i r r o l e i n b i b l i c a l literature

particularly. There have been a number o f f a c t o r s i n v o l v e d i n t h i s

expansion o f i n t e r e s t and study, n o t l e a s t being t h e s t r e n g t h e n i n g o f

the debate concerning the ordination of women to the


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ministry/priesthood. However, another v i t a l f a c t o r has been t h e


i n c r e a s e d a c t i v i t y o f f e m i n i s t w r i t e r s , who have a p p l i e d t h e i r own
p e n e t r a t i n g , and a t times d e v a s t a t i n g l y a c c u r a t e , a n a l y t i c a l s k i l l s t o
the task o f b i b l i c a l i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . As we noted above, t h i s has n o t
always been met w i t h enthusiasm by t h e overwhelmingly male s c h o l a r l y
community. I t i s , however, l a r g e l y through t h e o r i g i n a l i t y o f some o f
the q u e s t i o n s b e i n g asked by f e m i n i s t s today t h a t we a r e b e g i n n i n g t o
d i s c o v e r new t h i n g s about t h e r o l e o f women i n b o t h t h e Old Testament
and t h e New Testament f o r t h e f i r s t time.

Up u n t i l t h e e a r l y e i g h t i e s t h e m a j o r i t y o f m a t e r i a l s produced on

women i n t h e New Testament were d e a l i n g w i t h t h e i r r o l e i n t h e P a u l i n e

churches, o f t e n w i t h a view t o dealing further with the question of

women's r o l e i n t h e contemporary church^*. Since then, many more

s t u d i e s have begun t o focus our a t t e n t i o n on both Jesus' a t t i t u d e t o

women and t h e r o l e o f women i n t h e Gospel accounts. Perhaps this

shift away from t h e emphasis on t r y i n g t o 'prove' the legitimacy of

women's r i g h t l y expanding role i n t h e Church from t h e New Testament

itself owes something t o t h e k i n d of a t t i t u d e which Sandra Schneiders

r e f l e c t s when she says:

The Immense e f f o r t which i s c u r r e n t l y b e i n g expended


to show f r o m s c r i p t u r e t h a t d i s c r i m i n a t i o n a g a i n s t
women i n t h e Church i s n o t J u s t i f i e d i s , i n my
o p i n i o n , open t o s e r i o u s misunderstanding unless those
d o i n g t h e work. . . make i t c l e a r f r o m t h e o u t s e t t h a t
such an e f f o r t i s n o t demanded by t h e i s s u e i t s e l f .
The sex o f b e l i e v e r s i s n o t an i s s u e i n t h e New
Testament and we s h o u l d n o t a l l o w o u r s e l v e s , e i t h e r as
b e l i e v e r s o r as s c h o l a r s , t o be manipulated into
a c t i n g as i f i t i s . The burden o f p r o o f l i e s w i t h
those who wish t o s e t l i m i t s t o t h e e x e r c i s e o f
C h r i s t i a n freedom by female members o f t h e community's
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T h l s s w i t c h away from t h e need t o J u s t i f y change has l e d t o some


s e r i o u s work on t h e a t t e m p t t o r e d i s c o v e r t h e r o l e o f women i n t h e
e a r l i e s t C h r i s t i a n communities, a l o t o f t h i s being based on research
i n t h e Gospels. The most comprehensive work has been undertaken by
E l i s a b e t h SchOssler F i o r e n z a ' * , who has made r e a l s t r i d e s towards t h e
development o f a methodology f o r t h e ' d l s - c o v e r y ' " o f t r a d i t i o n s
c o n c e r n i n g t h e women o f t h e e a r l y Church. While s h a r i n g t h e i r
f r u s t r a t i o n , F l o r e n z a r e j e c t s t h e stance o f some f e m i n i s t s who f e e l
t h a t they "must move beyond t h e boundaries o f b i b l i c a l r e l i g i o n and
r e j e c t the p a t r i a r c h a l a u t h o r i t y of b i b l i c a l revelation"'*. This
a t t i t u d e , she says,

too q u i c k l y concedes t h a t women have no a u t h e n t i c


history within biblical r e l i g i o n and t o o e a s i l y
r e l i n q u i s h e s women's f e m i n i s t b i b l i c a l h e r i t a g e . Nor
can such a stance do J u s t i c e t o t h e p o s i t i v e
experiences o f contemporary women w i t h i n biblical
religion".

Florenza thus sets out t o discover the authentic history o f women

within t h e communities t o which t h e Gospels a r e addressed, and o f

particular i n t e r e s t t o us, w i t h i n t h e communities o f t h e Markan and

Johannine Churches. She d i s c o v e r s t h e r e t h a t the " f i r s t writers of

the Gospels articulate a very different ethos of Christian

discipleshlp and community than that presented by t h e w r i t e r s o f

injunctions t o p a t r i a r c h a l submission"*". Her work on t h e Gospel o f

John** b u i l d s on t h a t a l r e a d y undertaken by Brown*^ and Schneiders'*,

but she i s a b l e t o point more s e c u r e l y t o t h e women o f t h e Fourth

Gospel as "paradigms o f women's a p o s t o l i c d i s c i p l e s h l p . . .not j u s t t o

be imitated by women b u t by a l l those who belong t o Jesus 'very own*

f a m i l i a l community"**.
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While we w i l l d i f f e r a t a number o f p o i n t s from her c o n c l u s i o n s ,


we w i l l n e v e r t h e l e s s see her work, a l o n g w i t h t h a t o f t h e o t h e r s on
whom she a l r e a d y b u i l d s , as t h e f o u n d a t i o n f o r t h e task we undertake
i n t h e f o u r t h c h a p t e r * s . We w i l l , however, p r o v i d e two major advances
on work done so f a r , f i r s t l y , by making our s t u d y f a r g r e a t e r i n
depth, d e a l i n g w i t h t h e whole s t o r y r a t h e r than j u s t the a c t u a l woman
h e r s e l f i n each account. T h i s w i l l p r o v i d e us w i t h a number o f new
i n s i g h t s n o t y e t observed i n o t h e r s t u d i e s . Secondly, we w i l l come a t
the s t o r i e s c o n c e r n i n g women i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel from a d i f f e r e n t
a n g l e t o t h a t p r e v i o u s l y adopted by o t h e r s c h o l a r s as we examine what
i n f l u e n c e has been e x e r t e d upon t h e development o f t h e role of women
by t h e f i g u r e o f Sophia, who by t h a t p o i n t we w i l l have i d e n t i f i e d as
the f o u n d a t i o n o f t h e c h r i s t o l o g i c a l u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h e Fourth
Evangelist. T h i s w i l l again h e l p us t o p r o v i d e a new p e r s p e c t i v e on
the r o l e and f u n c t i o n o f women i n t h e Gospel, and h o p e f u l l y a l s o from
t h e r e i n t h e Johannine community t o which the Gospel i s addressed.

I f F i o r e n z a demonstrates t h e b e t t e r aspects o f research i n t o t h e

r o l e o f women i n New Testament times, t h e r e a r e o t h e r approaches from

which t h i s a u t h o r would l i k e t o remain more d i s t a n t . One such example

is t h e work by E l i s a b e t h Moltmann-Wendell on t h e women o f t h e Jesus

community**. While she has c o l l e c t e d some fascinating materials

i l l u s t r a t i n g t h e way t h a t many o f t h e major female f i g u r e s o f t h e New

Testament have been understood and d e p i c t e d a r t i s t i c a l l y through t h e

h i s t o r y o f t h e C h r i s t i a n Church, her work on t h e New Testament texts

themselves l e a v e s a l o t t o be d e s i r e d . Indeed, a t times she seems t o

fall foul o f some o f t h e worst aspects o f t h e Old Quest for the

Historical Jesus, e s p e c i a l l y i n her p o r t r a y a l o f Jesus' relationship


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w l t h Mary Magdalene*'. As a work o f some " t h e o l o g i c a l i m a g i n a t i o n "


u s i n g " a r t and c u l t u r e t o r e d i s c o v e r obscured t r a d i t i o n s which a r e
m a t r i a r c h a l , o r f a v o u r a b l e t o women"** I t i s a f a s c i n a t i n g and
i n s t r u c t i v e book t o read, b u t as an attempt t o "remove t h e burden o f
the p a t r i a r c h a l past f r o m a s m a l l s e c t i o n o f t h e New Testament', i t
f a l l s f a r short. Susanne Heine sums i t s shortcomings up s u c c i n c t l y by
declaring that "associations with the b i b l i c a l texts remain
associative fantasy"'*.

Another prevalent approach t o studies on women i n t h e a n c i e n t

w o r l d , n o t merely as r e p r e s e n t e d i n t h e New Testament, which should be

mentioned i s t h a t adopted by Junglan f e m i n i s t a n a l y s t s ' * . While some

criticism o f t h i s method must be voiced, i t has n e v e r t h e l e s s proved

penetrative i n i t s analysis of the function o f t h e Goddess i n ANE

religion, though a t times drawing q u i t e unwarranted c o n c l u s i o n s from

it'2. I n o u r second chapter e s p e c i a l l y we s h a l l make use o f some

m a t e r i a l s f r o m two such s t u d i e s ' * , but w i t h o u t n e c e s s a r i l y following

the c o n c l u s i o n s o r methods o f t h e i r a u t h o r s . Engelsmann's d e s c r i p t i o n

of t h e r e p r e s s i o n o f Sophia i n Phllo i s helpful i n our d i s c o v e r y o f

the fact that t h e gender o f Sophia was a s i g - n l f l e a n t factor in his

t r e a t m e n t o f Sophia as a symbol, but we w i l l u l t i m a t e l y come t o t h e

same c o n c l u s i o n s w i t h o u t t h e need to rely on t h e I m p o s i t i o n of t h e

archetypal concepts o f mater and anima which Engelsmann applies.

While i t may be accepted that t h e Goddesses (and Gods!) o f t h e ANE

reflected t o some e x t e n t t h e experiences and needs o f t h e people by

whom they were worshipped, t o make a g e n e r a l statement concerning t h e

human psyche on the basis o f removing these figures from their

historical c o n t e x t can h a r d l y be j u s t i f i e d . Thus, t o view Sophia as


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simply t h e re-emergence o f these l o n g i n g s and d e s i r e s , w i t h o u t


r e f e r e n c e t o t h e h i s t o r i c a l and t h e o l o g i c a l c o n t e x t o f I s r a e l ' s f a i t h ,
must l e a d t o d i s t o r t i o n . Ochshorn sums t h i s up i n her c r i t i q u e o f
Jungian methodology when she says:

I n t h e i r a h i s t o r l c a l assumptions o f u n i v e r s a l , e t e r n a l
sameness i n t h e meanings o f f e m i n i n e and masculine,
they (seem) t o o v e r s i m p l i f y and v i o l a t e t h e c o m p l e x i t y
and v a r i e t y o f human experience'*.

Two o t h e r monographs by a male New Testament s c h o l a r should also

be mentioned here. I n h i s s t u d i e s , W i t h e r i n g t o n has looked a t the

roles o f women f i r s t l y i n the ministry o f Jesus'' and then i n the

e a r l i e s t C h r i s t i a n communities as r e f l e c t e d i n t h e w r i t i n g s of t h e New

Testament". The f i r s t o f these books p r o v i d e s us w i t h some useful

comments on t h e s t o r i e s about women i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel, but we w i l l

both d i s a g r e e w i t h some o f h i s c o n c l u s i o n s and f o l l o w o t h e r s i n a much

more r a d i c a l direction. For example, we must make a more p o s i t i v e

assessment o f Martha's c o n f e s s i o n i n Jn 11:27 than simply t o say t h a t

it " i s t h e l e a s t Inadequate t o t h i s p o i n t i n t h e F o u r t h G o s p e l " " . Or

again, we w i l l d i s a g r e e t h a t I n t h e same account, Mary i s p o r t r a y e d as

"one who has g i v e n h e r s e l f wrongly over t o an a l l consuming sorrow

even i n Jesus' presence"'*. I n addition, we f i n d i tdifficult to

accept that Witherington's conclusion, "that Jesus was a t t e m p t i n g t o

reform, not r e j e c t , the patriarchal framework o f h i s c u l t u r e " " , can

be a n y t h i n g o t h e r than mere s p e c u l a t i o n . What we may say i s t h a t t h e

various New Testament writers understood Jesus' reactions and

attitudes t o women i n very d i f f e r e n t ways. We w i l l argue t h a t t h e

F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t p o r t r a y s women as t h e paradigms o f d i s c i p l e s h i p f o r

the C h r i s t i a n community a t t h e end o f t h e f i r s t c e n t u r y , much a g a i n s t


- 36-

the t r e n d o f o t h e r New Testament t r a d i t i o n s , but very much because


she/he saw t h i s as a l e g i t i m a t e understanding o f Jesus' own a t t i t u d e .
To t h e a t t i t u d e o f t h e historical Jesus, however, we can u l t i m a t e l y
o n l y b r i n g our own s u b j e c t i v e p e r s p e c t i v e , however w e l l - i n t e n t i o n e d
t h a t may be!

The second o f W i t h e r i n g t o n ' s books takes us l i t t l e f u r t h e r , being

v e r y l o p s i d e d i n i t s t r e a t m e n t o f t h e women i n t h e Fourth Gospel*'".

His o b s e r v a t i o n s on Mary Magdalene's Importance f o r t h e community a r e

well-made***, but h i s u n c r i t i c a l acceptance o f Jn 21 as an a f f i r m a t i o n

of " t h e ongoing male l e a d e r s h i p o f t h e community"'*^ leaves much t o be

desired.

Any study o f women i n t h e e a r l i e s t communities o f t h e C h r i s t i a n

Church must reckon with the p a u c i t y o f source materials available.

Perhaps t h e F o u r t h Gospel more than any o t h e r New Testament document,

recommends i t s e l f I n t h i s respect. While we w i l l o b v i o u s l y want t o

draw some wider c o n c l u s i o n s about t h e r o l e o f women i n t h e Johannine

community, our study w i l l attempt to maintain a s t r i c t adherence t o

the a c t u a l t e x t s as they a r e presented t o us by the Fourth E v a n g e l i s t .

We w i l l a l s o argue s t r o n g l y , as we noted above, t h a t the q u e s t i o n s we

are asking about gender, both that o f t h e gender significance of

Sophia and t h a t of the s i g n i f i c a n c e o f gender roles i n t h e Fourth

Gospel, a r e q u e s t i o n s which a l s o come o u t o f t h e c o n t e x t o f t h e first

century, r a t h e r than ones s i m p l y imposed from the perspective of a

twentieth c e n t u r y d e s i r e t o a f f i r m t h e e q u a l i t y o f women I n t h e Church

for today. Despite t h e l i m i t e d source material, there i s s u f f i c i e n t

i n d i c a t i o n o f t h i s i n some side-remarks w i t h i n t h e Gospel I t s e l f (eg.

Jn 4:27), i n the a t t i t u d e o f P h i l o and even i n t h e New Testament


-37-

w r i t i n g s whose a u t h o r s f e e l t h e need t o s p e l l o u t t h e i r o p i n i o n s on
t h e r o l e o f women! We w i l l hope t o show t h a t t h e Fourth Gospel, a t
l e a s t , does n o t share many o f those o p i n i o n s .

1,3 SETTING OUT

As we now s e t o u t i n t h e p u r s u i t o f our t h e s i s , i t i s w o r t h w h i l e

a l s o s e t t i n g o u t some p r e s u p p o s i t i o n s which w i l l l i e behind t h e study

as a whole. I t i s n o t our I n t e n t i o n t o argue a case f o r these,

a l t h o u g h we w i l l p o i n t where p o s s i b l e t o l i t e r a t u r e which does so i n

more d e t a i l . Rather, as we d i d i n t h e case o f our d i s c u s s i o n o f

method, so here a l s o we wish t o make t h e reader aware o f a t l e a s t some

of t h e a u t h o r ' s i n n a t e e x e g e t i c a l biases!

Firstly, we take f o r g r a n t e d t h a t t h e Fourth Gospel was w r i t t e n

to address a mixed community o f C h r i s t i a n b e l i e v e r s whose p a r t i c u l a r

needs, a t t i t u d e s and s i t u a t i o n will t o some e x t e n t be r e f l e c t e d and

addressed w i t h i n i t s boundaries'*^. This i s particularly important

for our u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e s i g n i f i c a n c e o f t h e use o f a Sophia

christology and t h e prominence o f t h e r o l e o f women i n t h e Fourth

Gospel.

Secondly, we assume t h e Gospel t o have been w r i t t e n some time

towards t h e end o f t h e f i r s t c e n t u r y , probably i n t h e p e r i o d from 85-

95 AD'**. This has i m p o r t a n t i m p l i c a t i o n s f o r our study, since i t

determines the context of influence from Jewish speculation on

Johannine c h r i s t o l o g y as t h a t o f l a t e f i r s t c e n t u r y Judaism.

T h i r d l y , we presuppose t h a t t h e present form o f t h e Gospel i s t h e

r e s u l t o f a process o f r e d a c t i o n , which may be p o s s i b l e t o p o i n t t o a t


-38-

s p e c i f i c p l a c e s i n the Gospel, but which I s now g e n e r a l l y Impossible


f o r us t o r e c o n s t r u c t f u l l y ' " " . T h i s w i l l be of s i g n i f i c a n c e at those
p o i n t s where we f i n d i t p o s s i b l e t o i d e n t i f y the hand of the r e d a c t o r
at work, but we w i l l not attempt t o argue, f o r example, t h a t a Sophia-
t r a d i t i o n r e d a c t i o n has taken place at a particular stage i n the
development of t h e F o u r t h Gospel.

Finally, we take i t f o r granted that the task of p u r s u i n g the

gender s i g n i f i c a n c e of Sophia and that of the r o l e of women i n the

Fourth Gospel i s a w o r t h w h i l e one, i n that i t seeks t o f u r t h e r our

a p p r e c i a t i o n o f an e r s t w h i l e n e g l e c t e d and o f t e n maligned s e c t i o n of

people comprising more than half of our world population and

c o n s i d e r a b l y more of the present day C h r i s t i a n community! I t i s t o be

hoped t h a t i t may a l s o i n some s m a l l way contribute to their further

and proper r e c o g n i t i o n w i t h i n t h a t community. But l e t us see. . . .


CHAPTER TWO

WHO I S SOPHIA. WHAT I S SHE?

2.1 INTRODUCTION

The people of Israel emerged from an environment which

acknowledged t h e e x i s t e n c e o f many deities o f both sexes. I t is

difficult t o imagine t h a t such an environment would not have rubbed

off, t o some extent at least, on those who sought to establish

themselves as 'Yahweh's people'. Indeed, t h e Old Testament prophets

and the h i s t o r i c a l writers show us j u s t how o f t e n the Influence of

o t h e r Gods and Goddesses impinged upon t h e 'pure' r e l i g i o n o f Yahweh,

which they promoted w i t h such v i g o u r . These Goddesses and Gods o f t h e

ANE, like t h e God of Israel, d i d not e x i s t i n isolation from t h e

s o c i e t y o f which they were a p a r t , being r a t h e r an expression o f the

needs, a s p i r a t i o n s and t o some e x t e n t the experiences o f t h e people.

The most obvious example o f t h i s comes i n t h e area o f f e r t i l i t y , both

human and a g r i c u l t u r a l , where the r e c u r r i n g cycle of l i f e becomes

personified i n the deity, and i n p a r t i c u l a r i n t h e Goddess f i g u r e .

One can h a r d l y propose t h a t t h e people o f I s r a e l were somehow immune

to t h e l i f e e x p e r i e n c e s which were i n f l u e n t i a l i n t h e emergence o f t h e

pantheons, y e t t h e O l d Testament r e f l e c t s a p i c t u r e o f Yahweh v ^ l c h i s

both r i g i d i n i t s c l a i m t o monotheism and almost e x c l u s i v e l y male i n

its imagery. Only occasionally do we f i n d traces o f any k i n d o f

f e m i n i n e dimension o f t h e d i v i n e i n Jewish thought, t h e most prominent

such being the representation o f God's wisdom i n t h e female figure,

Sophia.

The purpose of t h i s p r e s e n t chapter i s t o look again a t t h i s

f i g u r e and t o ask, f i r s t l y , «ho she i s i n r e l a t i o n t o t h e predominant


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male-God, Yahweh. We w i l l then t u r n t o t h e q u e s t i o n of uhat she i s ,


b e a r i n g i n mind t h e c o n t e x t o f ANE l i f e t o v^iich we have a l l u d e d
above. T h i s w i l l i n e v i t a b l y l e a d us i n t o t h e q u e s t i o n of the
s i g n i f i c a n c e o f Sophia's gender i n the c o n t e x t o f Jewish thought, and
the e x t e n t t o which t h i s posed a problem both f o r Jewish w r i t e r s and
f o r t h e e a r l y C h r i s t i a n w r i t e r s , who wanted t o i d e n t i f y the male Jesus
w i t h t h e female f i g u r e of Sophia. We begin, however, by o u t l i n i n g the
c o n t e x t o f ANE r e l i g i o n i n more d e t a i l .

2.2 SOPHIA IK THE CONTEXT OF ANE GODDESSES

However difficult i t may be t o determine the o r i g i n s of the

Jewish figure of Sophia, and whatever problems there may be in

s p e c i f y i n g her exact relationship t o t h e one ' t r u e ' God, Yahweh, one

t h i n g may be s a i d w i t h c e r t a i n t y : Sophia emerged I n t h e c o n t e x t o f an

ANE world widely accustomed t o the c u l t of a v a r i e t y of Goddesses.

The biblical tradition itself reflects this i n t h e warnings given

against t h e dangers o f ensnarement i n t h e i r grasp, p a r t i c u l a r l y w i t h

reference t o t h e d e s t r u c t i o n o f t h e c u l t o f Asherah (Judg 3:7; 6:26-

30; I Kgs 14:23; 15:13; I I Kgs 21:7; 23:4,7; I I Chr 15:16)». The

overwhelming evidence of archaeological studies i n Syria/Palestine

also affirms our assertion, particularly in the numerous texts

unearthed at Ras Sharma^, which give considerable information

concerning the BAAL - ANATH cycle alluded to in the biblical

traditions'.

So what was i t i n t h e c u l t o f t h e Goddess which the guardians o f

the p a t r i a r c h a l f a i t h o f I s r a e l f e a r e d so much? How was i t t h a t even

i n t h e f a c e o f t h e i r f e a r , a female r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of God, Sophia, was


- 41 -

a b l e t o emerge a t a l l ? We s h a l l approach t h e second o f these


q u e s t i o n s by i n i t i a l l y a t t e m p t i n g an answer t o t h e f i r s t . We s h a l l
examine t h r e e c l o s e l y r e l a t e d aspects of t h e Goddess r e l i g i o n s which
may be seen t o have a d i r e c t b e a r i n g on Sophia h e r s e l f : the f e r t i l i t y
c u l t ; t h e s a c r a l marriage; t h e goddess o f l o v e .

2.2.1 THE FERTILITY CULT

One o f t h e most widespread f e a t u r e s o f a l l ANE r e l i g i o n was the

adherence t o some f o r m o f t h e f e r t i l i t y c u l t , i n which d e i t i e s of both

sexes r e p r e s e n t e d t h e c o n t i n u i n g c y c l e o f f e c u n d i t y i n both n a t u r e and

the human process*. The m a n i f e s t a t i o n s o f t h i s c u l t were v a r i e d * , b u t

they had a t t h e i r c e n t r e t h e worship o f a Mother-Goddess, t h e consort

of a young God, who i s e i t h e r killed or runs away, and f o r whom t h e

Goddess both mourns and searches. The e v e n t u a l f i n d i n g or r e t u r n o f

this young God i s the sign f o r restored f e r t i l i t y * . Belonging t o

agrarian societies, t h e ANE peoples worshipped i n t h i s c y c l e what they

saw around them in the natural processes of t h e world: life

(fertility) giving way t o death (barrenness) and then returning to

life (fertility) again.

Among t h e major r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s o f t h i s c u l t i c r i t u a l we f i n d t h e

Mesopotamian Ishtar-Tammuz and t h e Canaanite Anath-Baal. The e a r l i e r

of these cycles i s probably that o f t h e Sumerlan/Akkadian Ishtar-

Tammuz, where t h e r e s u l t s o f I s h t a r ' s descent I n t o t h e underworld t o

find her l o v e r , Tammuz, a r e g r a p h i c a l l y recorded i n t h e 'Descent of

Ishtar to the Nether World':

Since I s h t a r has gone down t o t h e Land o f no Return,


The b u l l s p r i n g s n o t upon t h e cow, t h e ass impregnates
not t h e Jenny,
I n t h e s t r e e t t h e man impregnates n o t t h e maiden.
42 -

The man l i e s down i n h i s (own) chamber,


The maiden l i e s down on her s i d e ^ .

C l e a r l y i n t h i s passage the c o n n e c t i o n i s made between the absence o f

the Goddess and t h e absence o f f e r t i l i t y i n beast and human a l i k e . It

is o n l y on t h e r e t u r n o f the Goddess, w i t h her beloved c o n s o r t , t h a t

the s i t u a t i o n may be remedied*.

The pattern becomes more e x p l i c i t still i n t h e c y c l e of Anath-

Baal, known t o us from the U g a r l t i c sources a t Ras Sharma. I t would

be true to say that there is a change in emphasis from the

Mesopotamian r i t u a l , where i t was the Goddess "who was the dominant

f o r c e i n t h i s a c t of renewal'". I n the U g a r l t i c t r a d i t i o n s the focus

is more on t h e g l o r i f i c a t i o n of Baal'o, but n e v e r t h e l e s s Anath plays

an i m p o r t a n t r o l e i n the c y c l e . With Baal, her b r o t h e r - l o v e r ensnared

by t h e God o f Death, Mot, Anath wanders i n search o f him:

Anat went t o and f r o and scoured every rock


To t h e h e a r t o f t h e e a r t h (and) every mountain
To t h e h e a r t o f t h e f i e l d s , she a r r i v e d a t the
pleasant t r a c t s
Of [ t h e l a n d ] o f decease, the f a i r t r a c t s o f the edge
Of [ t h e s t r a n d ] o f death, she [ a r r i v e d ] where Baal had
fallen
[ I n t o ] t h e e a r t h : (and) she t o r e [ t h e c l o t h i n g o f ]
(her) f o l d e d loin-cloth'».

His death b r i n g s about a barrenness i n the l a n d s i g n i f y i n g the e a r t h ' s

mourning f o r him. Anath longs f o r h i s r e t u r n , "like (the desire o f )

the h e a r t o f a h e i f e r f o r her c a l f , l i k e ( t h a t o f ) t h e h e a r t o f an ewe

for her lamb"**. E v e n t u a l l y she s e i z e s upon Mot and deals w i t h him

thus:

She s e i z e d Mot, son of E l , r i p p e d him open


With a sword, winnowed him i n a s i e v e ,
Burnt him i n t h e f i r e ,
Ground him w i t h two m i l l - s t o n e s , sowed him
-43-

In a f i e l d ; v e r i l y the birds ate


The p i e c e s o f him, v e r i l y t h e sparrow(s) made an end
Of t h e p a r t s o f h i m p i e c e by piece's.

T h i s i s f o l l o w e d by t h e announcement t h a t Baal, who was dead, i s now

alive! H i s r e t u r n i s announced throughout t h e l a n d by Anath, and i s

followed by t h e r e t u r n o f showers o f r a i n , and t h u s by f e r t i l i t y i n

the land:

The downpour o f r a i n w i l l [ a g a i n ] come down;


[ f o r ] t h e v i c t o r Baal [ i s a l i v e ] . . .
He w i l l g r a c i o u s l y send [ r a i n ] from t h e c l o u d s
[And] g i v e p l e n t i f u l [showers o f r a i n ] * * .

Although the texts related t o t h i s c y c l e a r e somewhat fragmented we

are able t o gain an o v e r a l l impression o f t h e way i n which t h e

fertility cycle was understood. The r o l e o f t h e Goddess, while

somewhat less emphasised than i n t h e Ishtar-Tammuz sequence, i s

nevertheless central to the desire for fertility and to i t s

restoration through the successful return o f t h e young God from t h e

r e a l m o f t h e dead. I t was t h i s c y c l e o f events which was c e l e b r a t e d

annually i n the f e r t i l i t y c u l t r i t u a l s , and i t was these r i t u a l s which

undoubtedly caused the biggest problems f o r t h e b i b l i c a l writers.

C e n t r a l t o them was t h e p r a c t i s e o f c u l t i c p r o s t i t u t i o n , which Q u a i l s -

Corbet t sums up f o r us thus:

Desire and sexual response experienced as a


r e g e n e r a t i v e power were recognised as a g i f t or a
b l e s s i n g from t h e d i v i n e . Man's and woman's sexual
n a t u r e and t h e i r r e l i g i o u s a t t i t u d e were i n s e p a r a b l e .
In their praises of thanksgiving or i n t h e i r
s u p p l i c a t i o n s , they o f f e r e d t h e sex a c t t o t h e goddess
revered f o r l o v e and passion. I t was an a c t ,
honourable and p i o u s , p l e a s i n g t o both d e i t y and
mortal a l i k e * * ,
- 44 -

Of course, the b i b l i c a l w r i t e r s would h a r d l y agree w i t h this


assessment o f i t s a f f i r m a t i o n by the d e i t y ( ! ) , but t o t h i s we will
return later. Whatever they thought about i t , the i n t e n t i o n of the
p a r t i c i p a n t s i n t h e act of s a c r a l p r o s t i t u t i o n was t o "emulate and
s t i m u l a t e the d e i t i e s who bestowed f e r t i l i t y " ' * .

2.2.2 THE SACRAL MARRIAGE

I n t i m a t e l y connected w i t h the r i t e s o f the f e r t i l i t y cult was

the a c t o f S a c r a l Marriage. T h i s was p r a c t i s e d w i d e l y i n the ANE even

down t o the Greco-Roman e r a (ispdq ydmoq). We have a l r e a d y seen the

seeds o f i t i n the r o l e o f the c u l t p r o s t i t u t e s . The Sacral Marriage

was seen as a d r a m a t i c re-enactment o f the sexual union between the

great Mother-Goddess and her young Son/lover, which guaranteed the

fertility of the land, animals and human beings alike''.

Unfortunately there is little textual evidence to describe what

actually took place at these ceremonies, much o f our understanding

h a v i n g t o be gleaned e i t h e r by i n f e r e n c e f r o m t h e t e x t s concerning the

fertility cycle, or by trying to s t r i p o f f the r h e t o r i c of polemic

directed against i t s practice.

Heine c o r r e c t l y c a u t i o n s us a g a i n s t merely r e a d i n g the myths o f

ANE f e r t i l i t y r i t u a l back i n t o the r e a l l i v e s of the community'*. In

particular she reminds us o f the need t o view t h e m y t h o l o g i c a l t e x t s

a l o n g s i d e those we have o f a non-mythological n a t u r e , which, a t l e a s t

at Ras Sharma, f o r b i d such p r a c t i s e s as i n c e s t and b e s t i a l i t y , which

are c l e a r l y i m p l i e d as 'normal' i n t h e m y t h o l o g i c a l t e x t s " . However,

a r c h a e o l o g i c a l s t u d i e s o f t h e iconography o f the ANE do y i e l d a number

of significant p o i n t e r s t o the f a c t t h a t t h e S a c r a l Marriage e x i s t e d


- 45 -

as a r i t u a l w i t h i n t h e c u l t . I n h i s monumental study o f t h e 'Naked


Goddess' f i g u r i n e s o f S y r i a , Winter has i d e n t i f i e d a number o f v i s u a l
r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s o f t h i s event^o. He i s a t p a i n s t o p o i n t o u t t h a t
these do n o t i l l u s t r a t e t h e a c t u a l r i t u a l s themselves, but r a t h e r
represent t h e s a n c t i f i c a t i o n of sexuality^*. He a l s o concludes t h a t
s i n c e t h e images o f t h i s t y p e appear on p o t t e r y o f both h i g h and very
cheap q u a l i t y , they r e f l e c t t h e widespread I n f l u e n c e o f t h i s c u l t i c
ceremony on t h e people*2.

We may then turn to a collective assessment o f what may have

happened i n t h i s r i t u a l . I n most cases i t i s assumed t h a t i n t e r c o u r s e

took p l a c e between t h e k i n g and a sacred p r o s t i t u t e a n n u a l l y , probably

d u r i n g t h e New-Year f e s t i v a l , as the embodiment o f the God and Goddess

respectively. Through t h i s r e p r e s e n t a t i v e a c t , t h e " f e c u n d i t y o f l a n d

and womb and t h e w e l l - b e i n g o f a l l people, were assured"^*. As we

shall see, t h e b i b l i c a l writers go much beyond this I n their

d e s c r i p t i o n s and polemic, s u g g e s t i n g the Involvement o f many more than

the two main p l a y e r s we have proposed, but t h i s may serve o n l y t o

underline the probability that at least some k i n d o f ceremony along

the l i n e s o u t l i n e d a c t u a l l y took p l a c e .

2.2.3 THE GODDESS OP LOVE

If we seek t o p l a c e Sophia i n c o n t e x t i n the r e l i g i o u s milieu

of t h e ANE, we would be f o o l i s h t o overlook t h e prominence o f the

Goddess o f Love as a f i g u r e i n cultic veneration. Her r o l e i s , o f

course, closely connected t o t h e m a t t e r s we have a l r e a d y mentioned,

the fertility cult and i t s concomitant rite o f S a c r a l Marriage, b u t

she appears i n a wide v a r i e t y o f p l a c e s and g u i s e s throughout the ANE


- 46 -

world. She p r o b a b l y reached h e r peak as a f i g u r e i n H e l l e n i s t i c


times, being i d e n t i f i e d v a r i o u s l y w i t h A p h r o d i t e , Venus o r I s l s * * .
However, from e a r l i e s t times she was i d e n t i f i e d w i t h Innana i n
Sumerlan mythology, w i t h I s h t a r i n Mesopotamia, and w i t h Anath and
A s t a r t e i n Canaan and S y r i a .

The Goddess o f Love's appeal l a y n a t u r a l l y i n her s e x u a l i t y and

beauty, a t l e a s t as f a r as men were concerned, and probably a l s o i n

these t h i n g s as an example f o r women. She was o f t e n a s s o c i a t e d with

the Moon o r S t a r s , this again being a connection with t h e idea o f

fertility: t h e sun parches t h e l a n d by day, t h r e a t e n i n g life, while

the moon brings refreshment i n t h e shadows and s o f t n e s s of the

nlght^s. She was a l s o thought o f as a v i r g i n , which may appear

somewhat a n a c h r o n i s t i c t o our modern way o f t h i n k i n g when we consider

t h a t each o f t h e above-mentioned Goddesses was a Mother/Sister-lover

to some young God and bore offspring. However, as Engelsmann

explains:

The Goddess i s c a l l e d v i r g i n because she i s n o t under


the c o n t r o l o f a husband, f a t h e r , o r other male
relative. She may have a l o v e r , o r l o v e r s , but she
does n o t form p a r t o f a syzygy, nor i s she p a i r e d w i t h
a god as Hera i s w i t h Zeus. She r u l e s alone.
A l t h o u g h she i s a v i r g i n , t h a t i s , o n e - i n - h e r s e l f , she
i s n o t a ' v i r g i n Intacta'«*.

Details o f any c u l t i c p r a c t i c e s connected w i t h t h e Goddess a r e again

difficult t o come by, b u t t h e r e a r e numerous examples from a l l t h e

geographical r e g i o n s o f t h e ANE o f f i g u r i n e s , s t a t u e t t e s and v o t i f s

illustrating her. Most o f these have a c o n n e c t i o n w i t h t h e q u e s t i o n

of fertility, though Winter also believes that many o f t h e Naked

Goddess figurines of Syria/Palestine represent her also as a


- 47 -

P r o t e c t r e s s , I n t e r c e d e r , or M e d i a t r i x * ' . I n Mesopotamia she would


n o r m a l l y appear w i t h a crescent-shaped crown*', and t h i s l e d t o the
p r a c t i s e of b a k i n g s p e c i a l cakes i n t h a t shape t o be o f f e r e d t o her*'.

Of a l l t h e Goddesses of t h e ANE pantheons, the Goddess of Love

represented most f u l l y the f e m i n i n e realm of s e x u a l i t y . I t i s worth

noting Ruether's comments on t h e theme of s e x u a l i t y and power among

the deities:

The Goddess and God are e q u i v a l e n t , not complementary,


images of the d i v i n e . Psalms addressed t o I s h t a r do
not address her as t h e embodiment of maternal,
n u r t u r i n g and f e m i n i n e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , but as the
e x p r e s s i o n o f d i v i n e s o v e r e i g n t y and power i n female
form. Sexual potency and s o c i a l power are found i n
both t h e Goddess and the God. There are t e n s i o n s
which d e f i n e a n c i e n t r e l i g i o n s - e s p e c i a l l y between
chaos and cosmos, death and l i f e - but d i v i n e f o r c e s ,
male and female, are ranged on both s i d e s of the
dichotomies*'.

However, i n t h e Goddess of Love we see the p i v o t between the o l d and

new orders of polytheistic religion, f o r by Greco-Roman times she

becomes a full embodiment of a l l that is beautiful, nurturing,

maternal, enchanting and s e x u a l l y a p p e t i s i n g i n womanhood (at least

from a male p e r s p e c t i v e ! ) * * . By the time of the w r i t i n g of the New

Testament, o f course, the Goddess was known i n both her o l d e r and more

modern form, her powers o f a t t r a c t i o n h a v i n g i n no sense diminished.

2.2.4 THE BIBLICAL OPPOSITION

When we consider the background of fertility cult. Sacral

Marriage, and the homage g i v e n t o the Goddess of Love, we may begin t o

understand the perspective of the biblical historians and the

prophetic t r a d i t i o n s I n I s r a e l . L i k e a l l r h e t o r i c a l condemnation, we
-48-

must read t h e b i b l i c a l o p p o s i t i o n w i t h a measure o f s c e p t i c i s m , f o r i t


w i l l s u r e l y have exaggerated and t o some e x t e n t misrepresented the
a c t i o n s of those whom i t addressed. However, i n order t o set the
scene f u l l y f o r t h e emergence of Sophia, we must summarise i t s main
thrust'2.

Among the historical writers, the book of Kings speaks out

f o r c e f u l l y a g a i n s t t h e c u l t o f Asherah and Baal i n p a r t i c u l a r . In I

Kgs 14:22-24, Rehoboham i s condemned for his failure t o curb the

f l o u r i s h i n g of the c u l t i n I s r a e l , w h i l e I Kgs 15:12-13 p r a i s e s Asa

for h i s e f f o r t s t o r i d the land of t h i s p r a c t i c e . As Gray comments:

"the old local a n i m i s t i c b e l i e f s and r i t e s o f i m i t a t i v e magic of the

fertility-cult, served by r i t u a l prostitutes, died h a r d " " . This I s

surely borne o u t by t h e f a c t that a l r e a d y I n t h e Gideon sequence o f

Judges 6:25-32, t h e Deuteronomist presupposes the d e s t r u c t i o n of the

cult o f Asherah/Baal i n f a v o u r o f t h e worship of Yahweh'*, yet some

fertility cult practice s t i l l appears t o f l o u r i s h i n monarchic times.

The particular thrust of the condemnation has a two-fold dimension.

Firstly, i t i s a condemnation o f the worship of a God and Goddess

other than the patriarchal God, Yahweh, which causes him to be

'Jealous' < "lAIl^'l). Secondly, i t i s a condemnation of the p r a c t i c e

of c u i t i c p r o s t i t u t i o n " on b o t h moral and r e l i g i o u s grounds, though

the religious grounds were t h e s t r o n g e r element. Because the c u l t

prostitutes, either male o r female, r e p r e s e n t e d the f e r t i l i t y deity,

to have Intercourse with them was to have intercourse with the

'foreign' deity and thus t o denigrate Yahweh'*. T h i s again comes

across c l e a r l y i n t h e r e f o r m s o f J o s i a h , r e p o r t e d i n I I Kings 23 ( I I

Chron 34)^', who removes the temple p r o s t i t u t e s and symbols of the


- 49-

Asherah/Baal c u l t , as a response t o h i s r e - d i s c o v e r y o f t h e covenant


between Yahweh and h i s people.

The act of c u l t i c p r o s t i t u t i o n becomes a metaphor f o r I s r a e l ' s

apostasy i n t h e p r o p h e t i c t r a d i t i o n , i n p a r t i c u l a r i n Hosea, where t h e

prophet takes a prostitute as h i s w i f e as a symbol of I s r a e l ' s

r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h Yahweh. Certainly i n Hos 2:4 (.MT) i t i s made c l e a r

that she is a cultic prostitute, as she has t o remove t h e

objects/marks of her c u l t from h e r s e l f ( D'^II-IU]' What t h i s


T V

a d o p t i o n o f t h e symbolism o f marriage between prophet and p r o s t i t u t e

does i s t o t r y and b r i n g t h e Goddess under the c o n t r o l of Yahwlsm i n a

form t h a t does n o t t h r e a t e n t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p o f Yahweh and t h e people:

or, as Ruether puts i t , t o transform " t h e Sacred Marriage from a

Goddess-King relationship into a patriarchal God-servant wife"*'

relationship. To be a t r u e people o f t h e one God Yahweh, they must

wed themselves t o him, r a t h e r than p r o s t i t u t e themselves t o the Gods

and Goddesses o f Canaan*

I t i s u n c l e a r t o what e x t e n t c u l t i c p r o s t i t u t i o n formed a p a r t o f

the fertility c u l t i n p r o p h e t i c times**, but t h e r e f e r e n c e t o worship

of t h e 'Queen o f Heaven' ( J e r 7:18; 44:15-25) seems t o imply an

adherence t o t h e c u l t o f t h e "Goddess o f l o v e and f e r t i l i t y , who was

Identified with t h e Venus s t a r and i s a c t u a l l y e n t i t l e d ' M i s t r e s s o f

Heaven' I n t h e Amarna t a b l e t s " * * . The r e f e r e n c e t o t h e baking o f

cakes would c e r t a i n l y accord w e l l w i t h t h e p i c t u r e o f Goddess worship

outlined i n our previous section and would support the thesis that

t h i s c u l t was widespread amongst t h e common people d u r i n g Jeremiah's

time**.
-50-

We must, t h e r e f o r e , recognise that the b i b l i c a l w r i t e r s are


unequivocal i n t h e i r condemnation o f a l l c u l t i c activity, i n
p a r t i c u l a r t h a t o f t h e f e r t i l i t y c u l t , and Goddess worship which would
d e t r a c t from t h e s o v e r e i g n c l a i m of t h e one t r u e God, Yahweh. The
l i m i t a t i o n s o f t h i s e x c l u s i v e , p a t r i a r c h a l a t t i t u d e w i l l be o u t l i n e d
i n our f o l l o w i n g c o n c l u s i o n s and w i l l l e a d us t o t h e question o f
Sophia's r o l e i n I s r a e l .

2.2.5 CONCLUSIONS

Since our i n v e s t i g a t i o n seeks t o uncover t h e r o l e o f Sophia i n

particular, our examination of the r e l i g i o u s milieu i n vrfiich she

emerged has c o n c e n t r a t e d on t h e p a r t i c u l a r r o l e o f t h e feminine aspect

of t h a t r e l i g i o u s environment, namely t h a t o f t h e Goddess*•. From i t

we may draw the f o l l o w i n g i n f e r e n c e s .

1. I n a l l of the s t a t e s surrounding I s r a e l and i n t h e occupied

l a n d o f Canaan i t s e l f , t h e r e l i g i o u s norm was polytheism. Within that

context, Goddesses o f v a r y i n g k i n d s flourished, most p a r t i c u l a r l y i n

relation to the f e r t i l i t y cult, which m i r r o r e d t h e annual c y c l e o f

renewal I n t h e land. Those female f i g u r e s were seen as an e s s e n f i a i

component of t h i s miracle of c r e a t i v i t y . As people of t h e land,

whether nomadic o r s e t t l e d , they depended u t t e r l y on t h e annual c y c l e

of r e b i r t h f o r t h e i r very existence.

Drawing on her background i n Junglan analysis, Qualls-Corbett

sums up t h e emergence and s i g n i f i c a n c e o f myth i n the f o l l o w i n g

manner:

Myths a r e t o a c o l l e c t i v e c u l t u r e what dreams a r e t o


the i n d i v i d u a l . From t h e symbolism of b o t h myths and
dreams we d i s c e r n psychic events. Thus we f i n d t h a t
- 51 -

myths a r e n o t Just d e l i g h t f u l but i d l e s t o r i e s o f gods


and goddesses, heroes o r demons, from a f o r g o t t e n
time; they speak o f l i v i n g p s y c h o l o g i c a l m a t e r i a l and
a c t as a r e p o s i t o r y o f t r u t h s a p p r o p r i a t e t o an
i n d i v i d u a l ' s i n n e r l i f e , as w e l l as t o t h e l i f e o f t h e
community*'.

If we a l l o w ourselves t o understand t h e mythology o f t h e f e r t i l i t y

c u l t i n t h i s way, we may see t h a t i t expresses t h e i n d i s p e n s a b l e need

of t h e community f o r an annual m i r a c l e o f renewal, i n a manner which

reflected t h e i r r e a l experience. The c r e a t i o n o f new l i f e i n humans

and i n animals came through t h e i n t e r c o u r s e of male and female: why

should t h e same n o t be t r u e a l s o i n t h e s p i r i t u a l w o r l d on which they

a l s o depended so much f o r t h e i r survival? Thus t h e c u l t i c p r a c t i c e

and mythology upon which i t f e d r e f l e c t e d t h e most basic, universal

need f o r r e v i t a l l z a t i o n and r e - c r e a t i o n : and fundamental t o t h a t was a

feminine p r i n c i p l e a l o n g s i d e t h e masculine.

2. Given that t h e need for a feminine principle was a

fundamental and I n d i s p e n s a b l e component o f t h e r e l i g i o u s consciousness

of t h e ANE world, we immediately see t h e problem for Israel i n

m a i n t a i n i n g an e x c l u s i v e l y p a t r i a r c h a l , m o n o t h e i s t i c view o f God. The

male God, Yahweh, n o t o n l y existed i n splendid isolation, he even

created on ' h i s ' own, w i t h o u t t h e a s s i s t a n c e of a feminine p r i n c i p l e .

This was u t t e r l y f o r e i g n not only t o t h e mythology o f t h e age, but

also t o human experience. I f we ask why t h e people of Israel

continually returned t o the p o l y t h e i s t i c fertility cults instead of

maintaining a l l e g i a n c e t o t h e one t r u e male-God, Yahweh, t h e answer

may, a t l e a s t i n p a r t , l i e i n t h e d i f f i c u l t y o f matching t h i s God t o

their real experience of l i f e , and i n p a r t i c u l a r the m i r a c l e of

regeneration**, Ochshorn i s thus c o r r e c t I n her c o n c l u s i o n t h a t , "on


- 52 -

the whole, t h e n e u t r a l o r f a v o u r a b l e d i s p o s i t i o n toward female


s e x u a l i t y i n p o l y t h e i s t i c r e l i g i o n s comes t o comprise one of t h e
fundamental d i f f e r e n c e s f r o m monotheism"*'. When we t u r n t o the
f i g u r e o f Sophia i n I s r a e l ' s w r i t i n g s we must ask t o »hat e x t e n t she
r e p r e s e n t s an a t t e m p t t o d e a l w i t h t h i s problem.

3. I t might be observed t h a t t h e p i c t u r e we have drawn o f c u l t i c

l i f e i n I s r a e l r e l i e s f o r i t s evidence on p u r e l y p r e - e x l l i c m a t e r i a l s ,

w h i l e t h e f i g u r e o f Sophia i n Proverbs belongs t o a book compiled i n

post-exlllc Israel. Can we be sure t h a t c u l t i c problems d i s c e r n e d i n

pre-exilic I s r a e l had any s i g n i f i c a n c e f o r t h e f o r m a t i o n of a f i g u r e

in t h e time a f t e r the exile? We s h a l l deal w i t h t h i s i s s u e i n p a r t

under our e x a m i n a t i o n o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between Sophia and t h e

Goddesses, b u t f o r t h e moment we may n o t e t h a t within t h e book o f

Proverbs i t s e l f we have a number o f a l l u s i o n s t o the problems of the

p r o s t i t u t e and t h e a d u l t r e s s i n I s r a e l i t e s o c i e t y . Bostrom has argued

t h a t such m a t e r i a l r e f e r s t o t h e c o n t i n u i n g problem of apostasy**, a

view which has found support i n some measure, though not without

modification, from other scholars*'. Indeed, t h i s view may be borne

out by t h e l a t e s t o f t h e major Old Testament prophets, E z e k l e l , who

uses t h e Images o f t h e c u l t i c p r o s t i t u t e and t h e a d u l t r e s s t o address

Judah's abandonment o f pure Jahwism^", While we cannot say w i t h

certainty that t h e same situation prevailed with regard to the

practice of the c u l t after t h e e x i l e as b e f o r e i t , t h e imagery of a

t e x t l i k e Prov 7:4-5 depends v e r y much on an u n d e r s t a n d i n g of such a

situation (efnov xf^v ao(p{av afjv a6eX<pf|v etvav. . . 'i\a ce tripi^ci] hnt

7uvavx6q aWotpiaq, nai novr\p(tc, [Prov 7:4-5]). I n such t h i n k i n g t h e

gender o f Sophia i s o f c o n s i d e r a b l e s i g n i f i c a n c e as a counter t o t h e


-53-

a t t r a c t i o n s of the o t h e r woman, whether or not the t e x t r e s t s on a


p r e - or p o s t - e x i l i c background,

4. Before t u r n i n g t o Sophia h e r s e l f , i t i s Important t o c l a r i f y

one other issue i n r e l a t i o n t o the whole area of Goddess-speculation

and gender r o l e s i n t h e ANE. Although many f e m i n i s t s have p o s i t e d the

i d e a of an a n c i e n t m a t r i a r c h a l s o c i e t y based on the Goddess r e l i g i o n ,

which was l a t e r f o r c e d t o g i v e way to p a t r i a r c h a l s t r u c t u r e s * ' , i t i s

the o p i n i o n o f this author that such s p e c u l a t i o n i s both of little

v a l u e and i s i n s u p p o r t a b l e from the a v a i l a b l e evidence. Pomeroy sums

up the i s s u e s u c c i n c t l y when she writes:

Modern f e m i n i s t s f i n d t h e theory of female dominance


i n r e l i g i o n as w e l l as i n o t h e r areas of p r e h i s t o r i c
c u l t u r e a t t r a c t i v e , as though vrtiat has happened i n the
past c o u l d be repeated i n the f u t u r e . This popular
view i s understandable, s i n c e , i f women were not
s u b o r d i n a t e i n t h e past, we have no i p s o facto proof
t h a t they are so by n a t u r e . . , . However, t o use the
mother goddess theory to draw any conclusions
r e g a r d i n g t h e h i g h s t a t u s of human females of the time
would be f o o l h a r d y . Later r e l i g i o n s , i n p a r t i c u l a r
C h r i s t i a n i t y , have demonstrated t h a t the mother may be
worshiped i n s o c i e t i e s where male dominance and even
misogyny a r e rampant**.

Thus, whatever c o n c l u s i o n s we may l a t e r want t o draw w i t h regard to

the o r i g i n and f u n c t i o n of the f i g u r e Sophia i n I s r a e l , we would be

w e l l advised t o heed t h e c a u t i o n noted i n Pomeroy's r e f l e c t i o n on the

r e l a t i o n s h i p between myth and the r e a l i t y of the s o c i a l s i t u a t i o n .

2.3 WHO I S SOPHIA?

Even f o r t h e most s u p e r f i c i a l reader of Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e i t i s

striking to note the way In which Sophia functions within that

tradition: striking on two counts. Firstly, in the midst of an


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overwhelmlngly patriarchal r e l i g i o n we a r e suddenly presented with a

strongly positive feminine dimension. Secondly, a t the heart of a

faith and t r a d i t i o n deeply committed t o monotheism we a r e presented

with a f i g u r e who appears t o tahe on t h e f u n c t i o n s and a t t r i b u t e s o f

the one God, Yahweh, in a way which one might otherwise have

associated with t h e common exchange o f a t t r i b u t e s between Gods and

Goddesses within the context of p o l y t h e i s t i c rellgionsss. i t is

therefore important t o come t o some k i n d o f understanding of the

r e l a t i o n s h i p which i s p o r t r a y e d as e x i s t i n g between Sophia and Yahweh,

always keeping at the forefront o f our minds t h e c o n t e x t of Jewish

monotheism. At t h e same time we have noted t h e wider context o f

polytheism I n t h e ANE, and so t h e q u e s t i o n o f t h e I n f l u e n c e o f ANE

Goddess f i g u r e s on Sophia i s one which we cannot i g n o r e l i g h t l y , and

we s h a l l r e t u r n t o t h i s l a t e r i n t h e course o f our studys*. F i r s t we

s h a l l ask t h e q u e s t i o n 'Who i s Sophia?' by l o o k i n g a t t h e development

of t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between her and Yahweh i n t h e book of Proverbs, i n

some Apocryphal works and f i n a l l y i n Philo. I n d o i n g so we w i l l be

a t t e m p t i n g t o p r o v i d e a c o n t e x t f o r understanding t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p as

it Impinged upon t h e f i r s t - c e n t u r y C h r i s t i a n a u t h o r s ' understanding o f

the Jesus « God r e l a t i o n s h i p .

2.3.1 SOPHIA AND YAHWEH I N PROVERBS

Apart from a short appearance i n Job 28, t h e b i b l i c a l

appearances o f Sophia are confined t o t h e book o f Proverbs, In

p a r t i c u l a r chapters 1-9. The r e f e r e n c e i n Job 28 probably represents

an early l e v e l o f r e f l e c t i o n and would be b e t t e r c h a r a c t e r i z e d as a

"Hymn t o Wisdom"S5, than as a f o r m a l attempt at personification".


- 55 -

However, I n Proverbs 1 - 9 we f i n d a Sophia who speaks o u t I n her own


r i g h t i n a way elsewhere o n l y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h Yahweh.

A l t h o u g h Sophia appears a t v a r i o u s p o i n t s throughout t h e s e c t i o n

1-9, t h e r e a r e t h r e e main passages i n which she speaks o u t p u b l i c l y :

l:20ff; 8:1-36; 9: I f f . Since t h e opening words o f t h e book (1:1-7)

have e s t a b l i s h e d t h a t " t h e source o f a u t h o r i t y i s Yahweh"^^^ i t i s a l l

the more s u r p r i s i n g to find the figure o f Sophia appearing o n l y a

short time t h e r e a f t e r claiming a s i m i l a r a u t h o r i t y f o r herself. She

is able t o pronounce judgement with e q u a n i m i t y on those who have

refused t o respond t o her words and who choose t o remain I n t h e i r

ignorance (1:22-26). Much o f t h e language o f t h i s passage reflects

the message o f t h e p r o p h e t s , t h e word o f Yahweh, which Sophia now puts

in the f i r s t person^*. Elsewhere i t i s Yahweh who w i l l be sought but

not found (Mich 3:4; I s 1:15), t o whom people w i l l c r y out but n o t be

heard ( J e r 11:11,14), b u t now t h i s has become t h e p r o v i n c e o f Sophia

(Prov 1:28). Again, i n t h e f i n a l i n c i t e m e n t t o respond i n 1:33, we

find that Sophia i s a b l e t o s u p p l a n t Yahweh i n the r o l e of llfe-

givers».

Chapter 8 takes us a s t e p f u r t h e r . Initially i n verses 1-21

Sophia makes promises of great riches, knowledge, happiness and

prosperity t o those who w i l l hear her. I t i s she who speaks 'truth'

( 8 : 7 ) ; i t i s by her a u t h o r i t y t h a t k i n g s and p r i n c e s r u l e (8:15-16), a

power which t h e P s a l m i s t a t t r i b u t e s t o Yahweh (Ps 21:1-2); she I s a l s o

the p r o v i d e r o f good t h i n g s (8:18-21). I t i s , however, i n the verses

f r o m 8 : 2 2 f f t h a t t h e r e a l shock comes, f o r here she c l a i m s a place f o r

h e r s e l f as t h e i n t i m a t e o f Yahweh and as h i s p a r t n e r i n the very a c t

of creation Itself. A d m i t t e d l y she stands i n a s u b o r d i n a t e p o s i t i o n


-56-

t o Yahweh, who 'begat' ( ^ I I J ^ ) * « her, but her p a r t i c i p a t i o n and her


priority a t the act of creation c e r t a i n l y implies a special
r e l a t i o n s h i p between h e r s e l f and Yahweh. T h i s i s borne out by 8: SC-
S I , where she appears as h i s ' s p o r t i n g ' companion I n whom he d e l i g h t s
daily.

Chapter 9 p r e s e n t s y e t another p i c t u r e o f Sophia i n t h e p u b l i c

places, this time o f f e r i n g h e r s e l f t o men and i n v i t i n g them i n t o her

table t o e a t and d r i n k . T h i s passage i s p a r t i c u l a r l y Important f o r

our u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f Sophia, because i t l a y s s t r e s s upon her gender as

an i m p o r t a n t f a c t o r i n t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between her and her f o l l o w e r s .

Her appeal i s based on something which Yahweh cannot o f f e r , namely,

her feminine attractiveness over against t h e woman of f o l l y who

p r o s t i t u t e s h e r s e l f l a t e r i n t h e chapter.

A l l o f t h i s leads us t o q u e s t i o n o f what e x a c t l y t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p

I s between Sophia and Yahweh. The c o n n e c t i o n w i t h l i f e and c r e a t i o n ,

and her role i n relation to the k i n g Immediately raises the

possibility o f some connection with t h e Goddess figures we have

a l r e a d y noted i n t h e s u r r o u n d i n g r e l i g i o u s c u l t u r e , and many attempts

have been made t o t i e Sophia t o one or o t h e r o f them*'. However, when

p l a c e d i n t h e c o n t e x t o f t h e v*iole book, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n view o f 8:22,

she can h a r d l y be viewed as an independent deity.

I n her r e c e n t study o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between Sophia and o t h e r

f e m i n i n e aspects o f t h e book, Camp has emphasised t h e importance o f

the p r o f o u n d symbolism o f t h e f i g u r e , v*»lle a t t h e same time s t r e s s i n g

her f e m i n l n l t y * 2 . s h e acknowledges t h e I n f l u e n c e of c e r t a i n features

of f o r e i g n Goddesses, b u t asks t h e q u e s t i o n as t o "what they meant t o


-57 -

those who d i d t h e b o r r o w i n g and t o t h e i r successors who passed on t h i s


tradition"**. What must be c l e a r i s t h a t they d i d n o t i n t e n d Sophia
t o be seen as an independent d e i t y , o r as a c o n s o r t o f Yahweh.
A d o p t i n g t h e view t h a t Proverbs emerged i n i t s present form from t h e
p o s t - e x i l i c e r a , Camp sees t h e f i g u r e o f Sophia as a t h e o l o g i c a l
j u s t i f i c a t i o n o f "Yahweh's u n i v e r s a l r u l e r s h l p I n wisdom"** I n t h e
c o n t e x t o f a new s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l s i t u a t i o n . The p o w e r f u l
symbolism embodied i n t h e f i g u r e i s , she b e l i e v e s , drawn from I s r a e l ' s
e x p e r i e n c e o f t h e changing f u n c t i o n o f women i n t h a t s o c i e t y , and
becomes a metaphor f o r t h e way i n which t h e d i v i n e Yahweh i s mediated
i n t h e r e a l m o f humanity*s.

Most p r e v i o u s t r e a t m e n t s o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between Sophia and

Yahweh I n Proverbs have tended t o emphasise one of two main proposals:

either, t h a t she i s an h y p o s t a s i s , or t h a t she i s a p e r s o n i f i c a t i o n o f

a divine attribute'*. Camp, however, p r e s e n t s us w i t h Sophia as a

religious symbol e x p r e s s i n g both human experience per se, and human

experience of t h e transcendent, albeit in a personified manner.

Sophia may w e l l express "God's a c t i v e concern I n creation, revelation

and redemption, while at the same time protecting h i s holy

transcendence and wholly otherness"*^, but what Is strikingly

significant i s the f a c t that t h i s was achieved through t h e use o f a

female symbol, which f i n d s her r o o t s t o some e x t e n t i n t h e experience

and i n t e r a c t i o n o f women I n I s r a e l ' s society.

If then we ask, "Who i s Sophia?" i n t h e c o n t e x t o f the book o f

Proverbs, f o r t h e moment we must answer that she i s a symbolic

feminine figure, who, on account primarily o f her gender, r e p l a c e s

Yahweh in a number o f t r a d i t i o n a l r o l e s (creator; giver of life;


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judge; p r o v i d e r ) , w h i l e r e m a i n i n g s u b o r d i n a t e t o him i n terms of her


' begot tenness'. We must now see how t h i s symbol develops i n the l a t e r
p e r i o d o f I s r a e l ' s r e l i g i o u s thought.

2.3.2 SOPHIA AND YAHWEH IM THE APOCRYPHAL LITERATURE

While t h e r e a r e numerous books o u t s i d e t h e l i m i t s of the Old

Testament which are r e l a t e d t o the Wisdom t r a d i t i o n , the f i g u r e o f

Sophia h e r s e l f o n l y r a r e l y makes an appearance comparable w i t h t h a t we

have a l r e a d y noted i n Proverbs. The major t e x t s which concern us i n

t h i s r e s p e c t a r e found i n t h e books o f S i r a c h and Wisdom o f Solomon,

though t h e r e i s a l s o an I m p o r t a n t r e f e r e n c e t o her i n r e l a t i o n t o the

Torah i n t h e book of Baruch. These same books a r e a l s o important

because of t h e i n f l u e n c e they have been shown t o have had on New

Testament w r i t e r s , so I t i s t o them t h a t we w i l l t u r n i n our search

for a clearer definition of the r e l a t i o n s h i p between Sophia and

Yahweh. Before doing so, however, i t i s worth reminding ourselves

that, although Sirach and Wisdom o f Solomon a r e f r e q u e n t l y lumped

t o g e t h e r i n s t u d i e s o f t h i s k i n d , they do emerge from very different

backgrounds, a d d r e s s i n g v e r y d i f f e r e n t audiences.

The Wisdom o f Jesus ben Sirach i s certainly the e a r l i e r book,

dating most probably somewhere between 198-175 BCE*«. I n many

respects the book i s similar t o the b i b l i c a l Proverbs, being a

collection o f t e a c h i n g on t h e r i g h t s and wrongs o f l i f e i n general,

with a note as t o t h e outcome and consequences i n the l i f e o f the

individual. O r i g i n a l l y w r i t t e n i n Hebrew*', the work comes from the

pen o f a Jewish w r i t e r who l i v e d and worked as a s c r i b e i n Jerusalem,

although there i s considerable evidence o f H e l l e n i s t i c i n f l u e n c e '


- 59 -

P o e t i c m a t e r i a l r e l a t e d t o Sophia i s found throughout t h e book [1:14-


20; 4:11-19; 14:20-15:8; 51:13-30], but t h e major focus comes i n t h e
poem o f c h a p t e r 24. I n p a r a l l e l w i t h Proverbs 8, Sophia appears as
the agent o f c r e a t i o n and t h e g i v e r o f l i f e , who comes t o d w e l l i n
I s r a e l , t a k i n g r o o t l i k e a t r e e and o f f e r i n g her f r u i t t o a l l who
hunger and t h i r s t . L i k e Proverbs, we f i n d i n j u x t a p o s i t i o n t o t h i s
the warning a g a i n s t t h e w i l e s o f t h e ' e v i l woman' [ S i r 231 and t h e
e x t o l l i n g o f Sophia's v i r t u e [ S i r 2 4 ] , though i t must be observed t h a t
S l r a c h ' s g e n e r a l a t t i t u d e t o women^* tends toward t h e n e g a t i v e i n a
book which i s " s t r o n g l y m a l e - o r i e n t e d and c h a u v i n i s t i c i n p l a c e s " ' 2 .

What i s most i n n o v a t i v e i n S i r a c h ' s p o r t r a y a l o f Sophia's r o l e i s

the i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f her w i t h I s r a e l ' s Torah i n 24:23. Not o n l y does

she re-appear i n t h e g u i s e we have known from Proverbs, but now she

a l s o comes t o be t h e v e r y embodiment o f t h a t most l a s t i n g symbol o f

Yahweh's w i l l and I n f l u e n c e among t h e people, t h e book o f t h e law.

But this development may turn o u t t o be a two-sided c o i n as f a r as

Sophia i s concerned: on t h e one hand i t can be viewed as a p o s i t i v e

expansion o f t h e i n f l u e n c e o f Sophia i n t h e realm o f t h a t most sacred

p a r t o f I s r a e l ' s r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God. On t h e o t h e r hand, i t may be

seen as a n e g a t i v e move i n r e s p e c t o f Sophia's development, c o n f i n i n g

her, as i t s u r e l y does, t o t h e manageable l i m i t s o f a book.

Why s h o u l d t h i s be so? As we saw i n t h e book o f Proverbs, Sophia

was able t o appear in a symbolic role as t h e presence and all-

pervading power o f God a t work i n c r e a t i o n , v * i i l e remaining 'safely'

within t h e c o n f i n e s o f Yahweh's c o n t r o l . T h i s may have been governed

t o an e x t e n t by t h e s i t u a t i o n i n which t h e book was compiled'*, but by

the time of Sirach's writing, that social, political and r e l i g i o u s


- 60 -

s e t t i n g had r a d i c a l l y changed. When we c o n s i d e r Sirach's very s t r o n g


a t t e m p t s t o d e l i n e a t e t h e sphere of woman's I n f l u e n c e , t o keep her
under male c o n t r o l ' * , we can h a r d l y be s u r p r i s e d a t h i s attempt a l s o
to b r i n g Sophia v e r y c l o s e l y under c o n t r o l , i n t h e most obvious way
a v a i l a b l e : through c o n f i n i n g her t o t h e w e l l - d e f i n e d parameters o f t h e
Torah. T h i s n o t o n l y d i s s i p a t e d any p o t e n t i a l t h r e a t t o monotheism,
but i s i t n o t s i g n i f i c a n t t h a t i t a l s o o b l i t e r a t e d her gender
significance. The p e r s o n a l i s e d symbol i s thus prevented from
d e v e l o p i n g i n d i v i d u a l p e r s o n a l i t y by confinement t o t h e impersonal
concept o f Torah's.

With t h e Wisdom of Solomon we move to a different world

altogether: Israel's religious life i n t h e Diaspora, i n particular

Egypt. Probably w r i t t e n around t h e b e g i n n i n g o f t h e C h r i s t i a n era'*,

the book shows clear signs o f composition i n the p h i l o s o p h i c a l

environment of Alexandria". The work i s "an e x h o r t a t i o n t o pursue

wisdom and thereby to live the righteous life that Issues i n

immortality'"«, and was almost c e r t a i n l y a response t o both internal

and e x t e r n a l pressures caused by t h e need t o m a i n t a i n t h e a t t r a c t i o n ,

of t h e Jewish monotheistic religion i n t h e midst of a s y n c r e t l s t l c

H e l l e n i s t i c environment". The f i g u r e o f Sophia reaches her p i n n a c l e

in t h i s work, being a t once t h e one who c r e a t e s , who saves and who

reveals. She s i t s a t t h e t h r o n e o f God [ 9 : 4 ] and I s loved by him

[8:3]. At t h e same time she has been shown t o manifest many of t h e

attributes ascribed to Isis I n the cults of Alexandria*", as t h e

famous l i s t o f c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s i n 7:22ff shows. Her saving powers a r e

taken f o r granted i n many t e x t s , b u t a r e made e x p l i c i t at least I n

9:18, where t h e people a r e s a i d t o have been 'saved' by Sophia ( x a i xfj


- 61 -

ao<fic} ea(b8T]oro(v). T h i s s a l v i f l c power i s indeed t h e b a s i s o f t h e


r e l n t e r p r e t a t l o n o f I s r a e l ' s h i s t o r y which f o l l o w s i n t h e remarkable
c h a p t e r s 10-11. Here a l l o f t h e g r e a t a c t s of Yahweh, from Adam
through Abraham t o Moses and t h e Prophets, a r e recounted as the a c t s
of Sophia. She has, t o use Johnson's words, "brought about t h e
d e c i s i v e r e v e l a t o r y and l i b e r a t i n g events o f t h e people o f I s r a e l " " .

Clearly i n this book we have moved beyond even the close

identification o f Sophia and Yahweh given by Proverbs and Sirach.

Indeed, t h e two a r e so c l o s e l y r e l a t e d t h a t they may almost be seen as

one. T h i s i s expressed i n passages such as Wlsd 7:25-26, where she i s

described as t h e 'Breath o f God's power', 'an emanation of t h e g l o r y

of the Almighty', ' t h e f l a w l e s s m i r r o r o f t h e a c t i v e power o f God',

and ' t h e image o f h i s goodness'. On the other hand, there still

remains a d i s t i n c t i o n , such as t h e passage where she i s d e p i c t e d "as a

divine consort sitting by God's throne (9;4)."*2 To take these

elements o f Sophia's portrayal s e r i o u s l y we need t o move beyond

traditional s c h o l a r l y c l a s s i f i c a t i o n s o f her as a p e r s o n i f i c a t i o n o f

cosmic order**, didactic wisdom*or of the d i v i n e a t t r i b u t e of

wisdom*^, and indeed beyond seeing her as an h y p o s t a s i s * * . The more

r e c e n t t r e n d i s towards t h e i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f Sophia w i t h t h e c r e a t i v e

and saving involvement o f Yahweh i n the world, as t y p i f i e d by t h e

quotation from Dunn i n section 2.3.1*'. However, although this

viewpoint leads us i n t h e r i g h t direction, i t has n o t y e t g i v e n

sufficient c o n s i d e r a t i o n t o t h e feminine aspect o f t h e f i g u r e Sophia.

Can we r e a l l y speak about an e x c l u s i v e l y male Yahweh who appears I n a

f e m i n i n e g u i s e w i t h o u t seeing him as some k i n d o f t r a n s s e x u a l d e i t y ?

Von Rad certainly recognises a problem with her gender (without

o f f e r i n g any r e a l s o l u t i o n ! ) when he says t h a t Sophia's speeches bear:


- 62 -

. . . a l l t h e marks o f a d i v i n e address. I t resounds


everywhere; i t i s i m p o s s i b l e t o escape i t ; and t h e way
i n which i t p r e s e n t s man w i t h the d e c i s i o n between
l i f e and death i s something l i k e an u l t i m a t u m . Even
the g i f t s which i t promises can o n l y be d e s c r i b e d as
g i f t s o f s a l v a t i o n , and here l i e s t h e problem: an ' I ' ,
who i s c e r t a i n l y n o t Yahweh, b u t who n e v e r t h e l e s s
summons men t o i t s e l f * * .

Johnson, however, responds t o Von Rad's d i f f i c u l t y by o b s e r v i n g : "The

assumption t h a t God can o n l y be r i g h t l y Imaged as male f u n c t i o n s as a

pair of blinders blocking the f u l l significance of the t e x t s " * ' .

Since Yahweh i s an e x c l u s i v e l y male e x p r e s s i o n o f t h e Hebrew God, t h e

assumption I s made t h a t anything which does n o t correspond t o t h a t

maleness must o f n e c e s s i t y be e x p l a i n e d away somehow i n terms o f I t .

If we a r e prepared, however, t o observe with Johnson, that "both

female Sophia and male YHWH express t h e one god who promises l i f e upon

being found"'*, we s h a l l then be a b l e t o move away f r o m a t o o male-

oriented t h e o l o g y , t o a l l o w Sophia t o be what she seems t o be I n the

literature with which we have been dealing: "God herself i n her

a c t i v i t y i n t h e w o r l d , God imaged as female a c t i n g s u b j e c t " " .

Let us pause f o r a moment here t o ask whether such a l i n e of

Interpretation f a l l s into t h e t r a p of imposing a modern i s s u e on t h e

ancient texts. The problem o f a l l o w i n g f o r a c e r t a i n f l u i d i t y i n t h e

gender o f God may indeed be a modern q u e s t i o n , but i n l o o k i n g a t the

f i g u r e o f Sophia as she appears i n Proverbs, S i r a c h and t h e Wisdom o f

Solomon we have also seen that her gender may well have raised

q u e s t i o n s f o r t h e a u t h o r s o f those books. Indeed, when we l a t e r look

at t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between Sophia and t h e ANE Goddesses we s h a l l want

t o u n d e r l i n e t h e importance o f her gender i n t h e e s t a b l i s h m e n t of t h e

God o f I s r a e l as t h e g i v e r o f l i f e , saviour, creator, etc.. Whether


- 63 -

or n o t t h e a u t h o r s o f S i r a c h and Baruch were f u l l y aware of the


consequences o f t h e i r i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f Sophia w i t h Torah, from our
p e r s p e c t i v e we may see t h a t i t had the effect o f l i m i t i n g t h e gender
s i g n i f i c a n c e o f Sophia through t h e means of confinement. By the same
token we may a l s o understand Enoch's w i t h d r a w a l o f Sophia t o t h e
s a f e t y o f a seat i n heaven as a confinement o f her i n f l u e n c e , though
again t h i s may n o t have been t h e p r i m a r y m o t i v a t i o n o f t h e author.
That t h e r e was a f e a r o f a f e m i n i n e expression o f god i n these authors
may n o t y e t be mooted w i t h c e r t a i n t y , but as we t u r n t o P h i l o we may
perhaps see i t more c l e a r l y .

2.3.3 SOPHIA AND PHILO

P h i l o ' s s i g n i f i c a n c e f o r t h e study o f New Testament backgrounds

lies n o t so much i n t h e p o s s i b i l i t y of d i r e c t i n f l u e n c e on the New

Testament w r i t e r s themselves, as I n h i s w i t n e s s t o a p a r t i c u l a r t r e n d

of Jewish p h i l o s o p h i c a l r e f l e c t i o n and s p e c u l a t i o n a t t h e time o f t h e

f o r m a t i o n o f t h e New Testament. We need n o t , then, i n t h i s present

study be over concerned with any p o s s i b l e i n f l u e n c e from Philo's

conception of t h e Logos-Sophia relationship t o God on Johannine

c h r i s t o l o g y , b u t we should see h i s s i g n i f i c a n c e r a t h e r as a p o i n t e r t o

a certain t r e n d i n Sophia s p e c u l a t i o n a t t h e time i n which Johannine

t h i n k i n g was d e v e l o p i n g .

Philo's writings d i s p l a y a "unique blend o f Jewish monotheism

w i t h m i d d l e - P l a t o n i c and S t o i c p h i l o s o p h y " ' ^ . The r e s u l t i n g s y n t h e s i s

of ideas makes i t e x t r e m e l y d i f f i c u l t t o make any d e f i n i t i v e statement

of ' P h i l o ' s view' on a p a r t i c u l a r s u b j e c t . The r e l a t i o n s h i p o f God

and Sophia, or of Logos and Sophia i s no exception to this

observation. I n g e n e r a l , however, P h i l o sees Sophia as belonging t o


- 64 -

the upper realm of the divine Cxoapioq VOT^TO^] , while the Logos

r e p l a c e s her traditional r o l e as God active I n the w o r l d of sensory

perception [xoajioq aia6r]xoc,l. T h i s s w i t c h may very well have come

about as a result of Sophia's gender, a possibility which is

r e i n f o r c e d by P h l l o ' s w i l l i n g n e s s t o a s s e r t t h a t she i s i n a c t u a l f a c t

'male' (.De Fuga 51-52)! He almost i n v a r i a b l y sees the female realm as

something n e g a t i v e or e v i l . As Baer observes, he

. . . e x t e n s i v e l y e x p l o i t s female t e r m i n o l o g y as a
v e h i c l e f o r e x p r e s s i n g h i s widespread d e p r e c i a t i o n of
the created world. . . . The female, sense-
p e r c e p t i b l e , c r e a t e d w o r l d stands as a c o n s t a n t t h r e a t
t o man's e x i s t e n c e ' * .

However, Baer then goes on to argue that P h i l o d i s t i n g u i s h e s two

l e v e l s of t h i n k i n g w i t h regard t o gender s i g n i f i c a n c e , thus a l l o w i n g

him t o conclude t h a t P h i l o sees God as asexual:

P h i l o understands the h i g h e r n a t u r e o f man t o be


asexual, whereas man's lower n a t u r e I s i n v o l v e d i n the
male-female p o l a r i t y . The d e s c r i p t i o n o f man c r e a t e d
a f t e r the image o f God as OUT* (ippev obte OfjXu was
thus seen t o c o n s t i t u t e a d e n i a l o f h i s p a r t i c i p a t i o n
I n t h e sphere o f s e x u a l i t y . When P h i l o r e f e r s t o the
s e n s e - p e r c e p t i b l e w o r l d as female and the realm of the
mind as male, however, i t i s c l e a r t h a t he i s u s i n g
the c a t e g o r i e s male and female q u i t e differently.
A c c o r d i n g t o t h i s second usage, female r e f e r s t o the
m a t e r i a l , s e n s e - p e r c e p t i b l e realm, which i n c l u d e s the
male-female p o l a r i t y , i ^ e r e a s male r e f e r s t o t h a t
r e a l m which i s i n t r i n s i c a l l y asexual. I . e . , the sphere
of t h e nous, the Logos, and u l t i m a t e l y God h i m s e l f .
I t i s i n accord w i t h t h i s second usage t h a t P h i l o i s
a b l e t o d e s c r i b e God as male i n Fug 51'*.

On t h e f a c e o f i t t h i s might seem an a t t r a c t i v e argument, but i t i s

actually something Imposed upon P h i l o r a t h e r than emerging from his

writing. One might be more convinced of the a s e x u a l i t y argument i f

Philo felt free at times to express God's n a t u r e i n female terms


- 65 -

r a t h e r than so e x c l u s i v e l y i n male t e r m i n o l o g y . However, the reverse


i s t h e case: even t h a t most f e m i n i n e of Jewish expressions of God,
Sophia, has t o be crammed i n t o a male s t e r e o t y p e :

For pre-eminence always p e r t a i n s t o the masculine, and


the f e m i n i n e always comes s h o r t of i t and i s l e s s e r
than i t . Let us, then, pay no heed t o the discrepancy
i n the gender of the words, and say t h a t the daughter
of God, even Sophia, i s not o n l y masculine, but
f a t h e r , sowing and b e g e t t i n g i n s o u l s aptness t o
l e a r n , d i s c i p l i n e , knowledge, sound sense and l a u d a b l e
actions. CFuga 51-52]

Looking more closely at this text we may observe two things i n

r e l a t i o n t o our t h e s i s . Firstly, the necessity to underline the

'discrepancy' i n gender and t o s w i t c h i t from female t o male renders

the s u g g e s t i o n that P h i l o sees God as a n y t h i n g but male, t o say the

least, unlikely! Even i f we accept t h e n o t i o n of an " a c t i v e - p a s s i v e

p o l a r i t y " a t work i n P h i l o ' s concept of Sophia, whereby she i s seen as

"female-passive in relationship to God, and male-active in

relationship to man'"*, we are still left with a God who is

essentially male in relation to a female-passive Sophia. I t is

precisely because o f her gender t h a t P h i l o has a problem with Sophia

and r e p l a c e s her f u n c t i o n i n the xdofioq otiaQT\z6q w i t h t h a t of the male

Logos. Thus, t o argue t h a t P h i l o sees Sophia (and God) as asexual i s ,

to use Baer's own words against him, "to misunderstand Philo

completely"'*. Having seen the heights achieved by Sophia in a

writing like Wisdom o f Solomon", P h i l o seems t o have been a f r a i d of

the I n f l u e n c e o f a g o d d e s s - l i k e f i g u r e l i k e I s i s i n f r i n g i n g the male-

monotheism of the p a t r i a r c h a l Y a h w i s t l c r e l i g i o n . He thus c r e a t e s ,

a ' d a i n t y ' Sophia who c o u l d o n l y s u r v i v e i n the


r a r l f i e d a i r of heaven and who needed t o be p r o t e c t e d
from t h e c o n t a m i n a t i o n o f the f l e s h . She i s a f a r c r y
from the Sophia of Proverbs who stands i n the s t r e e t s
-66-

of I s r a e l c a l l i n g o u t t o men t o f o r s a k e t h e whore and


t o d i n e a t her own t a b l e ' * .

Secondly, i t might be argued t h a t t h e change i n t h e gender of Sophia

a t t h i s p o i n t i n Fuga 51-52 r e f l e c t s t h e wider c o n t e x t i n which P h i l o

i s d i s c u s s i n g Bethuel, Rebekah's f a t h e r and thus t h e f a t h e r - i n - l a w o f

the p a t r i a r c h Isaac. I f t h i s I s t h e case, then i t would o n l y serve t o

reinforce the b e l i e f that Philo was conscious of a problem I n

i d e n t i f y i n g a female f i g u r e w i t h a male one, a c o n c l u s i o n which would

have c o n s i d e r a b l e s i g n i f i c a n c e f o r our o b s e r v a t i o n s on the s i m i l a r

problem f a c i n g New Testament w r i t e r s i d e n t i f y i n g Jesus w i t h Sophia.

What we may be s e e i n g i n P h l l o ' s o u t w o r k i n g o f the r e l a t i o n s h i p

between God and Sophia i s a r e a c t i o n a g a i n s t t h e I n c r e a s i n g freedom,

typified by Wisdom o f Solomon, o f e x p r e s s i n g God's a c t i v i t y i n the

w o r l d i n f e m i n i n e terms through t h e use o f t h e f i g u r e Sophia. To an

e x t e n t P h l l o would o n l y be c o n t i n u i n g a t r e n d we have a l r e a d y h i n t e d

a t I n S i r a c h and Baruch, namely t h e l i m i t a t i o n o f Sophia t o t h e Torah,

and i n Enoch's w i t h d r a w a l of her i n t o t h e heavenly realm. However,

P h t l o appears t o take this t r e n d much more r a d i c a l l y forward i n two

ways. Firstly, he removes Sophia effectively from the w o r l d and

c o n f i n e s her t o t h e realm o f t h e d i v i n e . We f i n d this, f o r example,

in h i s d e s c r i p t i o n of the g i v i n g of the tabernacle as a 'copy'

()jL{piima) o f Sophia:

When God w i l l e d t o send down t h e image o f d i v i n e


e x c e l l e n c e from heaven t o e a r t h i n p i t y f o r our race,
t h a t i t should n o t l o s e i t s share i n t h e b e t t e r l o t ,
he c o n s t r u c t s as a symbol o f t h e t r u t h t h e h o l y
t a b e r n a c l e and i t s c o n t e n t s t o be a r e p r e s e n t a t i o n and
copy o f Wisdom. [QuisRer 1121
-67 -

Thus Sophia i s n o t sent i n t o t h e w o r l d , b u t a mere r e p r e s e n t a t i o n o f


her i n t h e f o r m o f t h e t a b e r n a c l e . We a l s o f i n d t h a t i n s t e a d o f
Sophia descending i n t o t h e w o r l d t o i m p a r t her g i f t s . I t i s the Logos
who comes on h e r b e h a l f :

The D i v i n e Word (6 Setoq Xbyoq) descends from t h e


f o u n t a i n o f Wisdom l i k e a r i v e r t o l a v e and water t h e
heaven-sent c e l e s t i a l shoots and p l a n t s o f v i r t u e
l o v i n g s o u l s which a r e as a garden. [DeSomn 11,242]

T h i s process o f keeping Sophia i n t h e upper realm o f t h e xoCTjioq vontoq

leads Mack t o comment:

Die Sophia s t e l l t a l s o d i e a u B e r w e l t l l c h e SphSre des


H e l l s dar. D.h., s i e i s t n i c h t mehr d i e nahe
W e i s h e i t , sondern t r i t t vielmehr samt I h r e n Gaben i n
das J e n s e i t s und w l r d f a k t i s c h a l s d i e verborgene
verstanden. . . . D i e Weisheit v e r k O r p e r t nunmehr den
kosmos n o e t o s " .

Secondly, P h i l o attempts t o remove Sophia's gender s i g n i f i c a n c e by

calling her 'male''*", and by denigrating a l l that i s female by

a s s o c i a t i n g a l l t h e f e m i n i n e species w i t h t h e c r e a t e d , e v i l , material

world. We f i n d this, f o r example, i n h i s r e f l e c t i o n s on t h e c r e a t i o n

and f a l l accounts:

P l e a s u r e does n o t v e n t u r e t o b r i n g her w i l e s and


d e c e p t i o n s t o bear on t h e man, but on t h e woman, and
by h e r means on him. T h i s i s a t e l l i n g and well-made
p o i n t : f o r i n us mind (voOq) corresponds t o man, t h e
senses CaXaQ^ax.c,') t o woman; and p l e a s u r e encounters
and h o l d s p a r l e y w i t h t h e senses f i r s t , and through
them cheats w i t h her quackeries t h e s o v e r e i g n mind
itself. [OpMund 1651

Philo thus makes every effort to strip Sophia o f her feminine

influence, largely because o f h i s a n t i p a t h y toward t h a t gender group

and h i s i n h e r e n t sense o f t h e supremacy o f a l l t h a t I s male, i n c l u d i n g


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God ' h i m s e l f , We may, t h e r e f o r e , conclude w i t h Engelsmann t h a t the


"growing t e n s i o n between Yahweh and Sophia . . . appears t o have been
r e s o l v e d by r e p r e s s i o n . . . ( I n ) t h e w r i t i n g s o f P h i l o " " ' .

2.3.4 COWCmSIONS

We have noted a developing relationship expressed between

Sophia and God i n Jewish l i t e r a t u r e l e a d i n g up t o t h e New Testament

era. From her b e g i n n i n g s i n Proverbs through t o her p i n n a c l e i n t h e

Wisdom of Solomon, Sophia increasingly takes on roles otherwise

attributed t o t h e male f i g u r e , Yahweh, i n t h e Jewish t r a d i t i o n . In

answer t o the q u e s t i o n "Who I s Sophia?" i n r e l a t i o n t o Yahweh, f o r the

moment we would r e p l y t h a t she appears t o be a f e m i n i n e expression of

God a c t i v e i n the w o r l d , who seems t o f u n c t i o n I n an e q u i v a l e n t manner

to t h a t more n o r m a l l y a s s o c i a t e d i n the Old Testament w i t h the male

e x p r e s s i o n o f God, Yahweh. At l e a s t i n Wisdom of Solomon she i s n o t

pictured as dependent upon, or subordinate t o Yahweh, but i s q u i t e

simply a feminine a l t e r n a t i v e t o the t r a d i t i o n a l expression of God,

who even i n t h e same book can e q u a l l y be c a l l e d male. We have seen

that this seems t o have caused problems f o r those accustomed t o an

exclusively male-symboled theology, i n particular the Alexandrian

p h i l o s o p h e r , P h i l o , and t h a t I t probably l e d t o attempts t o r e p r e s s or

subdue her I n f l u e n c e on Jewish s p e c u l a t i o n . I n P h i l o ' s case a t l e a s t ,

t h i s was n o t so much due t o a concern f o r the maintenance of s t r i c t

monotheism, but more to the problem of her gender, a claim

s u b s t a n t i a t e d by h i s n o t i n g t h e 'discrepancy' of gender between Sophia

and God i n Fuga 51. However, we are g l a d t o note that, despite a l l

e f f o r t s t o remove her, Sophia s u r v i v e d i n some form, even i n P h l l o !


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2.4 "WHAT I S SHE?"

Having attempted p r o v i s i o n a l l y t o answer t h e q u e s t i o n "Who is

Sophia?", we must now t u r n t o t h e second part o f our d e l i b e r a t i o n ,

"What i s she?". By t h i s we mean t o i n v e s t i g a t e t h e e x t e n t t o which

extraneous i n f l u e n c e s , i n p a r t i c u l a r those o f t h e ANE Goddess c u l t s we

have noted, a f f e c t e d the formation of the f i g u r e as she appears i n

Jewish Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e . T h i s w i l l h e l p us t o understand t h e e x t e n t

t o which h e r gender was s i g n i f i c a n t i n Jewish s p e c u l a t i o n , f o r while

Philo's intentions may be more e x p l i c i t with r e g a r d t o t h e gender

s i g n i f i c a n c e o f Sophia, we have y e t t o e s t a b l i s h t h a t s i g n i f i c a n c e i n

the w i d e r spectrum o f Jewish thought. We s h a l l t h e r e f o r e proceed t o

examine t h e v a r i o u s I n f l u e n c e s which may have l e d t o the e s t a b l i s h m e n t

of h e r prominence i n t h e c e n t u r i e s l e a d i n g up t o h e r ' f i n a l flourish'

i n t h e book o f Wisdom.

2.4.1 THE GENDER SIGNIFICANCE OF SOPHIA

U n l i k e our own language, t h e languages of the B i b l i c a l world

and w r i t i n g s i n d i c a t e gender as p a r t o f t h e i r grammatical s t r u c t u r e .

Such languages do "Invite personification"^. that I s , by t h e

allocation o f gender t o abstract concepts o r inanimate o b j e c t s they

allow for the possibility of personalising them. For a

polythelstically inclined r e l i g i o u s group t h i s opens up a marvellous

vista of p o s s i b i l i t i e s : f o r m o n o t h e i s t i c Judaism i t proved r a t h e r a

headache! We see t h i s perhaps most c l e a r l y i n t h e case under study,

the female figure o f Sophia. We s h a l l briefly note the l i n g u i s t i c

background b e f o r e proceeding t o an examination o f t h e way i n which


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c e r t a l n f e a t u r e s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h ANE Goddesses may have accrued t o t h e


d e v e l o p i n g p i c t u r e o f t h e f i g u r e we have noted i n Jewish t r a d i t i o n .

2.4.1.1 LINGPISTIC REMARKS

The group o f words u s u a l l y translated from the various

Semitic languages and d i a l e c t s by t h e E n g l i s h word 'Wisdom' a r e a l l

feminine i n gender. As Fohrer correctly remarked, " t h e common

translation 'wise', 'wisdom' I s u n f o r t u n a t e and t o a l a r g e degree

inexact"»<", t h i s being t r u e n o t o n l y o f the Hebrew usage, but a l s o o f

o t h e r languages, s i n c e t h e v a r i o u s words denote a much wider semantic

f i e l d than i s n o r m a l l y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h our word 'Wisdom'.

The two B i b l i c a l terms o f note f o r our present study are the

Hebrew word T1^Z)T\ , and i t s LXX e q u i v a l e n t aoifia. The Hebrew

f o r m i s a f e m i n i n e noun from t h e r o o t HOT) and covers a v a r i e t y o f

meanings from technical 'skill* in military operations or

administration, through 'shrewdness' or 'prudence' in religious

m a t t e r s , t o a ' d i v i n e a t t r i b u t e ' , which seems t o i n c l u d e a whole range

of meaning In Itself'"*. I t I s from this final meaning that the

personalising process begins, particularly i n t h e Proverbs texts we

have noted. The LXX c o n s i s t e n t l y t r a n s l a t e s Tl^OTl with aotpia^"^,

d e s p i t e t h e d i f f i c u l t i e s i n c o m p a t i b i l i t y between t h e Greek and Hebrew

concepts*'*. I n both languages, however, t h e f e m i n i n e gender p r o v i d e s

an i d e a l v e h i c l e f o r c r e a t i n g a f i g u r e who i s a t one and the same time

a l l u r i n g t o men and an a p p r o p r i a t e 'consort' f o r t h e d i v i n e .

The nearest e q u i v a l e n t t o these biblical terms i n the e x t a n t

literature o f t h e ANE i s probably the Egyptian term MAAT, but t h i s

word covers an even wider semantic range.


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Maat i s r i g h t o r d e r i n n a t u r e and s o c i e t y , as
e s t a b l i s h e d under t h e a c t o f c r e a t i o n , and hence
means, a c c o r d i n g t o t h e c o n t e x t , what i s r i g h t , what
i s c o r r e c t , law, o r d e r , J u s t i c e and t r u t h " ' .

MAT i s c l e a r l y understood as f e m i n i n e , as w i t n e s s t h e p e r s o n i f i c a t i o n

and r e p r e s e n t a t i o n o f her as Goddess o f Law, T r u t h and Justice*»«.

Despite the n e u t r a l i t y o f t h e E n g l i s h word 'Wisdom', we may see

f r o m t h i s b r i e f survey t h a t t h e S e m i t i c and Greek terms consistently

apply t h e f e m i n i n e gender t o t h e e q u i v a l e n t concept. This fact will

be seen t o have no mean b e a r i n g on t h e emergence o f a female f i g u r e

a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h a t concept I n t h e b i b l i c a l tradition.

2.4.1.2 SOPHIA AND THE GODDESS

The gender o f t h e vocabulary may be an i m p o r t a n t f a c t o r , but

i t cannot alone convince us o f any gender s i g n i f i c a n c e a t t a c h e d t o t h e

f i g u r e who appears i n Proverbs and t h e subsequent tradition. Other

influences must surely have been a t work to create a figure who

reaches the s t a t u r e o f Sophia i n t h e Wisdom o f Solomon. The most

obvious and most f r e q u e n t l y i n v e s t i g a t e d p o s s i b l e source o f I n f l u e n c e

i s t h e ANE Goddess, who appears i n many and v a r i e d forms. Amongst t h e

most vigorously pursued of these female deities have been t h e

Canaanlte and E g y p t i a n f i g u r e s , and each o f these we w i l l review i n

turn. B e f o r e embarking on such a survey, however, i t i s prudent t o

re-emphasise t h e caveat, that evidence of parallels between ANE

d e i t i e s and Sophia, o r even d i r e c t i n f l u e n c e upon t h e f o r m a t i o n o f t h e

Jewish figure, does n o t n e c e s s a r i l y determine o r r e s t r i c t meaning i n

that which has been I n f l u e n c e d . The Jewish Sophia will ultimately

have t o s t a n d on h e r own i n t h e Jewish c o n t e x t .


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2.4.1.2.1 SOPHIA AND THE CANAAHITE GODDESSES

The argument f o r the I n f l u e n c e of Canaanite d e i t i e s on the

Jewish f i g u r e o f Sophia has been put most c o g e n t l y by W.F.Albright*"

and G. Bostrom*10. Albright i d e n t i f i e d a S e m i t i c Goddess of the v i n e ,

whom he took t o be an e q u i v a l e n t of J s A t a r * " . T h i s Goddess, as we

saw i n our e a r l i e r survey*'2, descended t o the underworld and then

returned, or was e l e v a t e d by her consort, t o heaven, a fact which

A l b r i g h t compares t o Sophia's appearance by descending i n t o the w o r l d .

F u r t h e r evidence of Canaanite i n f l u e n c e i s found i n the Aramaic Words

of Ahiqan "[Wisdom] is from the Gods, and to the Gods she is

precious; f o r e v e r her kingdom i s f i x e d i n heaven, f o r the h o l y Lord

e l e v a t e d her"'* 3. T h i s I s taken t o show t h a t Wisdom was known as a

Goddess o u t s i d e o f I s r a e l . In addition, A l b r i g h t f i n d s that Proverbs

8:9 "swarms w i t h words and e x p r e s s i o n s o t h e r w i s e found o n l y i n such

Canaanite texts as the Ugaritic tablets and the Phoenician

inscriptions"***. A l l of this he sees as a background to the

emergence o f Sophia i n Proverbs, while recognising that the Hebrew

writers have subordinated her to Yahweh and Interpreted her in a

symbolic manner.

Already i n 1947, Ringgren noted some o f the problems of such a

viewpoint, not least the fact that Ishtar i s never i d e n t i f i e d with

wisdom i n t h e myth, and that she descends t o the underworld rather

than to the earth, as i n Sophia's case* * ^. T h i s c r i t i q u e has been

taken further by others, notably Whybray*** and Lang**'. A re-

e x a m i n a t i o n o f Proverbs 8 - 9 has shown A l b r i g h t ' s c l a i m s o f Canaanite

i n f l u e n c e t o be g r o s s l y exaggerated***, j u s t as f u r t h e r Investigation

of t h e A h l q a r t e x t has shown t h e a d o p t i o n of the word 'Wisdom' a t the


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openlng of t h e statement t o be q u e s t i o n a b l e ' " . Rlnggren r i g h t l y


comments t h a t t h e r e may be c e r t a i n "phenomenologlcal p a r a l l e l s " * ^
but t h e r e I s l i t t l e evidence o f a d i r e c t l i n e of I n f l u e n c e .

Bostrora adopted a slightly different approach to Albright. He

perceived i n Sophia a polemic against the w o r s h i p of A s t a r t e , the

Canaanite f e r t i l i t y Goddess'^'. He i d e n t i f i e d t h e 'strange woman' o f

Proverbs 1-9 as a worshipper of Astarte, with whom t h e f i g u r e of

Sophia is deliberately contrasted. Sophia, therefore, takes on

certain characteristics of t h e Goddess i n o r d e r t o be a conscious

option t o draw people away from the c u l t of the foreign Goddess.

Among these c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s transferred t o Sophia are, the B r i d e * ^ z ,

and the p r a c t i c e of s e l f - g l o r i f y i n g hymnology*23. Rlnggren follows

Bostrom most o f t h e way, but sees the 'strange woman' as an Israelite

who has become a devotee of the A s t a r t e / I s h t a r cult, rather than a

foreigner*2*. Both McKane'^s Whybray*^' q u e s t i o n t h i s , but still

a l l o w t h a t t h e r e has been some I n f l u e n c e of a g e n e r a l n a t u r e from t h e

Canaanite A s t a r t e / I s h t a r t r a d i t i o n s on the f o r m a t i o n of the f i g u r e of

Sophia. Referring t o Bostrom's t h e o r y , Whybray suggests t h a t i t may

rather have been t h e u n i v e r s a l temptation of adultery which brought

out t h e symbol o f t h e ' s t r a n g e woman', and sums up t h e i s s u e thus:

It was natural that in the polytheistic and


s y n c r e t i s t i c m i l i e u of the a n c i e n t near e a s t , where
even i n I s r a e l t h e c u l t o f t h e goddess of l o v e cannot
have been e n t i r e l y u n f a m i l i a r , t h i s theme should have
expressed i t s e l f p a r t l y i n her imagery*27.

Thus, w h i l e t h e r e i s no s y s t e m a t i c p r e s e n t a t i o n o f t h e f e a t u r e s of the

Canaanite Goddess in the Proverbial picture of Sophia, there is

nevertheless sufficient evidence to suggest that features of her


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mythology were I m p o r t a n t i n Sophia's f o r m a t i o n , a t l e a s t a t the l e v e l


of Proverbs 1 - 9 . The two I m p o r t a n t f e a t u r e s i n t h i s respect would
be her s e l f - p r e d l c a t o r y speeches and the c a l l t o take her as a b r i d e
f o r o n e s e l f (Prov 4:6,8-9). These i n f l u e n c e s are probably no more
than would have been n a t u r a l i n a Jewish c u l t u r e surrounded by the
p o l y t h e i s t i c r e l i g i o n s o f Canaan. They do n o t , however, c o n s t i t u t e
p r o o f t h a t Sophia was h e r s e l f viewed as some form o f Goddess.

2.4.1.2.2 SOPHIA AND EGYPTIAN GODDESSES

There can be no doubt t h a t I s r a e l i t e Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e was

I n f l u e n c e d a t many p o i n t s by t h e much o l d e r and more h i g h l y developed

literature of the E g y p t i a n wisdom schools. While with the idea of

Canaanite I n f l u e n c e , A l b r i g h t was forced to postulate a hypothetical

corpus o f l i t e r a t u r e from t h a t c u l t u r e , due t o a complete absence o f

sources* 2«, in the case of Egyptian wisdom such material Is to

hand*2». The two principle female deities suggested as possibly

i n f l u e n t i a l i n t h e f o r m a t i o n o f Sophia s p e c u l a t i o n from t h i s r e g i o n o f

the ANE are MAAT and Isls. We shall look at each of these

p o s s i b i l i t i e s i n turn.

2.4.1.2.2.1 SOPHIA AND MAAT

The most thorough study of t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between

Sophia and MAAT has been undertaken by C r i s t a B a u e r - K a y a t z * . She

c o n t i n u e s t h e work a l r e a d y begun by Donner, s u g g e s t i n g a d i r e c t link

between MAAT and Sophia on the b a s i s o f t h e above-mentioned Ahlqar

fragment, which he saw as something of a missing link*3*. Kayatz

a v o i d s some o f t h e c r i t i q u e l a t e r l e v e l l e d a t D o n n e r * b y suggesting

that the E g y p t i a n MAAT i n f l u e n c e came a t a much e a r l i e r time than was


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p r e v i o u s l y presumed. She draws o u t numerous p a r a l l e l s between MAAT


and Sophia, among which t h e f o l l o w i n g a r e t h e most n o t a b l e .

MAAT, like Sophia, was instrumental i n the act of creation,

existing before the world began (Prov 8:22ff)*33. s h e was t h e

plaything of the great God, Re-Atum, just as Sophia sported a t

Yahweh's s i d e i n Prov 8:30*3*. Sophia I s the g i v e r and the guardian

of l i f e , b e i n g d e s c r i b e d as a ' g a r l a n d ' worn around t h e neck of her

disciples <Prov 1:9; 6:21), and i n s i m i l a r f a s h i o n , we f i n d t h a t MAAT

was d e p i c t e d on both amulets and chains hung around t h e necks o f the

chief Judges i n Egypt* ^s. Kayatz i s n o t so much i n t e r e s t e d I n the

idea of a literary dependence between t h e Jewish and Egyptian

writings, but much more i n t h e r o l e t h a t t h e two f i g u r e s play i n t h e

wider t r a d i t i o n o f t h e i r i n d i v i d u a l schools. These r o l e s a r e seen t o

be s i m i l a r , i n t h a t both MAAT and Sophia a r e a " c e n t r a l concept which

embraces God, the world and humanity, and draws into a unity,

t h e o l o g i c a l , c o s m o l o g l c a l and paedagoglcal thought and w l l l * ^ * ,

Kayatz n o t o n l y i n d i c a t e s t h e p o i n t s o f s i m i l a r i t y between Sophia

and MAAT, but also acknowledges t h e fundamental difference, that

Sophia i s never a l l o w e d t o m a i n t a i n t h e measure o f independence and

preeminence w i t h i n Yahwism which MAAT enjoys i n E g y p t i a n thought*'^.

Of course, she i s d e a l i n g o n l y w i t h t h e e a r l i e s t Sophia t r a d i t i o n i n

Proverbs, rather than following through the l i n e o f development t o ,

f o r example, Wisdom o f Solomon. As we s h a l l see, however, t h a t i s a

proper approach, s i n c e t h e l a t e r Jewish t r a d i t i o n i s almost c e r t a i n t o

have been much more a f f e c t e d by l a t e r E g y p t i a n thought than directly

by t h e a n c i e n t MAAT^^".
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The problems w i t h Kayatz's approach and s o l u t i o n t o the r i d d l e o f


Sophia's o r i g i n s have again been t h o r o u g h l y o u t l i n e d , most r e c e n t l y by
C l a u d i a Camp*^': t h e p o s s i b i l i t y o f a much more g e n e r a l ANE background
than t h a t a f f e c t e d by MAAT f o r many o f t h e f e a t u r e s found I n Sophia;
the l a c k o f evidence f o r a p e r s o n i f i e d MAAT i n E g y p t i a n Wisdom
w r i t i n g s ; t h e over-emphasis on MAAT m a t e r i a l s as a u n i f y i n g f o r c e i n
Proverbs 1 - 9 ; t h e problem o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between a Sophia
I n f l u e n c e d by MAAT I n Prov 8 and t h e f i g u r e i n Prov 1:20-33, which
Kayatz sees as untouched by t h e E g y p t i a n i n f l u e n c e . However, w h i l e
a c c e p t i n g t h e f a c t t h a t d i r e c t dependence has n o t been e s t a b l i s h e d ,
t h e r e remains t h e o v e r a l l i m p r e s s i o n t h a t the a u t h o r s or r e d a c t o r s o f
Proverbs must a t l e a s t have been aware o f t h e k i n d o f background which
MAAT o f f e r e d . Given t h e c l e a r i n d i c a t i o n s we have of Egyptian
i n f l u e n c e i n Proverbs* •<>, i t i s h a r d l y outrageous t o suggest t h a t they
knew o f t h e s i g n i f i c a n c e o f MAAT as a concept, and as a Goddess f i g u r e
i n Egypt. T a k i n g I n t o account t h e P r o v e r b i a l w r i t e r s ' consciousness
of E g y p t i a n Wisdom t r a d i t i o n and acknowledging t h e s i m i l a r i t y o f t h e
t r a d i t i o n s mentioned and examined i n d e t a i l by Kayatz, Mack and
o t h e r s , l e a d s us t o p o s i t a t l e a s t an awareness o f MAAT background i n
the minds o f t h e Jewish a u t h o r s as t h e f i g u r e o f Sophia developed
w i t h i n t h e Jewish t r a d i t i o n up t o t h e p o i n t o f Proverbs. What i s
s i g n i f i c a n t f o r us a t t h e moment i s t h e f a c t t h a t they p e r s i s t e d I n
d e v e l o p i n g an o v e r t l y f e m i n i n e Sophia i n t h e f a c e o f the 'dangers' o f
f o r e i g n Goddesses, o f which they were s u r e l y aware***.

2.4.1.2.2.2 SOPHIA AND ISIS

Of a l l t h e v a r i o u s ANE Goddesses mooted as a p o s s i b l e

background t o t h e u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e development o f Sophia, t h e most


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w i d e l y acknowledged and advanced has been t h e E g y p t i a n I s i s * * ^ .


V a r y i n g degrees o f i n f l u e n c e have been proposed, but o n l y r a r e l y has
an a t t e m p t been made t o deny a l t o g e t h e r an I n f l u e n c e o f some k l n d * * ^ .
Perhaps t h e g r e a t e s t d i f f i c u l t y has been encountered by those seeking
a d i r e c t i n f l u e n c e a t an early stage I n I s r a e l ' s Sophia s p e c u l a t i o n .
Hengel i s a b l e t o show e a r l y t r a c e s o f an I s l s - A s t a r t e r e l a t i o n s h i p i n
Palestine* , b u t has t o admit t h a t a c o n n e c t i o n w i t h Proverbs " i s
still u n c e r t a i n " * * 5. However, more c o n v i n c i n g m a t e r i a l has been
brought t o l i g h t c o n c e r n i n g S i r a c h and more e s p e c i a l l y t h e Wisdom o f
Solomon.

As e a r l y as 1937, Knox proposed an I s l s i n f l u e n c e on t h e f i g u r e

of Sophia i n S i r a c h * * * . He saw I n S i r a c h 24 " t h e answer o f orthodox

Judaism" t o those finding i t "hard to resist the a t t r a c t i o n s of

Isis"**^. His study pointed out the f l e x i b i l i t y and a d a p t a b i l i t y o f

Isls, i n particular i n relation t o her i n f l u e n c e on the Syrian

Astarte, which i n t u r n he b e l i e v e d t o have i n f l u e n c e d t h e p i c t u r e o f

Sophia. The wandering quest of I s i s has been a l t e r e d t o present a

Sophia who comes down t o e a r t h and searches o u t her d i s c i p l e s , w h i l e

i n d u l g i n g i n s e l f - p r a i s e "modelled on I s i s o f t h e aretalogy"**«.

The Wisdom of Solomon represents the pinnacle of Sophia

s p e c u l a t i o n i n pre-Gnostic c i r c l e s * * ' , and a t t h e same time has shown

the g r e a t e s t a f f i n i t y to Isis traditions. Both B u r t o n Mack'^o and

James Reese* s* have d e a l t w i t h t h i s i n some d e t a i l , but i t has again

been thoroughly rehearsed i n recent times by J.S.Kloppenborg*^2.

While acknowledging t h e v a l u e o f some of Reese's work, Kloppenborg

asserts that "what i s required I s not a l o t of p a r a l l e l terms and

titles but a demonstration that complete configurations of


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s p e c i f l c a l l y Isiac-mythologumena a r e m i r r o r e d I n Wisdom"*s'. He does


not doubt t h a t Wisdom o f Solomon owes a g r e a t deal t o o l d e r b i b l i c a l
t r a d i t i o n s , b u t a t t h e same time s t r e s s e s t h a t i t "goes f a r beyond t h e
t r a d i t i o n a l t o p o i * s * o f Wisdom i n Proverbs, Job and S l r a c h " * ^ ^ . of
p a r t i c u l a r importance I s t h e p a r a l l e l i s m between Sophia and I s i s i n
t h e i r r o l e as Saviour*s*, a r o l e n o t s p e c i f i c a l l y a t t r i b u t e d t o Sophia
I n o t h e r e a r l i e r Wisdom w r i t i n g s . Kloppenborg shows how t h e saving
a c t s o f Sophia I n Wisdom 9-10 have been chosen n o t so much f o r t h e i r
p l a c e i n t h e t r a d i t i o n a l H e l l s g e s c h i c h t e o f I s r a e l , but r a t h e r because
they a r e " i n c i d e n t s which a r e p r e c i s e l y o f t h e s o r t over which I s l s
a l s o had c o n t r o l " * = Two examples o f such i n c i d e n t s a r e t h e

r e f e r e n c e t o t h e g u i d i n g o f Noah's a r k <Wisd 10:4), which "corresponds

c l o s e l y t o one o f I s i s ' major competences, t h e p r o t e c t i o n and g u i d i n g

of s a i l o r s " * s«, and her support o f t h e r i g h t e o u s man i n p r i s o n <Wisd

10:14), which " I s closely paralleled by Isls' promise to save

p r i s o n e r s when they pray f o r her presence"*^».

Kloppenborg goes on to show strong links between Sophia's

relationship with the k i n g i n Wlsd 6:1 - 9:17 and the s i m i l a r

f u n c t i o n s o f Isls**«. Both r e p r e s e n t t h e d i v i n e power by which t h e

king comes t o power and rules, and by which he sustains that

p r o s p e r i t y and l o n g e v i t y one a s s o c i a t e s w i t h a good k i n g . Both Sophia

and I s i s a r e i n t i m a t e s o f God and t h e k i n g . He sums up:

The mythic power which informed E g y p t i a n i d e o l o g y i s


c a p t i v a t e d and transformed f o r Judaism, e n a b l i n g Jews
t o m a i n t a i n themselves i n an atmosphere o f I n t e n s e
r e l i g i o u s and p o l i t i c a l propaganda*'*.

His final section reflects on t h e reason f o r this transformation,

o u t l i n i n g t h e s o c i a l s e t t i n g i n t o v*»ich t h e work was addressed**^. in


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the end, t h e f i g u r e of Sophia f u n c t i o n s as both a s t i m u l u s t o Jews


s u f f e r i n g under pagan a t t a c k , and as an a p o l o g e t i c designed t o a l l o w
f o r "communication w i t h t h e dominant group t o whose p r i v i l e g e s and
p o s i t i o n A l e x a n d r i a n Jews a s p i r e d " * * ' .

By attempting to outline areas of function which correspond,

rather than c o n c e n t r a t i n g on mere verbal or l i n g u i s t i c overlaps,

Kloppenborg has achieved a s i g n i f i c a n t m e t h o d o l o g i c a l breakthrough i n

d e a l i n g w i t h t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between t h e ANE Goddess and Sophia. He

has also rooted t h i s i n a plausible sociological analysis. What i s

i m p o r t a n t f o r our p r e s e n t s t u d y i s n o t vi*iether he i s c o r r e c t i n every

detail of h i s analysis, but that he has c o n c l u s i v e l y shown the need

f o r a Jewish w r i t e r t o c o u n t e r t h e c l a i m s o f a w i d e l y known Goddess by

the use o f a c o r r e s p o n d i n g symbol from within his own t r a d i t i o n : that

is, by u s i n g t h e o v e r t l y f e m i n i n e f i g u r e o f Sophia. Indeed, i t i s h e r

gender t h a t makes Sophia t h e most a t t r a c t i v e choice as a c o u n t e r p a r t

to Isls, thus adding considerable weight t o our p r o p o s i t i o n that

gender was a s i g n i f i c a n t i s s u e i n r e l a t i o n t o Sophia i n p r e - C h r i s t i a n

Jewish thought.

2.4.1.2.3 THE GODDESS IN PHILO

We have already noted the d i f f i c u l t y which Philo

experienced with t h e gender o f Sophia and h i s e f f o r t s t o c o n f i n e h e r

to t h e r e a l m o f t h e xoofioq vor\x6c,. We must b r i e f l y now e x p l o r e t h e

Influence that t h e Goddess f i g u r e , i n particular Isis, e x e r c i s e d on

his view o f Sophia even i n that upper realm. This influence was

already recognised by Goodenough***, who also connects Phllo's

u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f Sophia t o t h a t o f t h e Wisdom o f Solomon:


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Sophia as an e q u i v a l e n t o f t h e Logos-stream i s by now


so f a m i l i a r i n P h i l o h i m s e l f t h a t t h e c o n c e p t i o n o f
Sophia i n Wisdom can be accepted as a predecessor o f
a t l e a s t a l a r g e p a r t o f t h e P h i l o n i c Logos"*

Since we have a l r e a d y r e c o g n i s e d t h e i n f l u e n c e o f I s i s on t h e Sophia

of Wisdom o f Solomon, we may see a l r e a d y how P h l l o was caught up i n

the process.

However, we do a l s o have more d i r e c t evidence o f I s l s Influence

on h i s Sophia f i g u r e . Perhaps t h e best example comes i n P h l l o ' s use

of t h e t i t l e "many-named" <7ioX.u(ivufjioq) t o d e s c r i b e her i n LegAll 1,43:

"By using many words f o r i t Moses has a l r e a d y made i t manifest that

the sublime and heavenly Wisdom i s o f many names (itoXutovu^ov)". This

was an e p i t h e t f r e q u e n t l y used o f I s l s * * * , though P h l l o can a l s o use

it o f Sophia's o t h e r m a n i f e s t a t i o n i n the world, t h e Logos, i n DeConf

146'.

But i f t h e r e be any as y e t u n f i t t o be c a l l e d a Son o f


God, l e t h i m p r e s s t o take h i s p l a c e under God's
f i r s t - b o r n , t h e Word (Xbyoq), who h o l d s t h e e l d e r s h i p
among t h e angels, t h e i r r u l e r as i t were. And many
names (itoXut&vujiov) a r e h i s , f o r he i s c a l l e d , ' t h e
B e g i n n i n g ' , and t h e Name o f God, and h i s Word, and t h e
Man a f t e r h i s image, and 'he t h a t sees', t h a t i s
Israel.

There are also some parallels between Philo's Sophia and t h e

a c c l a m a t i o n o f I s i s as t h e Goddess o f t h e Sun. While I s l s can c l a i m :

"I divided the earth from t h e heaven. I showed t h e paths o f t h e

stars. I o r d e r e d t h e course o f t h e sun and moon"**', i t can be s a i d

of Sophia: "Wisdom i s God's a r c h e t y p a l luminary and t h e sun i s a copy

and image o f i t " (DeMigr 40). Then again. Mack a l s o sees i n t h e

relationship between Sophia and Logos i n Philo an echo of the

mythology of I s i s and Horus, whereby t h e Logos becomes Sophia's


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r e p r e s e n t a t i v e i n t h e w o r l d i n a s i m i l a r way t o t h a t i n which Horus,


the son o f I s i s , comes upon e a r t h * * * . We f i n d a l s o , f o r example, t h a t
Sophia can be r e c o g n i s e d as t h e mother o f t h e Logos, i n Fuga 108-109,
t h r o u g h t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p o f t h e High P r i e s t :

We say, then, t h a t t h e High P r i e s t i s not a man, but a


Divine Word and immune from a l l unrighteousness
whether i n t e n t i o n a l o r u n i n t e n t i o n a l . . . because he
i s t h e c h i l d o f p a r e n t s i n c o r r u p t i b l e , and w h o l l y f r e e
from s t a i n , h i s f a t h e r being God, who i s l i k e w i s e
Father o f a l l , and h i s mother Wisdom (^irjtpdq 6^
aoq)ta<;), through whom the universe came into
existence. DeFuga 108-109

T h i s , a l o n g w i t h many o t h e r examples he i s a b l e t o b r i n g , leads Mack

t o conclude t h a t P h i l o has sought t o c o n t i n u e t h e t r a d i t i o n o f Jewish

Wisdom s p e c u l a t i o n by a d o p t i n g t h e I s i s myth t o f i t Sophia:

Die weisheltllche Aussagen Uber d i e Welt a l s


Schbpfung, Gott a l s ewlgen und gerechten Lenker und
Herrscher der Welt entsprechen Segyptischen
Anschauungen, insbesondere Uber die Funktlonen
d e r j e n l g e n Megyptlschen G o t t h e l t e n , d i e h i n t e r der
W e i s h e i t stehen. Die A n z l e h u n g s k r a f t der Megyptlschen
V o r s t e l l u n g e n war o f f e n s l c h t l l c h so groS, daB neue
Mythologumena der G t i t t l n I s l s s t f i n d l g und zunehmend
zur ErgSnzung der Weisheitsgestalt i n die
W e l s h e l t s s p e k u l a t l o n eingedrungen s i n d . . . . Und
doch wurde das I s r a e l l t i s c h - J U d i s c h e Erbe damit n i c h t
prelsgegeben. Denn d i e Verwendung von V o r s t e l l u n g e n
aus der fiegyptlschen M y t h o l o g l e z i e l t gerade darauf
ab, den Jtldlschen Gottesgedanken zu bewahren, d i e
Werke Gottes zu v e r s t e h e n , und den Anspruch Gottes an
I s r a e l zu htiren. Eben d a r i n besteht das Anliegen der
j U d l s c h e n W e l s h e l t s s p e k u l a t i o n * *».

Thus we see t h a t P h i l o , c o n t i n u i n g , as he b e l i e v e d , t h e l i n e of Jewish

Wisdom s p e c u l a t i o n , a l s o depended l a r g e l y on an ANE Goddess f i g u r e f o r

t h e shaping o f h i s own Sophia* ^<».


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2.4.1.3 COWCLUSIOMS

There can be l i t t l e doubt from our b r i e f summary o f the

proposed ANE Goddess I n f l u e n c e on t h e development o f Sophia, t h a t such

Influence, whether i t be o f I s h t a r / A s t a r t e , MAAT o r I s i s , has Indeed

shaped t h e form of the f i g u r e t o some degree by t h e time of the

writing o f Wisdom o f Solomon and P h l l o . This I s n o t t o deny that

Sophia i s rooted firmly i n Israel's own t r a d i t i o n , nor does i t

indicate t h a t t h e r e was ever any I n t e n t i o n t h a t Sophia should be seen

as a Goddess f i g u r e i n competition with Yahweh. There remains no

evidence o f a Wisdom c u l t i n I s r a e l : "No worship i s o f f e r e d t o Wisdom;

Wisdom has no p r i e s t s i n I s r a e l " * ' * . The i n t e n t i o n was i n f a c t quite

the o p p o s i t e , t o p r o t e c t Jewish monotheism from t h e t e m p t a t i o n o f f e r e d

by t h e Goddess c u l t s , and i n p a r t i c u l a r t h e h i g h l y syncretistic cult

of Isls. While t h e evidence of direct Influence on t h e e a r l y

Proverbial Sophia may s t i l l be scanty, t h e l a t e r development shows

that t h e need was keenly felt t o meet t h e Goddess head on w i t h a

female f i g u r e from a Jewish p e r s p e c t i v e who c o u l d a l s o be I d e n t i f i e d

w i t h God. T a k i n g t h e known I n f l u e n c e o f E g y p t i a n Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e on

Israel i n t o consideration, we may reasonably propose t h a t the l a t e r

t r a d i t i o n i s merely t h e c o n t i n u a t i o n o f a process begun a l r e a d y I n t h e

Sophia o f Proverbs, b u t o f which direct evidence i s simply n o t

available. One t h i n g i s c e r t a i n : Sophia's gender was one o f t h e most

i m p o r t a n t reasons f o r her a d o p t i o n as a counter t o the Goddess c u l t s .

2.4.2 HYPOSTASIS; PERSOMIFICATIOK; WHAT I S SHE?

So we r e t u r n t o t h e question "What i s Sophia?" i n terms o f

Jewish monotheism. Clearly she i s i d e n t i f i e d w i t h Yahweh, but i s n o t


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Yahweh: c l e a r l y a l s o she has many f e a t u r e s associated with the


Goddesses o f t h e ANE, y e t she i s n o t h e r s e l f a Goddess. The two major
hypotheses t r a d i t i o n a l l y p u t f o r w a r d w i t h r e g a r d t o her r e l a t i o n s h i p
w i t h Yahweh have suggested e i t h e r t h a t she I s an h y p o s t a s i s or t h a t
she i s a p e r s o n i f i c a t i o n . We s h a l l o f f e r some r e f l e c t i o n s on each o f
these b e f o r e a t t e m p t i n g a c l o s e r d e f i n i t i o n .

The o p i n i o n t h a t Sophia i s an hypostasis o f a d i v i n e a t t r i b u t e o f

Yahweh, namely she i s God's Wisdom acting as a separate entity

ultimately identical with Yahweh, has been proposed on numerous

occasions*'2. However, part o f t h e problem with such a view, as

indeed with the idea of p e r s o n i f i c a t i o n , i s that a l o t depends on

whether we a r e t a l k i n g about t h e Sophia i n Proverbs, i n Sirach, In

Wisdom o f Solomon o r I n P h i l o . For as we have a l r e a d y noted, t h e r e i s

a development i n t h e p i c t u r e o f Sophia from t h e e a r l i e s t manifestation

in the Proverbial tradition through t o t h e l a t e r streams o f thought.

I n a s s e s s i n g t h e i d e a o f Sophia as an h y p o s t a s i s , Lang suggests t h a t

most attempts have presupposed that "Zoroastrianism has influenced

Judaism, and P e r s i a n hypostases p r o v i d e d the models f o r t h e hypostases

of Jewish theology"*^'. Much more l i k e l y i s the proposition that,

because of t h e 'otherness' o f God and t h e consequent shyness o f

s p e a k i n g t h e name o f God, words such as Sheklnah and Memra were used

in an a p p a r e n t l y h y p o s t a t i c way i n i t s place. But these were " n o t

c o n s i d e r e d s e p a r a t e beings d w e l l i n g i n heaven"*'*, and c e r t a i n l y n o t

so i n t h e e r a when t h e P r o v e r b i a l f i g u r e o f Sophia was developed. In

Proverbs she remains a c r e a t i o n o f Yahweh, a l b e i t one who i s s a i d t o

s p o r t a t h i s s i d e , and i t i s o n l y much l a t e r I n Wisdom of Solomon t h a t

she achieves a h i g h e r s t a t u s , r e p l a c i n g Yahweh's a c t i o n w i t h her own.


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The o n l y p l a c e where we might agree t h a t Sophia came near t o t r u l y


f u n c t i o n i n g as an h y p o s t a s i s i s i n the work o f P h i l o , who through h i s
Sophia/Logos i n t e r c h a n g e p l a c e s her I n a k i n d o f mediatory p o s i t i o n
between t h e xdo^ioc, vorjxoq and t h e x6afioq a*iaeT)Toq*'*.

The concept o f Sophia as a personification is more appealing, a t

least i n the e a r l i e r strands of t r a d i t i o n . Lang notes two types o f

personification, poetic and mythological*'*. The poetic

personification merely gives a kind of personality t o an abstract

concept, f o r example, i n t h e way t h a t Jerusalem becomes Z i o n , who can

be said t o have daughters that rejoice (Zech 2:10)! The second,

mythological type, grew o u t o f powers o r realms o f t h e d e i t y , which

were p e r s o n a l i s e d t o t h e p o i n t o f becoming d e i f i e d themselves. Lang

believes that t h e Sophia o f t h e Proverbs speeches r e f l e c t s such a

background, b u t t h a t t h e m y t h i c a l f i g u r e o f t h e Goddess, vrtilch stands

behind her, has been s t r i p p e d o f f leaving a 'shadow', v ^ i c h retains

some o f h e r d i v i n e features'". Thus, a l t h o u g h she i s no l o n g e r a

deity herself, now as a poetic personification she stands as a

unifying element f o r t h e book as a w h o l e * C a m p a l s o notes this

u n i f y i n g e f f e c t o f p e r s o n i f i c a t i o n when she says:

We can c o n t r a s t t h e wisdom expressed w i t h varying


c o n t e n t and i n independent u n i t s i n t h e proverb
c o l l e c t i o n w i t h t h e more u n i f i e d , i n t e g r a t e d focus o f
the p e r s o n i f i e d Wisdom o f t h e poems. The p e r s o n i f i -
c a t i o n o f Wisdom serves t o c a l l a t t e n t i o n t o the u n i t y
of t h e 'wisdoms' which i t r e p r e s e n t s and f o r which i t
speaks*".

While t h i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f Sophia as a p e r s o n i f i c a t i o n accords well

with the material c o n c e r n i n g her i n t h e book o f Proverbs, and t o some


- 85 -

extent that of Sirach, i t s t i l l remains inadequate as a measure of her


i n Wisdom o f Solomon***.

We have observed that Sophia reaches the pinnacle of her

development i n t h e book o f Wisdom. Here she n o t o n l y speaks on behalf

of God, b u t speaks a s God. The h i s t o r y of Israel's salvation at

Yahweh's hand i s r e t o l d with Sophia a t t h e helm. T h i s i s no mere

hypostasis or personification, but I s r a t h e r a f u l l - b l o w n expression

of God a t work i n the world, i n t h e l i v e s o f i n d i v i d u a l s and i n t h e

history of I s r a e l , using female imagery. God speaks and a c t s as

Sophia, j u s t as she c o u l d a l s o speak and a c t as Yahweh. There i s no

s e r i o u s a t t e m p t t o c o n f i n e her a c t i o n o r t o l i m i t t h e scope o f her

power. I n Wisdom o f Solomon, Sophia i s e f f e c t i v e l y God i n f e m i n i n e

form, e q u i v a l e n t t o t h e more common Jewish e x p r e s s i o n o f God i n t h e

masculine form, Yahweh.

2.5 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIOHS

Throughout t h e course o f t h i s chapter we have noted an ongoing

development i n t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between Sophia and God from t h e time

of her e a r l i e s t appearance i n Proverbs t o that i n t h e Wisdom o f

Solomon a t t h e b e g i n n i n g o f t h e C h r i s t i a n era. I n the f i r s t instance

we surveyed the religious climate i n which the e a r l i e s t figure of

Sophia emerged and developed. We saw i n t h e Goddesses of the

fertility c u l t s a preoccupation with t h e need t o express a f e m i n i n e

element as an e s s e n t i a l component o f t h e annual m i r a c l e o f c r e a t i v i t y ,

which was t h e u n i v e r s a l experience of the agrarian s o c i e t i e s of the

ANE. T h i s need was most commonly expressed i n a m i r r o r image of t h e

human r e p r o d u c t i v e process t r a n s f e r r e d into t h e realms o f d e i t y and


-86-

possibly also reflected i n the c u l t l c practice through ritual


p r o s t i t u t i o n and t h e idea o f t h e S a c r a l Marriage. We saw t h a t t h i s
c y c l e must have posed a problem t o t h e people o f I s r a e l , because of
the insistence on a m o n o t h e i s t i c understanding o f Yahweh, t h e
p a t r i a r c h a l God, who alone c r e a t e d and alone s u s t a i n s the w o r l d
around. T h i s seemed t o deny both t h e i r experience o f t h e m i r a c l e o f
human renewal and t h e contemporary m y t h o l o g i c a l order.

We then went on t o ask t h e q u e s t i o n , "Who i s Sophia?". I n doing

so we t r i e d always t o keep i n mind t h e n a t u r e o f I s r a e l ' s r e l i g i o n as

monotheistic a t l e a s t i n p r i n c i p l e i f n o t always i n p r a c t i c e . I n her

i n i t i a l appearance i n Proverbs Sophia was seen as a symbolic f i g u r e i n

female g u i s e , who took on some o f the r o l e s t r a d i t i o n a l l y associated

w i t h Yahweh, w h i l e r e m a i n i n g q u i t e c l e a r l y w i t h i n h i s c o n t r o l . At the

same time, when we asked t h e q u e s t i o n "What i s She?", we saw t h a t i t

would be f o o l i s h t o deny c o m p l e t e l y the p o s s i b i l i t y that the symbol

was drawn t o a degree f r o m t h e r e l i g i o u s environment i n v*iich I s r a e l

lived: t h a t i s , t h e r e was p r o b a b l y a t l e a s t some element o f borrowing

from ANE Goddess s p e c u l a t i o n . T h i s use o f m a t e r i a l from contemporary

religious circles, however, i n no way implied that there was an

a t t e m p t t o copy t h e Goddess r e l i g i o n s i n terms o f s e t t i n g up a Sophia

cult i n Israel. Rather, i t served somewhat as a counter t o them,

which may be r e f l e c t e d i n t h e c o n t r a s t between Sophia and Dame F o l l y

in Proverbs 1-9. While monotheism was i n no way threatened by

Sophia's appearance i n Proverbs, we did s t i l l note that i n her

appearance l a y the p o s s i b i l i t y of t h e beginnings of a feminine

e x p r e s s i o n o f God w i t h i n I s r a e l ' s t r a d i t i o n , who i s c e r t a i n l y n o t t h e

t r a d i t i o n a l p a t r i a r c h a l God, Yahweh!
-87 -

Moving t o t h e book o f S i r a c h , we saw two t h i n g s : f i r s t l y , t h e


development o f Sophia's r o l e as c r e a t r l x , g i v e r o f l i f e and s u s t a i n e r
of those who accepted her a f t e r her s e t t l i n g on e a r t h , moving beyond
the i n i t i a l s t e p s o f t h e f i r s t person speeches i n Proverbs 1 and 8.
Secondly, i n t h e I d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f Sophia w i t h Torah, t h e beginnings
of what we suggested might be an attempt t o suppress the gender
s i g n i f i c a n c e o f Sophia and t o d e f i n e her parameters. While we c o u l d
not f u l l y s u b s t a n t i a t e t h e consciousness o f such suppression i n t h e
mind o f t h e a u t h o r , t h e p o s s i b i l i t y was heightened by t h e o b s e r v a t i o n
of t h e n e g a t i v e , m a l e - c h a u v i n i s t i c a t t i t u d e towards women presented i n
the book as a whole. Such an a t t i t u d e was noted i n an even more
e x p l i c i t f o r m i n t h e works o f P h i l o . Again, w i t h S i r a c h 24, t h e
l i k e l y i n f l u e n c e o f Goddess f e a t u r e s was noted i n t h e p i c t u r e o f
Sophia, i n p a r t i c u l a r those o f A s t a r t e , who may h e r s e l f have been
heavily dependent on I s i s , who by t h a t p e r i o d was i n f l u e n t i a l
throughout t h e e n t i r e Greco-Roman w o r l d .

The Wisdom o f Solomon p r o v i d e d us w i t h both an unrestricted

p i c t u r e o f Sophia as God h e r s e l f a t work i n the l i f e and s a l v a t i o n -

h i s t o r y o f I s r a e l , and w i t h a c l e a r view o f t h e manner i n which pagan

Goddess i n f l u e n c e may a c t u a l l y have worked i n Sophia's development.

She was seen t o be almost i n d i s t i n g u i s h a b l e from God (Wisd 7:25-26),

and a t one and t h e same time q u i t e distinct i n her f u n c t i o n (Wisd

9:4). As t h e Saviour o f both Israel c o l l e c t i v e l y and o f t h e

individual, and i n h e r r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h t h e k i n g , she c l e a r l y took on

configurations of I s i s , b u t i n d o i n g so d i d n o t succumb t o t h e danger

of b e i n g swallowed up by I s i s i n t o a f o r m o f Independent Goddess

worship. Rather, the assimilation of traits of I s i s was best


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e x p l a i n e d as propaganda a g a i n s t such a c h a l l e n g e and as an a p o l o g e t i c


f o r Jewish r e l i g i o n i n a s y n c r e t i s t i c h e l l e n l s t i c s o c i e t y .

With r e g a r d t o the A l e x a n d r i a n p h i l o s o p h e r P h l l o , we saw that he

too sought t o use t h e f i g u r e o f Sophia w i t h i n the c o n t e x t of Jewish

monotheism. However, t h i s usage was a l s o h e a v i l y i n f l u e n c e d both by

his Platonic base and his understanding of the nature of human

sexuality. This probably l e d him t o withdraw Sophia l a r g e l y t o the

upper r e a l m o f the xbajioq voircoq, r e p l a c i n g her f u n c t i o n i n the x6ajioq

a\aQr\i6q by t h e work of t h e Logos. P h i l o ' s Sophia comes c l o s e s t t o

the category traditionally defined as hypostasis, and her form is

influenced greatly by the Goddess I s i s . However, P h i l o i s a t g r e a t

pains to o b l i t e r a t e any cultlc i n f l u e n c e by removing or transmuting

her sexuality, on a t l e a s t one occasion even making her male i n s t e a d

of female. This is effectively done i n terms o f her role i n the

x6<jjjioq axaQj]x6(^ by the s u b s t i t u t i o n of the male Logos.

Our survey has attempted to provide us with a context for

understanding the Fourth Gospel's use of Sophia s p e c u l a t i o n i n the

process of christological reflection. The s u b j e c t i s by no means

unrehearsed in scholarly circles, but despite that, very little

attention has been p a i d t o the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the gender of Sophia.

T h i s p r e s e n t s t u d y has y i e l d e d f o u r p o i n t s of note i n t h i s respect.

1. The initial relationship of Sophia w i t h the God of Israel

depends t o an unescapable degree upon her femininity. I t i s no mere

coincidence that Sophia was chosen as an e x p r e s s i o n of God active i n

the world: on the contrary, i t was precisely because her gender


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a l l o w e d f o r t h e e x p r e s s i o n of God i n a new way, i n a new world t h a t


the f i g u r e o f female Sophia was chosen. Although we cannot say so
w i t h c e r t a i n t y , i t may even have f u n c t i o n e d i n i t i a l l y a l s o as an
a p o l o g e t i c o v e r - a g a i n s t t h e Goddess c u l t s o f Canaan, i n which case the
f e m i n i n e charms o f Sophia were o f fundamental importance. Certainly
the p i c t u r e o f Sophia as a woman c a l l i n g out i n the s t r e e t s f o r men t o
come t o her, i n Proverbs, i s one which r e s t s upon a t r a d i t i o n a l view
of t h e female o f t h e s p e c i e s h o l d i n g c e r t a i n a t t r a c t i o n s f o r the male!
Her j u x t a p o s i t i o n t o t h e a r c h e t y p a l 'loose woman', Dame F o l l y , bears
t h i s out. I n a d d i t i o n , i t i s worth n o t i n g i n r e l a t i o n t o the f i g u r e
i n Proverbs, t h a t the emphasis on her r o l e as c r e a t r l x and g i v e r of
l i f e may a l s o owe something t o her gender. Ochshorn has suggested
t h a t t h e Genesis c r e a t i o n accounts r e f l e c t a c e r t a i n d e n i g r a t i o n o f
the r o l e o f female s e x u a l i t y and i t s r e l e g a t i o n t o a secondary
p o s i t i o n , by p r e s e n t i n g a k i n d of asexual a c t o f c r e a t i o n which a l l o w s
f o r t h e emergence o f a male, n o n - r e p r o d u c t i v e God'**. I f t h e r e I s any
t r u t h i n t h i s c l a i m , then Sophia's appearance i n the r o l e of a s s i s t a n t
at t h e time o f c r e a t i o n t o some e x t e n t redresses the balance, could
have o f f e r e d a c o u n t e r t o t h e f e r t i l i t y c u l t s o f Canaanlte r e l i g i o n ,
and would have gone some way towards meeting t h a t need f o r a ' f e m i n i n e
dimension' w i t h i n the d i v i n e o r d e r which was almost u n i v e r s a l l y f e l t
o u t s i d e o f I s r a e l ' s t r a d i t i o n i n t h e ANE.

2. The feminine gender of Sophia is vital to a proper

understanding o f her role i n t h e Wisdom of Solomon. I n order t o

counteract t h e I n f l u e n c e and attraction of I s i s to hellenistic Jews,

it must have seemed e s s e n t i a l t o present a feminine dimension of the

divine within Israel, who showed t h a t the s a l v i f l c function ascribed


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t o I s i s I n t h e c u l t was i n f a c t t h e p r o p e r t y o f God, who expressed


h e r s e l f i n t h e form o f Sophia. I n t h a t s i t u a t i o n , t h e r e f o r e , Sophia
i s n o t a s u b o r d i n a t e o f Yahweh, or even a c o n s o r t , but i s i n f a c t an
a l t e r n a t i v e mode o f d i v i n e s e l f - r e v e l a t i o n . . Sophia i s God h e r s e l f
o v e r - a g a i n s t I s i s , and i n t h i s r o l e her gender i s o f inescapable
Importance. J u s t as Yahweh i s an e x p r e s s i o n o f t h e one God (male), so
too Sophia i s an e x p r e s s i o n o f t h e one God (female).

It i s worth asking at this point whether or n o t the m a t e r i a l

c o n c e r n i n g Sophia i s merely t o be seen as a s i m p l e use o f metaphor.

We r e c o g n i s e , o f course, t h a t a J J language c o n c e r n i n g God i s t o some

extent metaphorical, attempting as i t does to express the

inexpressible within t h e c o n f i n e s o f human thought p a t t e r n s . Sophia

is no more an exception to this rule than i s t h e more common

expression o f God within Judaism, Yahweh. However, since we have

attempted t o show t h a t Sophia's presence i n Proverbs, Sirach and t h e

Wisdom of Solomon comes about precisely because of her gender, as a

c o u n t e r t o t h e o t h e r Goddess f i g u r e s , we would argue here t h a t she i s

not merely a means of t a l k i n g about God, who i s really male, but

r a t h e r an e x p r e s s i o n o f who God i s i n her very being.

I n t a l k i n g about t h e a s s i m i l a t i o n o f Sophia t r a d i t i o n s w i t h i n New

Testament christology, Hengel remarks t h a t " o f course the concept o f

'Sophia', which was always t h r e a t e n e d by m y t h o l o g i c a l s p e c u l a t i o n , had

t o g i v e way t o t h e c l e a r 'Logos', the Word o f God"'*^. Unfortunately

Hengel falls t o go on t o i n d i c a t e why Logos might be ' c l e a r e r ' than

Sophia - a c l a r i t y which s t i l l s eludes New Testament s c h o l a r s t o t h i s

day! What he a l s o o m i t s t o t e l l us i s t h a t t h e very reason why Sophia

was ' t h r e a t e n e d ' by contemporary mythology was because of her gender.


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the i m p l i c a t i o n o f h i s statement being t h a t Logos was ' s a f e r ' because


i t was a masculine term**^.

The inability ( o r u n w i l l i n g n e s s ) o f Judaic thought t o express God

in anything other than masculine terms seems t o have left a

credibility gap between experience (of creation, reproduction, etc.)

and Old Testament t h e o l o g y . The expression o f God i n feminine terms

through t h e use of t h e f e m i n i n e f i g u r e Sophia o f f e r s , and we b e l i e v e

offered to t h e wisdom writers, an opportunity t o overcome this

problem, however t h r e a t e n i n g t h a t may have been o r may remain. Thus,

w h i l e Sophia s p e c u l a t i o n c o n t a i n s as much o f a m e t a p h o r i c a l c h a r a c t e r

as that concerning Yahweh, we would contend t h a t she a l s o r e p r e s e n t s

the reality o f God's being as l e g i t i m a t e l y and s i g n i f i c a n t l y as does

Yahweh.

3. There appear t o have been attempts t o l i m i t the s i g n i f i c a n c e

of Sophia's gender, most notably on the part of Philo, but also

through t h e a s s o c i a t i o n o f Sophia w i t h Torah i n S i r a c h and Baruch'**.

The very fact that P h i l o found i t necessary t o mention the gender

s i g n i f i c a n c e o f Sophia i n De Fuga 52, p o i n t s t o t h e c o n c l u s i o n that

Sophia was n o t p e r c e i v e d as a merely asexual metaphor, but t h a t her

gender was p e r c e i v e d as Important. The manner o f her appearance i n

Jewish Wisdom w r i t i n g s may have r a i s e d f e a r s t h a t i n some way t h e male

deity, Yahweh, and w i t h h i m monotheism, might be compromised or even

'subverted'! Her gender s i g n i f i c a n c e was t h e r e f o r e s u f f i c i e n t l y well

e s t a b l i s h e d t o need some form o f ' c o u n t e r a c t i o n ' .

4. I n answer t o our q u e s t i o n , "Who i s Sophia, what i s She?", a

lot will depend on w/ien we ask i t . At t h e time o f the w r i t i n g o f


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Proverbs she i s p r o b a b l y J u s t t o be seen as a p o e t i c p e r s o n i f i c a t i o n


of God's Wisdom. However, by t h e time t h a t Wisdom o f Solomon was
w r i t t e n , t h e b e g i n n i n g o f t h e C h r i s t i a n e r a , we f i n d t h a t she has
developed i n t o a f u l l - b l o w n e x p r e s s i o n o f God i n female terminology,
coterminus w i t h t h e t r a d i t i o n a l male e x p r e s s i o n , Yahweh. What i s
i m p o r t a n t f o r our p r e s e n t t h e s i s i s t h e f a c t t h a t she has achieved
t h i s s t a t u s before t h e New Testament w r i t e r s began t o draw upon her
image f o r t h e i r own u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f Jesus C h r i s t . Since her gender
was an i s s u e which c a l l e d f o r mention and probably even f o r some
concern i n Jewish w r i t e r s , how would t h e New Testament w r i t e r s r e a c t
t o t h e problem o f i d e n t i f y i n g t h e female Sophia w i t h the male Jesus?
I t i s t o t h i s problem, and i n p a r t i c u l a r t o t h e s o l u t i o n p r o v i d e d by
the a u t h o r o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel t h a t we must now t u r n our a t t e n t i o n .
CHAPTCR THREE

SOPHIA AND THE JOHANNINE JESUS

3.1 JESUS - THE WISDOM OF GOD

There can be l i t t l e doubt t h a t one o f t h e e a r l i e s t significant

images used by t h e C h r i s t i a n Church t o h e l p d e f i n e t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p o f

Jesus t o God was t h e Jewish figure o f Wisdom. While Paul, t h e

S y n o p t i c s and t h e author o f Hebrews may s p r i n g t o mind as t h e c l e a r e s t

examples o f t h e d i r e c t a d o p t i o n o f Wisdom as a ' C h r i s t i a n ' category,

the author o f John was no l e s s I n t e r e s t e d i n this aspect o f Jesus'

r e l a t i o n s h i p t o God*. I t may r i g h t l y be s a i d t h a t Jesus o n l y thought

of h i m s e l f as a messenger o f Wisdom^, b u t i t i s n e v e r t h e l e s s c l e a r

that t h e New Testament writers applied t h e concept o f Wisdom I n

varying degrees directly t o Jesus and u l t i m a t e l y saw i t as an

appropriate v e h i c l e f o r expressing the pre-exlstence of Christ^. What

i s perhaps most remarkable i s n o t t h e f a c t t h a t these w r i t e r s thought

of Jesus as t h e embodiment o f God's Wisdom, b u t t h a t they f e l t a b l e t o

t a k e over what we have seen t o be an e n t i r e l y feminine image i n both

the Old Testament and l a t e r Jewish writings, and apply i t without

apparent d i f f i c u l t y d i r e c t l y t o t h e masculine f i g u r e , Jesus. I t might

have been open t o q u e s t i o n whether these a u t h o r s were conscious of a

problem a t t h i s p o i n t , o r whether they merely regarded t h e gender o f

Jesus or Wisdom as unimportant i n t h e quest f o r an adequate

chrlstology*, b u t our l a s t chapter has shown t h a t a t l e a s t f o r some

Jewish w r i t e r s o f t h e e r a Immediately b e f o r e and spanning the w r i t i n g

of t h e New Testament, t h e gender o f Sophia was i m p o r t a n t as an i s s u e

i n t h e d i s c u s s i o n o f her r o l e . I n t h i s chapter we hope t o demonstrate

that t h e q u e s t i o n o f gender i s n o t l i g h t l y passed over, a t l e a s t by

the a u t h o r o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel, b u t i s r a t h e r o f g r e a t s i g n i f i c a n c e
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especlally i n r e l a t i o n t o the adoption o f t h e Xbyoq motif i n the


Prologue.

Before a t t e m p t i n g to tackle the Johannine approach t o Jesus and

Wisdom, we s h a l l f i r s t l y give a very b r i e f summary o f the ways i n

which those o t h e r New Testament a u t h o r s who make a l l u s i o n t o Wisdom,

partly through t h e use o f a p r e - e x i s t e n c e motif, namely Paul, t h e

S y n o p t i c s and t h e w r i t e r t o t h e Hebrews, deal w i t h the subject. We

shall then proceed t o a c l o s e examination o f the r e l a t i o n s h i p between

oo(pxa and Xdyoc, i n t h e Prologue t o t h e F o u r t h Gospel, and t h e e f f e c t

t h i s has on Johannine c h r i s t o l o g y as a whole.

3.1.1 JESUS AMD WISDOM IN PAOL

While Paul i s largely critical of the kind of Wisdom

speculation prevalent i n Hellenistic-Jewish c i r c l e s of h i s day^, he

nevertheless identified Jesus with t h e Wisdom tradition. He both

adopted e a r l y C h r i s t i a n hymns based p a r t l y on Wisdom s p e c u l a t i o n ' , and

used traditions associated with Wisdom to express his own

c h r i s t o l o g i c a l viewpoint^. I t may even be t h a t Paul's a d o p t i o n of t h e

Wisdom theme came about because o f i t s use by h i s opponents (probably

Gnostics) i n Corinth. Certainly this i s t h e s u g g e s t i o n o f Dunn i n

r e l a t i o n t o t h e r e f e r e n c e t o C h r i s t as t h e Wisdom o f God i n 1 Cor 1-2.

He t h i n k s t h a t t h e emphasis on God's Wisdom d i s p l a y e d i n the death and

resurrection o f Jesus C h r i s t , foolishness t o Paul's opponents, may

possibly have been "provoked by t h e wayward e l i t i s m o f t h e C o r i n t h i a n

'gnostic' faction"*.

It I s quite doubtful t h a t Paul adopted these t r a d i t i o n s i n order

t o p r o j e c t a d o c t r i n e o f t h e p r e - e x i s t e n c e o f C h r i s t , but a t the same


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tlme, he wants t o make c l e a r , t h a t what t r a d i t i o n has c a l l e d the


Wisdom o f God i s now made m a n i f e s t i n the man Jesus, and i s known
through h i s l i f e , death and r e s u r r e c t i o n ' . There i s no attempt on
Paul's p a r t t o mould t o g e t h e r s p e c i f i c a l l y the p e r s o n i f i e d f i g u r e of
Sophia and t h e man Jesus: r a t h e r , Paul was one of those e a r l y
C h r i s t i a n s who "were r a n s a c k i n g the vocabulary a v a i l a b l e t o them i n
order t h a t they might express as f u l l y as p o s s i b l e the s i g n i f i c a n c e of
Jesus"»<>. I t i s t h u s h a r d l y s u r p r i s i n g t h a t Paul should have seen no
problem i n t h e i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f a male c h a r a c t e r w i t h a t r a d i t i o n a l l y
female one, s i n c e the q u e s t i o n o f an incarnation of Sophia I n Jesus
does not form p a r t o f h i s t h i n k i n g .

3.1.2 JESUS AND WISDOM IN THE SYWOPTIC TRADITICTI

With the Synoptic Gospels we move into both a different

g e n e r a t i o n and a d i f f e r e n t genre. The e a r l i e s t Gospel, Mark, c o n t a i n s

almost nothing of significance f o r our study**, but the two later

Gospels both contain material which relates Jewish Wisdom to the

figure of Jesus himself*2. Interestingly enough, most of this

material comes from the sayings source Q^^, although the two

evangelists have different attitudes to their treatment of the

material, Matthew in particular altering i t to give his own

interpretation. A n a l y s i s o f the u n d e r l y i n g Q t e x t s has shown t h a t the

source d i d not i d e n t i f y Jesus as Sophia h e r s e l f , but saw him as the

messenger and teacher of Wisdom**. Luke l a r g e l y r e t a i n s t h i s notion,

though with his own particular n u a n c e s * w h i l e Matthew in every

i n s t a n c e amends h i s source t o make Jesus speak i n the p l a c e of Sophia

herself and n o t merely as a messenger r e l a t i n g her message. The most

obvious example of Matthew's method comes i n Mt 23:34 [=Lk 11:49],


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where t h e words a t t r i b u t e d t o Sophia i n b o t h Q and Luke a r e found


d i r e c t l y i n t h e mouth o f Jesus. What we have i n Matthew i s a " f u l l -
blown e x p r e s s i o n o f Wisdom C h r i s t o l o g y " * * , as d i s t i n c t from t h e
i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f Jesus as t h e messenger o f Wisdom i n Mark, Q, and
Luke: t h a t i s , f o r Matthew, Jesus « Wisdom.

Why then i s Matthew a b l e to identify Jesus t h e man w i t h Sophia

the woman w i t h o u t any apparent s c r u p l e s about t h e gender mix? The

answer may l i e partly i n the fact that Matthew has n o t seen t h e

problem as c l e a r l y as we might have expected, but a l s o p a r t l y i n the

f a c t t h a t he I s n o t y e t t a l k i n g s t r i c t l y i n incarnational terms about

Jesus and Wisdom. He apparently does n o t wish t o expound a

christology which sees Jesus as pre-existent Sophia incarnate.

C e r t a i n l y Matthew does n o t p r e s e n t a h i g h l y developed p i c t u r e o f Jesus

functioning I n the r o l e attributed elsewhere t o Sophia. I tis

precisely t h e absence o f t h e p r e - e x i s t e n c e m o t i f that i s vital for

u n d e r s t a n d i n g Matthew's p r e s e n t a t i o n o f Jesus as Sophia over a g a i n s t

t h a t o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel. Matthew, I n t h e opening chapters o f h i s

Gospel, sees Jesus' d i v i n e o r i g i n b e g i n n i n g i n t h e conception by t h e

Holy S p i r i t * ^ t h e supposed ' v i r g i n b i r t h ( c o n c e p t i o n ) ' o f Mt 1:18-25.

To speak o f Jesus as Sophia i n c a r n a t e would a l r e a d y Imply h i s p r e -

existence, b u t Matthew p r o b a b l y does n o t i n t e n d t o do so**. Rather,

he sees Jesus i n a sense r e p l a c i n g the f u n c t i o n o f Wisdom as t h e

"closest i n t i m a t e o f God"", and can thus s u b s t i t u t e the male f i g u r e

Jesus f o r t h e female Sophia w i t h o u t apparent c o n t r a d i c t i o n . As l o n g

as the author avoids the s t r i c t language o f i n c a r n a t i o n the gender

s w i t c h i s J u s t about manageable, but when we t u r n t o John we s h a l l see

the difficulty which a r i s e s when t h i s p o i n t i s pressed.


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I n summary then, t h e S y n o p t i c w r i t e r s do n o t face t h e same


problem as John because they have n o t y e t developed a f u l l y
i n c a r n a t l o n a l u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f Jesus as p r e - e x i s t e n t Sophia. Matthew
c e r t a i n l y comes c l o s e s t t o t h i s i n h i s t a l k o f Jesus as 'God w i t h us'
(Mt 1:23), an i d e a which he extends a l s o i n t o the f u t u r e r e l a t i o n s h i p
o f Jesus t o t h e d i s c i p l e s (Mt 18:20; 28:20), and i n h i s r e f e r e n c e t o
Jesus as Wisdom. However, w i t h o u t a concept o f p r e - e x i s t e n c e he J u s t
a v o i d s the gender d i f f i c u l t y by the s k i n o f h i s t e e t h !

3.1.3 JESUS AND WISDOM IN HEBREWS 1:1-3

O u t s i d e o f t h e Johannlne corpus and t h e w r i t i n g s o f those New

Testament a u t h o r s whom we have surveyed, t h e o n l y o t h e r r e f e r e n c e we

have t o Jesus as p r e - e x i s t e n t Wisdom i s found i n Hebrews 1:1-3. This

introduction t o t h e e p i s t l e seems t o c o n t a i n fragments o f an e a r l y

Christian hymn^', i n which p a r a l l e l s a r e drawn between Sophia as t h e

oma6yaa^ia o f God (Wisd 7:26) and Jesus C h r i s t as such (Heb 1:3).

There i s a l s o a l l u s i o n t o Jesus C h r i s t as t h e c r e a t o r of a l l things

(Heb 1:2) and thus, by I m p l i c a t i o n , as p r e - e x i s t e n t ^ * . However, w h i l e

there are very clear p a r a l l e l s between Heb 1:2-3 and what i s s a i d i n

the tradition c o n c e r n i n g Sophia, "Hebrews has n o t h i n g e l s e t h a t can

r e a d i l y be l a b e l l e d 'Wisdom christology'^

The absence of further Wisdom elements in the overall

christologlcal p i c t u r e p a i n t e d by t h e author o f Hebrews p o i n t s t o the

fact that that author was a d o p t i n g a method s i m i l a r t o t h a t we have

already noted i n Paul: namely, g l e a n i n g m a t e r i a l s from t h e e a r l i e s t

Christian expressions of Christ's significance t o expound his own

understanding. The main emphasis o f Hebrews l i e s on Jesus' Sonship,


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whtch t h e a u t h o r can e q u a l l y expound through t h e use of an Adam


c h r i s t o l o g y i n Heb 2:6-182*.

Had Hebrews gone on t o use t h e i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of Jesus as the

embodiment o f Sophia i n a more widespread and i n s i s t e n t manner, we

would have had t o q u e s t i o n why such a move was p o s s i b l e w i t h o u t prior

r e s o l u t i o n o f t h e gender problem. What seems more l i k e l y , however, i s

that a snippet o f an e a r l y hymn has been taken over by the author

without any real recognition of t h e gender issue involved, the

i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f Jesus as Sophia incarnate n o t being a t a l l the main

thrust of h i s c h r i s t o l o g y .

3.2 JESUS. LOGOS AMD SOPHIA IN JOHN

It has long been recognised that the Gospel of John contains

elements of a Wisdom Christology, even though no word of the

ao(p{a/cro(p6q family appears I n the t e x t . Some have seen the Wisdom

m o t i f s as c o n f i n e d t o the X670<; concept i n t h e Prologue, but amongst

these even Bultraann, who wants t o see the Prologue as r o o t e d I n a

Gnostic Redeemer-myth, has t o admit t h a t " t h e r e can be no doubt . . .

that a connection exists between t h e Judaic Wisdom myth and the

Johannine Prologue"^*, However, i f t h e Prologue i s t o be seen as an

i n t e g r a l p a r t o f the Gospel and not merely as a k i n d of preface stuck

on a t t h e b e g i n n i n g o f t h e book as an a f t e r t h o u g h t , then one would

expect t h e m o t i f s c o n t a i n e d i n I t t o be worked o u t t o some e x t e n t a t

l e a s t w i t h i n t h e Gospel as a whole. T h i s has indeed been shown t o be

the case, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n t h e m a t e r i a l c o l l e c t e d by Raymond Brown^s.

Why i s i t then, t h a t i f Wisdom m o t i f s are t o be found both i n the

Prologue and i n t h e main body o f t h e Gospel, no explicit connection i s


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made between Jesus and Sophia h e r s e l f ? We s h a l l attempt t o answer


t h i s q u e s t i o n by l o o k i n g I n some d e t a i l a t the Xdyoc, concept and how
i t r e l a t e s t oCTO<p<ai n both t h e p e r i o d l e a d i n g up t o t h e w r i t i n g o f
the Gospel and i n t h e Gospel i t s e l f . I n i t i a l l y , however, we s h a l l see
how a c e r t a i n p a r a l l e l i s m between them was a l r e a d y d e v e l o p i n g i n t h e
Wisdom t r a d i t i o n I t s e l f .

3.2.1 I,OGOS AND SOPHIA IN WISDOM OF SOLOMON

I n our e x a m i n a t i o n o f t h e development o f Sophia as a f i g u r e i n

Jewish Wisdom speculation, we saw t h a t i n Wisdom o f Solomon she

reached a pinnacle i n what may be I n t e r p r e t e d as God e x p r e s s i n g

h e r s e l f i n female terms. However, we h i n t e d a t t h e same time t h a t God

c o u l d a l s o be r e f e r r e d t o i n male t e r m i n o l o g y i n t h e same book. I t

has l o n g been r e c o g n i s e d t h a t Wisdom o f Solomon, emerging as i t does

from hellenistic Alexandria, was i n f l u e n c e d by t h e p h i l o s o p h i c a l

environment o f t h a t c i t y , vrfiich was dominated t o an e x t e n t by P l a t o n i c

thought^*. Of course t h e r e s u l t s o f t h i s i n f l u e n c e on Jewish thought

are seen much more c l e a r l y i n P h i l o , a f a c t which we observed a l r e a d y

i n our survey o f h i s use o f Sophia t r a d i t i o n . As we t u r n now t o look

at the relationship between Xbyoq and aocpta, we may a l r e a d y find

evidence o f a d e v e l o p i n g p a r a l l e l i s m between t h e concepts i n Wisdom o f

Solomon i t s e l f .

The possibility o f an e q u a t i o n between Xdyoq and ao<p(a was

already inherent i n the writings o f t h e O l d Testament. We note t h e

p a r a l l e l between t h e i d e a s o f Ps 32:6 [LXXJ and Prov 3:19 -

t^S X6y<^ ToO xoptou o i oupavoi Eatepe66r\aav (Ps 32:6)


•nai nveOjiatv toO az6}iaxoc, otuToO nfiaa r\ 6t3vajiiq autoO
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6 dedq xfj (Jo<fi(f leepeXtfflffEv Tf|v yf\\f (Prow 3: 19)

At this stage of r e f l e c t i o n , o f course, we a r e nov*iere near t h e

p i c t u r e o f Sophia which we have i n Wisdom o f Solomon, but i t i s q u i t e

possible that an a u t h o r f a m i l i a r with t h e Old Testament tradition

c o u l d e a s i l y p i c k up a p a r a l l e l here i n t h e i d e a o f Logos, S p i r i t and

Sophia. Indeed, a l l o f these concepts appear within t h e space o f a

few v e r s e s i n Wisdom o f Solomon 9:1-2,17

8e^ naxtpav x a l x 6 p x E xoO eX^ouq


6 Jioifjoaq xdi ntStvia ev \6y(f aov>
xai aoipiqf.CTOUxaxaaxeudtoaq 'drvSpconov. . . (9: 1-2)
PouXfjv 6^ oou x i q 'iyva, e i pf) aH IfSaxaq aotpiav
x a i lTte>ji\faq x6 'diyiov crou nveO^ia and uytaxojv (9: 17)

However, i t i s t h e p a r a l l e l between Logos and Sophia which takes on a

s p e c i a l c o n f i g u r a t i o n i n Wisdom o f Solomon. Having i n t r o d u c e d Sophia

as t h e I n t e r v e n e r on b e h a l f o f t h e godly i n I s r a e l ' s h i s t o r y i n the

remarkable c h a p t e r s 10-11, we f i n d that i n 18:15 i t i s r a t h e r t h e

Logos who comes t o t h e rescue o f God's r i g h t e o u s c h i l d r e n i n their

imprisonment:

6 itavxo6i3vafJi6q Xbyoq an' oupavQv ex ep6va>v


CTOU
PaaxXetav anbxofioq noXefitaxi^q e l q ji^aov xfjq oXeBptaq
't^Xaxo Y^<; ^^q>o<; "^A^ avun6xptxov £n\xay'/\v aou <p6pcDv.
(Wisd 18:15)

Mack has suggested that this switch of roles probably took place

because o f a changing u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e r o l e o f Sophia, such as

t h a t r e p r e s e n t e d i n S i r a c h , Baruch and t h e l a t e r 2 Enoch, where Sophia

is either i d e n t i f i e d w i t h t h e Torah or she i s withdrawn and no longer

accessible I n the world^^. He would then see t h i s developed i n P h l l o ,

where i t i s o n l y t h e Logos and n o t Sophia who i s a v a i l a b l e i n the

x6CTfjLoq aiuQr\xoc,. We would suggest, however, that such a viewpoint


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cannot take s e r i o u s l y enough i n t o account t h e e x a l t e d p o s i t i o n o f


Sophia i n t h e p r e v i o u s c h a p t e r s o f Wisdom o f Solomon, where she i s
a n y t h i n g b u t withdrawn. While t h e Wisdom o f Solomon may show s i g n s o f
Greek p h i l o s o p h i c a l I n f l u e n c e i n i t s vocabulary^*, i t h a r d l y shows t h e
k i n d o f r a d i c a l I n f l u e n c e o f P l a t o n i s m which we s h a l l see t o be so
much a t t h e f o u n d a t i o n o f P h i l o ' s s p e c u l a t i o n . A f a r more l i k e l y
e x p l a n a t i o n i s t h a t t h e a u t h o r found t h e word \6yoc, t o be another way
t o "speak o f God's Immanent involvement"^» w i t h human a f f a i r s , but i n
male t e r m i n o l o g y r a t h e r than i n t h e female e x p r e s s i o n o f Sophia. I t
may even be p o s s i b l e t h a t t h e a u t h o r o f Wisdom o f Solomon considered
the male f i g u r e , \6yoc,, t o be more s u i t a b l e f o r t h e r o l e of sudden
e x e c u t i o n e r , o r angel o f death, which i s t h e f u n c t i o n r e q u i r e d i n Wisd
18. Whatever t h e reason, t h e use o f t h e word Xd-yoq I t s e l f would have
been suggested by t h e Old Testament t r a d i t i o n o f God's word being
spoken and h a v i n g e f f e c t i n t h e w o r l d , b u t was a l s o a t t r a c t i v e because
of i t s f a m i l i a r i t y i n t h e Greek-speaking h e l l e n i s t i c p h i l o s o p h i c a l
environment t o which t h e book was addressed.

Whatever t h e o r i g i n s o f t h e \6yo% i n Wisdom o f Solomon, t h e r e can

be no q u e s t i o n but that crocptcx remains t h e p r i m a r y I n f l u e n c e on the

book. What i s i m p o r t a n t a t t h i s p o i n t o f our study i s t o note t h a t

the two concepts were beginning to be seen as potentially

interchangeable ways o f speaking about t h e same t h i n g . Wisdom o f

Solomon thus r e p r e s e n t s a s t a g e on t h e road towards a mutual i d e n t i t y ,

a process which P h i l o , f o r d i f f e r e n t reasons, develops much f u r t h e r .


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3.2.2 LOGOS AND SOPHIA IN PHILO

In t h e p r e c e d i n g c h a p t e r we a l r e a d y discussed a t some l e n g t h

the way i n which Philo seeks t o confine Sophia i n the r a r i f i e d

atmosphere o f t h e x6afioq vor^tdq while replacing her functions i n the

lower r e a l m by t h e work o f t h e Logos. Some f u r t h e r comments on t h e

relationship between t h e two concepts a r e i n o r d e r here t o show how

interchangeable t h e two words r e a l l y were by t h e end o f t h e f i r s t

c e n t u r y o f the C h r i s t i a n era.

Since, as we have seen, the writings of Philo have l o n g been

recognised as a p e c u l i a r blend o f Greek p h i l o s o p h i c a l t r a d i t i o n and

the thought w o r l d o f Judaism, i t i s h a r d l y s u r p r i s i n g t h a t P h i l o , i n a

c o n t i n u a t i o n of t h e trend already noted i n the Wisdom o f Solomon, uses

the terms Xbyoq and crocpia w i t h a l a r g e degree o f i n t e r c h a n g e a b i l i t y .

On the one hand, f o r example, we f i n d t h a t Sophia i s the mother o f t h e

Logos*', w h i l e o n l y a few pages e a r l i e r , on the other hand, the Logos

has been described as the fountain o f Sophia*'. I n order t o

understand this r e l a t i o n s h i p i t i s important t o see both Logos and

Sophia i n t h e c o n t e x t o f t h e t w o - t i e r cosmological s p e c u l a t i o n which

characterizes so much o f P h i l o ' s writing.

Under t h e i n f l u e n c e p r i n c i p a l l y o f Platonism, P h i l o d i s t i n g u i s h e s

two separate worlds, t h e xdafioq vorit6q, which i s t h e realm o f forms

and i d e a s and thus o f God, and t h e x6CT)ioq ala9r)x6q, which i s b u t an

imperfect shadow o f t h e realm o f God, and which corresponds t o our

sensory w o r l d * 2 . Important f o r us a l s o i s t o r e a l i s e t h a t f o r him,

"God i s absolutely removed from us, incomprehensible, and o n l y known

as a b s o l u t e being"**. Both Logos and Sophia belong t o the upper realm


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of Ideas, and t h e i r task i s t h e m e d i a t i o n o f what I s knowable about


God. However, t h i s f u n c t i o n , performed by Sophia i n t h e Wisdom
t r a d i t i o n . I s g i v e n by P h l l o t o t h e Logos i n t h e lower realm. Their
correspondence I n f u n c t i o n a r i s e s t o some e x t e n t o u t o f t h e f a c t t h a t
each r e p r e s e n t s I n I t s own t r a d i t i o n t h e same type o f a c t i v i t y . I n
the Wisdom t r a d i t i o n , Sophia I s t h e c r e a t i v e power o f God who appears
amongst t h e peoples o f t h e e a r t h as t h e agent o f God, c a l l i n g them t o
h e r s e l f and thus t o God^*. I n t h e h e l l e n l s t i c p h i l o s o p h i c a l world,
p r o b a b l y most e s p e c i a l l y i n S t o i c t r a d i t i o n , P h l l o f i n d s the idea o f
the Logos as t h e embodiment o f d i v i n e reason a c t i v e i n t h e world's.
However, we should beware o f t h i n k i n g t h a t P h i l o i s simply exchanging
one word f o r another, or haphazardly u s i n g two d i f f e r e n t terms f o r t h e
same concept. Rather, he i s seeking t o extend t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n
and s p e c u l a t i o n beyond i t s accustomed boundaries. For P h i l o , a l l
p h i l o s o p h y must be s u b j e c t t o h i s Jewish t r a d i t i o n , where he would see
Moses as t h e " p r i m a r y source o f philosophy''^ *. Taking up from t h e
l a t e r Wisdom i d e a i n which Sophia i s withdrawn from t h e w o r l d , f o r
example i n S i r a c h 4:17-19, P h l l o now sees Sophia as withdrawn t o
remain i n t h e x6afxoq VOT)T6<; w i t h God and thus u n a t t a i n a b l e t o human
knowledge.

However, t h e problem remains that we do know and experience

something o f God, d e s p i t e h i s unknowableness, and thus i t i s necessary

for P h i l o t o express how i t i s p o s s i b l e t o apprehend the d i v i n e even

partially. T h i s he does by r e p l a c i n g t h e a c t i v i t y o f Sophia i n t h e

x6a|jLoq alo-et)x6q by that of t h e Logos as a kind of intermediary

figure*^. Thus we f i n d t h a t t h e Logos i s o f t e n t h e guide on t h e way

to t h e g o a l ^ * , which I s Sophia, who i n t u r n i s t h e embodiment o f t h e


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u n l i m i t e d knowledge o f God*'. The Logos r e p l a c e s the f u n c t i o n s


p r e v i o u s l y a s c r i b e d t o Sophia i n t h e w o r l d i n t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n .
While P h i l o f o l l o w s Prov 8:22 i n c a l l i n g Sophia the ' f i r s t ' (npoittoTri)
of God's c r e a t u r e s * ' , so a l s o he c a l l s t h e Logos t h e ' f i r s t b o r n '
(TtpUTdyovoq) o f God*'. From t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n o f Sirach 24:23-25
we know o f Sophia i d e n t i f i e d w i t h t h e Torah, b u t f o r P h i l o t h i s
comparison I s made w i t h t h e Logos*2. Again, j u s t as Prov 8:31 and S i r
24:7,11-12 can t a l k o f Sophia s o j o u r n i n g among t h e people o f t h e
e a r t h , P h i l o t r a n s f e r s t h i s f u n c t i o n i n t h e xdapioq alCTeritdq t o t h e
Logos* *.

It becomes clear then, that f o r Philo, Logos and Sophia a r e

virtually synonymous i n meaning and f u n c t i o n , w h i l e a t t h e same time

retaining some individual characteristics. Perhaps the best

i l l u s t r a t i o n o f t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p t o God and each other i s t h a t given

by Philo himself: they a r e l i k e a stream f l o w i n g out from a source

[God] which comes t o water t h e t h i r s t y s o u l s o f humanity**. By t h i s

combination and exchange o f c a t e g o r i e s , Philo manages both t o push

Wisdom speculation into new t e r r i t o r y related to h i s philosophical

environment and a t t h e same time t o maintain h i s Jewish identity

w i t h i n the confines of that f a i t h ' s monotheistic structure.

However, as we have seen, Philo has quite another agenda

operating behind h i s a t t i t u d e t o t h e s w i t c h o f f u n c t i o n between Sophia

and Logos, that of the apparent 'danger' of Sophia's gender

significance. While he can use Sophia t o t a l k i n feminine terms i n

relation t o God, f o r example as Mother*^, or as Daughter*'', his

depreciation o f a l l t h a t i s female as weak*', and h i s r e l e g a t i o n o f

the f e m i n i n e t o t h e realm o f t h e xbcfioq a\a9r|T6q, g i v e s him a vested


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i n t e r e s t i n s e e k i n g t o e s t a b l i s h t h e JuaJe Logos as t h e agent o f God's


k n o w a b l l l t y i n t h e lower realm r a t h e r than t h e female Sophia. To t h i s
e x t e n t , as we saw, t h e change o f gender i n t h e i n t e r m e d i a r y f u n c t i o n
from Sophia t o Logos may be seen as b o t h conscious and d e l i b e r a t e .

3.2.3 LOGOS AND SOPHIA IN JOHH 1:1-18

We have now observed t h a t by t h e time o f t h e w r i t i n g o f t h e

F o u r t h Gospel t h e concepts Logos and Sophia had become more o r l e s s

synonymous i n a t l e a s t some areas o f Jewish thought. We s h a l l now

c o n s i d e r t h e Logos o f John's Prologue i n an attempt t o understand what

r e l a t i o n i t bears t o Jewish Wisdom t r a d i t i o n .

The background and o r i g i n o f t h e Logos hymn has long been t h e

s u b j e c t o f i n t e n s e debate among New Testament s c h o l a r s * * . Some have

argued, most n o t a b l y Bultmann, t h a t i t s o r i g i n a l c o n t e x t i s t h e hyranic

p r a i s e o f a G n o s t i c Redeemer*'. Others have proposed, by t h e removal

of the line o \6yoc, cdtp^ eyivBxo [1:143, that its origin lies in a

pre-Christian hymn, possibly t o Wisdom^'. Yet o t h e r s have seen a

direct Influence from P h l l o , t o whose w r i t i n g s a d m i t t e d l y some very

close p a r a l l e l s can be drawn^i. However, i n r e c e n t years, scholars

have i n c r e a s i n g l y come t o acknowledge t h e primary importance o f Wisdom

s p e c u l a t i o n f o r u n d e r s t a n d i n g t h e Johannine Logos^^^ w h i l e a t t h e same

t i m e s e e i n g t h e u n d e r l y i n g hymn as b e l o n g i n g t o t h e e a r l i e r s t r a t a o f

tradition within t h e Johannine community**. We s h a l l examine t h e

p a r a l l e l s between Sophia and Logos i n some d e t a i l .

1:1a opens w i t h t h e words, ev ap^ff ffv 6 X6YO<;. I t i s clear that

with these words t h e a u t h o r i s t r y i n g t o evoke t h e opening words o f

the LXX o f Genesis 1 : 1 - ev a p x l inoir\(jev o 9e6q. The r e f e r e n c e i s


-106-

thus t o the presence of t h e Logos b e f o r e and a t the act of c r e a t i o n .


The a u t h o r must a l s o have been conscious t h a t the Old Testament Wisdom
t r a d i t i o n a l r e a d y makes t h i s a s s e r t i o n not of the Logos, but of
Sophia. The LXX o f Prov 8:22-23 thus reads:

x6pxoq exTia^v apx^^v oSffiv auxotS e i q epycx auxoO


Tip6 ToO ovfiSvoq e6e\ie\i<ixjiv jjte ev apx^. (Prov 8:22-23)

It may be argued t h a t t h e r e i s a c o n s i d e r a b l e d i f f e r e n c e between the

f|V o f the Logos and the txTicrev o f Sophia: t h a t the Logos i s not s a i d

to be ' c r e a t e d ' . But i s the d i f f e r e n c e so g r e a t as some would have us

believe? Schnackenburg wants us t o agree t h a t "Wisdom i s p i c t u r e d as

God's companion and partner i n the c r e a t i o n of a l l t h i n g s , but the

Logos i s really there b e f o r e c r e a t i o n ' ' ^ * , but t h i s i s s u r e l y splitting

hairs. I f t h e o n l y verse we had was 1:1, we might argue t h a t t h e r e i s

a s i g n i f i c a n t difference between first created and before creation.

However, we w i l l see t h a t the Prologue goes on t o exegete the l|v w i t h

reference to the creative p a r t n e r s h i p of the Logos (1:3), not to

mention t h e r e f e r e n c e i n 1:18 t o the Logos/Son of God as the fiovoyevi^q

of God, a term which could c e r t a i n l y p a r a l l e l the Hebrew TlJ p , of

Prov 8:22.

In Prov 8:22-23, then, t h e f i r s t o f God's c r e a t i o n s i s Sophia and

she then becomes the companion o f God I n the very b e g i n n i n g of h i s

creative activity, or as Rlnggren puts i t : "wisdom possessed from the

beginning royal or divine dlgnity"^^. This tradition of Sophia's

presence a t t h e very b e g i n n i n g w i t h God from e t e r n i t y , i s c o n t i n u e d i n

the l a t e r Wisdom w r i t i n g s o f S i r a c h and Wisdom o f Solomon:

npot^pa ndcvTcov e x t v a t a x a o y t a
x a t CTOVEcriq (ppovt^aeuq alSivoq. ( S i r 1:4)
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xai jietdi CTOO ^ ao9<a r\ e l S u t a xit e'pya troO


xott napoOaa, ore enotevq x6v x6afiov. (Wisd 9:9)

With these texts we see t h a t Sophia I s f i r m l y established i n the

Wisdom t r a d i t i o n as t h e p r e - e x l s t e n t co-operator w i t h God i n the task

of creation. She e x i s t e d i n t h e heavens b e f o r e t h e w o r l d was formed

and shares r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r t h e o r d e r l y n a t u r e o f c r e a t i o n . This i s

precisely t h e r o l e g i v e n by t h e opening words o f John's Prologue t o

the Logos.

1:1b makes t h e c l a i m t h a t o Xdyoq f^v np6q x6v 9e6v. Again we

find that b o t h e a r l y and l a t e r Wisdom w r i t e r s see t h i s closeness t o

God as a c h a r a c t e r i s t i c o f Sophia:

r\}xr\v nap' auxffi (.a.p\i6(,ovaa) (Prov 8:30)

56q }ioi xfiSv 8p6vffiv JidpsSpov aocptav (Wisd 9:4)

n&aa CTO<p<a napdi xuptou, x a t JIET' otuxoC ECTXIV e i q atSvot


( S i r 1:1)

The q u e s t i o n r a i s e d by commentators on t h i s p a r a l l e l I s whether we can

see t h e np6q o f 1:16 as an e q u i v a l e n t t o t h e fiexdt o f S i r 1:1, or

indeed o f t h e t e x t we c i t e d p r e v i o u s l y from Wisd 9:9. Once again, t h e

i m p o r t a n t i s s u e here must n o t s i m p l y be what I s g e n e r a l l y t r u e o f the

Greek usage, b u t v ^ a t i t a c t u a l l y means i n t h e c o n t e x t i n which i t i s

used. Blass-Debrunner shows t h a t npbq + a c c u s a t i v e can o f t e n mean " I n

the company o f " . I d e n t i c a l t o t h e itapa o f Prov 8:30s», and a l s o shows

o t h e r New Testament passages where fiexd + g e n i t i v e means " i n company

with", p r e c i s e l y our meaning i n S i r 1:1 and Wisd 9:9*'. Thus we can

see i n these Wisdom parallels a precise correspondence t o t h e

Johannine Logos, even i f t h e l i t e r a l p a r a l l e l i s n o t exact**.


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We have a l r e a d y noted how P h i l o c o n t i n u e s the t r e n d of the l a t e r


Wisdom w r i t e r s by a l l o w i n g t o the Logos the a t t r i b u t e s of Sophia.
Thus we f i n d i n Quod Deus 31, t h a t the xbofioq vor^T6q, which i s
e q u i v a l e n t t o t h e Logos, i s s a i d t o remain nap' eauxS (= Jtapd 9eS),
w h i l e t h e xbajioq aiaBr^xbq i s sent out i n t o the w o r l d . Although Dodd
i s a b l e t o show some s t r i k i n g p a r a l l e l s t o the Prologue i n P h l l o ^ ' , i t
n e v e r t h e l e s s remains l e s s l i k e l y t h a t John knew t h e P h l l o n i c m a t e r i a l
than t h a t he i s dependent on the same background t r a d i t i o n , namely
Wisdom*". The r e l e v a n c e o f such p a r a l l e l s t o our study l i e s more i n
t h e i r a b i l i t y t o show how another q u i t e d i f f e r e n t Jewish w r i t e r of the
same e r a c o u l d come t o v e r y s i m i l a r c o n c l u s i o n s .

There i s no d i r e c t p a r a l l e l t o be found i n Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e t o

the a s t o n i s h i n g c l a i m of J:Jc - 8e6q o Xbyoq! However, when we

recognise that the omission of the article from 8e6q i s no mere

chance, but as Dunn has shown from some p a r a l l e l Philonic usage I s

r a t h e r a d e l i b e r a t e p l o y on t h e p a r t of the author t o equate the Logos

with God w i t h o u t a t the same t i m e " i n f r i n g i n g h i s monotheism"**, we

may identify some v e r y similar imagery i n the traditions connected

w i t h Sophia. Here again i t i s i m p o r t a n t t o remind o u r s e l v e s t h a t the

is t o be exegeted i n the l i g h t of verse 3. So when Sophia i s

called the a r c h i t e c t of a l l things (Wisd 7:21 - r\ n&vzav xexvtxtq . .

. CToqjia), she stands i n precisely the same r e l a t i o n s h i p t o God, a

r e l a t i o n s h i p which i s p r o b a b l y p r e f i g u r e d i n t e x t s such as Prov 3:19 -

o 9e6q x^ aocptot e9ejjieXi<i)CTev xf|v yf\y. Thus a l t h o u g h we cannot f i n d the

explicit statement 9e6q ^jv r\ aotpia in the Wisdom corpus, we may

nevertheless interpret reference t o Sophia in a way which sees a

s i m i l a r sentiment expressed.
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That t h e a u t h o r o f t h e Prologue wants t o a v o i d "any suggestion o f


p e r s o n a l i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f t h e Word w i t h t h e Father"*« by t h e omission
of t h e a r t i c l e i n 1:1c i s borne o u t by t h e r e p e t i t i o n i n 1:2 o f t h e
emphasis on t h e Logos b e i n g w i t h God from t h e beginning. We have
a l r e a d y noted t h e p a r a l l e l t o Sophia i n Prov 8:30; Wisd 9:4; S i r 1:1,
but we may a l s o add t h e words o f Prov 8:27 - r\yi%a ^xot^otCev x6v
oupavbv cropinapi^piiv auxS*», ' t h e heavens' being t h e f i r s t p a r t o f t h e
c r e a t i o n i n Genesis, which Sophia c l e a r l y pre-dates.

1:3 b o t h p a r a l l e l s t h e statements about Sophia as c r e a t r l x and t o

an e x t e n t moves beyond them. The verses quoted from Prov 3:19; 8:30,

show Sophia c o - o p e r a t i n g w i t h God i n c r e a t i o n , but Wisd 7:21 (i^ Y^p

ndvxav x e x v t x i q e5C6a^6v fxe crocpia) comes c l o s e r t o t h e ntkvxa 6 i ' auxoO

eY^vexo o f t h e Prologue. A further example i s p r o v i d e d by Wisd 9,

where i n the context o f a statement about their function i n the

creative process, we find an i n t e r e s t i n g insight into the gradual

convergence o f meaning between Xd^oq and oo^ia:

6 noii?^Graq xd ndcvxa ev X6Y<j) ooxt,


x a l xQ ao9tqt CTOU xo£xac7xei3aaaq &v9pconov. (Wisd 9: 1-2)

The earlier tradition o f Prov 8:22 has Sophia as t h e f i r s t of God's

c r e a t e d beings, b e f o r e even t h e c r e a t i o n o f t h e w o r l d I t s e l f , i n which

she then co-operates, and S i r 24:9 f o l l o w s t h i s l i n e : np6 xoO otlavoq

an' apxf(q ^^xxic^v ^le. The a u t h o r o f John's Prologue wants t o leave

the reader i n no doubt that the t r a d i t i o n o f Wisd 9:1-2 i s being

followed, where no mention o f Sophia's own c r e a t i o n comes i n t o play.

Indeed, t h e Johannine version reduplicates t h e emphasis on t h e

c r e a t i v e f u n c t i o n o f t h e Logos by adding: %ai x^^PK eY^vexo oo5^ ev (5


A
yiyovEv (1:3b). Again we f i n d t h a t t h e d e s c r i p t i o n o f t h e Logos i s
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b a s l c a l l y a restatement and re-emphasis o f an already familiar


p o r t r a i t o f Sophia.

The c r e a t i v e f u n c t i o n o f t h e Logos h a v i n g been e s t a b l i s h e d , t h e

author now i n c l u d e s further reminiscences o f t h e Genesis creation

account. The Logos i s l i f e and g i v e s light, 1:4, both fundamental

elements of t h e Genesis narrative. Yet again, however, these

characteristic creation motifs are also identifiable i n traditions

about Sophia**. Prov 8:35 o f f e r s a direct parallel betweeen t h e

search f o r Sophia and t h e search f o r l i f e : al ydtp ''^^o5o{ ^ou Y^oSox

Cffifjq. T h i s i s a c o n c l u s i o n which S i r a c h a l s o reaches: o ayait&v auxfjv

Siyan^ C<^T^V ( S i r 4:12). Baruch c o n t i n u e s t h i s idea and expands i t t o

include the antithesis, a t t h e same time p l a c i n g Sophia i n p a r a l l e l

w i t h t h a t most sacred o f I s r a e l ' s I n s t i t u t i o n s , t h e Torah:*s

duxT) rj P<p\oq xflv npoCTXOYfAtSxfflv xoO 9eoO xoit o v6}ioq o


uTtdtpxfflv e l q x6v avffivot. n&vxeq o i xpaxolSvxeq auxffq e l q
Cmr^v, ov 6e xaxaXe(novxeq auxr^v a7to9ovot(vxai. (Bar 4:1)

Wisdom o f Solomon even goes beyond t h i s by a t t r i b u t i n g t o Sophia t h e

power t o grant eternal l i f e and p r o v i d e an e v e r l a s t i n g memorial t o

those who f i n d her:

%|cofix'ax>xf|v a9avaa<av
xat ^vl^)JT)v axffivxov x o t q fiev' e^^ dtnoXeCij;© (Wisd 8: 13)

Thus we may conclude t h a t t h e theme o f l i f e , very much a c r e a t i o n

theme, i s also rooted firmly i n t h e Sophia t r a d i t i o n s t o which John

surely alludes at t h i s point.

L i k e t h e Logos i n 1:4,9, Sophia I s a p r o v i d e r o f l i g h t . This I s

explicitly stated i n Wisd 7:26 - ana<3Yacr^a yap eaxxv <pa3x6q axSiou.


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However, we s h o u l d see t h i s t e x t as a c u l m i n a t i o n o f an a l r e a d y much


older t r a d i t i o n . The P s a l m i s t d e s c r i b e s God's presence as a source o f
l i g h t (Ps 4:6; 89:15; 104:2), and can even t a l k o f t h e 'word' (X6Yoq)
of God as a l i g h t t o h i s f e e t (Ps 119:105). E s s e n t i a l l y , however, t h e
theme o f l i g h t must a l s o be connected t o t h e aforementioned t r a d i t i o n
of Sophia as t h e f i r s t o f God's c r e a t i o n s , vrtiich a c c o r d i n g t o t h e
Genesis t r a d i t i o n was l i g h t * ' . Ashton sums up t h e opening verses t o
the Prologue thus:

A l l human h i s t o r y , every s i n g l e t h i n g t h a t has ever


happened, took p l a c e through t h e m e d i a t i o n o f t h e
Logos, b u t what has come t o pass in him ( i . e . the
s p e c i a l events o f God's i n t e r v e n t i o n on b e h a l f o f h i s
p e o p l e ) , t h i s was l i f e , a s p e c i a l l i f e t h a t was God's
p r e r o g a t i v e t o bestow, a l i f e which was a l s o l i g h t -
illumination and r e v e l a t i o n . . . . On this
i n t e r p r e t a t i o n v.4 a l l u d e s t o t h e t r a d i t i o n most f u l l y
r e p r e s e n t e d i n Wisdom 10, which d e s c r i b e s Wisdom's
share i n a l l t h e main events o f I s r a e l ' s h i s t o r y from
Adam t o t h e Exodus*^.

1:5 i n t r o d u c e s the contrast between l i g h t and darkness. While

this i s not a prominent theme of the Wisdom tradition, i tis

nevertheless unnecessary t o seek i t s origins i n Gnostic dualism**.

There i s evidence f r o m t h e Wisdom o f Solomon t h a t such a c o n t r a s t was

not unthought o f i n t h e l a t e r Jewish Wisdom schools:

(29) '^oxiv ydcp a'6xr) eonpeixeax^pa fjXiou


x a i uTi6p Ti&aav 'btaxpav e^criv
( p c D x i auYxpivofi^vf] euptaxexoti Jipox^pa
(30) xoOxo fifev Y^P SiaS^X^'^O''- "^"^
ao<p(aq 6§ ou xaxi.ax6et xaxia (Wisd 7:29-30)

Perhaps t h e most obvious background t o t h i s c o n t r a s t may appear t o l i e

in t h e Jewish a p o c a l y p t i c tradition*', and i t may w e l l be t h a t i n Jn

1:5 we have " y e t another example o f t h e i n t e r w e a v i n g o f Wisdom and

Apocalyptic which took place at a very early stage i n Christian


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theologizing"". Rowland has found a common t r e n d i n A p o c a l y p t i c


thought which he d e s c r i b e s as " t h e b e l i e f t h a t God's w i l l can be
d i s c e r n e d by means o f a mode of r e v e l a t i o n which u n f o l d s d i r e c t l y the
hidden t h i n g s of God"''. T h i s d e s c r i p t i o n i s not so f a r away from the
p i c t u r e of Sophia u n f o l d i n g the hidden knowledge of God t o those who
seek h e r ' 2 , thus making i t q u i t e probable t h a t the two s t r a n d s of
l a t e r Jewish thought have been merged by e a r l y C h r i s t i a n r e f l e c t i o n on
the s i g n i f i c a n c e of Jesus as R e v e a l e r " .

When we look more c l o s e l y a t the theme of l i g h t and darkness, we

find t h a t i t i s once again a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the c r e a t i o n m o t i f of Gen

l:lff. B e f o r e the c r e a t i o n of l i g h t , the f i r s t of the c r e a t e d things

after the formation of the heavens and the earth themselves, there

existed a p r i m e v a l darkness - xat ax6xoq ercdvoi xffq aPuaaou (Gen 1:2).

This chaotic darkness i s only removed by the creation of <fQc, (Gen

1:3). Now as we have seen, f o r the Wisdom w r i t e r s , Sophia became the

agent of creation, and has a l r e a d y been announced i n John's Prologue

via the Logos as the c r e a t o r of a l l things (Jn 1:3). Is i t really so

far-fetched to suggest that the influence for the struggle between

light and darkness has come f r o m such an association? A lot will

depend on our translation of the key verb in 1:5, xax6Xa3Ev.

Bultmann'* and Schnackenburg'^ both b e l i e v e i t must be translated in

parallel t o the napaXapPdivo) of 1:11, but t h i s f a l l s t o take s e r i o u s l y

the only other direct parallel t o our word w i t h i n the Gospel I t s e l f ,

12:35, There we f i n d a d e f i n i t e thought of conflict between darkness

and light, the only possible meaning being "'overcome"'*. We would

t h u s contend that the t r a n s l a t i o n of xax^XaPsv I n 1:5 must f a l l in

line with t h a t of 12:35, making the meaning one of the overcoming of


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the c h a o t i c power o f darkness by t h e c r e a t i o n of l i g h t - a very clear


p a r a l l e l t o t h e c r e a t i v e work o f Sophia!

The a n t i t h e t i c a l statement of 1:5 can thus a l s o be viewed a g a i n s t

a Sophia background, though the development of t h i s Light/Darkness

conflict theme i n A p o c a l y p t i c may a l s o r e f l e c t some of the c o n n e c t i o n

noted by others above. The overall parallelism we have noted,

however, suggests t h a t t h e idea o f the Logos as life and light owes

i t s o r i g i n d i r e c t l y t o t h e Sophia t r a d i t i o n .

After an i n t e r r u p t i o n d e a l i n g w i t h the r e l a t i o n s h i p between John

the B a p t i s t and Jesus, t h e hymn t o the Logos resumes i n 1:10"^. There

i s some d i s c u s s i o n as t o whether or not the hymn begins a t t h i s point

to refer to the e a r t h l y ministry of Jesus'*. On the one hand, Brown

sees t h e o r i g i n a l i t y of 1:12 as the " c o n c l u s i v e argument" showing t h a t

1:10-12 refers to Jesus' ministry", while on the other hand,

Schnackenburg rejects 1:12 as an o r i g i n a l p a r t o f the hymn and refers

1:10-11 t o t h e a c t i v i t y o f Sophia*". The t e x t of 1:14a - o X6Yoq odp^

ey^vexo - seems to m i l i t a t e against Brown's argument, which would

leave us either having to agree with Schnackenburg, or to find

evidence allowing us to attribute the whole of 1:10-12 to Sophia

tradition.

1:10a d e c l a r e s t h a t t h e Logos was ev xffi xbojicp, and once again we

f i n d c l e a r r e f e r e n c e t o t h e same thought a t t a c h e d t o Sophia:

ev n&aa x^f yf^, x a i ev ttavxi Xaffi xat fe8vei exxTiCTdt}j.i)v


( S i r 24:6)
5i.0£xe{vei and n^paxoq evq n^paq eupaaxiDq (Wisd 8: 1)
-114-

Slnce t h e hymn has a l r e a d y i n d i c a t e d t h a t the Logos/Sophia has


i n f l u e n c e i n t h e w o r l d (1:4b), t h e emphasis here i s n o t so much on i t s
presence i n t h e w o r l d as i n t h e r e a c t i o n of t h e w o r l d t o t h a t
presence: x a t o xbtr^jioq aux6v o6x %y\(i>*^. The f a i l u r e t o recognise t h e
presence and v a l u e o f Sophia i s a w e l l e s t a b l i s h e d theme o f Old
Testament Wisdom t r a d i t i o n . Prov l : 2 0 f f has Sophia c r y i n g out aloud
i n t h e open p l a c e i n an e f f o r t t o c a l l people f r o m t h e i r Ignorance
i n t o knowledge o f her. Prov 1:29 shows t h e e x t e n t o f t h e i r r e f u s a l t o
heed h e r c o u n s e l : k)iiar\aay/ y&p a 0 9 t a v , x6v 56 <p6Pov toO xupiou ou
npoetXavxo. S i r a c h o f f e r s a l a t e r t r a d i t i o n w i t h r e g a r d t o knowledge
of Sophia. The theme here i s t h a t no m a t t e r how hard people t r y , they
w i l l never be a b l e t o know or understand Sophia f u l l y :

(28) ou auvex6Xeaev o npfiSxoq yvffivav auxi^v


x a i obxffiq 6 '^axaxoq oux e^xxvtaaev auxi^v
(29) and ydip eaXdaoriq enXr^euver) 6iav6ii^a auxf[q
x a i f\ PouXt) auxfjq and apCaaou ^leydiX^c,
( S i r 24:28-29)

While this text may provide us w i t h a perspective on humanity's

failure t o comprehend Jesus' message*2, i t i s not r e a l l y the theme o f

1:10, as t h e next l i n e o f t h e hymn makes c l e a r . I t i s the refusal o f

people t o r e c o g n i s e t h e Logos/Sophia which i s a t issue, not merely

their inability t o fathom i t . The very f a c t t h a t Prov 1-9 spends so

much o f t h e t i m e u r g i n g people t o l i s t e n , already i n i t s e l f reflects

the assumption t h a t , w i t h i n Wisdom t h i n k i n g , people choose n o t t o hear

and know. I t i s i n this refusal t o hear that we see a d e f i n i t e

s i m i l a r i t y t o the assertion o f Jn 1:10.

In 1:11 we see t h e development and c l a r i f i c a t i o n o f 1:10. The

Logos came i n t o t h e w o r l d n o t t o those who were u n l i k e l y t o recognise


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him, b u t p r e c i s e l y t o those who should have. I t i s these people who


have r e j e c t e d him by r e f u s i n g t o r e c e i v e what was o f f e r e d . This i s an
exact r e p l i c a o f t h e t r e a t m e n t which Sophia r e c e i v e d a t the hands o f
those t o whom she o f f e r e d h e r s e l f . The Idea i s best expressed i n t h e
l a t e r stream o f Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e i n which Sophia i s s a i d t o be
w i t h d r a w i n g f r o m t h e w o r l d because o f r e j e c t i o n by those who should
have accepted her*'. We note t h e f o l l o w i n g examples:

ByKaitXxneq xfjv nriyi^v xf[q oocpCaq (Bar 3: 12)

ox exCnxT^xax xf(q auv^aeaq o5dv xf[q ooq>xaq (Bar 3:23)


ouK 'iyvaaa\ ou6^ e\ivi\aQr\aa\/ xAq xptpouq auxfjq

ou jifj xaxaXi^mjjovxotx ouxfjv '(Sv8p(onox aff6vexox ( S i r 15:7)

Wisdom could not find a place In which she could dwell;


but a place was found (for her) in the heavens.
Then Wisdom went out to dwell with the children of the
people,
but she found no dwelling place.
(So) Wisdom returned to her place
and she settled permanently among the angels^*.
( I Enoch 42:1-2)

We can see then, t h a t verses 10 and 11 have s t r i k i n g similarities

t o statements made c o n c e r n i n g Sophia i n Wisdom s p e c u l a t i o n . What then

of 1:12? I f i t i s part of the o r i g i n a l Logos hymn, must we conclude,

with Brown, that i t makes 1:10-12 r e f e r t o the e a r t h l y m i n i s t r y of

Jesus, o r can we f i n d evidence from Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e t o support i t s

o r i g i n a l i t y w i t h o u t t a k i n g away f r o m t h e impact o f 1:14*5?

That t h e Logos was rejected by ox ^x5xox must surely be a

reference to Israel's role: but t h i s need n o t y e t have been a

r e f e r e n c e t o Jesus' m i n i s t r y i n the o r i g i n a l hymn. We have a l r e a d y

seen t h a t Sophia was r e j e c t e d by her own people. At t h e same time,

she was a l s o r e c e i v e d by many, being s a i d t o e n t e r t h e l i v e s o f those


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who a r e r i g h t e o u s making them f r i e n d s o f God - e i q fux<^<i ooiaq


pexaPatvouCTa cpiXouq 8eo0 x a i npocpi^xaq xaxaaxeudiCei (Wisd 7:27).

Perhaps even closer t o t h e Johannine idea comes t h e thought

expressed i n Baruch, that knowledge and wisdom, which come from God

alone, a r e g i v e n t o t h e beloved I s r a e l and Jacob:**

e^eOpev n&aa\ o6dv envaxVjfitiq x o i '66ci)xev auxi*|V 'laxaP x^


navSi auxoO x a i 'icpariX x^ TivaitflMv^ un' auxoO
(Bar 3:37)

It i s therefore possible t o see 1:12 s t i l l as a r e f e r e n c e t o t h e

m i n i s t r y o f Sophia r a t h e r than a l r e a d y needing t o a n t i c i p a t e t h a t o f

the earthly Jesus. 1:12, along with 1:10-11, can thus be a

d e s c r i p t i o n o f t h e p r e v i o u s e f f o r t s o f Sophia, and a t t h e same time an

a n t i c i p a t i o n o f t h e r e s u l t s o f Jesus' coming task*'.

The final section o f t h e Logos hymn begins i n 1:14 w i t h t h e

statement, o Xdyoq odp^ iy&vtia. Here we step beyond a n y t h i n g s a i d

d i r e c t l y o f Sophia i n t h e t r a d i t i o n . However, i n t h e l i g h t o f what we

have seen so f a r o f such tradition and i t s development, i s this

assertion really so s u r p r i s i n g ? I f Sophia was a c t i v e i n creation,

seeks a d w e l l i n g - p l a c e c o n t i n u a l l y among humanity, and i s r e s p o n s i b l e

f o r them. I t i s o n l y one f i n a l l o g i c a l s t e p from t h e r e t o r\ aocpia odp|

eY^vexo. While we cannot quote a d i r e c t p a r a l l e l from any sayings o f

t h e Wisdom s c h o o l , we can n e v e r t h e l e s s see t h a t 1:14a stands a t t h e

end p o i n t o f a l i n e which s t r e t c h e s back t o i t s o r i g i n s I n t h e Wisdom

tradition.

Since i t i s a t t h i s p o i n t t h a t t h e Logos hymn begins t o r e f e r t o

the e a r t h l y m i n i s t r y o f Jesus, i t I s a p p r o p r i a t e here t o c o n s i d e r why


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the term Logos i s used r a t h e r than Sophia. I t should be obvious t h a t


whatever concept was used t o d e s c r i b e h i s coming t o e a r t h and t a k i n g
on humanity must r e f l e c t t h e c o r r e c t gender: t h a t i s , as Jesus i s
male, so t o o I s t h e Logos'*. To f i n d Sophia here as d i s t i n c t from
Logos would be r i d i c u l o u s , s i n c e t h e e a r t h l y Jesus was c l e a r l y a man!
I t r e n d e r s unnecessary t h e task o f s e a r c h i n g f o r any h i n t of a
p r e v i o u s r e f e r e n c e t o t h e Logos coming t o e a r t h , e i t h e r i n the Old
Testament t r a d i t i o n s , o r i n those o f G n o s t i c i s m " . The Logos i s
s i m p l y Sophia t a k i n g on f l e s h and i s almost e n t i r e l y dependent on t h a t
tradition. We s h a l l r e t u r n t o t h i s q u e s t i o n o f gender i n John a t t h e
end o f our i n v e s t i g a t i o n o f Sophia's r o l e I n t h e Gospel.

In addition t o the overlap between Sophia and Logos already

noted, we s h o u l d also take account o f t h e p a r a l l e l i s m which exists

between Sophia and Torah, i n p a r t i c u l a r t h a t o f S i r a c h 24. For the

Wisdom t h e o l o g i a n s t h e r e a l r e a d y was a very r e a l sense i n which Sophia

had 'taken on f l e s h ' : she was t o be found embodied i n t h e Torah ( S i r

2 4 : 2 3 f f ; Bar 3:37 - 4 : 2 ) " . John's c l a i m now runs I m p l i c i t l y against

such a v i e w p o i n t , f o r Sophia i s t o be seen embodied i n something much

g r e a t e r than a w r i t t e n code, the Logos/Sophia, Jesus. I n f a c t we w i l l

see t h a t t h i s polemic a g a i n s t t h e view t h a t Sophia = Torah becomes an

i s s u e a t more than one p o i n t i n t h e Gospel, as w e l l as l a t e r i n t h e

Prologue (1:17). We noted i n our p r e v i o u s c h a p t e r how t h i s attempt t o

equate Sophia w i t h Torah may be e x p l a i n e d as a f o r m o f confinement o f

Sophia, r e s t r i c t i n g her p o t e n t i a l gender s i g n i f i c a n c e i n r e l a t i o n t o a

Goddess figure, like, f o r example, Isis, while a t t h e same time

exalting her t o t h e h i g h e s t position as t h e book o f the law. Now,

however, f o r the Fourth Evangelist, Sophia i s g i v e n a new lease o f


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l l f e , as i t were, I n c a r n a t e I n t h e man Jesus C h r i s t , whose l i f e will


be seen as t h e g r e a t e s t e x p r e s s i o n o f her s a v i n g i n f l u e n c e .

The p r o b a b i l i t y t h a t 1:14a i s a l o g i c a l c o n c l u s i o n drawn from

Sophia's r o l e i s h e i g h t e n e d by t h e next p a r t o f t h e verse. 1:14b, xai

IffxfjvffiCTev ev tijiTv, must s u r e l y owe something t o t h e d e s c r i p t i o n s of

Sophia found, f o r example, i n S i r 24:

o KT^caq fie xat^naoaev t i ^ v axTjVT^v fjiou


xai etnev'EV'lofXffip xataaxfjvcijaov
xcti ev IcrparjX xaTaxXT)povofii^9r)TV ( S i r 24:8)

There i s a d e f i n i t e change o f emphasis from S i r 24 t o Jn 1:14b. While

the Wisdom passage r e f e r s t o a general dwelling o f Sophia among t h e

wise of Israel, t h e hymn makes the I d e n t i f i c a t i o n with a specific

person, whom t h e w r i t e r will shortly name as Jesus C h r i s t <1:17>.

But, despite this narrowing down o f focus, t h e language used t o

describe t h e Logos' stay on e a r t h probably finds i t s roots i n the

d e s c r i p t i o n o f Sophia i n S l r a c h ' * .

Whether or n o t l:14c/d belongs t o t h e o r i g i n a l hymn, i t c e r t a i n l y

shows t r a c e s of a s i m i l a r Influence from Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e to that

seen i n t h e r e s t o f t h e Prologue up t o t h i s p o i n t . Sophia's S6%a i s a

guardian t o those who accept her, a t l e a s t i n t h e view o f Wisdom o f

Solomon: x a i 9uXdi!^ev fie ev xf^ 56?i[l ai)Xf\c, (Wisd 9:11). I n addition,

she i s said t o be an emanation of the glory o f God i n an e a r l i e r

passage by t h e same author:

otTfiiq y<Sip e o t i v Tfjq xoO 9eo£i Suvdfieojq


xat a J t 6 p p o i a xf\q TOO JiorvToxpdTopoq 56^r)q e l X i x p i v i ^ q . .
SmaHyaa^a ydip kaiiv 9<Bt6q ai&iov. . . . (Wisd 7:25-26)
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What makes these verses a l l t h e more s t r i k i n g i n r e l a t i o n t o 1:14 i s


the f a c t t h a t o n l y a few verses e a r l i e r , t h e author has d e s c r i b e d
Sophia as ixovoyevic, (Wisd 7:22). There I s no need t o p l a c e t h e
emphasis on t h e ' b e g e t t i n g ' (•yevvdco) aspect o f t h i s word. I t is
s i m p l y an I n d i c a t i o n o f t h e uniqueness o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p o f both
Sophia and Logos t o God'*. J u s t as t h e g l o r y o f t h e unique Sophia i s
seen as she comes i n t o t h e w o r l d , so t o o the g l o r y o f t h e unique Logos
i s seen as he comes among human beings as a human.

There i s no d i r e c t p a r a l l e l t o t h e combined a t t r i b u t e s o f x<^P'^^

and akf^Qeia i n d e s c r i p t i o n s o f Sophia. However, we do f i n d r e f e r e n c e

t o X'^P^^ i n 'branches' which grow out from Sophia: o l xXdtSoi pou

xXdiSoi 56^n^ X^P'^'^°^ ^ S i r 24:16). The phrase X'^P^^ '"^^ aXfjeexof

almost c e r t a i n l y corresponds t o t h e Hebrew c o u p l i n g Jl^Xl TDT1'^>

d e s p i t e t h e f a c t t h a t t h e LXX c o n s i s t e n t l y prefers t h e r e n d e r i n g feXeoq

xat otXt^Gsia'*. The c o v e n a n t a l r e l a t i o n s h i p between God and I s r a e l i s

now a p p l i e d t o t h e coming o f Jesus C h r i s t i n t o the world. While t h e

c o m b i n a t i o n o f these elements i s not found i n d i r e c t r e l a t i o n s h i p t o

Sophia, the i n d i v i d u a l application o f each i s . We have a l r e a d y made

mention o f t h e use o f X'^P^^ 1 " S i r 24: 16, b u t l a t e r i n t h e same book

we f i n d that t h e lack o f Sophia i s equated w i t h t h e absence o f God's

grace's;

ou "ydp e568ri auxffi irap<5t xupxou X'^P^''^


'6z\ jtdtCTT^q ao(fia.c, eaxepf)8ti ( S i r 37:21)

We may n o t e a l s o w i t h i n t e r e s t t h a t x<^P^<; as a q u a l i t y i s not merely

applied t o t h e female figure Sophia, but more o f t e n t o women i n

general. Proverbs d e c l a r e s t h a t t h e f i n d i n g o f a good w i f e i s indeed

the d i s c o v e r y o f X'^P^-^- °^ eOpsv yovaXxa ayaQ^v, efipev x ^ p n a g (Prov


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18:22). According to Sirach, i t i s the wise woman whose x^P'^^


w o r t h more than g o l d :

fif| acrtdxei ^uvaixdq CTO(pfjq x a i a.y<xdt\q


r\ ydip X'^P^'i auTfjq unip xd xP"<^^o'^ ^ S i r 7: 19)

The same author emphasises the value of a wife's X'^P'-'i °" other

occasions:

X<5(piq yvvawdc, x^pHrei x6v 'dtvSpa aoxfjq ( S i r 26: 13)

X6pxq e n i x'^P'-'^i- y^^^ aiaxuvxr^pdi ( S i r 26: 15)

There i s no c o r r e s p o n d i n g a s s o c i a t i o n o f t h i s word w i t h male f i g u r e s ,

n o t even, as one might have expected, in relation t o the k i n g , with

the one exception that Esther found x^P^<; b e f o r e the k i n g i n Esther

2:9,17'*.

It would c e r t a i n l y be m i s l e a d i n g t o suggest t h a t the c o u p l i n g o f

Xdtptq xat aXt^Seia found in Jn 1:14 does not reflect the Hebrew

expression Sl^/il TOT! • However, a l l o w i n g f o r t h i s basic background,

we a r e s t i l l left w i t h the q u e s t i o n as t o why John r e p l a c e s the usual

LXX translation '^Xeoq w i t h X'^P'-*^' Perhaps the best explanation i s

that the Fourth Evangelist i s simply i n f l u e n c e d by early Christian

usage o f t h e word X'^P'-*^ a t r a n s l a t i o n of the Hebrew word T DT) •

Certainly the Pauline epistles make c o n s i d e r a b l e use of this word,

e s p e c i a l l y as a c o n t r a s t t o the law (or works)'^, f o r example i n Gal

2:21 - oux aSetaS Ti^v X'^P^'^ Y<^P ^'^^ v6fiotJ SixaioaCvT), 'dpa

Xpt(jx6q Stope&v an^Oavev. Commenting on Paul's use of x<^P^^

3:24, Dunn can thus say, "Paul is here developing a different

understanding o f God's covenant c h o i c e and r i g h t e o u s n e s s , by setting

grace in antithesis t o the law and works"'*. When we consider the


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i m p l i c i t c o n f l i c t w i t h Sophia = Torah s p e c u l a t i o n i n Jn 1:14b,


t o g e t h e r w i t h the more e x p l i c i t statement of 1:17, we may see the
background t o the s w i t c h i n the e s t a b l i s h e d C h r i s t i a n f i r s t c e n t u r y
usage.

We will s h o r t l y see t h a t aXl^6e\a i s a l s o a s s o c i a t e d w i t h Sophia

in the Wisdom tradition, so we would propose that x^P'^'i Is also

derived f r o m t h a t same t r a d i t i o n and combined w i t h aXt^eextx i n s t e a d of

the more usual '^Xeoq on the b a s i s of i t s contemporary C h r i s t i a n usage.

Thus the Logos may once a g a i n be i d e n t i f i e d w i t h Sophia, whose q u a l i t y

of x<^P^<i i s a l s o associated with God", and the paradigmatic good

woman.

The discussion of the background to 6(Xi^eeia in John has

distinguished two d i f f e r e n t concepts of t r u t h which would serve as a

basis: the Hebraic and the Greek philosophical traditions.

Bultmann'o" and Dodd*"* both h o l d t h a t John's usage owes more t o the

Greek, which i s an i n t e l l e c t u a l category expressing u l t i m a t e reality,

than t o the Hebrew, which p l a c e s more emphasis on the moral content of

faithfulness. More r e c e n t d i s c u s s i o n has pointed out t h a t i t "can be

misleading and simplistic to build arguments on this foundation,

unless c e r t a i n strong q u a l i f i c a t i o n s are first made and observed"*.

Thistelton's own contention i s , t h a t Just because the Johannine usage

of it\^Beia most often means 'reality', in the sense more often

associated with Greek thought, that neither serves to exclude the

Hebraic understanding, nor shows that John depends on the Greek

concept a l o n e * W h a t i s most i m p o r t a n t f o r our present discussion

is, t h a t while aXr^Beia i n 1:14 may w e l l i n d i c a t e the presence of the

ultimate reality of God in Christ in a "strongly ontological


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sense"*"*, t h e a s s o c i a t i o n o f t h e term w i t h t h e Logos i s n e v e r t h e l e s s


a l s o w e l l documented i n t h e p a r a l l e l t r a d i t i o n s o f Jewish Wisdom.
Indeed, de l a P o t t e r l e goes as f a r as t o suggest t h a t aXi^Seia can be
used as a synonym f o r Sophia i n Wisdom s p e c u l a t i o n " * . I n Proverbs,
Sophia i n v i t e s people t o l i s t e n t o her, because t r u t h emerges f r o m her
mouth:

evaaxoi3aax^ fiou . . . '6xx aXt^Seiav fieXextjaex o (pdpu^^


fiou (Prov 8:6-7)

I n t h e c o n t e x t o f a l o n g passage which compares those who f o l l o w t h e

way o f f o l l y and those who t r a c e Sophia's f o o t s t e p s we f i n d t h a t '^Xeoq

xai &Xi^9eia a r e claimed as t h e reward f o r those who choose Sophia:

't\eov x a i aXi^Setav xexxaivouavv ctyaQoi (Prov 14:22). Still i n the

book o f Proverbs we f i n d t h e J u x t a p o s i t l o n l n g o f Sophia and aXi^Seia,

w i t h t h e accompanying I n j u n c t i o n t o a c q u i r e both:

riYJ) 1^1^} n;yDT) TIIP S\^X


T • T T : T . • ' - : •• : •.• v:

(aXyjSeiav xxrjCTbij x a i fifj ancSaij aotpiav x a i JtaxSeiav x a i a u v ^ a i v ) ^ ' *

De l a Potterie has a l s o proposed a c o n n e c t i o n between aXt^Seta and

fiuaxT^pvov i n c e r t a i n Wisdom and a p o c a l y p t i c traditions, which would

r u n p a r a l l e l t o t h e a s s o c i a t i o n between aXi^Ssia and Sophia*'^. I n the

book o f Wisdom t h e r e i s at least one t e x t which brings a l l three

elements i n t o c l o s e p r o x i m i t y :

x£ 56 eoTiv CTO(pia x a i irffiq e-y^vexo <mayyB.\&


x a i oux anoxp6()f<B ofitv fiuaxfjpia. . . .
x a i ou fii^ iiapoSeiJCTU xy|v aXi^Setov (Wisd 6:22)

I n S i r a c h we a l s o f i n d a c l o s e a s s o c i a t i o n between Sophia and aXfjSeia.

J u s t as Sophia i s known t h r o u g h t h e words fc*iich one speaks, so t o o one

s h o u l d guard a g a i n s t speaking i n c o n t r a d i c t i o n t o the words o f t r u t h :


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ev ydcp \6y(f YvaaSfjaetai aotpta


x a i nai&eia ev pt^^axx y\&aar]<:,
avTtXeYE tf| aXfjeeicjt (Sir 4:24-25)

As one pursues Sophia i n s e r v i c e , which i s a t t h e same time s e r v i c e o f

God ( S i r 4 : 1 1 - 1 9 ) , so t o o one pursues aXr^Geia even t o death, w i t h t h e

assurance t h a t God f i g h t s on your s i d e ( S i r 4 : 2 8 ) .

Thus, r e t u r n i n g t o T h i s t e l t o n ' s p o i n t noted above, we see t h a t

whatever d e c i s i o n i s a r r i v e d a t i n terms o f t h e meaning o f otXtjeeia i n

Jn 1:14, we a r e n o t f o r c e d i n t o the conclusion that t h e background

must be Greek over a g a i n s t Judaic. There are indeed good grounds f o r

v i e w i n g t h e combination X'^P'^^ " " i ^ a\i\QE\a w i t h i n t h e complex o f Wisdom

speculation, while at the same time acknowledging the initial

connection w i t h the / l ^ ^ l T0T7 motif««.

1:16 re-emphasises what we have seen concerning the g i v i n g o f

XcStpiq i n 1:14. J u s t as Sophia g i v e s x*P^<; ^° those who seek and f i n d

her, so a l s o t h e Logos g i v e s i t out o f h i s iiXfipapia. This term has

frequently been I n t e r p r e t e d f r o m a Gnostic perspective**'. But need

this necessarily be t h e case? We have seen that i t i s both

unnecessary and i n a p p r o p r i a t e t o p o s i t a Gnostic background f o r t h e

Prologue as a whole up t o t h i s p o i n t , so i t would seem r a t h e r s t r a n g e

t o suddenly r e q u i r e i t now.

nXfjpfflfia i s most commonly used i n t h e LXX. o f the Psalms, ^rtiere i t

d e s c r i b e s t h e f u l l n e s s o f God's c r e a t i v e work:

TotJ xuptou T) yf\ xoti T 6 nXfjpajia auTf[q


1^ oixou)i^vp x a l ndivxeq o i xatoixoCvxeq ev auT^
(Ps 23:l)*»o
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The same a p p l i e s t o t h e v e r b a l form, JtXTipda, which i s found i n the

c o n t e x t o f d e s c r i p t i o n s o f God's g l o r y f i l l i n g creation:

euXoyriTdv xd bvo^a xffq 56^n<i auxoO ei<; xdv aifflva


xat e t q x6v alfiSva xoO otiSvoq
x a i TiXr^pfflefjaexat xf[q 66^t)q auxoC nfiaa yi\
(Ps 71:19)»»*

The verb i s a l s o used i n c o n n e c t i o n w i t h the c r e a t i v e assistance of

Sophia, which r e s u l t s i n t h e e a r t h being f i l l e d w i t h c r e a t u r e s :

e}ieYaX6v9T) xA 'tpya aou, xupie


ndtvxa ev aocpta enotr^aaq
eitXiip<J)eTi -Yfj xfjq xxt^crec&q CTOU ( P S 103:24)

In t h e Wisdom o f Solomon we read that Sophia i s a nveCfia directed

towards t h e good o f humanity, f r o m which n o t h i n g can be hidden (Wisd

1:6). Immediately, the universal quality o f t h e nvetSfia (ao(p{a) i s

emphasised:

'bxi. nvetifia x u p i o u itenXfipttxev xfjv olxoofi^vr^v


x a i x6 ouv^xov xdt ndvxa yvfhaxv'ix^"^ <pavfjq (Wisd 1:7)

The form nXi^priq I s a l s o used w i t h some frequency i n descriptions of

the all-pervading nature of God within the created realm. On

occasions this i s also linked t o God's feXeoq, which we have seen i s

considered by many commentators t o be t h e background equivalent of

John's X<^P'^^ w i t h i n t h e Prologue. Once again t h e Psalms p r o v i d e us

with appropriate material:

ayom& eXeTj}ioCTi)VT)v x a t x p t a i v

xoO ^Xfeouq xuptou nXfipT^q r\ yf\ (Ps 32:5)

xoO eX^ouq oou xi3pte, itXr^prjq f\ y^


xA Sixavcbfiaxd aou 5t5a^6v fie (Ps 118:64)*
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Having noted t h e s t r o n g I d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f t h e Logos/Sophia w i t h t h e


c r e a t i v e power o f God i n t h e opening verses o f t h e Prologue, I t s u r e l y
makes more sense t o view t h e use o f itXyjpfflfia a g a i n s t t h a t same
background r a t h e r than i n t r o d u c i n g an unnecessary Gnostic concept. I t
i s f r o m t h e itXr^p©fia o f t h e a l l - p e r v a d i n g Sophia t h a t t h i s X'^P^'i *o
be r e c e i v e d .

The c l o s i n g verses o f t h e Prologue need l i t t l e further exegesis

to c l a r i f y t h e i n f l u e n c e o f Sophia C h r l s t o l o g y , s i n c e they b a s i c a l l y

re-emphasise themes which we have a l r e a d y seen may w i t h some degree o f

probability be a t t r i b u t e d t o t h e Wisdom s c h o o l . The presence of

Sophia w i t h God a t t h e b e g i n n i n g o f c r e a t i o n i s again r e f l e c t e d i n t h e

statement that Jesus C h r i s t , t h e Logos, has alone seen God. This

point i s brought forth as a deliberate contrast t o Moses, the

lawgiver**'. We a r e a g a i n reminded t h a t t h e Logos, l i k e Sophia (Wisd

7:22), i s fiovoYevf)q 9e6q, a f a c t which we have seen probably owes l e s s

t o t h e i d e a o f b e i n g ' b e g o t t e n ' , than i t does t o t h e thought o f t h e

opening words o f S i r a c h :

n&ua ao<pia napdt xuptoo


x a i fiex' auxoO e a x i v e i q x6v atfflva ( S i r 1:1)

The Logos/Sophia was w i t h God a t t h e p o i n t o f c r e a t i o n and has thus

seen God, a p r i v i l e g e denied even t o Moses. T h i s closeness t o God i s

marked by t h e i n t i m a t e term x6XTtoq, a word o f t e n used t o d e s c r i b e t h e

marriage r e l a t i o n s h i p * , b u t a l s o used w i t h i n t h e Gospel t o d e s c r i b e

the closeness o f a r e l a t i o n s h i p (13:23)**^.

I n c o n c l u s i o n then, we may say t h a t t h e Logos o f t h e Prologue i s

none other than Sophia. From t h e opening statement of his/her


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presence a t c r e a t i o n , through the themes of p r o x i m i t y t o God, l i f e and


l i g h t , grace and t r u t h , t o t h e announcement of the r e j e c t i o n and
r e f u s a l o f o i i 6 i o i t o b e l i e v e , we can t r a c e t h e Logos' steps i n the
t r a d i t i o n a l m a t e r i a l r e l a t e d t o Sophia. At v i r t u a l l y every t u r n o f
the Prologue we can f i n d Sophia's i n f l u e n c e a t work on the Johannlne
Logos.

One might reasonably ask why, i n t h e midst o f t h i s hymn, m a t e r i a l

relating t o John the B a p t i s t i s interpolated. I f the author had

wanted merely t o d i s t i n g u i s h between John as the f o r e r u n n e r and Jesus

as the ' r e a l thing', why insert material into the hymn r a t h e r than

dealing with the Issue i n the context of the immediately following

account of John's w i t n e s s ( l : 1 9 f f ) ? I t would make b e t t e r sense i f the

i n t e r p o l a t i o n s about John i n the Prologue c o u l d be seen t o be d i r e c t l y

r e l a t e d t o t h e theme of Sophia i n c a r n a t e .

The f i r s t t h i n g t o note i s t h a t "John i s not t h e f o r e r u n n e r , f o r

the Logos i s a l r e a d y irpffitoq and can have no f o r e r u n n e r " * ' * . His r o l e

in the Gospel i s always as a witness t o Jesus. This i s highly

significant when we remember t h a t i n o t h e r C h r i s t i a n communities and

their writings, Jesus h i m s e l f i s seen as a Teacher, o r Messenger o f

Wisdom'*^. I n t h e Johannine Prologue, John t h e B a p t i s t i s the w i t n e s s

to Sophia and t h e r e f o r e r e p l a c e s Jesus i n t h a t r o l e , a t the same time,

as we s h a l l l a t e r see, becoming a p r o t o t y p e f o r o t h e r witnesses w i t h i n

the Gospel. While we cannot say w i t h certainty how conscious the

author of the Fourth Gospel was of the r a d i c a l implications of

structuring t h e Prologue i n t h e way which we have i n t e r p r e t e d i t , we

would contend that t h e Prologue i n i t s present form can be read as

making a c l e a r distinction between Jesus Sophia i n c a r n a t e and those


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who a r e w i t n e s s e s t o him. T h i s p o i n t i s then c l a r i f i e d w i t h i n t h e


s t r u c t u r e o f t h e hymn and b e f o r e any r e f e r e n c e t o t h e content of the
B a p t i s t ' s w i t n e s s i t s e l f , o r indeed b e f o r e any o t h e r w i t n e s s i s
brought f o r w a r d . J u s t as Sophia must be d i s t i n g u i s h e d from the mere
m o r t a l who w i t n e s s e s t o her*'*, so too t h e Prologue t o t h e Fourth
Gospel makes c l e a r t h a t t h e w i t n e s s t o t h e Logos/Sophia i s someone
other than t h e Logos/Sophia, and p o i n t s beyond h i s / h e r witness t o t h a t
i n c a r n a t e one.

T h i s emphasis on Jesus Sophia i n c a r n a t e over a g a i n s t those who

merely w i t n e s s t o him i n one sense poses a problem f o r t h e author and

u l t i m a t e l y may have l e d t o t h e dropping of t h e name Sophia i n favour

of t h e term Logos. There i s o b v i o u s l y a gender problem i f Jesus t h e

man i s t o be c a l l e d Sophia i n c a r n a t e , but a t t h e same time, the author

wants t o be a b l e t o express the fact that this man i s indeed t h e

embodiment o f Sophia. The term Logos offers Itself as t h e most

a p p r o p r i a t e v e h i c l e f o r making t h i s e x p r e s s i o n , being a t one and t h e

same time an a l r e a d y e s t a b l i s h e d synonym f o r Sophia, and a masculine

term. The hymn t o Sophia i s thus transformed into a hymn t o t h e

i n c a r n a t e Logos, a term o t h e r w i s e u n t r i e d as a c h r i s t o l o g i c a l category

i n t h e w r i t i n g s o f t h e pre-Johannine C h r i s t i a n Church.

The assumption i s g e n e r a l l y made t h a t t h e Prologue t o the Gospel

of John i n some way a n t i c i p a t e s t h e Gospel as a whole. I f t h i s i s the

case, one would expect t o f i n d some evidence w i t h i n the Gospel itself

to s u p p o r t t h e t h e s i s , i f i t i s soundly based, t h a t t h e Logos t i t l e i s

l a r g e l y a cover f o r t h e gender problem surrounding the I d e n t i f i c a t i o n

of Jesus w i t h t h e female Sophia. We s h a l l now, t h e r e f o r e , t u r n t o t h e


-128-

body o f t h e Gospel t o see i f t h e c l a i m s o f t h e Logos/Sophia a r e i n


harmony w i t h t h e words and deeds o f t h e Johannine Jesus.

3.2.4 SOPHIA I N T H E BODY O F JOHN'S G O S P E L

I n any a t t e m p t t o t r a c e t h e i n f l u e n c e o f t h e Sophia concept on

the Gospel o f John as a whole, one must immediately observe, t h a t

nowhere i n t h e Gospel i s Jesus r e f e r r e d t o as e i t h e r Logos o r Sophia

outwlth t h e Prologue. T h i s need n o t , however, be seen as a p o i n t

a g a i n s t our t h e s i s , b u t may i n t h e end be a s u p p o r t i v e argument f o r

it. Having clarified who t h e Logos/Sophia actually is, in the

Prologue, t h e a u t h o r then works o u t t h e theme through t h e Gospel, but

does so by a l l o w i n g Sophia t o p r e s e n t h e r s e l f i n t h e c l a i m s and person

of Jesus.

Since our c o n t e n t i o n i s that t h e Prologue and Gospel a r e an

integral unit, we s h a l l proceed t o i d e n t i f y t h e major themes o f t h e

Prologue as they a r e worked o u t I n t h e Gospel as a whole. F i r s t l y , we

shall allow Jesus Sophia t o speak f o r himself through that most

d i s t i n c t i v e o f Johannine m o t i f s , t h e e.y& eifix sayings. We s h a l l then

follow approximately t h e course o f t h e major motifs as they a r e

presented i n t h e Prologue: t h e opening emphasis on t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p

between Logos/Sophia and God, I n c l u d i n g t h e themes o f p r e - e x l s t e n c e ,

the descent i n t o t h e w o r l d , t h e i n t i m a c y shared between them, t h e r o l e

of t h e Logos/Sophia as R e v e a l e r / L i g h t and t h e v i t a l question of the

emphasis o f 1:14 f o r t h e h u m a n i t y / d i v i n i t y relationship. Following

t h i s we w i l l t u r n t o t h e purpose o f Jesus' coming i n t o t h e world, t h e

theme o f Jesus as Teacher and h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p t o those who 'received

him' (1:12), before examining t h e way i n which t h e Logos/Sophia I s


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r e j e c t e d by ox ICSiot (1:11), and t h e theme o f Jesus' r e l a t i o n s h i p t o


the Law. F i n a l l y we s h a l l look a t two f u r t h e r themes, perhaps n o t
Immediately obvious i n t h e Prologue, but n e v e r t h e l e s s key i n f l u e n c e s
on Johannine t h i n k i n g as a whole, namely t h e g i f t o f the S p i r i t , which
we have a l r e a d y seen i s i n some way connected w i t h Logos and Sophia i n
the Jewish Wisdom t r a d i t i o n , and t h e arijieta o f Jesus, which appear t o
be p a r t o f t h e 'witness' t o him o f which John t h e B a p t i s t a l r e a d y
stands as a r e p r e s e n t a t i v e i n t h e Prologue.

3.2.4.1 THE EFQ E I M SAYINGS

One o f t h e most strikingly Individual christological

p r e s e n t a t i o n s o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel i s t h e group o f d i s c o u r s e s i n which

Jesus i n t r o d u c e s h i m s e l f w i t h the d i s t i n c t i v e affirmation, e.y& exfix.

The background to this idiosyncratic introduction has l o n g been a

matter of divergent s c h o l a r l y opinion. Some have seen i t s o r i g i n s i n

Rabbinic material**', o t h e r s i n a wider Semitic setting*2«, and y e t

o t h e r s i n t h e Gnostic Mandaean t r a d i t i o n * * * . More r e c e n t l y , however,

the Old Testament background has been r e - a f f i r m e d as the most likely

point of o r i g i n f o r t h e Johannine usage, n o t l e a s t i n t h e use o f £.y&

etfii, as a f o r m o f t h e D i v i n e name i n both D e u t e r o - I s a i a h and l a t e r

Jewish writings***. Brown has a l s o observed t h a t here, as I n other

areas o f t h e Gospel, t h e author o f John may w e l l have been I n f l u e n c e d

by t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n , i n p a r t i c u l a r t h a t o f Proverbs 8 and S i r a c h

24***. We s h a l l pursue t h i s s u g g e s t i o n f u r t h e r i n an examination o f

the I n d i v i d u a l sayings p r e f i x e d by t h e eydi e l f i i formula.


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3.2.4.1.1 ETQ E I M O APTOZ THZ ZQHZ (6:35)

The first d e c l a r a t i v e statement u s i n g t h e e-yci e i f i i formula

in John i s t h a t i n which Jesus d e s c r i b e s h i m s e l f as t h e 'Bread o f

Life' (6:35,48,51). The q u e s t i o n has been posed as t o whether or n o t

t h i s statement, o r any o f t h e o t h e r s , i s a m e t a p h o r i c a l o r p a r a b o l i c

description o f Jesus, o r r a t h e r a statement o f substance. I s Jesus

merely like bread, which gives l i f e t o those who e a t i t , or i s Jesus

"in reality t h e embodiment"*** o f bread, shepherd, vine, etc.?

Clearly there a r e metaphorical tendencies i n a l l o f these statements,

s i n c e Jesus i s c e r t a i n l y n o t a lump o f bread! On t h e o t h e r hand, t h e

persistent i n s i s t e n c e o f t h e author on t h e t r u e (aXtjeivoq) n a t u r e o f

Jesus as each o f t h e elements, seems t o f a v o u r the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n

which says t h a t t h e terms a r e b e i n g a p p l i e d t o Jesus as the only one

who t r u l y embodies them***. We would t h e r e f o r e conclude t h a t they a r e

not merely a l l e g o r i c a l , metaphorical o r p a r a b o l i c statements about

Jesus, b u t a r e an attempt t o e s t a b l i s h t h e t r u e n a t u r e o f Jesus as t h e

embodiment o f these q u a l i t i e s * * ' .

The first person s t y l e o f address by Sophia i n Prov 8 and S i r 24

offers an i n t e r e s t i n g parallel t o t h e sy6 e i p i statements i n John.

While t h e formula eyd> e t j i i i s n o t used, i t i s nevertheless evident

that Sophia makes c l a i m s f o r herself using the f i r s t person ina

manner s i m i l a r t o that employed o f Jesus i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel. The

connection becomes more a t t r a c t i v e when we observe t h a t Sophia l a y s

c l a i m t o t h e i d e a o f b e i n g t h e p r o v i d e r o f sustenance, t h a t i s , bread

and water (or wine). I n t h e l a t t e r p a r t o f t h e f i r s t person speech i n

Proverbs, Sophia makes the following invitation t o those who a r e

w i l l i n g t o heed her:
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''EXSaxe cpdyexe xSv efiffiv tSptcov


x a i Jtiexe o?vov, '6v ^x6pa<ja ufitv (Prov 9:5)

The juxtaposition o f bread and wine here may a l s o be s i g n i f i c a n t i n

respect of the e u c h a r l s t i c o v e r t o n e s i n Jn 6 : 3 5 f f , and i n p a r t i c u l a r

to the rather crude assertion of 6:53ff regarding the eating and

d r i n k i n g o f t h e Son o f Man's f l e s h and blood. J u s t as Sophia can c a l l

upon people t o eat and d r i n k o f her, so t o o t h e Johannine Jesus, vrtiom

the Prologue has Introduced as Logos/Sophia incarnate, presents

himself as the true and living bread f o r t h e nourishment of the

believer. A direct parallel to this i s found i n t h e c l a i m s which

S i r a c h makes f o r Sophia:

ov eCT9tovx6q fie 'ixx jievvdaouCTW,


x a i o i n i v o v x ^ q fie 'ixi Siyt^aouavv ( S i r 24:21)

T h i s v e r s e may at f i r s t sight seem t o c o n t r a d i c t Jesus' c l a i m i n Jn

6:35, but as Brown has a l r e a d y p o i n t e d o u t , the meaning of the S i r a c h

text i s , that those who taste o f Sophia "will never have too much

Wisdom and will always desire more"*^^. This i s surely also the

i m p o r t o f Jesus' words.

A l t h o u g h 6:35 o n l y mentions bread s p e c i f i c a l l y , the l a t t e r half

of t h e verse I m p l i e s t h a t Jesus s u p p l i e s nourishment not only through

food, but a l s o t h r o u g h d r i n k : 6 utaxeOuv e l q efi^ ou fir) Suptjaex nconoxe.

Indeed, this c o n n e c t i o n becomes e x p l i c i t i n the speech which Jesus

makes d u r i n g t h e Feast o f Tabernacles:

e(J(v x i q 6x\jfq(_epx^o9<B np6q fie x a i n i v ^ x a o nvaxeCoiv e l q


e f i ^ , xa9a>q etitev r\ Ypa<pi^, noxofiot ev xfjq xoXiaq auxoO
peOoouCTi-v bSatoq C^'^toq (Jn 7:37-38)
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Since t h e r e i s no Old Testament t e x t which i s d i r e c t l y quoted here, a


number o f s u g g e s t i o n s have been made as t o i t s o r i g i n * * * . However, we
have noted t h e r a t h e r c l o s e p a r a l l e l s t o t h i s i n Prov 9:5 and S i r
24:21, but two f u r t h e r t e x t s would recommend themselves here. E a r l i e r
i n S i r a c h , Sophia i s d e s c r i b e d as a Mother or B r i d e who s u p p l i e s the
following:

vjftojiiet ai)x6v &pxov auv^oeojq


x a i T36(i>p ao<piaq noxtffet aux6v ( S i r 15:3)

The essential nature of the provision of these substances f o r the

maintenance o f human l i f e i s emphasised l a t e r by the same author: apxl

Ccofjq 'tSap xai lipxoq x a i i^dtxiov ( S i r 29:21)**'. S i r a c h even o f f e r s us

something o f a p a r a l l e l t o t h e words of Jn 7:38, when he says t h a t he

has become a channel t h r o u g h which the f l o w , which i s Sophia, can

f l o o d out t o o t h e r s , i n a way n o t d i s s i m i l a r t o t h a t envisaged of t h e

d i s c i p l e i n r e l a t i o n t o Jesus ( S i r 24:30).

However, the reinterpretation of Israel's history under the

guidance o f D i v i n e Sophia i n t h e Wisdom of Solomon p r o v i d e s even more

interesting material. Here we find that the t h i r s t of the wandering

Israelites was met by Sophia, who supplied water to them i n the

wilderness:

e6i\|ir)CTav x a i eiiexaX^aavxb oe
xai i&6Qr\ auxofq ^x nixpac, otxpoxbfAou 'iBap
x a i 'ia\ia 6iv|/tiq ex Xiflou <JxXr|poO (Wisd 11:4)

If we turn to Philo, we find t h a t Sophia i s seen as the s u p p l i e r o f

the w i l d e r n e s s Manna i t s e l f , this i n turn b e i n g a symbol f o r the

Torah* Thus i n P h i l o we have t h e succession Manna (Bread) - Torah

- Sophia:
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'^xt xotvuv xi*|V oupdviov xpo(pf|v - crocpia &t eaxvv - xfjq


WX^^< '^1^ xaXet ficScvva, 6tafi6vei Jifioa xotq xpiio^ofi^'^oi-^i
9etoq Xdyoq ei 'laou, 7ie<ppovxixd)q Sxacpepdvtcoq ladxTjxoq.
(Quis Rer 191)

It i s a l s o i n s t r u c t i v e t o compare P h i l o ' s d e s c r i p t i o n o f t h e Logos as

d i s t r i b u t i n g t h e heavenly Manna, Sophia, t o t h e w i l d e r n e s s people w i t h

the OT^fietov which Jesus, t h e Bread o f L i f e , has j u s t performed as a

witness to his kydi eifii o citpxoq c l a i m . As t h e people s i t on t h e

ground i n need o f food, Jesus Sophia, we may say, blesses what i s

brought and d i s t r i b u t e s i t a c c o r d i n g t o t h e i r need.

Since t h e connection i s already made i n Jn 6:30ff between t h e

wilderness bread and t h e t r u e bread, which 6:35 i d e n t i f i e s as Jesus,

it must be a t l e a s t p o s s i b l e t h a t t h e author o f t h e Gospel was aware

of the connection made between Manna and Sophia i n t h e l a t e r Wisdom

tradition. T h i s would g i v e us a t i e up a l s o w i t h t h e Logos/Sophia o f

the Prologue, who has p r e v i o u s l y been compared w i t h Moses i n 1:17, and

through whom aXi)0exa i s s a i d t o come (.NB, 6:32 - xdv 'dpxov . . . x6v

6(Xri8xv6v), i n c o n t r a s t t o t h e Law. Again i t I s p o s s i b l e t o d i s c e r n

here a p o t e n t i a l l y s u b t l e polemic against t h e ensnarement of Sophia

w i t h i n t h e Torah.

We can see f r o m t h i s discussion that the connection between t h e

c l a i m o f t h e Johannine Jesus t o be t h e 'Bread o f L i f e ' and t h e c l a i m s

of a similar nature made by Sophia are anything but s u p e r f i c i a l .

Indeed, we might suggest t h a t i t i s none o t h e r than t h e Logos/Sophia

who p r e s e n t s h i m / h e r s e l f t o t h e crowds as t h e sustenance they need f o r

continued life*3*.
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3.2.4.1.2 ETQ EIMI TO TOZ TOY KOZtiOY <8: 12)

A l l o w i n g f o r t h e s t o r y o f Jesus and t h e woman caught I n

adultery as a l a t e r Insertion Into t h e Gospel, Jesus' statement i n

8: 12 i s seen as a continuation o f h i s speech at t h e Feast of

Tabernacles (7:14ff), an a p p r o p r i a t e s e t t i n g f o r t a k i n g up t h e theme

of light'32. The background t o John's use o f t h e term ' l i g h t ' may

indeed, as s c h o l a r s have noted, be complex, but once again t h e Wisdom

t r a d i t i o n p r o v i d e s us w i t h m a t e r i a l which would have been both r e a d i l y

available to the author and have provided suitable scope f o r

development o f t h e f o r m which we have i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel.

Our starting point i s Proverbs, vrtiere Sophia makes her c l a i m t o

being the f i r s t o f God's c r e a t i o n s . When we look back t o t h e Genesis

creation account, we f i n d t h a t God's f i r s t command is: Y^'^'I^'I'^'^ <P®'i

(Gen 1:3). We would t h e r e f o r e be J u s t i f i e d i n saying that Sophia's

c l a i m i n Prov 8:22 - xOpioq '^xxxa^v jie 6tpx«^v oSfflv otutoO e l q 'ipya autoO

- a l r e a d y c o n t a i n s w i t h i n i t t h e p o t e n t i a l f o r u n d e r s t a n d i n g Sophia as

light. This parallelism becomes e x p l i c i t among t h e Old Testament

w r i t i n g s i n Ecclessiastes:

ntpxQoeia ao<p<<? uitfep i f l v a^poo-Uvi^v


ffiq n e p t a a e i a xoO qxDXdq uii6p x6 ax6xoq (Eccl 2: 13)

This i s f u r t h e r developed i n t h e Wisdom o f Solomon, where Sophia i s

equated w i t h e v e r l a s t i n g l i g h t . When compared with the l i g h t o f day

she i s seen t o be g r e a t e r (Wisd 7:26), f o r n e i t h e r darkness nor e v i l

can p r e v a i l a g a i n s t her:
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qxBTi auYxptvon^vti eupfcncexat JtpoT6pa

aoifiac, 56 ou x a x x a x i J e v x a x i a (Wlsd 7:29-30)

I n Wisd 18:3-4, l i g h t i s i d e n t i f i e d w i t h law, an e q u a t i o n we have a l s o

noted i n r e s p e c t o f Sophia i n Wisdom s p e c u l a t i o n ( S i r 24:23). Brown

reminds us o f t h e a s s o c i a t i o n between law and t h e l i g h t o f l i f e i n t h e

Qumran literature^^', which i s further evidence of the i n t e r -

c h a n g e a b i l i t y o f t h e concepts Law - Sophia - Light a t t h e time o f t h e

New Testament w r i t i n g s .

The closeness o f a s s o c i a t i o n between Sophia and Logos i s w e l l

illustrated by P h i l o ' s t r e a t m e n t o f L i g h t i n De Somnlis. Whereas t h e

Biblical tradition sees Sophia as t h e f i r s t creation and t h e r e f o r e

equivalent t o t h e L i g h t o f Gen 1:3, P h i l o t r a n s f e r s t h i s r o l e t o t h e

Logos* Having f i r s t d e s c r i b e d God as l i g h t , he then goes on t o

say:

16 p6v ydip napdtSevY^a o ii\r\ptaxazoc, f[v auxoC X670<;, (pSq


- "eljce" Ydtp 9t^axv "o Gebq yevi^aea <pffiq" (DeSomn 1,75)

There i s , then, sufficient evidence w i t h i n t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n t o

suggest that Sophia could be equated w i t h light. The Johannine

assertion i s once again that Jesus i s t h e true l i g h t ( l : 9 ) ' * s , and

this i s graphically illustrated i n the healing of the b l i n d man i n

c h a p t e r 9. I f Sophia was t r u e l i g h t , t h a t f u n c t i o n i s now accorded t o

the Logos/Sophia, Jesus, t h e embodiment o f t h e same t r a d i t i o n .

3.2.4.1.3 ETQ EIMI H OYPA TON HPOBATOH <10;7); EFQ EIMI 0 nOIMHN
0 KAAOZ <10:11.14)

The two statements r e g a r d i n g t h e 'Door o f t h e Sheep' and

the 'Good Shepherd' a r e v i r t u a l l y inseparable from each o t h e r , n o t


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o n l y because they appear i n such c l o s e p r o x i m i t y , but a l s o because


t h e y a r e b o t h e x p l a n a t o r y comments on the p a r a b l e which opens t h e
c h a p t e r (10:1-5). T h i s p a r a b l e d e a l s w i t h f a l s e shepherds and the
r e l a t i o n s h i p o f t h e t r u e shepherd t o the sheep. At f i r s t s i g h t the
two images o f the EY^ E'\.\XX statements seem i n c o m p a t i b l e , s i n c e one
c o u l d h a r d l y be the door and the one who leads through i t a t one and
t h e same t i m e * ' * . The c e n t r a l p o i n t of t h e whole s e c t i o n i s a
C h r l s t o l o g i c a l one: "Jesus draws t o h i m s e l f every e p i t h e t which the
p i c t u r e o f sheep and shepherd s u g g e s t s " * .

It would c e r t a i n l y be very d i f f i c u l t t o t r y and posit a direct

dependence o f the w r i t e r on any statement comparing Sophia w i t h ei3pa

or T i o i f i f \ v . Proverbs does encourage t h e wise person t o s i t a t Sophia's

door r a t h e r than a t t h a t of the h a r l o t : indeed, watching a t Sophia's

door i s the way to f i n d life:

;iaxdpioq avtjp, '6q exaaKoiaezai f i o u ,


x a i (iv8pcDrtoq, '6q Tdtq efidiq o5o6q <pu\d^ex
ctYpuitvCv en' I j i a t q GOpaiq xa9' fj^^pav
tT)p5Jv OTaejioiiq ejiffiv ev(76S<BV
a l Y^P '6?o6o< fiou k^oSot Cffifiq (Prov 8:34)

P a r t of the p o i n t of e n t e r i n g the door of Jesus Sophia i s t h a t those

who do so r e c o g n i s e h i s v o i c e as t h a t of the true/good Shepherd: they

listen t o him (axo6ao\)orxv: 10:16). I t i s because of t h i s listening

that they a r e a b l e t o hear and t o have t h a t l i f e f o r which the Good

Shepherd g i v e s up h i s l i f e (10:10-11). At t h i s p o i n t we may discern a

r e a l o v e r l a p i n meaning between the Johannine idea and t h a t expressed

in the text of Prov 8:34-35, for i t is precisely by sitting at

Sophia's door and l i s t e n i n g t h a t her d i s c i p l e comes t o have l i f e .


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However, t h i s o v e r l a p i n meaning does n o t s t r i c t l y correspond t o


the i d e a o f Jesus as t h e door. The background t o John's use of eOpa
i s complexi38^ t h e most n o t a b l e p a r a l l e l s b e i n g t h e A p o c a l y p t i c n o t i o n
of t h e door o r g a t e o f h e a v e n * " , and t h e Synoptic t r a d i t i o n s r e l a t e d
to e n t e r i n g t h e Kingdom'*". L e t us then adopt another k i n d o f
approach t o t h e Johannine statement by l o o k i n g a t t h e use which i s
made o f Bdpa as a d e s c r i p t i o n o f Jesus. B a r r e t t sums up:

There i s o n l y one means o f e n t e r i n g t h e f o l d ; t h e r e i s


o n l y one source o f knowledge and l i f e ; t h e r e i s o n l y
one way t o o b t a i n s p i r i t u a l nourishment; t h e r e i s o n l y
one way t o heaven. And t h e s i n g l e means o f access t o
a l l t h a t i s good i s Jesus**'.

The idea o f Jesus as 'door' has t o do with access: access to

knowledge, l i f e , and u l t i m a t e l y God's s a l v a t i o n (10:9). When we look

at t h e statement eyu eijjii r\ Qiipa xffiv npoPdtxcov i n this light, we can

begin t o see n o t t o o d i s t a n t parallels i n t h e Wisdom tradition.

Sophia i s t h e source o f knowledge (Prov 8:12; 9:6; S i r 1:19) and l i f e

(Prov 3:16,18; 8:35; S i r 4:12), and we have a l r e a d y noted how she i s

the p r o v i d e r o f nourishment i n t h e form o f bread and water/wine. As

the one who has come down from heaven ( S i r 2 4 : 1 3 f f ) she i s able t o

give life and s a l v a t i o n t o those who know her. She I s Indeed the

Saviour, par e x c e l l e n c e , i n Wisdom o f Solomon 10-19. Thus, a l t h o u g h

there i s no evidence of Sophia being called t h e 'door', she

n e v e r t h e l e s s f u l f i l s t h e same function as t h e one who now c l a i m s t h a t

title. She i s e f f e c t i v e l y t h e door t o God and s a l v a t i o n f o r those who

seek and f i n d h e r .

A similar situation e x i s t s w i t h r e g a r d t o t h e shepherd and t h e

sheep. This image i s certainly influenced by Old Testament


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t r a d i t i o n s » « 2 . I n p a r t i c u l a r those of t h e Psalms and E z e k l e l 34.


W i t h i n t h e Wisdom corpus no d i r e c t p a r a l l e l can be found. The i n i t i a l
d e c l a r a t i o n o f John 10:11 i s developed as a c o n t r a s t t o the f a l s e
shepherd who abandons t h e sheep when t h e w o l f comes, and t h i s must
s u r e l y be r e l a t e d t o E z e k i e l 34»*s. The second d e c l a r a t i o n i n 10:14
develops t h e main theme o f t h e p a r a b l e (10:2-3) and here the r e c u r r i n g
theme of life appears. The shepherd l a y s down h i s l i f e i n order t h a t
the sheep may have l i f e (10:28), which i s h i s g i f t t o them, a g i f t
which we have noted has been e x c l u s i v e l y t h e p r o v i n c e of Sophia (or
God!) b e f o r e t h i s time.

A f u r t h e r aspect of t h e shepherd should be noted i n r e l a t i o n t o

the possible influence of Wisdom tradition: the shepherd has an

Intimate r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h t h e sheep, t o the e x t e n t t h a t he knows each

one by name. Sophia encourages t h e wise t o have the k i n d of i n t i m a t e

r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h her which she a l s o shares w i t h God. Wisd 7:25-26

d e s c r i b e s t h a t r e l a t i o n s h i p and i s i n t u r n f o l l o w e d by a d e s c r i p t i o n

of t h e way i n which Sophia r e l a t e s t o those who come t o her, and t o

whom she comes (Wisd 7:27; 8:2-16). Those who are wise l i s t e n to

Sophia's v o i c e as she c r i e s out t o them (Prov 8 : I f f ; Sir 2 4 : i f f ) , and

she p r o v i d e s and cares f o r those who know her ( S i r 24:19-22).

Although we have no l i n g u i s t i c p a r a l l e l s i n the Wisdom corpus as

such, Phllo shows us independently that t h e development of Wisdom

t h i n k i n g can l e a d us i n the d i r e c t i o n i n which t h e theme i s developed

i n John. He can t a l k o f t h e Logos (Sophia) as a shepherd l e a d i n g and

tending the f l o c k . The whole o f c r e a t i o n i s p i c t u r e d as a f l o c k under

the hand o f o noipifjv x a t PaaiXei)q ee6q (DeAgr, 5 1 ) , who has appointed

the Logos as t h e shepherd. A s i m i l a r exegesis of Psalm 23: 1 I n De Mut


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116, d e s c r i b e s t h e Logos as t h e 'shepherd and k i n g ' o f t h e mind***.


T h i s a t l e a s t shows us t h a t i n one s t r a n d o f thought, t h e r e was a
d i r e c t l i n e o f development f r o m Wisdom t r a d i t i o n which saw t h e
Logos/Sophia emerge as a shepherding f i g u r e .

Once a g a i n we can see t h a t i t i s p o s s i b l e t o f i n d the roots of

the Johannine s a y i n g i n t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n , a l b e i t allowing at the

same t i m e f o r t h e i n f l u e n c e and combination of other s u i t a b l e Old

Testament themes.

3.2.4.1.4 ETQ EIMI H ANAZTASIZ KAI H ZQH (11:25)

It i s h a r d l y a matter of great s u r p r i s e t o discover that

the word dtvAaxaaxq i s nowhere used i n Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e . The almost

total l a c k o f any concept o f r e s u r r e c t i o n o u t s i d e o f t h e A p o c a l y p t i c

tradition*^5 makes a search for linguistic p a r a l l e l s i n b i b l i c a l , or

even p o s t - b i b l i c a l Sapiential w r i t i n g s vain. However, t h i s need n o t

d i s a p p o i n t us i n our search f o r Wisdom t r a d i t i o n s behind t h e ey& ex^ix

sayings. Here, as elsevrfiere, we need t o c o n s i d e r t h e main t h r u s t o f

the c l a i m r a t h e r than the p o s s i b i l i t y o f mere l i n g u i s t i c parallels.

The p o i n t o f Jesus' c l a i m t o be t h e r e s u r r e c t i o n i s n o t so much one o f

having the a b i l i t y t o r e s u s c i t a t e dead bodies, but r a t h e r t h a t he i s

the g i v e r o f life, i n t h i s case s p e c i f i c a l l y eternal life. We s h a l l

therefore concentrate our i n v e s t i g a t i o n upon t h e theme of l i f e , a

m a t t e r we have n e c e s s a r i l y touched upon s e v e r a l times a l r e a d y .

The O l d Testament c o n s i s t e n t l y d e s c r i b e s God as the g i v e r o f l i f e

and t h e Lord o f L i f e (Deut 32:29)***. This i s e v i d e n t from the f i r s t

pages o f Genesis onwards, where Yahweh breathes life into creation,

and i n p a r t i c u l a r t h e body o f Adam (Gen 2:7). The theme o f Yahweh as


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the l i f e - g i v i n g f o r c e i s found i n every sphere o f I s r a e l ' s r e l i g i o n


and l i f e , so i t i s n o t s u r p r i s i n g t o f i n d i t c e l e b r a t e d i n t h e worship
l i f e r e f l e c t e d i n t h e book o f Psalms (Ps 15:11; 20:4; 29:4; 35:9
ILXXli e t a l . ) . Yahweh both g i v e s l i f e and takes i t away (Job 1:21),
a note e m p h a t i c a l l y u n d e r l i n e d i n t h e covenant renewal l i t u r g y of Deut
30, where those obedient t o t h e covenant a r e promised b l e s s i n g and
l i f e , w h i l e those d i s o b e d i e n t a r e cursed and handed over t o death.

The Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e b r i n g s a new s l a n t t o t h i s theme: i t i s

Sophia who b r i n g s l i f e (Prov 3:16; 8:35; 9:11; e t a l . > , and who o f f e r s

b l e s s i n g i n c o n t r a s t t o t h e way o f f o l l y , which leads t o d e s t r u c t i o n

and death (Prov 9:10-18). L a t e r Wisdom w r i t e r s speak o f t h e g i f t o f

eternal life b e i n g r e c e i v e d through t h e m i n i s t r a t i o n s o f Sophia (Wisd

8:13). Moving f u r t h e r ahead t o P h l l o , we f i n d that this thought i s

developed i n an exegesis o f Gen 3:20, where Sophia i s c a l l e d the

Mother of the l i v i n g : o i 56 (.SiMxec, bvxmq jiT)x6pa )xev '^xo"^^ croqjiav

(QuisRer, 5 3 ) . He a l s o d e s c r i b e s Sophia as t h e t r e e o f l i f e , which

empowers one t o l i v e : . . . x6 xfjq C<^*t<; 56K.ov, toux6ax\ aocptaq ^

Suvfjaij CQv (Leg A l l I I I , 5 2 ) . The importance of t h i s chain of

tradition lies in t h e emphasis on Sophia as the p r o v i d e r of

life/eternal life, a c l a i m p r e v i o u s l y made o n l y on behalf o f Yahweh.

I t i s t h i s c l a i m which t h e Johannine Jesus now makes f o r h i m s e l f .

We have a l r e a d y noted how i n e a r l y C h r i s t i a n w r i t i n g t h e r e was a

c e r t a i n amount o f o v e r l a p between Wisdom and A p o c a l y p t i c s p e c u l a t i o n .

Dunn has noted how t h e F o u r t h Gospel may o f f e r a c o r r e c t i v e a t p o i n t s

over against the Apocalyptic and Merkahbah mystical speculation

concerning t h e idea o f 'heavenly ascent', p r e c i s e l y by u s i n g a Wisdom

m o t i f S i n c e t h e concept o f r e s u r r e c t i o n was such an i n t e g r a l p a r t


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of A p o c a l y p t i c thought* may i t n o t be t h a t a l s o here the Fourth


E v a n g e l i s t o f f e r s a c r i t i q u e o f such s p e c u l a t i o n through a p p l y i n g t h e
very word used, avAdxaoxq, t o t h e person o f Jesus Sophia? We can, o f
course, o n l y o f f e r t h i s as a suggestion, but i t may n o t be so f a r
removed from t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t ' s purpose when we take other such
polemic i n t o account.

As a f i n a l p o i n t , we should a l s o note one more t e x t from P h i l o .

The idea o f r e s u r r e c t i o n may n o t be so f a r removed from t h e concept

expressed i n De Fuga 97, where t h e soul i s encouraged t o seek refuge

in t h e D i v i n e Logos (Sophia). This w i l l go beyond death and g r a n t

eternal life:

ibv. . . \6yov Getov, 'dq ao(ptoq e a x i nr\y'f\,^ 'iwa


apuod^evoq xoC vdfiaxoq a v x l 8avdxou l^utr^v dxSxov S8X.0V
e'tSprixax. (De Fuga, 97)

The Johannine c l a i m t h a t Jesus i s t h e avdaxaaxq may thus be seen as a

development o f t h e Wisdom theme o f Sophia as t h e g i v e r of l i f e , and i t

is illustrated d r a m a t i c a l l y through t h e aT^fietov o f t h e r a i s i n g o f

Lazarus. The Logos/Sophia o f t h e Prologue, who was announced as l i f e

( 1 : 4 ) , now demonstrates t h a t he i s t h e embodiment o f t h a t q u a l i t y by

giving life.

3.2.4.1.5 ETQ EIMI H OAOZ KAI H AAHSEIA KAI H ZQH <14:6)

The first task i n d e a l i n g w i t h t h i s t h r e e f o l d statement i s

to determine the relationship between t h e t h r e e s u b s t a n t i v e s . Many

attempts have been made a t t h i s , b u t Brown d i v i d e s these i n t o two

basic o p t i o n s : C i l " E x p l a n a t i o n s wherein t h e way i s d i r e c t e d toward a

goal t h a t i s t h e t r u t h and/or l i f e . " [ill "Explanations wherein t h e


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way i s t h e p r i m a r y p r e d i c a t e and t h e t r u t h and t h e l i f e a r e j u s t


e x p l a n a t i o n s o f t h e way"**'. The f i r s t type would i n c l u d e most o f t h e
Greek and L a t i n F a t h e r s as w e l l as modern approaches such as Bultmann
(Gnostic b a c k g r o u n d ) * s o and Dodd (Hermetic background)*s». The Way i s
a l r e a d y i n t h e i r midst and he i s a t t h e same time t h e i r goal of t r u t h
and l i f e . At f i r s t s i g h t t h i s would appear t o be another statement o f
the emphasis we have seen i n o t h e r sayings: t r u t h and l i f e . However,
i t does n o t take account o f t h e c o n t e x t i n which 14:6 stands. In
verse 4, Jesus has s t a t e d t h a t , d e s p i t e h i s d e p a r t u r e , t h e d i s c i p l e s
know t h e way he w i l l take. T h i s provokes t h e q u e s t i o n from Thomas:
nffiq 6ovd^e9a xt^v o66v ExS^vax; (14:5). I t i s i n response t o t h i s
q u e s t i o n t h a t t h e iydi e x m statement o f 14:6 comes. When we add t o
t h i s t h e evidence o f t h e second h a l f o f 14:6, we see t h a t t h e emphasis
i s Indeed on o56q, which Jesus c l a i m s i s 6x' epioC!. We would t h e r e f o r e
agree w i t h Brown and de l a P o t t e r i e * 5 2 , t h a t t h e second of t h e above
o p t i o n s i s t h e p r e f e r a b l e one. Because Jesus i s t h e l i f e and t h e
t r u t h , he i s t h e Way t o t h e Father = t h e way o f s a l v a t i o n .

Having e s t a b l i s h e d t h i s interpretation o f t h e statement we may

now turn to t h e Wisdom literature t o seek possible parallels.

Firstly, we must note that o66q i s n o t used i n t h e same a b s o l u t e

Johannine manner i n t h e Wisdom corpus. However, t h e need t o f o l l o w i n

the b66q, o r b66x o f Sophia i s a c o n s t a n t l y r e c u r r i n g theme o f both

b i b l i c a l and p o s t - b i b l i c a l l i t e r a t u r e . We g i v e b u t a few examples:

ax o6ox auxfjq (=ffo<ptaq) o6ot xa\ai

xat ndvxeq ox xpiPox auxfjq ev expfjvi] (Prov 3: 17)

vOv o6v, ux^, 'dxou6 fiou

xax fiaxdpiox ox 66oi3q fiou (pxjXdaaovxeq (Prov 8:32)

fiaxdpxoq ocvi^p, "bq excaxoiicrexaf fiou


xax''dvepcoitoq, "^bq xdq efidq 65ot)q cpuXd^ex (Prov 8:34)
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ev T i d a q Y^X^ Ttp6ae\9£ av)x|{


xat ev bXij 5uv6)jei aou auvxfjpiiaov xdq o5o6q auxfjq
( S i r 6:26)

Many more s i m i l a r phrases can be found e x p r e s s i n g t h e thought that

f o l l o w i n g i n t h e way o f Sophia leads t o s a l v a t i o n . Because Sophia I s

the g i v e r o f l i f e and t h e t r u e wisdom over a g a i n s t t h e f a l s e woman i n

Proverbs, one i s encouraged t o see her a l s o as t h e Way, and t o walk i n

her ways.

T u r n i n g t o P h i l o we can see a development o f t h i s t r a d i t i o n . In

the a l l e g o r i c a l i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f Num 20:17-20, he sees Sophia as t h e

Way (.QuodDeus, 1 4 2 f f ) , a development o f t h e i d e a already present i n

Wisd 10, t h a t Sophia l e d t h e way i n t h e Exodus'^3. Sophia i s the

royal way which l e a d s t o God'^*, which has obvious s i m i l a r i t i e s t o

Jesus as t h e way t o t h e Father. I n addition, Phllo frequently speaks

about t h e need f o r l e a d e r s h i p on the way and l i s t s as t h e t r u e leader,

the Logos (.Mlg Abr 174; De Somn I, 7 1 ) . A d m i t t e d l y t h i s i s not t h e

precise description o f Jesus as t h e Way, but t h e r e i s no reason t o

deny t o t h e a u t h o r o f John t h e a b i l i t y t o develop an already obvious

t r e n d o f Wisdom t h i n k i n g i n an i n d i v i d u a l manner.

For t h e Qumran community, t h e 'Way' was " t h e s t r i c t observance o f

the Mosaic Law as i t was I n t e r p r e t e d by t h e g r e a t Teacher o f the

community"'. i f t h e r e i s any connection between t h e Fourth Gospel

and Qumran, and t h e r e does seem t o be a t l e a s t a " f a m i l i a r i t y w i t h t h e

type o f thought e x h i b i t e d i n t h e s c r o l l s " ' s * , then a t t h i s p o i n t i t i s

p o s s i b l e t o see a d e f i n i t e polemic o v e r - a g a i n s t t h e a s s o c i a t i o n of an

a b s o l u t e u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f Way with Law. Once again, Jesus, Sophia


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incarnate, i s t o be c o n t r a s t e d with a static understanding of


r e v e l a t i o n i n t h e Torah.

Brown a l s o p o i n t s us t o t h e f a c t t h a t l a t e r medieval s c r i b e s a t

l e a s t i n t e r p r e t e d t h e r e f e r e n c e t o Jesus as t h e 'Way' against a Wisdom

background:

There i s a very p e r c e p t i v e C h r i s t i a n i n t e r p o l a t i o n
i n t o t h e words o f Lady Wisdom i n t h e L a t i n o f S i r x x l v
25. Wisdom says, ' I n me i s t h e g i f t o f every way and
truth; i n me i s every hope o f life and v i r t u e ' . It is
almost as i f t h e i n t e r p o l a t o r has a s s o c i a t e d the
Johannine d e s c r i p t i o n o f Jesus i n x i v 6 w i t h t h e
c l a i m s o f Wisdom'

Despite t h e absence o f t h e c l a i m eytb el|jii o o66q i n the mouth o f

Sophia, we can n e v e r t h e l e s s see t h a t t h e r e i s more than sufficient

background within t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n on which t h e author o f John

could have based this claim. I t i s certainly unnecessary t o look

beyond t h e Jewish t r a d i t i o n t o Gnostic m a t e r i a l s , which probably come

from a l a t e r d a t e anyway. Jesus Sophia i s l i f e and, as we s h a l l see,

i s t r u t h , and thus a l s o t h e Way by v ^ i c h one comes t o God/salvation.

We have noted the r e c u r r i n g theme o f t r u t h and must now c l a r i f y

i t s origin. Jesus i s t h e t r u e (a\r|9iv6q) bread from heaven (6:32); as

l i g h t o f t h e w o r l d , Jesus' w i t n e s s i s t r u e (aXrjei^q : 8:14); he i s t h e

good (xaX6q) shepherd as d i s t i n c t from the f a l s e h i r e l i n g (10:11,14);

he i s t h e t r u e (aXrjetvbq) v i n e (15:1). T r u t h i s an i m p o r t a n t concept

i n John, as we a l r e a d y saw i n t h e Prologue's a s s e r t i o n t h a t the Logos

i s JiX7^pr)q x<^P^^oq x a i aXi^eetaq (1:14). We observed t h e r e t h a t aXt^9eia

can be r e l a t e d t o t h e c l a i m s o f Sophia (Prov 8:6-7; 14:22; 23:23; Wisd

6:22; S i r 4:24-25,28). I n Jn 14:6 Jesus Sophia i s seen t o be t h e Way

on account o f h i s being t h e T r u t h , which i n t u r n i s a consequence o f


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h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God (Jn 8:40,45-46). We s h a l l c o n s i d e r t h i s


r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God f u r t h e r a t a l a t e r stage, but f o r the moment we
should a t l e a s t note t h a t Sophia, who c l a i m s t o speak the t r u t h , does
so on t h e b a s i s o f her closeness t o God. She was w i t h God from t h e
b e g i n n i n g (Prov 2:18; 8 : 2 2 f f > , enjoys i n t i m a t e communion w i t h God
(Prov 8:30-31; Wlsd 7 : 2 2 f f ) , and has come down from heaven ( S i r
24:4ff). She can thus s t a n d i n t h e s t r e e t and appeal t o men t o hear
the t r u t h f r o m her (Prov 8:6-7), r a t h e r than heeding the smooth words
of t h e f a l s e woman (Prov 7 : 1 4 f f ; 9 : 1 6 f f ) . I n t h e same way, Jesus
Sophia stands o v e r - a g a i n s t t h e f a l s e o r Inadequate r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s o f
Bread, L i g h t , L i f e , Shepherd and Vine, and I s h i m / h e r s e l f the
Truth*S8.

We have p r e v i o u s l y dealt with t h e background t o Jesus Sophia as

life. The one who c l a i m s t o be t h e Way, on t h e b a s i s o f being both

Truth and Life, can thus be i d e n t i f i e d as Sophia I n c a r n a t e , whose

c l a i m s i n t h i s r e s p e c t have a l r e a d y been v o i c e d through the Logos o f

the Prologue.

3.2.4.1.6 ETO EIMI 0 AMOEAOZ H AAHeiHH (15:1)

The f i n a l ' I am' s a y i n g , l i k e a l l t h e o t h e r s * s » , i s steeped

i n Old Testament t r a d i t i o n . I s r a e l i s f r e q u e n t l y compared w i t h a v i n e

which needs Yahweh's a t t e n t i o n i n one way or another ( I s 5:1-7; J e r

6:9; Ezek 15:1-6; 17:5-10; 19:10-14; e t a l . ) . L i k e the p a r a l l e l s t o

the Good Shepherd, some o f t h e s i g n i f i c a n t m a t e r i a l i s located in

Ezekiel. However, even Ezekiel does not r e a l l y match the Imagery

employed i n John 15, where t h e main t h r u s t i s t h e d e s c r i p t i o n o f the

relationship between t h e v i n e and t h e branches. Here again the theme


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of l i f e i s prominent, t h e l i f e which f l o w s from t h e True Vine t o the


disciples'*•». Recognising t h i s emphasis, we t u r n t o some passages
f r o m S i r a c h which may be seen t o l e a d us c l o s e r t o t h e Johannine
concept. The most prominent Wisdom r e f e r e n c e t o Sophia as a v i n e
occurs i n S i r 24:17-19:'*'

(17) eya uq &fi7ieXoq lpXdaxT)ao£ X'^P'^^


xat xd( (5(V9TI ^lou xapiid^ 66^tiq x a i nXoOxoo
(19) ttpocr^XGexe Jip6q pie, ox ertteufioOvx^q ^ A O U
x a i and xfflv yevr\[i&ia\/ piou eiuiXfjaGT^xe
( S i r 24:17,19)

There i s some evidence t o suggest t h a t t h e book o f S i r a c h was known t o

the author o f John'*^, and chapter 24 i n p a r t i c u l a r seems t o be

paralleled a t several points i n the G o s p e l * T h i s heightens t h e

possibility that t h e Johannine p i c t u r e o f t h e v i n e i s i n f l u e n c e d by

the ascription o f such a quality t o Sophia i n that chapter. She

provides sustenance and abundance o f l i f e through the f r u i t o f her

branches and i n v i t e s those who d e s i r e her t o come and r e c e i v e what she

has to offer. Elsewhere i n S i r a c h r e f e r e n c e i s made t o the e f f e c t s on

the d i s c i p l e o f the f r u i t of this v i n e , Sophia: fie9uaxei aoxoOq ajt6

xffiv xapnfflv auxf(q ( S i r 1:16). I n t h e e p i l o g u e t o the book, t h e author

also likens t h e process o f Sophia's influence i n h i s l i f e to the

r i p e n i n g o f grapes ( S i r 51:15). The importance o f e a t i n g and d r i n k i n g

t h e words o f Sophia as a means o f sustenance i n l i f e i s a recurring

theme, as we noted i n our comments on Jn 6:35, and a l t h o u g h t h e

parallels t o John may n o t always be p r e c i s e , they can h a r d l y be

disregarded lightly as a p o s s i b l e sphere o f i n f l u e n c e on Johannine

thinking.
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A fundamental p a r t o f t h e v i n e imagery i n Jn 15 i s t h e
r e l a t i o n s h i p o f t h e v i n e t o t h e branches. Here again one can f i n d
some t r a c e s o f Sophia's i n f l u e n c e . I n S i r 1:20 her branches o f f e r
l o n g l i f e , w h i l e S i r 14:26 makes r e f e r e n c e t o t h e s h e l t e r which they
provide. Perhaps most t e l l i n g o f a l l i s the r e f e r e n c e i n S i r 24:16 t o
the s p r e a d i n g o u t o f her branches laden w i t h x^P'^^'

ox xXdSox ouxfjq naxpor)fi6peuaxq ( S i r 1:20)

Si^CTEx xd x^xva auxoO ev xf( ax^nij a6xf[q


xat 07t6 xoOq xXdSouq auxfifq auXxoGyjaexax ( S i r 14:26)

ox xXdSox \io\) xXdSox Sb^Tjq x a i x<*P'-''^oq ( S i r 24: 16b)

In Sirach t h i s f r u i t f u l p i c t u r e o f Sophia's branches stands i n s t a r k

contrast t o t h e warning a g a i n s t t h e woman who i s u n f a i t h f u l i n her

marriage r e l a t i o n s h i p . Here her 'branches' w i l l prove u n f r u i t f u l : x a i

ox xXdSox auxfjq ox>x O V T C T O U O X V xapjt6v ( S i r 23:25). The I m p l i c a t i o n

behind t h i s k i n d o f t h i n k i n g i s t h a t those who a r e f a i t h f u l will bear

fruit, which i s v e r y s i m i l a r t o t h e image o f t h e branches and t h e i r

f r u i t - b e a r i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p espoused by t h e True Vine i n Jn 15:l-4*»*.

In a r e f e r e n c e t o t h e s t o r y o f Joshua sending out t h e spies i n t o

Canaan, P h i l o also compares Sophia t o a v i n e from which f r u i t may be

taken (.De Somn I I , 171), and l a t e r i n t h e t r e a t i s e , he c o n t r a s t s this

vine with the vine of f o l l y (De Somn I I , 1 9 0 f f ) . Just as P h i l o

r e p r e s e n t s a development o f t h e v i n e image from the Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e ,

so t o o i n i t s own p a r t i c u l a r way does t h e Gospel o f John.

Ultimately, as w i t h t h e o t h e r 'ey<i elpx statements, we must allow

t h a t more than one i n f l u e n c e may have been e f f e c t i v e i n t h e f o r m a t i o n

of t h e Johannine image o f t h e v i n e . I t may be, as B a r r e t t says, t h a t


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"fragments o f meaning o b s c u r e l y h i n t e d a t by o t h e r v i n e s , a r e gathered


up and made e x p l i c i t " * * ' i n t h e Gospel. There i s not, however, any
reason why we s h o u l d deny t h e author o f t h e Gospel t h e o r i g i n a l i t y o f
thought which enabled t h e development o f t h e themes I n t h e i r
a p p l i c a t i o n t o t h e community's u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f Jesus.

What i s I m p o r t a n t i n a l l o f t h i s f o r our present study, i s t h e

recognition t h a t a l l these themes do r e f l e c t the strong influence of

the Wisdom tradition and i n p a r t i c u l a r the claims o f Sophia. In

addition to this, t h e kyii) eljix statements echo t h e p r i n c i p a l themes o f

t h e Prologue: light, life and t r u t h , a l l o f which we have i d e n t i f i e d

as q u a l i t i e s o f t h e Logos/Sophia a p p l i e d t o Jesus. I t would therefore

not be unreasonable t o say t h a t t h e one who addresses these discourses

i n John i s none o t h e r than Jesus Sophia I n c a r n a t e .

3.2.4.2 RELATIONSHIP TO GOD

Another peculiarly Johannine christological emphasis i s t h e

p r e s e n t a t i o n o f Jesus' r e l a t i o n s h i p t o / w i t h God. While t h e Synoptics

portray Jesus as t h e Son of God from their own obvious post-

resurrection perspective, there is little material within those

t r a d i t i o n s t o suggest t h a t Jesus h i m s e l f had any r e a l consciousness o f

'divine' Sonship***. By contrast, John expounds the Father/Son

r e l a t i o n s h i p from b e g i n n i n g t o end o f t h e Gospel. He p r e - e x i s t e d w i t h

the F a t h e r (1:1-2,15; 6:62; 8:58; 17:5), and descended from heaven a t

h i s Father's I n s t i g a t i o n (3:31f; 6:33,38-39,57; 8:42; 13:3; 16:27-28;

17:8). Those who see o r hear Jesus see o r hear t h e Father (5:19,23;

7:16-17; 8:19,26; 10:15,38; 12:45; 14:7,9; 15:24; 17:21). I n addition

to t h e kya exjix statements we have a l r e a d y seen, Jesus a t times i s


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made t o use t h e a b s o l u t e form as a d i v i n e p r e d i c a t e a f t e r the manner,


f o r example, o f I s 43 (Jn 8:28,58). The g l o r y o f t h e Father comes
through t h e works and s u f f e r i n g o f t h e Son (1:14; 2:11; 11:40;
12:23,28; 17:4-5). Each o f these themes i s . I n i t s own way, a working
out o f t h e themes o f t h e Prologue, t h e c l a i m s concerning t h e
Logos/Sophia. We s h a l l d e a l b r i e f l y w i t h each i n t u r n .

3.2.4.2.1 PRE-EXISTEWCE

The Gospel o f John i s unique i n terms o f New Testament

christology, as t h e o n l y work which u n e q u i v o c a l l y a s s e r t s t h e p r e -

existence o f Jesus C h r i s t * T h i s i s done i n i t i a l l y through t h e

Logos hymn, which t r a n s f e r s t h e q u a l i t i e s o f Sophia as c r e a t r i x and

companion o f God f r o m the beginning o f time, t o t h e Logos (1:1-2).

The p r e - e x l s t e n c e o f t h e Logos/Sophia i s f u r t h e r emphasised i n 1:15,

where i t i s s t a t e d t h a t t h e one who comes a f t e r John the B a p t i s t was

a l r e a d y b e f o r e him. This does n o t mean t o imply t h a t t h e Logos/Sophia

was some sort o f heavenly being \4ho e x i s t e d b e f o r e the Baptist i n

time, but r a t h e r t h a t " C h r i s t f u l l y embodies t h e c r e a t i v e and s a v i n g

activity o f God, that God i n a l l h i s f u l n e s s was i n him, t h a t he

represents and m a n i f e s t s a l l that God i s i n h i s outreach t o men

('sic.';"**8.

The theme o f p r e - e x l s t e n c e extends beyond t h e Prologue t o t h e

body o f t h e Gospel and i s a s i g n both o f Jesus' superiority and h i s

authority. I n 1:30, John t h e B a p t i s t bases t h e s u p e r i o r r a n k i n g o f

Jesus (I'^TtpoaG^v ^lou) on Jesus' p r e - e x i s t e n c e - '6x\ npSxdq jiou ^v**».

Jesus may come a f t e r John i n terms o f h i s e a r t h l y m i n i s t r y , but he

existed (eifii) before John came i n t o being (yivopiax). There would


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appear t o be an i n t e n t i o n a l c o n t r a s t between the use of these two


verbs, as we can a l s o see from 8:58, where Jesus c l a i m s t o have
e x i s t e d b e f o r e even Abraham: Tiptv APpadjA ^ev^aeotx kych e t ^ i v ' ^ ' . Here
a g a i n , t h e s u p e r i o r i t y of Jesus' knowledge and the a u t h o r i t y of h i s
words r e s t s on t h e f a c t t h a t he e x i s t e d w i t h t h e Father b e f o r e the
g r e a t p a t r i a r c h of the Jewish race came i n t o being. I f they l i s t e n e d
t o Abraham, how much more should they l i s t e n t o Jesus, who can speak
w i t h an a u t h o r i t y r o o t e d i n h i s p r e - e x i s t e n c e w i t h God. I n 17:5, the
t i m e boundaries a r e pushed back even f u r t h e r : not o n l y d i d Jesus e x i s t
b e f o r e John t h e B a p t i s t and Abraham, but a l s o b e f o r e the w o r l d I t s e l f
came i n t o being: itpd toO x6v xdcfiov e?vav. Here h i s p r e - e x i s t e n c e
f u n c t i o n s as a v a l i d a t i o n o f h i s coming s u f f e r i n g and death as an hour
of g l o r i f i c a t i o n . The S6^a which he shared w i t h the Father b e f o r e the
w o r l d was formed w i l l now be m a n i f e s t e d i n the w o r l d through the event
of h i s s u f f e r i n g and death*

In this motif of pre-existence we see one of the strongest

l i n k l n g - p o l n t s between Prologue and Gospel. The opening statement of

the Prologue, that the Logos/Sophia was God <l:lc), rests on the

a s s e r t i o n of p r e - e x i s t e n c e : EV apx^j f^v o \670q. Throughout the Gospel

as a whole there is a very definite progression towards the

r e c o g n i t i o n of Jesus C h r i s t f o r who he truly i s , c u l m i n a t i n g i n the

climactic c o n f e s s i o n o f Thomas, o xi3pvoq ^ou \ai o Qedq jiou (20:28).

As the moment of pre-existence i s pushed further and further back

throughout t h e Gospel, i t finally leads us t o the p o i n t where the

Prologue had a l r e a d y begun. I n the same way t h a t both Sophia i n the

Wisdom t r a d i t i o n and the Logos/Sophia i n the Prologue c o u l d be seen t o


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f unction as God, o r t o be God, so t o o Jesus Sophia I s f i n a l l y


confessed as such w i t h o u t any h i n t o f compromise f o r monotheism*^*,

The pre-exlstence o f Sophia f u n c t i o n s i n a very similar way

w i t h i n t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n . The c a l l t o l i s t e n t o t h e words of l i f e

(Prov 8:32-36) i s based on t h e a u t h o r i t y which comes from Sophia's

existence w i t h God from the beginning, before the foundation of the

world (Prov 8 : 2 2 f f ) , Her g i f t s a r e seen t o be w o r t h w h i l e over a g a i n s t

those of the false woman on t h i s account. She was both before

creation (Prov 8:23-25 - np6 as i n Jn 17:5) and a t God's s i d e (Prov

8:30 - napd: as i n Jn 17:5), thus a f f o r d i n g a s u p e r i o r i t y and a u t h o r i t y

which no one e l s e may c l a i m .

Again i n t h e book o f S i r a c h we f i n d Sophia's p r e - e x l s t e n c e used

as a means o f a s s e r t i n g h e r e^ouata among t h e people of I s r a e l , with

whom she d w e l l s ( S i r 24:9-11). She i s a l s o seen t o be s u p e r i o r t o a l l

upon earth, since no one has ever fully been able t o know o r

understand h e r ( S i r 24:28). Similarly i n Wisdom o f Solomon we f i n d

that Sophia, who i s t h e f u l l n e s s o f God i n every p o s s i b l e way (Wisd

7:22ff), and who as t h e maker o f a l l t h i n g s c l e a r l y p r e - e x i s t e d them

(Wlsd 9:1-2), i s now s a i d t o be a b l e both t o e x e r c i s e power i n every

place (Wisd 8:1) and t o enable the king to rule (Wisd 8:14). In a l l

of t h i s we see a very c l o s e p a r a l l e l t o t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between p r e -

e x l s t e n c e and t h e a u t h o r i t y / s u p e r i o r i t y o f Jesus Sophia i n t h e Fourth

Gospel.

Apart f r o m t h e e x p l i c i t r e f e r e n c e s t o p r e - e x i s t e n c e which we have

already noted, John a l s o uses t h e m o t i f as an a d d i t i o n a l implicit

validation o f Jesus' claims. I n 6:62, t h e c o n s t e r n a t i o n expressed


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over Jesus' promise t o g i v e l i f e i s met by r e f e r e n c e t o the Son o f Man


ascending t o where he was i n the f i r s t place: Hnou fjv xd n p d T s p o v . Or
again i n 8:38, t h e t e s t i m o n y which Jesus g i v e s and the words o f l i f e
which he speaks a r e u l t i m a t e l y t o be judged on t h e i r o r i g i n : ^ ky&
e'&poixa jiapdt iSt naipi The p e r f e c t tense here s u r e l y i m p l i e s

Jesus' p r i o r e x i s t e n c e w i t h the Father as t h e time when he ' s a w ' » ' 3 _

as does t h e word napd, as i n Prov 8:30,

It appears very much t o be t h e case then, that the Fourth

Gospel's a s s e r t i o n o f Jesus' p r e - e x i s t e n c e , announced i n the Prologue

and developed i n t h e Gospel as a whole, i s grounded on the p a r a l l e l

tradition c o n c e r n i n g Sophia, both i n terms o f agency (creation/life)

and i n terms o f f u n c t i o n w i t h i n t h e Gospel (authority/superiority)'^*.

3.2.4.2.2 DESCENT AND ASCENT

A second prominent f e a t u r e o f Jesus' r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God

in the Fourth Gospel i s the motif o f descent and ascent. To some

degree t h i s i s r e l a t e d t o t h e idea o f p r e - e x i s t e n c e , as can q u i c k l y be

r e c o g n i s e d f r o m the t e x t a l r e a d y mentioned c o n c e r n i n g the Son o f Man,

in Jn 6:62. Jesus' o r i g i n i s seen t o be unique i n t h a t he I s not o f

t h i s world (3;13,31-32; 8:23; 17:14,16) and c l a i m s t o have 'come down'

(xaxaPavvffi) f r o m above (6:33,38,41-42,51). More prominent s t i l l i s

the a s s e r t i o n t h a t God has sent (n^fj-uco or otnoo-c^XXu)»' ^ the Son i n t o

the world (3:17,34; 4:34; 5:23,24,30,36,37-38; 6:29,38-39,44,57;

7:16,18,28,29,33; 8:16,18,26,29,42; 9:4; 10:36; 11:42; 12:44-45,49;

13:20; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3,8,18,21,23,25). The purpose o f t h i s

sending i s d e f i n e d i n 3:16-17 - t o Impart e t e r n a l l i f e and s a l v a t i o n .

The a u t h o r i t y o f the one who i s p r e - e x i s t e n t i s now f u r t h e r u n d e r l i n e d


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by t h e i n s i s t e n c e t h a t he has come down from heaven on God's mission


t o i m p a r t God's g i f t s . T h i s coming can a l s o be expressed d i r e c t l y as
a g i f t from God (3:16 - '^Suxev), t h e use o f StStojiv being immediately
p a r a l l e l t o t h a t o f omoaziXka in 3:17»'*.

I f Jesus has descended from above a t God's i n s t i g a t i o n to f u l f i l

h i s m i s s i o n , then he w i l l a l s o 'ascend' t o where he was before. This

is strikingly affirmed through t h e Johannlne r e i n t e r p r e t a t l o n o f t h e

Son o f Man tradition (3:13; 6:62)'^^ but i s more o f t e n described

simply as a 'going away' o r 'going up' (vndcya - 7:33; 14:28; 16:5).

The writer sees this 'ascent' to t h e Father as a process of

g l o r i f i c a t i o n , which w i l l i n v o l v e an ascent o f a d i f f e r e n t , scandalous

(6:61) kind, namely t h e ' l i f t i n g - u p ' o f t h e Son o f Man (3:14; 8:28;

12:23, [ 3 2 ] ; 13:31). The language o f 'ascent' i s much l e s s f r e q u e n t i n

the Gospel than t h a t o f descent, and we s h a l l r e t u r n t o t h i s imbalance

shortly. For t h e moment we may note t h a t i t i s a t t a c h e d t o t h e Son o f

Man tradition and i s a r e i n f o r c e m e n t of t h e c l a i m concerning t h e

Logos/Sophia i n 1:14 - odip^ e^^veTO x a i eCTXi^vcoaev ev ^fitv.

I t has been proposed t h a t t h e m o t i f of t h e sending of t h e Son i s

not c o n f i n e d t o t h e w r i t i n g s o f t h e Johannine community ( c f . 1 John

4:9), b u t was also present already i n Paul (Gal 4:4; Rom 8:3).

Attempts have been made t o show t h a t these Pauline t e x t s a l s o show

i n f l u e n c e o f f e a t u r e s o f Sophia t r a d i t i o n * ' * . Dunn remains s c e p t i c a l

about this, s u g g e s t i n g t h a t i n Paul's use, where no d o c t r i n e of p r e -

e x t s t e n c e as such e x i s t s , t h e r e f e r e n c e s r e f l e c t m a t e r i a l "more l i k e l y

drawn from Jesus' own t a l k o f h i m s e l f as ' s e n t ' " * " . BUhner has a l s o

tried t o a p p l y t h e same k i n d o f background which Dunn moots f o r Paul,

that i s , the prophetic t r a d i t i o n * , as a background f o r t h e Fourth


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Gospel's 'sending' m o t i f , b u t t h i s t o o we w i l l see t o be p r o b l e m a t i c


as an u n d e r s t a n d i n g f o r John. We contend t h a t i t i s not on p r e v i o u s
Christian usage (prophetic re-interpretation) that the Fourth
E v a n g e l i s t depends, b u t once again upon Sophia t r a d i t i o n

The most s i g n i f i c a n t text relating t o t h e descent of Wisdom i s

found i n Wisd 9, but t h e idea was a l r e a d y I n h e r e n t i n t h e t r a d i t i o n o f

Proverbs l o n g b e f o r e Wisdom o f Solomon was w r i t t e n . That Sophia was

with God i n the beginning of creation (Prov 8:22ff) and then

subsequently appeared c r y i n g a l o u d i n the p u b l i c places (Prov l:20ff)

implies t h a t she must f i r s t have descended from t h e place where she

was, even i f t h i s i s n o t e x p l i c i t l y s t a t e d . S i r 24:3-17 d e s c r i b e s t h e

movement o f Sophia from her heavenly home down t o e a r t h , where she

e s t a b l i s h e d her home i n I s r a e l . Here t o o we f i n d t h e idea expressed

that I t i s a t God's instigation that Sophia descends t o l i v e with

human beings ( S i r 24:8 - x6xe "evexetXctTd fioi o XTfoxr^q artdvtmv), an

u n d e r s t a n d i n g which comes t o f u l l e r e x p r e s s i o n i n t h e sending m o t i f o f

Wisd 9:

e^oatbateiXov auxi^v ayiatv oupavffiv


x a t ant Bpbvou 66^r)q a o u it^fupov auxtjv
\va (JunnapoOCTdi jiot x o T t t d a i j
x a i -yvas xt, ei&peardv e a x i v napdc c o t (Wisd 9: 10)

As i n t h e case o f t h e Johannine Jesus, so a l s o Sophia i s sent out from

above t o make known what I s p l e a s i n g t o God. Even t h e vocabulary i s

similar to t h e Johannine usage with the Interchangeability of

(E^)anoCTX^XXci) and n^jina. This similarity also extends t o the

u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f Sophia as g i v e n <.bi&(i)\i.\) by God:


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PouXfjv 56 aou ric, 'iyvoi, e l at ^5coxaq aocptav


xat '^JtepifttQ t 6 ^yidv crou itvECfia aji6 uytatajv
(Wisd 9: 17)i"

Not o n l y t h e manner of Sophia's s e n d i n g / g i v i n g p r e f i g u r e s the coming

of the Johannine Jesus, but a l s o the purpose. Both descend i n order

t h a t God's t r u e w i l l may be known (Jn 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-40; 7:17)"2,

which i s u l t i m a t e l y g o i n g t o l e a d t o e t e r n a l l i f e and s a l v a t i o n (Prov

3:16; 8:35; Wlsd 8:13; 9:18; Jn 3:15-16,36; 5:24; 6:35,40,47,63; e t

al.). I n both cases the combination of p r e - e x i s t e n c e and being sent

by God g i v e s a u t h o r i t y t o the c l a i m s and o f f e r s each makes.

The ascent of Jesus seems somewhat more d i f f i c u l t to explain with

r e f e r e n c e t o Sophia. However, a c l o s e r examination of the Johannine

motif shows t h a t the a c t u a l 'ascension' r e f e r e n c e s are very few i n

number. The a s s e r t i o n t h a t Jesus w i l l 'go up' (avapaCva) i s made only

in relation t o the Son of Man sayings (3:13; 6:62), and by the r i s e n

C h r i s t i n h i s command t o Mary Magdalene (20:17). Elsewhere, Jesus i s

s a i d t o be 'going* (undyto) t o the place from which he has come (7:33;

8:14,21; 13:3,33; 14:28; 16:5,10,17), but a l t h o u g h t h i s may imply a

return t o the Father, i t does not n e c e s s a r i l y I n c l u d e the m o t i f of

ascent. By the same token Jesus may be s a i d simply to 'go away'

(nopeuonai) in reference to his return to his home (14:2,3,12;

16:7,28), a usage which can hardly be construed as implying a

necessary ascent*

With the exception of the t h r e e above mentioned passages, the

i d e a o f an ascent as such i s not present i n John. What i s c l e a r ,

however, i s t h a t t h e f o r t h c o m i n g d e p a r t u r e of Jesus t o the place of

his origin will be of b e n e f i t t o the d i s c i p l e s i n terms of s a l v a t i o n


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(14:2,3,12,28; 16:7), i n p a r t i c u l a r through t h e sending o f t h e S p i r i t


(16:7), which i s t h e very l i f e o f Jesus h i m s e l f (20:22). I f we
c o n s i d e r t h e d i r e c t r e f e r e n c e s t o ascent, we f i n d t h a t none i s r e l a t e d
to t h e theme o f s a l v a t i o n . I n 3:13, the Son o f Man's ascent t o heaven
i s s i g n i f i c a n t i n s o f a r as i t r e i n f o r c e s t h e v e r a c i t y o f h i s testimony
about heavenly t h i n g s , t h e q u e s t i o n o f s a l v a t i o n being r e l a t e d i n s t e a d
to t h e descent and sending i n 3 : 1 6 f f . I n 6:62, t h e ascent seems t o be
a m a t t e r o f some o f f e n s e , whereas t h e l i f e - g i v i n g words of Jesus, who
descended and i s present a r e t h e v i t a l elements i n s a l v a t i o n (6:63).

At t h e t i m e o f t h e w r i t i n g o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel, those p r a c t i s i n g

w i t h i n t h e Merkabah m y s t i c a l t r a d i t i o n sought, by means o f a m y s t i c a l

ascent into heaven, t o o b t a i n knowledge o f t h e heavenly realm*

Such knowledge would, o f course, be considered as saving knowledge.

However, t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t wants t o s t r e s s t h e f a c t t h a t i t i s t h e

descent o f Jesus which i s t h e v i t a l c l u e t o s a l v a t i o n . Jesus does n o t

need t o ascend to find o u t about heavenly t h i n g s because he has

a l r e a d y come down from above, where he e x i s t e d b e f o r e t h e f o u n d a t i o n

of the world. Saving knowledge f o r the world comes through t h e

encounter w i t h Jesus h i m s e l f , n o t from ascent i n t o heaven. However,

t h a t s a v i n g knowledge w i l l be more w i d e l y a v a i l a b l e p r e c i s e l y through

Jesus d e p a r t u r e , a d e p a r t u r e which may, but need n o t n e c e s s a r i l y be

viewed as an ascent.

We should also note that Jesus' departure not o n l y means

salvation f o r those who b e l i e v e , but a t the same time a l s o i m p l i e s

Judgement f o r those who r e j e c t him (7:33; 8:14,21). Just as i n the

Prologue t h e Logos/Sophia f i n d s o n l y r e j e c t i o n from ' h i s own' (1:10-

11), so t o o t h e r e j e c t i o n by t h e Pharisees means a w i t h d r a w a l o f the


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Son t o t h e p l a c e where he was, and t h e consequent working out o f


Judgement ( e s p e c i a l l y 8:21). O v e r a l l i t must be s a i d t h a t John's
emphasis r e s t s more on t h e descent o f Jesus as t h e focus of s a l v a t i o n ,
h i s g o i n g away being a supplement t o t h i s and t o some e x t e n t a
guarantee o f i t s c o n t i n u i n g e f f e c t ( I . e . , through t h e coming of t h e
Spirit).

If we now r e t u r n t o the question of the r e l a t i o n s h i p between

Jesus and Sophia a t t h i s p o i n t , we a r e i n a b e t t e r p o s i t i o n t o seek

adequate p a r a l l e l s . True, there i s no r e a l idea o f an ascent of

Sophia i n t h e Wisdom corpus, w i t h t h e p o s s i b l e e x c e p t i o n o f 1 Enoch

42. Here we must a l s o note Schnackenburg's c a u t i o n :

The n o t i o n o f Wisdom h e r s e l f ascending t o heaven i s


not I n c l u d e d and t h e passage t o t h i s e f f e c t i n Enoch
42:1 has a d i f f e r e n t meaning, namely t h a t Wisdom found
no r e s t i n g - p l a c e on e a r t h and r e t u r n e d t o her place.
T h i s i s n o t a redemptive 'ascent', b u t a d i s a p p o i n t e d
withdrawal'*s.

I f we f o r g e t f o r a moment t h e i n s i s t e n c e on a m o t i f o f ascent and look

i n s t e a d a t t h e idea o f w i t h d r a w a l , or going away, we f i n d t h a t there

are indeed similarities between Jesus and Sophia. Just as Jesus'

going away means Judgement on those who r e j e c t him, so t o o Sophia

abandons to their fate, those who reject her c a l l and counsel.

Compare, f o r example, Jn 8:21 w i t h Prov 1:28 -

ey^* VTi&yat xai (,r\z^aBxi x a i ev xf| afiapttc? o^iSSv


ajioeavetaee (Jn 8:21)

(,r\x^<jovaiv pe xaxot x a i oux eupi^aouoiv (Prov 1:28b)

The same sentiment i s also expressed i n S i r 4:19, where Sophia's

presence i s s a i d t o be removed from those who f a l l t o keep her ways.


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That t h i s i d e a was s t i l l c u r r e n t i n Jewish c i r c l e s around the time of


the w r i t i n g of t h e F o u r t h Gospel i s c l e a r from the a p o c a l y p t i c v i s i o n
of IV Ezra 5:9-10 -

Then s h a l l reason h i d e i t s e l f , and wisdom s h a l l


w i t h d r a w i n t o her chamber, and i t w i l l be sought by
many but s h a l l not be found, and unrighteousness and
u n r e s t r a i n t s h a l l i n c r e a s e on e a r t h * * * .

Not o n l y i s t h e w i t h d r a w a l of Sophia from t h e w o r l d s i m i l a r t o t h a t of

Jesus, but t h e r e s u l t i s t o some e x t e n t p a r a l l e l . Both b r i n g about a

s i t u a t i o n where they w i l l be sought a f t e r by those who ought t o have

known b e t t e r , but w i l l be u n a t t a i n a b l e , r e s u l t i n g i n the abandonment

of the f a i t h l e s s t o t h e consequences of t h e i r s i n . What the author of

John appears t o have added i s the idea of the beneficial w i t h d r a w a l of

Jesus Sophia: i f Jesus goes away, then those who have b e l i e v e d and

accepted t h e r e v e l a t i o n o f God w i l l r e c e i v e the f u r t h e r b e n e f i t of h i s

continued presence i n the form of the Holy S p i r i t . There i s no hint

of such a s p i n - o f f from Sophia's w i t h d r a w a l , but t o deny John and the

Johannine community the c r e a t l v e n e s s of mind t o i n t e r p r e t the C h r i s t

event in this way would be, t o use Dunn's words, "an Implausible

e v a l u a t i o n , c o n s i d e r i n g t h e d i s t i n c t i v e c h a r a c t e r of the Gospel"**',

We are d e a l i n g i n John not so much w i t h a m o t i f of Descent -

Ascent, as w i t h a Descent - Withdrawal (Going-Away) scheme, which may

c e r t a i n l y be seen as f i n d i n g i t s r o o t s i n the Wisdom t r a d i t i o n . The

direct references t o ascent are connected i n two Instances w i t h the

Son of Man tradition, scarcely a dominant or peculiarly Johannine

theme i n c h r i s t o l o g y , and are d i f f e r e n t i n c h a r a c t e r and application

f r o m t h e 'going-away' m a t e r i a l . The t h i r d ascent r e f e r e n c e , 20:17, i s

influenced by other traditions, notably that of the Lukan


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ascension*««, a c o n n e c t i o n made a l l t h e more probable by the w e l l -


documented p a r a l l e l s between t h e F o u r t h Gospel and L u k e * " . To r e j e c t
a Wisdom background t o t h e Johannine Descent - Withdrawal scheme on
the b a s i s o f t h e l a c k o f m a t e r i a l i n Wisdom L i t e r a t u r e r e p o r t i n g an
ascent o f Sophia i s t o misunderstand t h e Johannine scheme as p r i m a r i l y
one o f Descent - Ascent, which e s s e n t i a l l y i t i s n o t * ' " ! The emphasis
i n John, as a l s o i n Wisdom, i s very h e a v i l y on t h e descent, which has
the aim o f b r i n g i n g t h e s a v i n g r e v e l a t i o n and knowledge of God, a task
a t t r i b u t e d p r e v i o u s l y o n l y i n t h i s way t o Sophia. The w i t h d r a w a l
element i s a l s o a r e f l e c t i o n o f Sophia's r e a c t i o n t o her r e j e c t i o n ,
but John, i t would appear, has developed t h i s I n a new d i r e c t i o n
through t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n o f a b e n e f i c i a l s i d e t o the w i t h d r a w a l . This
i s h a r d l y s u r p r i s i n g i n t h e c o n t e x t o f a Gospel which has a t other
p o i n t s so r a d i c a l l y r e i n t e r p r e t e d t r a d i t i o n s a l r e a d y w e l l e s t a b l i s h e d
in Christian circles*'*.

Our aim here i s , o f course, t o show t h a t t h e Fourth Evangelist

has been i n f l u e n c e d c o n s i d e r a b l y by Sophia t r a d i t i o n i n t h e shaping o f

the Gospel's c h r i s t o l o g l c a l p i c t u r e . We would n o t wish t o make t h i s

emphasis t o the exclusion of a l l other i n f l u e n c e s , of which there

s u r e l y were s e v e r a l . Here, f o r example, the whole area of s p e c u l a t i o n

on d i v i n e agency, much wider than Sophia h e r s e l f i n Jewish thought,

and t h e concern f o r heavenly knowledge would have been Important.

Nevertheless, we would assert that even i n those areas where other

i n f l u e n c e s can be t r a c e d , there are s t i l l c o n s i s t e n t evocations and

echoes of themes characteristic of Sophia. While the Fourth

Evangelist has m o d i f i e d t h e Descent - Going Away m o t i f as found i n


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Wlsdom t r a d i t i o n , our s u r p r i s e i s l e s s t h a t i t should have been


a l t e r e d than t h a t I s should have been a l t e r e d so little.

3.2.4.2.3 INTIMACY WITH GOD

It i s obvious even f r o m the most s u p e r f i c i a l r e a d i n g of the

Gospels t h a t John p r e s e n t s the r e l a t i o n s h i p between Jesus and God in a

much more i n t i m a t e way than do the Synoptics. So much so i s t h i s seen

t o be the case, t h a t the one t e x t i n the Synoptic Gospels which r e a l l y

speaks of t h e closeness of t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p , Mt l l : 2 7 = L k 10:22, i s

commonly known as the 'Johannine Logion'! The whole Gospel i s woven

through with the theme o f the u n i t y of the Father and the Son*»2.

This i s perhaps most clearly expressed through the idea of their

mutual love (3:35; 5:20; 10:17; 14:31; 15:9; 17:24-26), but i s a l s o

seen i n t h e i r oneness of knowledge (1:18; 7:29; 8:55; 10:15; 17:25)

and u n i t y of w i l l (5: 19-30)*»^ .

The f o c a l p o i n t of Jesus' r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God i s the l o v e which

passes between them*'*. T h i s i s i m p o r t a n t as a b a s i s f o r what the Son

does and r e v e a l s (3:35; 5:20), and i t i s founded on the Son's e t e r n a l

pre-existence (17:24-26). God's love for the Son can also be

expressed as a response t o t h e Son's work (10:17), but t h i s should I n

no way be construed as a conditional response, being rather an

e x p r e s s i o n of " t h e bond of l o v e t h a t e x i s t s between the Father and the

Son; i t i n v o l v e s the m i s s i o n and obedient death of t h e Son""*. In

o t h e r words, the u n i t y of l o v e i s expressed i n a u n i t y of w i l l and

purpose. This i s confirmed by t h e one i n s t a n c e i n which the Son

expresses his love for God (14:31), that love being denoted as
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obedience t o God's w i l l : aXX' Yva yvS> o xbor^ioq c^ci ayanS!> x6v naiipa,
x a i xaBtbq evexeiXax6 ^loi. o naxr^p, oiSxaq novfi.

Their u n i t y of w i l l i s best expressed i n 5: 19-30, where t h e Son

d e c l a r e s t h a t a l l he does i s performed i n obedience t o God. His words

and works a r e n o t h i s own, b u t God's (3:34; 8:26; 9:4; 12:49). In

5:21 we see t h a t t h e r e i s an "exact p a r a l l e l i s m " * " between t h e w i l l

of God and t h e obedience o f t h e Son, and i t i s from t h i s t h a t the Son

d e r i v e s t h e a u t h o r i t y which he has over l i f e and Judgement*'^, While

the l o v e was based on p r e - e x i s t e n c e , t h e u n i t y of w i l l i s based on h i s

h a v i n g been sent ( 5 : 2 3 ) , as i s a l s o t h e u n i t y o f knowledge which they

share.

I n 8:55, Jesus' knowledge o f God leads t o h i s obedience t o God's

will, a motif which i s further illuminated by the mutuality of

knowledge expressed i n t h e Parable o f t h e Good Shepherd (10:15). Here

we f i n d a combination o f a l l t h r e e elements: Jesus knows that the

F a t h e r loves him, which l e a d s t o h i s willingness t o l a y down h i s l i f e

for t h e sheep (10:14-18). The f i n a l stage o f t h i s i s expressed i n

17:25-26, where Jesus' knowledge o f God and union w i t h him w i l l be t h e

f o u n d a t i o n o f l o v e and knowledge being passed on t o those who become

his disciples. They r e c o g n i s e t h a t Jesus has come from God precisely

because o f t h e knowledge of ' a l l things' (ndvxa) which Jesus has

demonstrated (16:30). This demonstration has taken many forms

t h r o u g h o u t t h e u n f o l d i n g drama o f t h e Fourth Gospel*'', but i t reaches

i t s h i g h - p o i n t i n t h e e x p r e s s i o n o f t h e i n t i m a c y which e x i s t s between

the Father and t h e Son, and between t h e Son and t h e d i s c i p l e s . This


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I n t u r n i s based upon Jesus coming from above and w i t h d r a w i n g again t o


t h e p l a c e o f h i s o r i g i n (16:28).

When we c o n s i d e r t h e f i g u r e o f Sophia and her r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h

God we d i s c o v e r a very s i m i l a r picture. She shares an i n t i m a c y w i t h

God which corresponds t o Jesus' r e l a t i o n s h i p i n terms o f l o v e , will

and knowledge. J u s t as God's l o v e f o r t h e Johannine Jesus i s r o o t e d

in pre-existence, so t o o we see t h a t the intimacy which existed

between Sophia and God began b e f o r e the c r e a t i o n o f the world (Prov

8:30-31). I t might be o b j e c t e d a t t h i s p o i n t t h a t Sophia's ' p l a y i n g '

(eucppatvco - Prov 8:30) b e f o r e God i s n o t t h e imagery used o f Jesus'

i n t i m a c y w i t h God i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel, b u t as Lang has p o i n t e d o u t ,

"Joyful p l a y I n t h e presence o f t h e Creator i s an unmistakeable s i g n

of intimacy"*". I n l a t e r Wisdom t r a d i t i o n t h i s understanding o f Prov

8:30-31 i s c o n f i r m e d , as God I s s p e c i f i c a l l y r e p o r t e d t o love Sophia:

(3) e u y ^ v e i a v So^d^ei au^PifflCTtv eeoO ""^xouaa


xai o ndtvTav Sean6xr\(; fi-ydiiTiffev auti^v
(4) f i u o t i ^ ydcp e a t i v xfjq xoO SeoO eniffxi^firiq
xat a i p e x i q xfiSv ^tpyav auxofS (Wisd 8:3-4)

This text i s particularly significant f o r our comparison w i t h t h e

Johannine Jesus, because i t n o t o n l y mentions God's love f o r Sophia,

but a l s o connects i t w i t h both our o t h e r themes, knowledge and w i l l .

She i s privy t o t h e knowledge t h a t i s God's, and she p a r t i c i p a t e s i n

his works. These themes appear a l s o i n t h e i r own r i g h t i n t h e Wisdom

corpus. Sophia i s f r e q u e n t l y placed i n p a r a l l e l w i t h knowledge (Prov

2:6,10; 3:19,20), and even o f f e r s i t as one o f her g i f t s (Prov 8:12).

More i m p o r t a n t s t i l l i n terms o f t h e i n t i m a t e r e l a t i o n s h i p between God

and Sophia i s t h e knowledge which they have o f each o t h e r . Sophia


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knows God because o f her presence a t c r e a t i o n (Wisd 9:9), and God


knows Sophia's o r i g i n and e x t e n t (Job 28:23,27).

L i k e t h e Johannine Jesus, Sophia a l s o knows ' a l l t h i n g s ' (ndvxa -

Wisd 9:11), a p o i n t which i s u n d e r l i n e d a t o t h e r j u n c t u r e s i n Wisdom

of Solomon (7:17-22; 8:8). Because o f t h i s knowledge of the I n t i m a t e

t h i n g s o f God, Sophia, l i k e Jesus, i s i n tune w i t h God's w i l l . While

the a u t h o r o f John attributes authority over l i f e and judgement to

Jesus (Jn 5:19-25), t h e a u t h o r of Proverbs a l l o w s t h i s task t o Sophia

(Prov 1:20-33). This theme i s d r a m a t i c a l l y developed i n Wisdom of

Solomon c h a p t e r 10, where Sophia becomes t h e f o r c e by which God works

out salvation history i n Israel. As W l l l e t p u t s i t : "Wisdom i s God i n

action, God turned toward the world enacting his will among

humanity-'^'o.

By now we may be a b l e t o see t h a t Sophia's r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God

is not only p a r a l l e l t o t h a t o f t h e Johannine Jesus i n some k i n d of

vague terms o f i n t i m a c y , but much more so i n very s p e c i f i c areas which

correspond almost e x a c t l y , namely love, knowledge and will. When

taken a l o n g w i t h t h e many o t h e r areas of o v e r l a p which we have noted

between Sophia and t h e Johannine Jesus, t h i s p a r a l l e l i s m can h a r d l y be

d i s m i s s e d l i g h t l y as mere c o i n c i d e n c e . Rather, we may i n t e r p r e t i t as

another example o f John t a k i n g up themes a l r e a d y p r e s e n t i n the Wisdom

tradition, and developing them into a highly sophisticated

u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between Jesus Sophia and God. This

u n d e r s t a n d i n g was p r e s e n t a l r e a d y i n the i n t r o d u c t i o n of the Logos i n

the Prologue and now finds i t s f u l l e r o u t w o r k i n g i n the Gospel as a

whole.
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However, t h e r e remains a problem w i t h the I n t i m a c y q u e s t i o n i n


r e l a t i o n t o our t h e s i s t h a t t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t has c o n s c i o u s l y
sought t o r e s o l v e t h e gender problem I n v o l v e d i n i d e n t i f y i n g t h e
female Sophia w i t h t h e male Jesus. Why i s i t t h a t t h e Johannine
language d e s c r i b i n g t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p i s so h e a v i l y weighted down w i t h
jDa2e Imagery through t h e use o f t h e Father - Son model? I t i s clear
f r o m both t h e frequency o f t h i s language and t h e s t a t e d purpose o f t h e
E v a n g e l i s t (20:31), t h a t "what i s a t stake f o r t h e Johannine community
i s t h e f u l l s i g n i f i c a n c e o f t h e c o n f e s s i o n 'Jesus i s the C h r i s t , t h e
Son o f God! " 2 " * . But why must I t be a Father - Son r e l a t i o n s h i p which
the F o u r t h Gospel presents?

We have a l r e a d y seen t h a t t h e a c t u a l r e l a t i o n s h i p between Father

and Son i t s e l f probably depends h e a v i l y upon t h e Wisdom background

which we i d e n t i f i e d i n t h e Logos concept o f t h e Prologue. The breadth

of meaning c o n t a i n e d i n t h e t i t l e 'Son o f God' has been w e l l outlined

in t h e past^'^^ b u t t h e Johannine i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f t h e Logos/Sophia

with t h e Son o f God focuses this title much more s h a r p l y . Dunn

summarises:

By r e a d i n g t h e Father-Son language i n t h e l i g h t o f t h e
Wisdom/Logos prologue, t h e range o f o p t i o n s p o s s i b l e
in t h e t i t l e Son o f God i s narrowed d r a m a t i c a l l y .
Over a g a i n s t any who might be c o n t e n t w i t h a prophet
c h r i s t o l o g y , o r a merely Davldic Messiah c h r i s t o l o g y ,
John I n s i s t s u n r e s e r v e d l y on a Wisdom c h r i s t o l o g y * ' * .

As we have seen, the choice o f Logos as a t i t l e itself i s already

determined by t h e gender o f Jesus r a t h e r than by t h e content o f t h a t

title i n p r e - C h r i s t i a n Judaic thought, vrfilch c o n t e n t i s v i r t u a l l y n i l

anyway! Thus we should n o t be s u r p r i s e d a t t h e a d o p t i o n o f 'Son'

language t o r e p r e s e n t t h e human maleness o f Jesus. Indeed, Sophia can


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h e r s e l f , on account o f her gender, be r e f e r r e d t o as the 'Daughter' o f


God by P h i l o (Fuga 50-52), as we saw i n t h e p r e v i o u s chapter.

Why then a c o n c e n t r a t i o n on a 'Father' language t o d e s c r i b e God,

since the understanding o f Sophia as equal t o God l i e s so c l e a r l y a t

the heart o f t h e Fourth Evangelist's picture o f Jesus and would

p r o v i d e a v e h i c l e f o r t a l k i n g about God i n female terms? The answer

probably lies i n the insistence of early C h r i s t i a n t r a d i t i o n upon

Jesus' use o f >l£>f>a-language t o t a l k t o God, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n prayer^c*.

The Johannine author r e t a i n s t h r e e i n s t a n c e s i n which Jesus addresses

God i n t h i s way, 11:41; 12:27; IJ-.l^"^. The e x t e n t t o which Jesus may

have been conscious o f a s p e c i a l k i n d o f Sonship i n r e l a t i o n t o God

has been a m a t t e r o f much s c h o l a r l y debate^o*, b u t t h e r e can be no

doubt t h a t t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t wants t h e reader t o understand Jesus

as being so conscious throughout h i s ministry. Thus t h e Fourth

Evangelist stresses the relationship through a repeated use o f the

v e r y word which was most c h a r a c t e r i s t i c o f Jesus' own prayers i n t h e

memory o f t h e e a r l i e s t C h r i s t i a n s , Abba (ndxsp).

Having seen t h i s , however, we do s t i l l have s i g n i f i c a n t evidence

a l s o from Wisdom t r a d i t i o n that t h i s i n t i m a t e language could be used

by the recipient o f Sophia t o address God. Those i n whom Sophia

d w e l l s may c a l l God 'Father' and be themselves c a l l e d 'Children' o f

God:

(13) enayyiWBxai YVSCTW ' f ^ e i v 6eoO


x a i naXSa xvpiov eauxoO (JvojidtCei. . .
(16d) x a t oXaCove6exat nax^pa Gebv (Wisd 2:13,16d)

These l i n e s a r e r e p o r t e d as statements h u r l e d i n abuse against t h e

'wise ones' by those who a r e u n r i g h t e o u s , b u t presumably they do


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r e f l e c t t o some e x t e n t t h e c l a i m s made a g a i n s t those w i s e enough t o


f o l l o w t h e t e a c h i n g o f Sophia I n r e a l l i f e . More d i r e c t evidence o f
c a l l i n g God 'Father' appears a l s o i n o t h e r places:

r\ 66 afj, Ttdtxep, 5io£xuPepva np6voia. . . (Wlsd 14:3)

xupve ndttep nai C,at\c, ^ou. . . ( S i r 23:4)

enexaXeadpiriv x6piov n a t ^ p a xupvou \iov. . . ( S i r 51:10)

It may w e l l be, then, t h a t a double i n f l u e n c e has e x e r t e d I t s e l f on

the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t ' s usage. While t h e relationship between Jesus

Sophia and God i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel i s I n i t s e l f t h o r o u g h l y based u p o n

that already known f r o m t h e Sophia - God r e l a t i o n s h i p , t h e language

owes i t s usage t o a combination o f the gender o f t h e human Jesus, t h e

probable usage o f t h e h i s t o r i c a l Jesus I n prayer (.Abba'), and p o s s i b l y

a l s o t h e background o f t h e d i s c i p l e s o f Sophia who could address God

as 'Father'.

3.2.4.2.4 JESUS THE REVEALER

Since Jesus i s p r i v y t o t h e knowledge o f God, which i s

otherwise unavailable t o human beings, the p r i n c i p l e task of h i s

mission i s revelation. T h i s was announced as a major theme i n t h e

Prologue (1:18), where t h e whole purpose o f t h e descent of the

Logos/Sophia i s t o make known (e^i^y^opcxi) t h e t h i n g s o f God^"'. This

verse a l r e a d y i n d i c a t e s t h a t Jesus' r o l e as Revealer depends upon h i s

intimacy with God: o ""uv e i q x d v x6Xnov TOO Jtaxpbc; i s t h e one who

r e v e a l s God.

If Jesus i s t h e one who has been sent by God and who shares i n

t h e most i n t i m a t e m y s t e r i e s o f God, what e x a c t l y does he r e v e a l about


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God d u r i n g h i s s o j o u r n on e a r t h ? T h i s q u e s t i o n has c o n t i n u e d t o vex


s c h o l a r s s i n c e Bultmann's famous a s s e r t i o n , t h a t "Jesus as t h e
Revealer o f God r e v e a l s n o t h i n g but t h a t he i s t h e Revealer''^"'. We
may a t t e m p t t o put some f l e s h on the bones by s a y i n g t h a t Jesus
r e v e a l s what he has seen and heard <3: 11,32; 8:26,38,40; 15:15); he
r e v e a l s (cpavepbu) h i s g l o r y (2:11); t h e works of God <9:3); God's name
(17:6,26). He i s s a i d t o speak (X.aX6to) what God has taught him (3:34;
8:28; 12:49-50), but I n t h e end we are r e a l l y J u s t l e f t w i t h the bare
fact t h a t Jesus i s t h e Revealer. As Bultmann comments: " t h e
a s t o n i s h i n g t h i n g about i t i s t h a t Jesus' words never convey a n y t h i n g
s p e c i f i c t h a t he has seen w i t h t h e F a t h e r " 2 0 ' . E v e r y t h i n g which Jesus
does o r says i s , i n f a c t , p a r t of h i s r e v e l a t i o n of God, f o r "he
speaks and a c t s c o n s t a n t l y f r o m w i t h i n h i s oneness w i t h God"2i«.

The lack of c o n t e n t i n Jesus' revelation i s paralleled by an

unresolved mysteriousness about him d u r i n g h i s m i n i s t r y as Revealer.

People dispute his origin, some claiming to know (7:27), others

admitting they do not (9:29). He does not seek to relieve the

mystery, but h e i g h t e n s i t by announcing t h a t even those who t h i n k they

know, do not (7:28-29; 8:41-46)2*». Both believers and unbelievers

fail t o understand fully t h e message which Jesus b r i n g s (Nicodemus

[ 3 : 9 1 ; t h e Samaritan Woman C 4 : l l ] ; P h i l i p [ 6 : 5 - 7 ] ; Thomas [ 1 4 : 5 ] ) , and

as a person he remains something o f an unsolved r i d d l e .

Another aspect o f Jesus' r o l e as Revealer i s t h e e q u a t i o n between

faith i n Jesus and faith i n God (12:44; 14:1). U n l i k e the Synoptic

Gospels, John uses TriCTTei3eiv + e i q i n c o n n e c t i o n w i t h Jesus, or the

name o f Jesus^'s. To believe i n Jesus i s to receive eternal life

(3:15,16,36; 6:40,47; 11:25-26), and to find one's needs cared f o r


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(4:50j 6:35; 9:38), but to b e l i e v e i n God also r e s u l t s In the same


t h i n g (5:24).

In Wisdom t h i n k i n g , Sophia i s a l s o seen as the focal point of

revelation: "she makes God present for humanity"*»^, Again this

sounds rather vague, and that is exactly how i t remains, for the

c o n t e n t of Sophia's r e v e l a t i o n i s no more c o n c r e t e than t h a t of the

Johannlne Jesus, The closest Sophia comes t o any concrete revelation

of hidden knowledge i s i n Wisd 7:17-22, but basically her role there

is as a r e f l e c t i o n of God (Wisd 7:25-27), a r o l e which I s g i v e n to

Jesus I n John 12:45; 14:9. The s e l f - r e v e l a t i o n of Sophia i n S i r a c h 24

adds n o t h i n g in terms of content, instead merely e f f u s i n g over her

qualities as fragrance, sweet food, and flowing abundance of water.

However, i t i s c l e a r t h a t at a l l times, what she i m p a r t s i s what she

knows f r o m her Intimate relationship w i t h God (Prov 8:22; Wisd 7:25-

28; Sir 24:8)2«*.

Once a g a i n w i t h Sophia we f i n d the c o r o l l a r y t o the vagueness of

her revelation i n the dimension of hiddenness. The classic text is

Job 2 8 : 1 2 f f , which s t r u g g l e s w i t h the q u e s t i o n of where Sophia may be

found. The answer i s g i v e n i n verses 2 3 f f , when the author d e c l a r e s

t h a t o n l y God knows her comings and goings. Gordls remarks, t h a t " I t

Is precisely the u n a v a i l a b i l i t y of Wisdom t o man ( s i c ^ that is the

theme of the poem"^^^, and t h i s continues to be a theme f o r later

Wisdom w r i t e r s . There i s a need t o seek Sophia out (Prov 8:17; Wisd

6:12,14; Sir 4:13,17; 24:28-29), for she is somewhat e l u s i v e (Sir

6:22). Baruch also takes up the theme of Sophia's i n a c c e s s i b i l i t y


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(Bar 3:15,22,24) b e f o r e d e c l a r i n g that she i s now embodied i n the


Torah (Bar 4:1)2»*.

There i s very little evidence which suggests that the Wisdom

writers saw Sophia as an object of f a i t h , the nearest approximation

b e i n g S i r 4:16

e*d(v emxxCTTEijcTig xatotxXT^povopi^aei auxfjv


xat e v xataaxtcFEx feaovtai a\ yeweai avxoH ( S i r 4:16)

However, i t i s clear that they saw one's r e l a t i o n s h i p t o Sophia as

d e t e r m i n a t i v e i n terms o f one's r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God. To f i n d her i s

to f i n d l i f e (Prov 8:35; S i r 4:12), t o serve her i s t o serve God, with

the r e c i p r o c a l e f f e c t t h a t those who l o v e her are l o v e d by God:

01 XatpeiSovteq auxfjv XeiToupYi^CTOoaiv ayi<f


xax ToOq avaiCvxaq auxrjv ayartS 6 xOpioq ( S i r 4:14)

In Wisd 7:28 we reach a p o i n t where n o t h i n g o t h e r than the l o v e o f

Sophia w i l l make a person a c c e p t a b l e t o God: ouB^v ydtp ayom& o ee6q eV

fjit^ t d v aoificf (TuvoixoCvxa. Those who are f r i e n d s o f Sophia are f r i e n d s

of God (Wisd 7:14,27), a remarkably similar concept to that of Jn

15:13-15, where Jesus announces t h a t those who keep h i s commandment

(13:34; 15:12) w i l l be h i s ' f r i e n d s ' (91X01).

Once again we are compelled to admit that the relationship

between the Johannine Jesus and God, this time in the role of

Revealer, is strikingly similar to that occupied by Sophia i n the

Wisdom corpus. Although the vocabulary of r e v e l a t i o n may not always

coincide^'', the nature, f u n c t i o n and basis of the r e l a t i o n s h i p does

so a t almost every p o i n t .
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Above a l l , t h e r i d d l e o f what i t I s t h a t t h e Revealer r e v e a l s may


s a t i s f a c t o r i l y be r e s o l v e d t h r o u g h t h e c o n n e c t i o n w i t h Sophia, f o r
l i k e her, Jesus Sophia comes s i m p l y t o r e v e a l God, not f a c t s and
figures! Dunn summarises:

the r e v e l a t i o n which Jesus b r i n g s seems t o be so


l i m i t e d p r e c i s e l y because what he r e v e a l s i s n o t
i n f o r m a t i o n b u t , q u i t e simply, God, t h a t he i s God I n
his self-revelation2»«.

Taking t h e above quote, f o r 'Jesus' read 'Sophia', a l t e r t h e pronouns

t o g i v e God her a p p r o p r i a t e gender, and we have a concise summary o f

t h e r e v e l a t o r y appearances o f Sophia i n t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n !

3.2.4.2.5 ETQ EIMI

Our next m o t i f which r e f l e c t s the relationship between

Jesus and God i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel b r i n g s us back t o a s u b j e c t on

which we have a l r e a d y spent some time, t h e eya evfit sayings. Apart

from t h e s a y i n g s w i t h p r e d i c a t i o n s , which we have seen a r e i n f l u e n c e d

by t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n , t h e r e a r e s e v e r a l occasions on which Jesus i s

made t o use t h e Ey<i> exfjii as an a b s o l u t e form (4:26; 6:20; 8:23,24,58;

13:19; 18:6,8). T h i s usage r e f l e c t s t h e d i v i n e o r i g i n o f Jesus i n t h e

mind o f t h e E v a n g e l i s t , and i s tantamount t o making Jesus c a l l h i m s e l f

God, as has been well demonstrated from the Old Testament

background*''.

Let us make some further observations on t h e manner i n which

these a b s o l u t e kyd> e\.\s.i statements a r e made, p a r t i c u l a r l y n o t i n g t h e i r

context. I n every case Jesus' use o f t h i s t i t l e r e l i e s upon, or i s

c l o s e l y connected w i t h some aspect o f h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God. In

8:58, t h e £y& eijii r e s t s entirely on t h e d e c l a r a t i o n o f h i s pre-


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exlstence (npiv Appadji. . .). Earlier i n t h e same chapter, Jesus

Sophia urges the people to believe that ky& expii precisely on the

b a s i s t h a t what he teaches i s 'from above' (ex xfflv 'dvm : 8:23), thus

basing h i s absolute claim on the descent motif (8:24). On three

occasions (4:26; 8:28; 13:19) t h e use of ky& e i j i i I s c l o s e l y connected


to t h e theme o f intimate knowledge; t w i c e Jesus Sophia shows knowledge

of i n d i v i d u a l s which can o n l y be e x p l a i n e d on the b a s i s of h i s d i v i n e

insight (4:26 - the Samaritan woman's lurid past; 13:19 - Judas'

imminent betrayal), and once h i s i n t i m a t e knowledge of the t h i n g s o f

the Father w i l l cause people t o know who he i s f o l l o w i n g h i s 'lifting-

up' (uytoarixe - 8: 2 8 ) .

The remaining four occurrences of t h e a b s o l u t e ky& eljii i n the

F o u r t h Gospel (6:20; 18:5,6,8) a r e a l l r e l a t e d t o the shared 5<3^a o f

the F a t h e r and Son. I n 6:20 Jesus appears t o the d i s c i p l e s w a l k i n g on

the sea, and i n the " t r a d i t i o n a l f o r m u l a o f g r e e t i n g used by the d e i t y

in h i s epiphany"22°, identifies himself with an ky<i, e l f i i Z ' * . The

arrest sequence of 18:1-11 provides us with a similar kind of

r e v e l a t i o n o f t h e awesomeness o f t h e 56^0 of Jesus Sophia, where " t h e

myrmidons o f t h e law s h r i n k back and fall t o t h e ground, as a man

s i n k s down b e f o r e the epiphany o f D e i t y " ^ ^ ^ .

Undoubtedly John's a d o p t i o n o f t h e ky& ei|jLi style of address must

owe something to t h e Old Testament tradition of the d i v i n e name,

firstly i n Exod 3:14, but more e x p l i c i t l y i n D e u t e r o - I s a i a h , However,

the content and authority of t h e statements l i e s much more i n t h e i r

relationship to Sophia, whose influence on the themes of pre-

e x i s t e n c e , descent. I n t i m a t e knowledge and g l o r y we have a l r e a d y seen

in t h e course of our i n v e s t i g a t i o n . That Sophia does not i n t r o d u c e


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h e r s e l f w i t h t h e p r e d i c a t e kyd) e'lfit m a t t e r s l i t t l e , f o r she c l e a r l y


addresses her c l a i m s i n f i r s t person s t y l e i n Proverbs and S i r a c h . We
would thus conclude t h a t Sophia's I n f l u e n c e a l s o played a c o n s i d e r a b l e
r o l e i n t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t ' s d e c i s i o n t o g i v e t o the Johannlne
Jesus t h a t most d i s t i n c t i v e of d i v i n e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , the d i v i n e
name, eycS e i ^ i * * * .

3.2.4.2.6 HUMANITY AND DIVINITY

The final p a r t of our investigation of the relationship

between Jesus Sophia and God concerns the q u e s t i o n of humanity and

divinity. The words of Jn 1:14 already pose the question of the

r e l a t i o n s h i p between Jesus the man and the d i v i n e o r i g i n he appears t o

display throughout his ministry, t h e s o - c a l l e d 66^a. I t i s at this

point that we see most clearly the extent to which the Fourth

E v a n g e l i s t has gone i n the development of e a r l i e r C h r i s t i a n t r a d i t i o n

both as r e p r e s e n t e d by the S y n o p t i c s and by Paul***. As Dunn remarks,

however, " i t I s not so much the content of the F o u r t h Evangelist's

distinctive c h r l s t o l o g y which marks him out, as the way i n which he

formulates i t " * * ' . Thus, John i s not s t e p p i n g o u t s i d e the tradition

of the earliest Christian reflection on the s i g n i f i c a n c e of Jesus

Christ, but i s r a t h e r d e v e l o p i n g i t i n new ways t o meet a changed and

still-changing situation, a situation i n which t h e Imminent parousla

has receded as a d r i v i n g I s s u e and the separation of C h r i s t i a n i t y and

Judaism has emerged as a b u r n i n g one.

For our present d i s c u s s i o n , the q u e s t i o n I s t o what e x t e n t Sophia

influence has helped or even encouraged the development of the

christological p i c t u r e i n the mind of the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t . I n her


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p e r c e p t i v e e x a m i n a t i o n o f t h e humanity o f Jesus i n John, Thompson i s


a b l e t o conclude t h a t , i n t h e end, Jesus' "heavenly g l o r y does n o t
s i m p l y overshadow the e a r t h l y r e a l i t y nor does i t shine through t h e
humanity o f t h e e a r t h l y Jesus as a l i g h t through a t r a n s p a r e n t
veil"224. There i s then, a balance i n t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t ' s
p r e s e n t a t i o n o f t h e h u m a n i t y / d i v i n i t y o f Jesus Sophia. But t h i s i s
a l r e a d y a development over a g a i n s t t h e S y n o p t i c s , who have a much
s t r o n g e r emphasis on t h e humanity, even when we take i n t o account such
m o t i f s as t h e v i r g i n b i r t h and the ' s u p e r n a t u r a l ' nature o f some
miracles. I n t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p o f t h e Father and the Son we have an
a f f i r m a t i o n o f Jesus' d i v i n e o r i g i n s which i s q u i t e u n p a r a l l e l e d i n
the Synoptic accounts or even i n Paul's a d o p t i o n o f Wisdom c a t e g o r i e s
to d e s c r i b e him.

This distinctive Father-Son r e l a t i o n s h i p , however, i s p r e c i s e l y

what we have interpreted as an outworking of Sophia christology,

announced i n t h e Prologue and developed I n t h e Gospel as a whole. The

affirmation of Jesus' divinity derives directly from the

identification o f him w i t h Sophia, who was with God, and who we

b e l i e v e , a t l e a s t by i m p l i c a t i o n from her a c t i v i t y and f u n c t i o n i n t h e

later s t r a n d o f Jewish s p e c u l a t i o n , was God. So i t i s t h a t Philo,

writing i n the period leading up t o t h e f o r m a t i o n o f the Fourth

Gospel, can d e s c r i b e Sophia as r\ ^Eia aocpta, the image (fiifjirifia) of God

(QuisRer 127), o r even more commonly r e f e r t o t h e eefoq Xbyoq (.QuisRer

191; DeMut 116; DeFuga 97,101,108,137, e t a l . ) . The adoption of a

Sophia c h r i s t o l o g y as t h e v e h i c l e f o r e x p l i c a t i n g t h e n a t u r e o f Jesus

Christ lent i t s e l f t o t h e p r o c l a m a t i o n o f h i s d i v i n e o r i g i n and nature

in a way which the Synoptics, from their viewpoint, could not.

Commenting on Jn 1:14, Ashton summarises thus:


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The w r i t e r ' s c e n t r a l I n s i g h t i s summed up here - t h e


i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f Jesus C h r i s t , r e v e r e d and worshipped
by C h r i s t i a n s alone, w i t h t h e f i g u r e o f Wisdom. T h i s
stems f r o m t h e r e a l i s a t i o n , expressed throughout t h e
hymn, t h a t t h e h i s t o r y o f Wisdom has been re-enacted
by C h r i s t : t h e d i v i n e p l a n seen a t work throughout the
h i s t o r y o f I s r a e l has a c t u a l l y taken f l e s h i n him**^.

What then o f t h e humanity question? Can Sophia a l s o be seen as i n

some way i n f l u e n t i a l i n t h e p r e s e n t a t i o n o f Jesus C h r i s t as t h e one

who became f l e s h ? Commenting on t h e humanity o f Jesus, Thompson says:

For t h e e v a n g e l i s t , t h e accent does n o t f a l l on Jesus'


'pure and simple humanity*. Rather i t f a l l s on t h e
peculiar path which Jesus walked - a path
c h a r a c t e r i z e d by l o v e f o r h i s own which l e d u l t i m a t e l y
t o h i s death - because t h e q u e s t i o n t h e e v a n g e l i s t
faces i s whether t h e Logos i s indeed one w i t h Jesus o f
Nazareth. Inasmuch as t h e e v a n g e l i s t i n s i s t s t h a t one
must look a t t h e p a t h which Jesus walked t o see the
r e v e l a t i o n o f g l o r y , he i n s i s t s t h a t f l e s h c o n s t i t u t e s
an i n d i s p e n s a b l e aspect o f t h a t r e v e l a t i o n * * * .

Thus I t i s t h i s " p e c u l i a r path . . . which c u l m i n a t e s i n h i s death"**'

which i s the characteristic f e a t u r e o f Jesus' crdtp^. Yet a l l t h e way

through we have seen that this path i s one which i s most clearly

i l l u m i n a t e d when we s h i n e on I t t h e l i g h t o f Sophia! I t i s Sophia who

l o v e s 'her own' (Prov 8:17,21; Wisd 7:28; S i r 4:14), who I s no longer

t o be equated w i t h Torah b u t w i t h Jesus C h r i s t / J e s u s Sophia (Jn 1:17

vs S i r 24:23; Bar 3:37-4:1) come ev aapxi. I n our comments on Jn 1:14

we noted already that this development by t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t o f

identifying Jesus C h r i s t with Sophia incarnate was r e a l l y only the

l a s t s t e p I n a l o n g l i n e o f development which saw her Importance and

I n f l u e n c e i n t h e w o r l d growing i n t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n s . At l e a s t f o r

the a u t h o r o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel, i n Jesus C h r i s t she f i n a l l y f i n d s her

' d w e l l i n g - p l a c e ' on e a r t h .
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Thus we may see t h a t o u r u n d e r s t a n d i n g and I n t e r p r e t a t i o n of both


the humanity and d i v i n i t y o f t h e Johannine Jesus can be enhanced i n
the l i g h t o f elements a l r e a d y p r e s e n t i n t h e Sophia t r a d i t i o n s o f
Israel.

3.2.4.3 JESUS THE TEACHER

We have observed t h a t t h e m i s s i o n o f t h e Johannine Jesus i s

p r i m a r i l y t h a t o f r e v e a l i n g what i s known t o him about God, o r perhaps

more s i m p l y , o f r e v e a l i n g God. Part o f t h i s r e v e l a t i o n i s c a r r i e d out

t h r o u g h h i s r o l e as teacher: Indeed, t h i s i s t h e most common way i n

which people address Jesus i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel. He i s c a l l e d pappi

by h i s disciples, or p o t e n t i a l disciples (1:38,49; 3:2; 4:31; 9:2;

11:8), as w e l l as by t h e people generally (6:25)^30. on other

occasions he i s called SxSdtoxaXoq, a direct equivalent o f pappt

(1:38), by h i s d i s c i p l e s (1:38; 3:2; 11:28; 20:16), an appellation

w i t h which Jesus agrees (13:13,14). We s h a l l look firstly a t Jesus'

r o l e as t e a c h e r , n o t i n g t h e a u t h o r i t y on which he r e s t s h i s t e a c h i n g

and t h e e f f e c t s which i t has on those who r e c e i v e i t . Secondly, we

will look b r i e f l y a t t h e ones who a r e t a u g h t , t h e d i s c i p l e s , though we

will be examining their role i n much g r e a t e r detail i n our next

chapter. Lastly, we w i l l examine another i m p o r t a n t Johannine concept

attached to the teacher-disciple relationship, namely that of

'abiding' (jievefv).

3.2.4.3.1 JESUS AS TEACHER

Jesus' a u t h o r i t y as teacher r e s t s upon h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p t o

God. He h i m s e l f declares that h i s t e a c h i n g i s n o t h i s own, b u t i s

f r o m t h e one who has sent him (7:16-17). I t i s n o t a s e c r e t form o f


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t e a c h l n g , i n t h e manner o f Gnostic r e v e l a t i o n , but i s open f o r a l l t o


hear who wish t o do so (18:20). T h i s i s r e f l e c t e d i n t h e places where
Jesus i s s a i d t o teach: i n t h e synagogue (6:59), or i n t h e Temple
court (7:14,28; 8:20; 18:20). He a l s o makes i t known t o h i s
d i s c i p l e s , t h a t t h e S p i r i t , which he w i l l send, w i l l c o n t i n u e i n t h e
same t r a d i t i o n as Teacher (14:26).

In the f i r s t t e a c h i n g episode i n t h e Gospel (3:1-21), a c o n t r a s t

is made between Jesus, t h e teacher who, by Nicodemus' own admission,

comes from God (3:2), and t h e Teacher o f I s r a e l , Nicodemus h i m s e l f

(3:10). I n t h i s sequence Jesus places t h e a u t h o r i t y f o r h i s t e a c h i n g

upon t h e f a c t t h a t he has 'seen' these t h i n g s o f which he speaks: he

has come from heaven t o r e v e a l them. H i s t e a c h i n g appears t o c o n s i s t

of t h e need f o r new b i r t h i n the S p i r i t (3:5-8) and o f God's s a v i n g

love f o r the world ( 3 : 1 6 f f ) , but as Bultmann p o i n t s out, the r e a l

scandal o f what he says l i e s i n h i s "claim that h i s o r i g i n s are i n

heaven, and i t i s t h i s t h a t man i s c a l l e d on t o b e l i e v e " * ^ ' .

When c h a l l e n g e d about h i s m i r a c u l o u s work on the Sabbath (5: 1-

15), Jesus a g a i n r e p l i e s t h a t t h e t r u t h which he d e l i v e r s i s based on

h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h t h e Father, whose work he does and w i t h o u t whom

he can do n o t h i n g ( 5 : 1 9 f f ) . I n t h e f o l l o w i n g chapter, t h e Bread o f

Life d i s c o u r s e , we again find that t h e c l a i m t o be t h i s q u a l i t y I s

based on t h e f a c t t h a t God has placed h i s s e a l on him (toOxov ydcp o

naxf\p l a ^ p d Y i a e v 6 Gedq - 6:27). This pattern c o n t i n u e s i n every

i n s t a n c e where Jesus s e t s o u t t o teach: h i s a u t h o r i t y I s c l e a r l y God-

given.
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I t i s w o r t h s t r e s s i n g a t t h i s p o i n t t h e continuity between the


God-given f o u n d a t i o n of the t e a c h i n g and the Son's d e l i v e r y of i t . On
the b a s i s o f t e x t s l i k e Jn 14:28, i t has been claimed t h a t John's
c h r i s t o l o g y tends toward s u b o r d i n a t i o n i s m . When we take i n t o account
what we have seen of the r e l a t i o n s h i p between Jesus and God, t h e i r
shared i n t i m a c y , and now the c o n t i n u i t y i n t h e i r r e v e l a t i o n and
t e a c h i n g , we would want t o echo Appold's r e j o i n d e r , t h a t "John's
christology leaves no room f o r even i n c i p i e n t s u b o r d i n a t i o n " ^ ' ^ .
Rather, u s i n g the t r a d i t i o n s of Sophia, the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t wants t o
show.

the continuity between Father and Son, the c o n t i n u i t y


of Wisdom/Logos: he i s doing the same work as God
(5:17); h i s hand and the Father's hand are one (10:28-
29); he speaks w i t h t h e a u t h o r i t y of God (14:10)23'.

A notable e f f e c t of Jesus' teaching i s that i t b r i n g s about a

division among the hearers. Some b e l i e v e and others refuse to

believe. Dodd calls chapters 2-12 "a story of sifting and

selection"^**, which leads to the emergence of a small group of

disciples who remain f a i t h f u l and r e c e i v e t e a c h i n g i n 13-16. This

division between b e l i e v e r s and unbelievers takes place a f t e r nearly

every major i n c i d e n t I n Jesus' m i n i s t r y (2:11,23-25; 4:39-42; 5:18,46-

47; 6:15,60-61,66; 7:43; 8:30,59; 9:16; 10:19; 11:45-53), and r e f l e c t s

the persistent dualism which pervades the Gospel as a whole. For

those who deliberately and obstinately refuse t o accept the truth

which Jesus teaches, the r e s u l t i s clear: they w i l l die i n t h e i r s i n

(8:21). For those who accept and b e l i e v e , the o f f e r i s e t e r n a l life.

Although we noted the d i f f i c u l t y of d e t e r m i n i n g the content of

Jesus' r e v e l a t i o n , i t i s c l e a r t h a t h i s i n v i t a t i o n i s open t o a l l who


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w l l l respond, and i t i s made e n t i r e l y on h i s own i n i t i a t i v e . On


s e v e r a l occasions he approaches people t o make an o f f e r : the Samaritan
Woman (4:7,10); t h e man cured on t h e Sabbath (5:14); t h e b l i n d man
(9:35). On o t h e r occasions h i s o f f e r i s d i r e c t e d t o t h e crowd: t h e
bread o f l i f e (6:35,51); l i v i n g water (7:37-38). Only r a r e l y do
people seek o u t Jesus and when they f i n d him they show a marked l a c k
of u n d e r s t a n d i n g , which I s o n l y c l e a r e d up a t Jesus' d i s c r e t i o n :
Nathanael ( l : 4 7 f f ) ; Nicodemus (3: I f f ) .

What o f Sophia t h e Teacher? Nowhere i s she d i r e c t l y addressed as

such, but t h e r e can be l i t t l e doubt t h a t her primary f u n c t i o n i s t h e

I n s t r u c t i o n of her d i s c i p l e s . L i k e t h e Johannlne Jesus she r e s t s her

a u t h o r i t y as teacher on h e r r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God, and i n p a r t i c u l a r

s t r e s s e s h e r o r i g i n w i t h him b e f o r e t h e f o u n d a t i o n o f t h e world. This

is clear I n Prov 8:22ff, where she f i r s t o f a l l e s t a b l i s h e s her

credentials as t h e p r e - e x l s t e n t h e l p e r a t c r e a t i o n , then turns t o

appeal t o h e r c h i l d r e n t o l i s t e n t o h e r words o f wise t e a c h i n g (Prov

8:32 - vOv o8v, vit, axou6 j i o u ) . Again i n S i r 24 she claims t o be t h e

one who embodies t h e very words which God speaks ( S i r 24:3)*'', and I n

Wisd 8 h e r a b i l i t y to initiate disciples into t h e knowledge o f God

(Wlsd 8 : 4 f f ) r e s t s on t h e f a c t t h a t God l o v e s her ( 8 : 3 ) . I n a l l of

t h i s we see t h a t her a u t h o r i t y f o r t e a c h i n g has t h e same b a s i s as t h a t

of t h e Johannlne Jesus.

Sophia's t e a c h i n g i s made p u b l i c l y a v a i l a b l e t o a l l who w i l l pay

heed t o i t . She c r i e s o u t i n t h e p u b l i c places such as t h e s t r e e t ,

the gate o r t h e market p l a c e (Prov 1:20,21; 8:1-3). These are t h e

areas which: " c o n s t i t u t e t h e arena o f p u b l i c l i f e . . , . They a r e t h e

p l a c e s where t h e c a r e f u l observer can a c q u i r e knowledge. They a r e t h e


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p l a c e s where speakers used t o seek an audience"234. Some l a t e r Wisdom


t r a d i t i o n does n o t have Sophia a p p e a r i n g i n such p u b l i c places,
c o n f i n i n g her a c t i v i t y t o t h e Holy p l a c e s ( S i r 24:23), and u l t i m a t e l y
t o t h e Torah (Bar 4:1). At f i r s t s i g h t t h i s l a t e r t r a d i t i o n might
seem c l o s e r t o t h e Johannine Jesus' appearance i n t h e r e s t r i c t e d areas
of synagogue and Temple, b u t t h e a v a i l a b i l i t y o f h i s t e a c h i n g t o t h e
people g e n e r a l l y , and i n p a r t i c u l a r t o women, may r e p r e s e n t a polemic
a g a i n s t t h e l a t e r Wisdom a t t e m p t s t o shut Sophia up i n t h e Torah,
p r e f e w i n g t h e more open approach o f Proverbs*'^. I t I s i n Just such
open p l a c e s t h a t we have seen t h e Johannine Jesus t e a c h i n g f r e e l y .

Like Jesus' teaching, Sophia's i n s t r u c t i o n brings a separation

between t h o s e who accept and those who r e j e c t i t . This i s most

vigorously expressed i n t h e p i c t u r e o f t h e f a l s e woman. Dame F o l l y ,

who appears i n c o n t r a s t t o Sophia i n Proverbs 7 and 9, and whose way

leads down t o death. I t can, however, s i m p l y be a r e f u s a l to listen

(Prov 1:24-25) which l e a d s t o an abandonment s i m i l a r t o that o f Jn

8:21 (Prov 1:26-27). F o l l o w i n g Sophia leads t o l i f e , while refusal to

f o l l o w l e a d s t o abandonment and death ( S i r 4:18-19).

All i n a l l , the pictures o f Sophia and t h e Johannine Jesus i n

their role as teacher o v e r l a p i n both c o n t e n t ( o r lack of i t ! ) and

function. I n b o t h cases i t i s t h e t e a c h i n g r o l e which i s the primary

means o f d i s s e m i n a t i n g r e v e l a t i o n . Their a u t h o r i t y i s God-given and

the e f f e c t of t h e i r teaching i s t o bring about a d i v i s i o n l e a d i n g t o

l i f e o r death.
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3.2.4.3.2 THE TEACHER'S DISCIPLES

The whole i s s u e o f d l s c i p l e s h i p i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel i s a

complex matter. Unlike t h e Synoptic tradition we do n o t have an

individually named set of disciples who follow Jesus around and

Interact with him I n t h e v a r i o u s stages and i n d i v i d u a l a c t s o f h i s


>

ministry. Instead we have three principle types of follower: a

shadowy group o f f o l k c a l l e d t h e )LaQr\xixi, who appear a t v a r i o u s p o i n t s

but whose r o l e i s never q u i t e c l e a r l y d e f i n e d ; t h e Beloved D i s c i p l e ,

who appears o n l y i n t h e second h a l f o f t h e Gospel b e g i n n i n g a t t h e

foot-washing scene i n chapter 13, b u t who c l e a r l y holds a special

position i n t h e mind o f t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t as a w i t n e s s t o the

Jesus tradition; thirdly, various non-defined individuals,

particularly women, who I n t e r a c t w i t h Jesus more than e i t h e r o f t h e

o t h e r c a t e g o r i e s a t c r u c i a l c h r i s t o l o g i c a l p o i n t s o f t h e Gospel. In

our next chapter we will hope t o show that this third category

f u n c t i o n as paradigms o f t r u e d i s c i p l e s h i p f o r t h e community vrtiom t h e

Fourth Evangelist i s addressing i n t h e Gospel. Since we w i l l be

examining t h i s whole q u e s t i o n i n more d e t a i l l a t e r , f o r t h e moment we

w i l l draw o n l y some g e n e r a l c o n c l u s i o n s as t o t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between

the Johannlne concept o f d i s c i p l e s h i p and t h a t o f Sophia's d i s c i p l e s .

Brown has a l r e a d y noted a number o f p a r a l l e l s between t h e c a l l t o

discipleship i n the Fourth Gospel and t h a t o f Sophia's method o f

seeking o u t her f o l l o w e r s * ' * . F i r s t l y we may note t h e way I n which

the Johannine Jesus calls disciples: he seeks them out i n p u b l i c

places, be i t t h e men o f chapter 1 o r the Samaritan woman o f chapter

4. I n t h e course o f t h e f i n a l f a r e w e l l speech t o those who have been

chosen, Jesus makes i t c l e a r t h a t i t i s on h i s I n i t i a t i v e that they


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have been brought t o t h e p l a c e where they are: oox ujietq fie


e^eX^laaee, aXX' iy<b i^eke^&\ir\v ujjiSq (Jn 15:16). So i t i s a l s o w i t h
Sophia, who appears i n t h e p u b l i c places t o c a l l out t o people t o
respond and f o l l o w her ways (Prov 1:20-21; 8:1-4; Wisd 6:16). There
may even be a d i r e c t p a r a l l e l between the i d e a o f Wisd 6:16 and t h a t
of Jn 1:47, Sophia seeking out those worthy o f her, and Jesus Sophia
s e e k i n g out Nathanael, i n whom t h e r e i s no 66Xoq. C e r t a i n l y , both
Sophia and t h e Johannine Jesus are very open i n t h e i r search and
appear t o know e x a c t l y who thay want t o be t h e i r d i s c i p l e s .

A second aspect of Jesus' c a l l i s t h a t i t i s d i r e c t e d towards the

e n l i g h t e n m e n t o f those who respond. As h i s f r i e n d s they are c a l l e d so

that they may know what Jesus i s about (Jn 15: 15) and they are

p u r i f i e d by the w o r k i n g of h i s word i n them (Jn 13:10; 15:3). I n the

same way Sophia " s e l e c t s her f o l l o w e r s by t e s t i n g them, then revealing

to them her secrets (Sir 4 : l l f f ; Wisd 7 : 1 2 f f ) " 2 3 7 . i n the end this

means t h a t her d i s c i p l e s can a l s o be c a l l e d her 'friends' (Wisd 7:14;

8: 18).

The relationship o f teacher and d i s c i p l e s goes much deeper than

mere superficial f r i e n d s h i p . Jesus l o v e s those who l o v e him and this

l e a d s a l s o t o t h e i r b e i n g l o v e d by God (Jn 14:21; 16:27). The promise

g i v e n t o them i s t h a t he w i l l come and d w e l l i n them (14:23). This

again reflects what was a l r e a d y known of Sophia's r e l a t i o n s h i p with

her followers, as we can see f r o m a comparison o f S i r 4:14 with Jn

14:21 -

9 > > C
xax ToOq ayan^vxac, autr^v ayand. o xOpioq ( S i r 4: 14)
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o 56 otYatffiv jie 070111119I^CTETax \>n6 xoQ natpdq fiou


(Jn 14:21)

The indwelling o f Sophia I n those who l o v e her i s a l s o a f e a t u r e o f

Wisdom o f Solomon's u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between her and

those who f o l l o w her t e a c h i n g (Wisd 1:4).

In a l l t h r e e of these aspects we may see t h a t t h e r e i s a very

close parallel between the call of Sophia and the resulting

relationship between her and her d i s c i p l e s , and the p i c t u r e given by

the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t of t h e Johannine Jesus and h i s d i s c i p l e s . Once

again, Sophia may well be seen as the i n s p i r a t i o n f o r the Fourth

Evangelist's c h r i s t o l o g i c a l r e f l e c t i o n .

3.2.4.3.3 THE MOTIF OF 'ABIDING' (Mevetv)

One o f t h e commonest ways o f d e s c r i b i n g the r e l a t i o n s h i p

between teacher and d i s c i p l e s i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel i s through the use

of t h e v e r b f i e v e t v ^ * * . Indeed, w e l l over h a l f t h e appearances of t h i s

word i n t h e New Testament occur i n t h e Johannine w r i t i n g s ^ * * . In

other New Testament writings, particularly i n Paul, there is a

p a r a l l e l i n t h e ev XpiaxS language, which i m p l i e s a r e l a t i o n s h i p which

"makes possible a quality of life which shows the character of

Christ"2*2, However, t h e word / J E V E I V i s never used by Paul, and t h e

Johannine usage i s more c l o s e l y connected t o the i n t i m a t e relationship

we have Just examined between Jesus and God, which expresses t h e

" c l o s e s t p o s s i b l e r e l a t i o n s h i p between Father and Son"^*'. n i g from

this relationship that the d i s c i p l e ' s closeness t o Jesus and God

emerges, i n such c h a r a c t e r i s t i c expressions as t h a t found i n Jn 15:10

- fiEvetxE ev Tfj aydmr^ fiou, xaQ&c, ey(i>. . . ^^v© aitoC (=xoO J t a x p b q ) ev


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T f j ay&nxi. T h i s ' a b i d i n g ' r e l a t i o n s h i p i s something dynamic between


Father and Son and between F a t h e r -» Son ^ D i s c i p l e . As Dodd comments:
" I t i s n o t h i n g so e x t e r n a l as mere obedience o r i m i t a t i o n . I t i s the
s h a r i n g o f one l i f e , which i s o f course l i f e e t e r n a l o r a b s o l u t e " * • •.

This pattern of Father -» Son -» D i s c i p l e i s important f o r

understanding the Fourth Evangelist's use o f j x E v e i v . The F o u r t h

E v a n g e l i s t sees t h e i r u n i t y as dependent on a c o n s t a n t f l o w o f l o v e i n

the direction indicated by o u r arrows. As f a r as t h e d i s c i p l e i s

concerned, t o 'abide' means t o keep t h e commandment which Jesus g i v e s ,

which commandment I s based on t h e mutual l o v e o f t h e Father and Son

(15:9-12). T h i s Son -i D i s c i p l e ^ e v e i v r e l a t i o n s h i p i s a l s o d e s c r i b e d

as 'bearing fruit' (15:4,5), which i s only possible when t h e

d i s c i p l e s , as 'branches', a r e connected t o t h e ' t r u e v i n e ' (15:1-4)

Where does this motif of 'abiding' stem from? I n t h e Old

Testament there is a tradition which speaks of God's will,

r i g h t e o u s n e s s o r word abiding (Ps 33:11; 112:3,9; I s 40:8), but t h i s

really bears little relation t o t h e Johannine usage**^. Huch more

striking i s the reference t o Sophia, which talks o f her ' a b i d i n g '

nature and her i n d w e l l i n g o f her d i s c i p l e s , again based on h e r

r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God:

\iia &t o^aa n&vxa 5i3vaxai


x a i ji^vouca ev aux^ tdc ndvxa x a t v t ^ s i
nai •H.axdt yeveAq e i q fux^q oaiaq fiexagcxtvouCTa
q>t\ouq 8eoO xai npocpi^xaq xotxaaxeudtCex (Wisd 7:27)

Here we f i n d a l l t h e main elements o f Jn 15: 1-17 combined: Sophia, who

abides i n h e r s e l f , which i n t h e c o n t e x t o f Wisd 7 : 2 2 f f c l e a r l y means

she abides i n God, i s involved in a recreative work ( l i k e the


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' p r u n i n g ' of t h e v l n e k e e p e r ) , by e n t e r i n g i n t o the l i v e s of the


d i s c i p l e s and making them f r i e n d s of God <=Jn 15:14). We could
s c a r c e l y f i n d a b e t t e r f u n c t i o n a l p a r a l l e l t o the Johannine image than
t h a t o f f e r e d by Wisdom o f Solomon here.

Thus we may conclude that the ' a b i d i n g ' m o t i f of the Fourth

Gospel, though obviously developed by the Fourth Evangelist to a

greater extent than the similar i d e a seen i n t r a d i t i o n s concerning

Sophia, shows s i g n s of i n f l u e n c e from the same background which we

have seen f o r Jesus' role as Teacher and the disciples' role as

f o l l o w e r s , namely the t r a d i t i o n s concerning Sophia and her d i s c i p l e s .

3.2.4.4 THE REJECTIOH OF JESUS

We have a l r e a d y touched on t h i s i s s u e a t s e v e r a l p o i n t s along

t h e way, but i t i s w o r t h w h i l e drawing the m a t e r i a l t o g e t h e r i n order

t o see how t h e theme o f r e j e c t i o n , announced i n t h e Prologue (1:10-

11), works out i n the Gospel as a whole.

It i s Jesus' own people who r e j e c t him, making plans throughout

his ministry how they may be r i d of him (5:43; 7:19,32,45-52; 8:37;

9:22; 10:31,39; 11:47-53; 12:37). The whole Passion N a r r a t i v e i s an

account of the final rejection of Jesus, but the onus of

r e s p o n s i b i l i t y i s placed on t h e 'Jews' (18:38-40; 19:6-16). The irony

is that the v e r y ones who should have known b e t t e r are the ones who

r e j e c t God i n t h e i r midst.

It i s t h e r e j e c t i o n of Jesus by h i s own people which leads t o h i s

withdrawal (8:59). The withdrawal takes place of h i s own accord

(12:36), even when, i n the case of the t r i a l and e x e c u t i o n , i t appears


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t h a t h i s w i t h d r a w a l has been e n f o r c e d (15:13; 19:11). Because the


'Jews' have r e j e c t e d him, they w i l l no longer be a b l e t o f i n d him
(8:21), but those who have b e l i e v e d , experience t h a t he i s s t i l l
a v a i l a b l e t o them i n the g i f t of t h e S p i r i t (16:7; 20:22).

When we compare this with Sophia we find that she is also

rejected by those who should have known t o accept her (Prov 1:24-

25,29-30; 8:36; Bar 3:10-11,23; I Enoch 42:1-2), and t h i s leads t o her

unavailability on account of her w i t h d r a w a l from the world. This i s

h a r d l y an e n f o r c e d w i t h d r a w a l , but i t leads t o Judgement on those who

rejected her, and i n the case o f I Enoch 42:3, t o t h e appearance o f

Iniquity i n her p l a c e , a theme which i s f u r t h e r developed i n IV Ezra

5:9-11.

The theme of Jesus' r e j e c t i o n by h i s own people is a constant

theme i n a l l the w r i t i n g s o f the New Testament. What i s i m p o r t a n t f o r

our study i s the fact t h a t John's i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of t h i s r e j e c t i o n

shows signs of being constructed against the background of the

r e j e c t i o n of Sophia. I t i s one more t i n t from t h e Wisdom p a l e t t e used

t o e m b e l l i s h t h e growing p i c t u r e of Jesus, Sophia i n c a r n a t e .

3.2.4.5 JESUS AND THE LAW

From the moment t h a t Jesus i s set i n c o n t r a s t t o the Mosaic

Law i n t h e Prologue of t h e F o u r t h Gospel onwards (1:17), we have noted

several occasions on which the Fourth Evangelist's presentation of

Jesus as Sophia i n c a r n a t e may be i n t e r p r e t e d as a polemic a g a i n s t the

l a t e r Jewish Wisdom t r a d i t i o n concerning the confinement of Sophia t o

the Torah. While o t h e r New Testament w r i t e r s , n o t a b l y Paul, conduct a

v e r y e x p l i c i t c r i t i q u e of Jewish adherence t o the Law, i t would appear


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t h a t the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t has chosen a more s u b t l e approach t o t h i s


c o r n e r s t o n e o f d i v i s i o n between f i r s t c e n t u r y Jew and C h r i s t i a n .
Brown comments t h a t , i n c o n t r a s t t o Paul, "John does not t r e a t t h e Law
as e i t h e r a problem f o r C h r i s t i a n s o r as an enemy; i t i s s i m p l y
something t h a t has been superceded by the g r e a t a c t of d i v i n e covenant
l o v e i n Jesus C h r i s t ( 1 : 1 7 ) " 2 * ' . I s t h e r e , then, an intended c o n t r a s t
between Jesus and Torah i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel, and i f so, v*iy has the
E v a n g e l i s t chosen t h i s more s u b t l e c h a l l e n g e r a t h e r than a more d i r e c t
form o f o p p o s i t i o n ?

Perhaps t h e best s t a r t i n g p o i n t i n l o o k i n g f o r an answer t o these

questions lies i n reminding o u r s e l v e s o f the context of the Fourth

Gospel. The arguments f o r a l a t e first c e n t u r y d a t i n g o f the f i n a l

form o f John's Gospel a r e overwhelming^*^, not l e a s t because the t e x t

itself seems t o presuppose a time a f t e r the exclusion of Christian

Jews f r o m t h e synagogue (.anoavvAyayoc, - 9:22)^**. T h i s being the

case, t h e s i t u a t i o n o f t h e C h r i s t i a n community has changed from t h a t

addressed by Paul, namely, "whether the law was binding on a l l

believers. . .Paul maintaining that those in Christ have been

liberated f r o m the yoke o f t h e law"^*'. For t h e l a t e f i r s t century

Johannine community t h e q u e s t i o n i s much more: how can we come t o

terms w i t h t h e f a c t t h a t what 'the Jews' c l a i m f o r Torah, we c l a i m as

part of our experience of who Jesus Christ was and is? Such a

q u e s t i o n may be answered by p r e s e n t i n g Jesus C h r i s t i n such a way t h a t

his words and a c t i o n s are seen and understood as r e p l a c i n g , or even

superseding what has been claimed f o r Torah: i t need not i n v o l v e a

d i r e c t or e x p l i c i t confrontation.
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To what e x t e n t , then, may we see such a s u b t l e polemic being


conducted i n the F o u r t h Gospel? Much w i l l depend on our understanding
o f the i n i t i a l r e f e r e n c e t o v6^jioq i n Jn 1:17. We have a l r e a d y noted
how t h i s v e r s e appears a t the end of a Prologue t o the Gospel which
has set out the c l a i m s of the Logos i n terms which can r e a d i l y be
equated w i t h Sophia. We a l s o saw t h a t the u n d e r s t a n d i n g of who Sophia
was and of the e x t e n t of her i n f l u e n c e v a r i e d , even among the l a t e r
Jewish Wisdom w r i t e r s themselves. As Ashton comments i n r e l a t i o n t o
the d i f f e r e n c e between S i r a c h and the withdrawn Sophia of I Enoch:

There were a l t e r n a t i v e (and opposing) views about


Wisdom h e l d by a t l e a s t some Jewish t h i n k e r s and these
are c l o s e r i n c e r t a i n r e s p e c t s t o the s p i r i t of the
Prologue which, while using terminology highly
r e m i n i s c e n t of Ben S i r a c h , r e s i s t s any s u g g e s t i o n t h a t
the wisdom who f i n a l l y found a home on e a r t h was t o be
i d e n t i f i e d w i t h the Torah^s".

John's c l a i m i n 1:17 i s t h a t the Logos/Sophia has found a home ('taken

on flesh' [1:14]) i n Jesus C h r i s t , and that t h i s may be verified by

the fact that two of the g r e a t c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of Sophia, x<^P^<;

aXfjeexa^ 5 *, are embodied i n him. These terms, as L i n d a r s reminds us,

"are revealed i n the Law according to rabbinic exegesis"*sz. Thus

what 1:17 shows us i s a deliberate contrast between the o l d order -

law g i v e n t h r o u g h Moses - and the new order - t h a t by which the Law

may be characterised p r e s e n t i n Jesus C h r i s t . What i s i m p o r t a n t f o r

our present t h e s i s i s the r e c o g n i t i o n t h a t John chooses t o make t h i s

contrast through the use of material closely related to Sophia

tradition. We may t h e r e f o r e echo Dunn's assessment of Jn 1:17 -

Compared w i t h the c l i m a c t i c r e v e l a t i o n of C h r i s t , the


r e v e l a t i o n g i v e n through Moses, S i n a i and the whole
w i l d e r n e s s p e r i o d i s d e f i c i e n t (3,9-15; 5,37-47; 6,35-
58; 7,14-24; 10,34-6). The Wisdom of God i s present
i n Torah, but present i n f u l l n e s s o n l y i n C h r i s t .
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C h r i s t ^ not t h e Torah, i s t h e embodiment of divine


Wisdom, t h e I n c a r n a t i o n o f God's Word^'^.

Now i f i t i s t h e case, as we have argued, t h a t t h e polemic i n the

Prologue i s one o f Jesus C h r i s t = Sophia i n c a r n a t e , o v e r - a g a i n s t Torah

= Sophia contained (confined?), we would expect to find further

evidence of s i m i l a r polemic throughout the body o f the Gospel. On

several o c c a s i o n s we have a l r e a d y seen t h i s : Jesus Sophia the Bread o f

Life rather than Torah as t h e embodiment o f Manna; Jesus Sophia the

Light i n contrast t o Torah as such; as the Revealer, Jesus Sophia i s

seen as accessible to a l l , rather than as Inaccessible (Bar

3:15,22,24) or contaimed exclusively in the Torah (Bar 4:1; Sir

24:23); as the great Teacher, Jesus Sophia rivals t h e same role

applied t o Sophia i n S i r 24:3, which i s l a t e r r e l a t e d f u r t h e r t o Torah

i n S i r 24:23; i n contrast t o the s h u t t i n g up of Sophia i n Torah, Jesus

Sophia appears openly i n the s t r e e t s and p u b l i c places, meeting w i t h

a l l manner o f people ( i n c l u d i n g women and Samaritans). We s h a l l go on

in t h e next c h a p t e r t o see how t h i s c o n t r a s t i n g of Jesus Sophia w i t h

Torah/Sophia i s developed i n the theme of New Wine a t Cana (2:1-11);

as L i v i n g Water (4:10; 7:37-39), Jesus Sophia i s c o n t r a s t e d w i t h the

s i m i l a r epithet applied t o Torah; and i n the response of Martha t o t h e

word o f Jesus Sophia r a t h e r than t o the f o l l o w i n g sign, we w i l l note a

parallel t o t h e appeal t o heed the words o f Sophia entombed i n the

Torah.

A l l o f t h i s p o i n t s us t o t h e s t r o n g p o s s i b i l i t y t h a t the c o n t r a s t

drawn between Jesus C h r i s t and Torah i n the Prologue and subsequently

in t h e body o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel, i s best understood when seen as a

development o f t h e theme o f Jesus as Sophia i n c a r n a t e . For John, the


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true (aXT)9i.v6q) Sophia may be seen i n c a r n a t e i n Jesus, "while the


Torah o f f e r s o n l y t h e shadow"*

3.2.4.6 JESUS AND THE SPIRIT

As i n many o t h e r areas o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel, t h e Fourth

E v a n g e l i s t has a l s o developed a d i s t i n c t i v e u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e Holy

Spirit. Over a g a i n s t o t h e r New Testament d e s c r i p t i o n s t h i s i s shown

both i n the adoption of a s i n g u l a r l y individual name, napdtxXtixoq*' ^ ^

and i n the quite different understanding o f t h e way i n which t h e

Spirit was g i v e n t o the d i s c i p l e s (Jn 20:22 vs Acts 2: I f f ) . The

search f o r t h e Johannine usage has o f t e n tended t o concentrate too

much on t h e d i s c o v e r y o f a background f o r t h e word napdxXrixoq*^6 g^d

not enough on examining t h e function o f t h e S p i r i t i n John. We s h a l l

p l a c e our emphasis more on t h i s search f o r p a r a l l e l s t o the function,

since i t i s quite possible that the Fourth E v a n g e l i s t o n l y used i n

napdbcXrjxoq a t e r m which a l r e a d y e x i s t e d i n t h e community t o d e s c r i b e

the Holy Spirit^s^

The first thing we may n o t i c e about the Fourth Evangelist's

presentation o f t h e work o f t h e Holy Spirit i s that i t i s identical

w i t h t h a t o f Jesus: "indeed, we can p u t i t more s t r o n g l y , he c o n t i n u e s

the presence o f Jesus"*ss. Their unity begins with t h e i r origins,

s i n c e b o t h a r e seen t o be f r o m t h e Father (3:16 - t h e Son; 14:16 - t h e

Spirit). I t continues i n a unity o f purpose, which i s climaxed i n

20:22 by t h e g i f t o f t h e S p i r i t t o t h e d i s c i p l e s through t h e a c t i o n o f

Jesus b r e a t h i n g upon them. Given t h e a s s o c i a t i o n between l i f e and

breath i n t h e O l d Testament, both E n g l i s h words being t r a n s l a t e d by

the same Hebrew word 71'] ~ l , we may see t h a t i n t h i s p o r t r a y a l , t h e


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F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t wants us t o see t h e g i f t o f t h e Holy S p i r i t as t h e


g i f t o f t h e c o n t i n u i n g l i f e o f Jesus i n t h e l i f e o f the b e l i e v e r . The
presence of God's a t c r e a t i o n a l s o l e n d s credence t o the

idea that "John 20:22 means t h a t the d i s c i p l e s are reborn and g i v e n

power f o r t h e new a p o s t o l i c s e r v i c e of God i n a re-creation scene"^".

Indeed t h e m o t i f o f r e b i r t h i s a l r e a d y connected i n the F o u r t h Gospel

w i t h t h e S p i r i t i n 3:52»o.

The Johannine Holy S p i r i t i s a l s o t h e nvEtSfio tf^q a\r]Qeiac, (14:17;

15:26; 16:13), i n parallel t o Jesus who i s the ' t r u t h ' (14:6), the

' t r u e ' Bread, e t c . , as we have noted a l r e a d y . I n this role, the Holy

Spirit will teach the d i s c i p l e s as Jesus h i m s e l f has done (14:26),

causing them to remember h i s words. The words which the Spirit

speaks, however, w i l l not be s e l f - i n s p i r e d , but w i l l be those which

have a l r e a d y been 'heard', i n t h e same way t h a t Jesus r e v e a l s what he

has seen and heard (Jesus - 5:19; 8:28; Spirit - 16:13-14).

The Johannine Holy S p i r i t comes t o dwell i n t h e b e l i e v e r , u s i n g

t h a t f a v o u r i t e Johannine word, ^levetv (14:17). Since we have a l r e a d y

seen how important t h i s word i s f o r the community, summing up the

Father ^ Son -i D i s c i p l e r e l a t i o n s h i p , we can see t h a t t h e r e i s every

Justification f o r d e c l a r i n g t h a t " t h e p e r s o n a l i t y of Jesus has become

the p e r s o n a l i t y of the S p i r i t . . . ( a f f o r d i n g ) an immediate and d i r e c t

c o n t i n u i t y between b e l i e v e r s and Jesus"^*!.

Now when we begin t o ask after the o r i g i n s of t h i s Johannine

concept o f t h e Holy S p i r i t , we must immediately be s t r u c k by the f a c t

that a l l the elements of o v e r l a p between Jesus and Spirit i n the

F o u r t h Gospel a r e t h i n g s which we have a l r e a d y i d e n t i f i e d as h a v i n g


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come under t h e I n f l u e n c e o f Sophia t r a d i t i o n : indeed, as being very


much rooted i n Sophia t r a d i t i o n . They are both sent by God; are both
bearers of t r u t h ; both i n d w e l l t h e i r d i s c i p l e s . In particular, i n
r e l a t i o n t o t h e d i s c i p l e s , we n o t i c e the re-emergence o f the theme o f
c r e a t i o n (20:22), a theme so c l o s e l y t i e d i n Johannine t h i n k i n g t o the
r o l e o f t h e Logos/Sophia i n the Prologue. I t would be f a i r t o say i n
the l i g h t o f t h i s t h a t t h e c o n t i n u i n g l i f e o f the S p i r i t i s the
c o n t i n u i n g l i f e of Jesus, t h a t i s Jesus Sophia, i n t h e w o r l d * * * .

We noted i n passing before that t h e r e i s a connection made i n

Wisdom literature between Logos, Sophia and Pneuma*", a l l three

appearing t o g e t h e r i n Wisd 9:1-2,17. Since the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t i s

drawing so heavily upon Wisdom t r a d i t i o n s i n the picture of Jesus

Christ, i t is highly likely that this interchangeability of

t e r m i n o l o g y was knowAto her/him. Of course, the E v a n g e l i s t would a l s o

have known of the g i f t of the S p i r i t from wider Christian tradition

towards the end of the f i r s t c e n t u r y , but i t may w e l l be h e l p f u l f o r

our u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the F o u r t h Gospel's p a r t i c u l a r p o r t r a y a l of the

S p i r i t ' s r o l e t o look a t i t again i n the l i g h t of Sophia t r a d i t i o n .

It may a l s o be w o r t h w h i l e n o t i n g I n r e l a t i o n t o the p e c u l i a r i t y

of the Johannine word napdtxXrixoq, that at least one other Jewish

w r i t e r f a m i l i a r w i t h Wisdom t r a d i t i o n and l i v i n g i n the f i r s t century

of the C h r i s t i a n era uses the word f r e q u e n t l y - our o l d f r i e n d P h i l o ,

who uses i t on numerous occasions***. His usage, however, i s not

d i r e c t l y r e l a t e d t o Sophia, nor indeed t o Pneuma**'.


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We may say i n c o n c l u s i o n , then, t h a t t h e Johannine Holy S p i r i t


may be seen as n o t h i n g o t h e r than t h e c o n t i n u i n g l i f e of Jesus Sophia
i n the b e l i e v e r , i n the world.

3.2.4.7 THE ZHMEIA OF JESUS

Another d i s t i n c t i v e f e a t u r e o f t h e Johannine p r e s e n t a t i o n o f

Jesus' ministry i s t h e use made o f t h e term aT^jjie^ov t o describe

m i r a c l e s performed by him. While t h e S y n o p t i c s do use t h e term, they

do so o n l y i n a n e g a t i v e way t o b e r a t e those who come t o see m i r a c l e s

for t h e sake o f them (Mt 12:38-39; 16:1-4; Lk 23:8): " t h e motives and

character of the generation that seeks it"^*' are questioned and

condemned. At f i r s t sight the Fourth Evangelist's attitude seems

somewhat ambiguous towards the or\\Lex&: on t h e one hand, some a r e

upbraided i n Synoptic style f o r seeking miracles (4:48 (jr\}ie\a xai

T^paxa; 2:18; 6:30), o r a r e n o t t r u s t e d because o f such b e l i e f (2:23-

24; 6:26). However, o t h e r s c l e a r l y do b e l i e v e because o f t h e s i g n s

and a r e accepted as h a v i n g done so (2:11; 4:53). This apparent

a m b i g u i t y , however, does n o t mean t h a t t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t wants t o

denigrate the ax\)ie\a i n themselves, b u t r a t h e r t h a t she/he p o i n t s t o

t h e a m b i g u i t y o f t h e responses which people make t o them^*'. To some

the OT^HEia bring blessing, even faith: t o others. Judgement, o r

unbelief.

There i s some d i s c u s s i o n as t o the number o f crr\\iE\a i n the F o u r t h

Gospel, as a l s o about t h e i r o r i g i n ^ * * . The most l i k e l y o r i g i n of t h e

aTj^eTu as f a r as t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t i s concerned, i s some form o f

pre-Johannine a t j ^ e l a - s o u r c e ^ * ' , b u t t h e c o m p o s i t i o n and order of t h i s

source i s a m a t t e r o f some discussion^^«. Although o n l y two s i g n s a r e


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a c t u a l l y ennumerated i n t h e Gospel, i t i s l i k e l y t h a t s i x main


m i r a c l e s belonged t o t h e c o l l e c t i o n : t h e wine m i r a c l e a t Cana (2: 1-
11); t h e h e a l i n g o f t h e r o y a l o f f i c i a l ' s son (4:46-54); t h e h e a l i n g a t
Bethsaida (5:1-17); the m u l t i p l i c a t i o n o f t h e loaves [probably
i n c l u d i n g t h e w a l k i n g on t h e w a t e r ] (6:1-21); t h e h e a l i n g o f the b l i n d
man (9:1-41); t h e r a i s i n g o f Lazarus (11:1-44)*^». Clark argues t h a t
to t h i s l i s t s h o u l d be added a l s o t h e g r e a t e s t CTr^jie^ov o f a l l , t h e
hour o f Jesus' g l o r i f i c a t i o n , h i s death and r e s u r r e c t i o n , as a seventh
sign "both f u l f i l l i n g and s u r p a s s i n g t h e f i r s t s i x which p o i n t t o
it"*^*. Although some might want t o d i s p u t e t h i s , Fortna i s sure t h a t
at l e a s t a t ariptela-source l e v e l , t h e r e s u r r e c t i o n o f Jesus was seen as
the " l a s t and g r e a t e s t o f h i s C h r i s t o l o g i c a l deeds"*^^.

What then i s t h e purpose o f these s i g n s i n t h e Fourth Gospel?

Are they meant t o prove Jesus' identity? Do they really, in

themselves, elicit faith I n Jesus? C e r t a i n l y KSsemann sees them as

"'proofs' of d i v i n e p o w e r " * b u t acknowledges a l s o that they a r e

still ambiguous and do n o t convince a l l who see them. Bultmann, who

sees t h e f a i t h aroused by t h e s i g n as inadequate i n Johannine terms,

points out that " i n reality faith should n o t have to rely on

miracles"*'^, a view informed by Jn 4:48 and 20:29. Thompson,

however, wants us t o look again a t why t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t would use

s i g n s i f they were not p o i n t e r s t o Jesus. She comments:

Not o n l y I s i t i m p o r t a n t t o know t h a t Jesus d i d s i g n s ,


but i t i s a l s o i m p o r t a n t t o know what s i g n s he d i d .
Because the Individual signs establish more
s p e c i f i c a l l y who he i s (bread o f l i f e ; l i g h t o f t h e
w o r l d ; r e s u r r e c t i o n and l i f e ) , t h e i r m a t e r i a l i t y can
s c a r c e l y be c o n s i d e r e d a s t u m b l i n g - b l o c k t o f a i t h , o r
even merely i r r e l e v a n t t o i t . John i s n o t so much
concerned w i t h t h e s i m p l e f a c t t h a t Jesus d i d s i g n s ;
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he i s much more concerned w i t h the p a r t i c u l a r signs


t h a t Jesus d i d ^ ^ * .

Bearing this comment i n mind, l e t us now turn t o look a t the

Sophia tradition as a background for the Fourth Evangelist's

understanding of the crifjieia and their use in the Fourth Gospel.

Douglas C l a r k has shown t h a t i n Wisdom of Solomon 11-19, i n the r e -

interpretation o f t h e Exodus t r a d i t i o n under t h e i n f l u e n c e o f Sophia,

the original t e n plagues v i s i t e d upon Egypt have been reduced t o s i x

' o r d i n a r y ' p l u s one 'extraordinary' signs^^^. He bases h i s use of the

word ' s i g n ' t o d e s c r i b e Sophia's a c t i o n s on the appearance of the word

ari^etov i n Wisd 10: 16 -

E v a f j X 6 E V E t q vuxtjv GspAnovtoq xu^tou


•Kai avxiaxx] PacriXeOoiv cpoPEpotq ev x^paai x a i ar^fietoiq
(Wisd 10:16)

T h i s t e x t , of course, r e f e r s t o t h e work of Moses, who under Sophia's

inspiration d e f e a t e d Pharaoh^'*. I t might on t h i s evidence alone seem

a very s l e n d e r l i n k to describe the plagues i n Wisd 11-19 as CTT)|jiE\a

under the influence of Wisd 10: 16, especially as this i s a l l the

evidence which C l a r k b r i n g s . However, i f we look more c l o s e l y at the

t r a d i t i o n which i s being adapted by the author of Wisdom of Solomon,

we f i n d much more c o m p e l l i n g evidence t o support C l a r k ' s t h e s i s . For

when we look a t Exod 4:8,9,17,28,30, we f i n d t h a t the word arijietov i s

used r e p e a t e d l y by the LXX writer t o r e p o r t Moses' miraculous work i n

c a l l i n g down the plagues. T h i s adds c o n s i d e r a b l e s t r e n g t h t o C l a r k ' s

argument and a l l o w s us to I d e n t i f y the i n s p i r e d works of Sophia i n

Wisd 11-19 as amiExa w i t h more confidence. Whether or not the author

of Wisdom of Solomon a c t u a l l y intended the reader t o understand the

m i r a c u l o u s deeds of Sophia as Gr\\ieXoi or n o t , on r e f l e c t i o n we may see


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t h a t the p o s s i b i l i t y was t h e r e f o r someone, perhaps even the Fourth


Evangelist, to recognise them as such i n the l i g h t of the Exodus
tradition.

Clark goes on t o compare t h e s i x p l u s one s i g n s of Wisdom of

Solomon w i t h the s i x p l u s one of the Fourth G o s p e l * " . He finds a

number of v e r y c o n v i n c i n g p a r a l l e l s between t h e 'signs' i n the order

i n which they appear i n t h e Gospel. For example, t h e f i r s t s i g n , Wisd

11:5-14, concerns the u n d r i n k a b l e water of the N i l e and the g i f t of

d r i n k a b l e water t o t h e I s r a e l i t e s i n the d e s e r t Journey. Comparing i t

with the wine miracle at Cana, he finds that i n both cases the

" t r a n s f o r m a t i o n renders the water more d r i n k a b l e " * * " . However, some

of the comparisons which he makes are rather strained, especially

'signs' two and three, suggesting t h a t i n h i s enthusiasm t o make the

p o i n t he has s t r e t c h e d t h e evidence f u r t h e r than i t i s p o s s i b l e t o go

w i t h any degree of s e c u r i t y .

Since we have a l r e a d y seen numerous ways i n which the Fourth

Gospel's Sophia christology parallels the traditions of Wisdom of

Solomon, this further connection seems t o s t r e n g t h e n the c l a i m that

the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t may w e l l have known and used t h a t book as p a r t

of h e r / h i s background m a t e r i a l . Even i f we a l l o w t h a t the E v a n g e l i s t

used an a l r e a d y e x i s t i n g ar^jjield: source, i t may very w e l l e i t h e r have

been considerably re-worked in the light of Sophia traditions

contained i n Wisdom of Solomon, or e l s e a l r e a d y have contained hints

of that tradition. Once again, Sophia's i n f l u e n c e can be traced

behind a major f e a t u r e of the F o u r t h Gospel's p r e s e n t a t i o n of Jesus

Christ. Jesus Sophia performs his arwiEla. in parallel to those

attributed t o Sophia, culminating l i k e hers i n the deliverance and


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s a l v a t i o n of t h e people: through the drowning of Pharaoh's c h a r i o t e e r s


and t h e m i r a c u l o u s a v a i l a b i l i t y o f a c r o s s i n g f o r t h e I s r a e l i t e s i n
the sea i n Wisd 19: 1-9, and through t h e death and r e s u r r e c t i o n of
Jesus i n John 18-20. Ashton's comments on the r e l a t i o n s h i p of Wisdom
of Solomon 11-19 t o t h e Prologue of John are a l s o a p p l i c a b l e here:
" w i t h t h i s p o r t r a y a l o f wisdom as t h e a c t i v e agent i n s a l v a t i o n
h i s t o r y . . . t h e stage i s s e t f o r her t r a n s f o r m a t i o n i n t o the Johannine
Logos"2«».

3.3 SOPHIA AND THE JOHANNINE JESUS

We have now c o n s i d e r e d a wide range of themes, rehearsed i n the

Prologue and developed i n t h e body of t h e Gospel, which may be seen as

reflecting the Influence of Wisdom thought and i n particular the

figure of Sophia, on the Fourth Evangelist's understanding o f

Jesus2«2. j r i d o i n g so we have seen t h a t the Prologue's i n t r o d u c t i o n

of t h e Logos/Sophia i s no unconnected preface, but i s actually a

preparation f o r the presentation within the Gospel as a whole of a

Jesus who i s t h e embodiment of that Logos/Sophia. A l l the major

themes o f t h e Prologue a r e worked out i n the m i n i s t r y of Jesus Sophia.

Thus we may see t h a t t h e r e i s h a r d l y a Johannine theme which does

not r e f l e c t t h e i n f l u e n c e o f Sophia t o one degree or another, a l t h o u g h

i n some i n s t a n c e s the a u t h o r has n a t u r a l l y developed what i s s a i d o f

her i n new ways t o meet the e x p e r i e n c e of the community t o which t h e

Gospel i s addressed.

We have been a b l e t o p o i n t t o a number o f areas where Sophia's

i n f l u e n c e may be i d e n t i f i e d , which have not p r e v i o u s l y been recognised

or g i v e n t h e i r full weight i n d i s c u s s i o n s of her r e l a t i o n s h i p t o the


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Johannine Jesus. The iydi eijix sayings were shown t o be more


t h o r o u g h l y r o o t e d i n Sophia s p e c u l a t i o n than merely touched by i t .
S e v e r a l new elements i n t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between Jesus and God the
Father were i d e n t i f i e d as showing s i g n s of Sophia's i n f l u e n c e . The
Descent-Going Away m o t i f may perhaps be more c l e a r l y understood v^en
viewed a g a i n s t a Sophia background and when t h e emphasis on ascent as
such i s dropped I n f a v o u r of t h e idea of 'going away'. The enigmatic
Revealer, who r e v e a l s o n l y God, begins t o make more sense a l s o vAien
viewed i n Sophia's l i g h t . The content and a u t h o r i t y of the a b s o l u t e
ey& et^ix, a theme c l e a r l y d e r i v e d t o some e x t e n t from the Old
Testament t r a d i t i o n c o n c e r n i n g the name of God, was f u r t h e r c l a r i f i e d
a l s o w i t h r e f e r e n c e t o Sophia, as were elements of the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n
of t h e h u m a n i t y / d i v i n i t y q u e s t i o n . I n a d d i t i o n , we were helped I n our
u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t ' s p r e s e n t a t i o n of the S p i r i t ,
through i t s v e r y c l o s e i d e n t i t y w i t h Jesus Sophia i n the Fourth Gospel
and through t h e o v e r l a p i n meaning between Logos •+ Sophia -» Pneuma i n
Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e , by t h e background m a t e r i a l i n the Sophia t r a d i t i o n .
L a s t l y , we saw how even the cn^pLefa m a t e r i a l , pre-Johannine though i t
most p r o b a b l y i s , may w e l l have been r e - i n t e r p r e t e d under the
i n f l u e n c e o f t h e ' s i g n s ' a t t r i b u t e d t o Sophia i n Wisdom o f Solomon.

While i t would be wrong t o deny t h a t o t h e r I n f l u e n c e s have been

at work i n t h e process of t h e f o r m a t i o n of Johannine c h r i s t o l o g y as we

now know i t through the Gospel, we can nevertheless see from our

survey, t h a t the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t , a t almost every t u r n , has found i n

Sophia t r a d i t i o n u s e f u l m a t e r i a l t o h e l p c l a r i f y our understanding of

Jesus C h r i s t . Thus, Johannine c h r i s t o l o g y is truly a thoroughgoing


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Sophla c h r i s t o l o g y : Jesus Christ i s none other than Jesus Sophia


incarnate.

We need, then, now t o re-open t h e q u e s t i o n which we posed towards

the b e g i n n i n g o f t h e chapter: why does John never make an e x p l i c i t

connection between Jesus and Sophia? I f i t was intended that the

reader s h o u l d i n d e n t l f y Jesus w i t h Sophia, would n o t the e a s i e s t way

t o ensure t h i s have been through a d i r e c t statement l i k e , f o r example,

eY<^ e t j i i QO(^ia? Yet t h i s i s clearly n o t t h e approach which t h e

author has adopted, as t h e absence o f any word o f the aoqydq/aoqj'Ca

group shows. There must be some i m p o r t a n t reason f o r t h e a d o p t i o n o f

the more s u b t l e p r e s e n t a t i o n o f Jesus as the embodiment o f Sophia. We

hope now t o uncover t h a t reason and a t t h e same time to find some

pointers t o the s o l u t i o n o f another Johannine mystery, namely t h e

disappearance o f t h e Logos.

3.3.1 JESUS AND SOPHIA : A GENDER PROBLEM RESOLVED?

The a u t h o r o f the F o u r t h Gospel was perhaps more conscious o f

t h e gender o f t h e human Jesus than we g e n e r a l l y have been w i l l i n g t o

concede. I n a Gospel which puts such stress on Incarnation, t h e

'becoraing-fleshness' of Jesus, t o use the f i g u r e of Sophia, c l e a r l y a

woman i n t h e Wisdom literature and tradition, as an appropriate

v e h i c l e f o r e x e g e t i n g t h a t event meant a problem o f gender. How could

t h e man Jesus be seen as t h e embodiment o f t h e woman Sophia? This I s

almost certainly the way i n which John sees Jesus, y e t the d i r e c t

i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f Jesus w i t h Sophia cannot be made, because Jesus i s a

man.
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I t I s d i f f i c u l t f o r us t o know p r e c i s e l y what was i n the mind o f


the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t , but a t l e a s t from our p e r s p e c t i v e we have
produced s u f f i c i e n t evidence t o suggest t h a t the way I n which the
a u t h o r got around t h i s problem was both i n g e n i o u s and s o p h i s t i c a t e d .
The t i t l e Logos i s used i n the i n t r o d u c t i o n t o present Jesus, " t h e
immanent Son who makes the transcendent Father v i s i b l e " ^ * ^ . yet the
Prologue i s , a t the same time, an I n t r o d u c t i o n t o Jesus as Sophia, the
f e m i n i n e face of God. The r e s t of the Gospel then goes on t o o u t l i n e ,
i n d i s c r e e t but emphatic f a s h i o n , the m i n i s t r y of Jesus Sophia. This
e s s e n t i a l and fundamental I n f l u e n c e from t h e f i g u r e of Sophia, can
very well h e l p us t o make progress toward understanding the
r e l a t i o n s h i p between the Prologue and the r e s t of t h e Gospel. Nowhere
i s i t p o s s i b l e t o f i n d a Logos i n e i t h e r Jewish or Greek thought who
f u n c t i o n s i n p r e c i s e l y t h e same way as the Jesus who stands a t the
c e n t r e o f the u n f o l d i n g drama o f the F o u r t h Gospel. Yet the themes o f
the Prologue are m a n i f e s t l y worked out i n the body of the Gospel. In
the f i g u r e o f Sophia we may f i n d the v i t a l l i n k i n the author's mind
between Prologue and Gospel. The Logos i s Jesus Sophia, whose l i f e
and m i n i s t r y m i r r o r so much o f the experience p r e v i o u s l y a t t r i b u t e d by
the Wisdom w r i t e r s to Sophia. Of course, the h i s t o r y of

interpretation of the Fourth Gospel shows that the patriarchal

i n t e r p r e t e r s have chosen t o I g n o r e t h i s subtle shift, preferring to

compress the feminine expression of the Godhead into the all-male

picture of Jesus: the man who makes the heavenly Father known! But

was this understanding r e a l l y what the author of the Fourth Gospel,

who consistently wants to bring an understanding of Jesus as the

incarnation, the embodiment o f Sophia, intended? Our f i n d i n g s may at


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l e a s t c a s t some doubt upon t h i s , and a l l o w us t o r e d r e s s t h e balance


from our p e r s p e c t i v e today.

Having a t t e m p t e d t o e s t a b l i s h that t h e Gospel i s a presentation

of the l i f e and m i n i s t r y o f Jesus Sophia, we must now go on t o ask

what c o n c r e t e evidence may be brought forward from t h e Gospel t o

support the thesis that t h e a u t h o r has made a deliberate s w i t c h t o

accommodate t h e problem o f a l i g n i n g t h e female Sophia with t h e man

Jesus. I f John wishes t o m a i n t a i n t h e f e m i n i n e aspect o f t h e d i v i n e

in Jesus, i s i t n o t reasonable t o expect that t h e r e would be some

evidence o f t h i s , f o r example, i n 'feminine' aspects o f t h e Gospel. A

brief glance a t the Fourth Gospel shows that women do p l a y an

i m p o r t a n t r o l e I n t h e m i n i s t r y o f Jesus Sophia. Why i s i t t h a t John

develops t h e i n t e r a c t i o n between Jesus and women i n a way I n which

none o f t h e o t h e r Gospels, n o t even Luke, r e a l l y comes near t o doing?

Why i s I t a l s o i n t h e encounter between Jesus and women t h a t many o f

the most significant Chrlstological revelations and statements a r e

made? I s there evidence that these stories about women were

themselves influenced by that same Sophia tradition? These a r e

q u e s t i o n s t o which we must address o u r s e l v e s I n t h e next chapter.

I t i s p e r f e c t l y p l a i n t o see t h a t Jesus was a man, but t h e F o u r t h

Gospel a l l o w s us t h e p o s s i b i l i t y of understanding that t h i s maleness

i s n o t an o n t o l o g i c a l statement about t h e n a t u r e o f God^**. Just as

Sophia c o u l d express t h e f e m i n i n e face o f God w i t h o u t making God i n t o

a woman, so t o o t h e male f i g u r e Jesus does not make God i n t o a man.

I n Jesus we a r e supposed t o see t h e f u l l n e s s o f God revealed, and t h a t

i n c l u d e s b o t h male and female, b u t w i t h i n t h e obvious l i m i t a t i o n s o f

the human body i n terms o f gender! John may thus be seen as already
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a n t i c i p a t l n g t h e problems o f t h e second c e n t u r y : what i s not assumed


cannot be redeemed. I f Jesus i s mere man, what happens t o the o t h e r
h a l f o f t h e human race? Yet t h e p o i n t of John's Wisdom C h r i s t o l o g y i s
precisely that Jesus Sophia i s n o t mere man, b u t r a t h e r t h e
i n c a r n a t i o n o f b o t h t h e male and t h e female expressions o f the d i v i n e ,
a l b e i t w i t h i n t h e l i m i t a t i o n s o f human f l e s h ^ * " .

Johnson goes on t o draw some c h r i s t o l o g i c a l c o n c l u s i o n s from t h i s

recognition, c o n c l u s i o n s which John n o t o n l y leads t o , but t o which,

we would want t o assert, we a r e intended to come, through t h e

d e l i b e r a t e l y c l o s e i d e n t i f i c a t i o n made between Jesus and Sophia:

If t h e d e i t y o f C h r i s t i s t h e d e i t y o f Wisdom
i n c a r n a t e , then t o r e c o g n i z e t h e d e i t y o f C h r i s t i s t o
r e c o g n i z e t h a t i n C h r i s t God manifested h e r s e l f , her
power as C r e a t o r , her l o v e as Saviour, i n a f u l l and
f i n a l way. The gender p a r t i c u l a r i t y o f Jesus does n o t
r e v e a l t h a t God must be imaged e x c l u s i v e l y as male.
I n Jesus C h r i s t we encounter t h e mystery o f God who i s
n e i t h e r male nor female, b u t who as source o f both and
C r e a t o r o f both i n t h e d i v i n e image can I n t u r n be
imaged as e i t h e r . Through wisdom c h r i s t o l o g y we see
t h a t t h e i r s a v i n g power and l o v e a r e poured f o r t h i n
the w o r l d through t h i s c r u c i f i e d human being - a
c o i n c i d e n c e o f o p p o s i t e s i n every dimension^«*,

We must go on i n t h e next chapter t o ask what t a n g i b l e r e s u l t s this

has f o r the relationships which Jesus Sophia has with those

encountered d u r i n g t h e e a r t h l y m i n i s t r y , and see t h e ways i n which t h e

Fourth Evangelist's use o f t h e f i g u r e Sophia has i n f l u e n c e d the

p i c t u r e o f those r e l a t i o n s h i p s .

3.3.2 THE DISAPPEARAMCE OF THE LOGOS

Our f i n d i n g s i n t h i s c h a p t e r may a l s o p o i n t us t o a p o s s i b l e

solution t o an age-old problem o f Johannine exegesis: t h e mysterious


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dlsappearance o f the Logos. Why i s t h e Johannine Jesus i n t r o d u c e d so


d r a m a t i c a l l y as t h e Logos i n t h e Prologue, but then never again
r e f e r r e d t o as such i n t h e r e s t of the Gospel? On the basis of our
o b s e r v a t i o n s we o f f e r the f o l l o w i n g p r o p o s a l .

Having I n t r o d u c e d Jesus as t h e Logos/Sophia, the author proceeds

to p r e s e n t him w i t h i n the Gospel as Jesus Sophia i n a c t i o n . The Logos

i s not i m p o r t a n t as a t i t l e i n i t s e l f , being merely a v e h i c l e by which

it i s p o s s i b l e t o i n t r o d u c e Sophia i n c a r n a t e as a man. To s t a t e t h i s

in t h e Prologue i s s u f f i c i e n t , f o r t h e r e s t o f t h e Gospel i s both an

exposition o f the themes announced i n the Prologue and a t the same

time an u n f o l d i n g t a l e o f Jesus Sophia's I n t e r a c t i o n w i t h the world.

Outside of the Stoic tradition and the p h i l o s o p h i c a l framework of

Phllo, neither of which can be shown w i t h any k i n d of c e r t a i n t y to

have been i n f l u e n t i a l i n t h e f o r m a t i o n of t h e F o u r t h Gospel, the f i r s t

c e n t u r y reader had no background p i c t u r e of a 'Logos' against which t o

understand t h e Johanntne Jesus. But t h e r e was Sophia, whose I n t i m a c y

and continuity with God could provide a clear pattern f o r the

r e l a t i o n s h i p between Jesus and God as p o r t r a y e d i n the Fourth Gospel.

T h i s I n t i m a c y was the r o o t of a l l s p e c u l a t i o n on Sophia, j u s t as i t

was t h e f o u n d a t i o n s t o n e o f t h e Johannine community's understanding o f

Jesus C h r i s t . Having s e t out t h e terms i n t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n , Jesus the

Logos = Jesus Sophia, t h e author goes on t o p o r t r a y the l i f e of Jesus

Sophia l i v e d i n i n t i m a t e communion w i t h God. T h i s f i n d s expression i n

the Father-Son relationship, which dominates the Fourth Gospel's

Christology. T h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p takes i t s terms not from the gender of

God, but f r o m t h a t o f the e a r t h l y Jesus. Thus the Logos disappears

a f t e r the b r i e f i n t r o d u c t i o n f o r two reasons. F i r s t l y , i t i s merely a


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v e h l c l e accomodating t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n o f Jesus Sophia, whose progress


i s then mapped throughout the Gospel and i s t h e r e f o r e immediately
dispensable. Secondly, i t g i v e s way t o a more adequate d e s c r i p t i o n o f
the i n t i m a c y o f t h e Jesus Sophia - God r e l a t i o n s h i p a p p r o p r i a t e t o t h e
human gender o f Jesus, namely t h a t o f t h e Father - Son language I n t h e
F o u r t h Gospel.
CHAPTER FOUR

WOMEN IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

Our investigation of the I n f l u e n c e of Sophia t r a d i t i o n s on the

C h r i s t o l o g y of John's Gospel has l e d us t o see t h a t the d i f f e r e n c e s i n

style, language and content between the Fourth Gospel and the

Synoptics goes much deeper than we would n o t i c e on the l e v e l of a

s u p e r f i c i a l reading. The F o u r t h Gospel i s indeed an extremely complex

and sophisticated presentation of the claims of Jesus Sophia

incarnate. Since the f o c a l p o i n t of the Gospel i s the c h r i s t o l o g i c a l

c l a i m s o f Jesus, we s h a l l now ask i f t h i s i n f l u e n c e of Sophia i n t h a t

crucial r e a l m bears a l s o on o t h e r f e a t u r e s of the Gospel as a v*oIe.

Since we have been s t r e s s i n g t h a t the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t may have been

conscious t h a t t h e gender of Jesus and t h a t of Sophia posed a problem

i n terms of d i r e c t identification, and have o f f e r e d an Interpretation

of how this was t a c k l e d through t h e medium of presenting a Jesus

Sophia who i s a unique blend of the male and female (Jesus i s a man

who exhibits a l l the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c traits of the woman Sophia), we

a r e now interested t o view i n d e t a i l a n y t h i n g which might be seen as

unusual over a g a i n s t o t h e r New Testament t r a d i t i o n s I n terms of gender

roles within the F o u r t h Gospel as a whole. We turn to t h i s task

through an examination of the role of women as characters i n the

F o u r t h Gospel.

Among the more n o t a b l e f e a t u r e s of John's p r e s e n t a t i o n of the

e a r t h l y m i n i s t r y of Jesus Sophia i s the prominent r o l e played by women

throughout. Indeed, when one compares the F o u r t h Gospel w i t h the

o t h e r t h r e e , i t becomes c l e a r t h a t almost a l l of the s t o r i e s i n v o l v i n g

women a r e unique to that Gospel, even i f the characters Involved

appear elsewhere. What i s even more s t r i k i n g i s the frequency with


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which these s t o r i e s I n v o l v i n g women occur i n t h e context o f a


s i g n i f i c a n t c h r l s t o l o g i c a l statement. A woman i s present a t t h e
b e g i n n i n g o f h i s m i n i s t r y [2:1-111; i t i s t o a woman t h a t t h e Messiah
f i r s t r e v e a l s h i s t r u e i d e n t i t y [4:261; i t i s a woman who f i r s t makes
the t r u e c o n f e s s i o n o f Jesus as t h e C h r i s t [ 1 1 : 2 7 ] ; i t i s a woman who
a n t i c i p a t e s t h e s i g n o f t r u e d i s c l p l e s h i p i n t h e a n o i n t i n g o f Jesus'
f e e t ( 1 2 : 1 - 8 ] ; t h e women a r e found t o be f a i t h f u l t o t h e end a t t h e
c r o s s [ 19:25-271; and f i n a l l y i t i s t o a woman t h a t t h e Risen C h r i s t
f i r s t makes h i m s e l f known. Thus we can see t h a t throughout t h e
Gospel, women f e a t u r e a t some o f t h e most Important p o i n t s , o f t e n , as
we s h a l l see, t o t h e e x c l u s i o n o f t h e male d i s c i p l e s and c e r t a i n l y I n
a b e t t e r l i g h t than them. We s h a l l now begin t o examine each o f these
i n c i d e n t s i n t u r n t o a s c e r t a i n t h e s i g n i f i c a n c e o f each w i t h i n t h e
Gospel and t o determine t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p each bears t o the c h r i s t o l o g y
presented by t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t .

4.1 JESUS SOPHIA AND HIS MOTHER. AT CANA <Jn 2:1-11)

At first sight the story o f t h e appearance o f Jesus at the

wedding o f a f r i e n d i n Cana seems an i n a u s p i c i o u s beginning for a

consideration o f t h e e f f e c t o f Sophia c h r i s t o l o g y on the r o l e o f women

i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel. The b r i e f , b u t b l u n t d i a l o g u e between Jesus and

his mother i n verses 3-4 might lead us t o t h e c o n c l u s i o n that the

Johannine Jesus had l i t t l e time f o r women i n h i s m i n i s t r y , especially

if he c o u l d dismiss h i s own mother with such apparent aloofness.

However, a proper e x a m i n a t i o n o f t h e t e x t and i t s c o n t e x t may w e l l

open our eyes t o q u i t e a d i f f e r e n t c o n c l u s i o n .


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The Wine M i r a c l e a t Cana i s an I m p o r t a n t landmark i n the


u n f o l d i n g drama of t h e F o u r t h Gospel f o r s e v e r a l reasons. Firstly, i t
i s the i n i t i a l a c t o f Jesus' p u b l i c m i n i s t r y , what the author c a l l s
the f i r s t aT)fieYov, and thus o f p a r t i c u l a r I n t e r e s t f o r understanding
what f o l l o w s i n the r e s t o f t h a t m i n i s t r y . Secondly, f o l l o w i n g as i t
does h a r d on t h e h e e l s o f the ' c a l l ' Issued t o Nathanael and the
promise g i v e n t o him o f ' g r e a t e r t h i n g s ' t o come (^i^v^a xolixav b f i j
1:50), i t must be seen as an i m p o r t a n t p o i n t e r t o t h a t promise.
T h i r d l y , the opening l i n e of the s t o r y i n d i c a t e s t h a t i t occurred xfj
ri}i6p(5( i p i x i j , which, g i v e n the s i g n i f i c a n c e o f t h i s phrase i n e a r l y
C h r i s t i a n p r o c l a m a t i o n ' , must p o i n t t o a s p e c i a l s i g n i f i c a n c e i n the
miracle i t s e l f . From the p o i n t o f view o f our p a r t i c u l a r i n t e r e s t , i t
i s i m p o r t a n t a l s o t h a t t h e opening ' s i g n ' o f f e r s the f i r s t o p p o r t u n i t y
f o r t h e appearance o f a woman i n r e l a t i o n t o Jesus Sophia.

The t e x t i t s e l f seems t o be based on a t r a d i t i o n a l m i r a c l e s t o r y ,

possibly from a "signs source" 2, which has been the subject of

redactional activity. I t i s n o t the purpose o f t h i s present study t o

d i s c u s s t h e m e r i t s or d e m e r i t s of such a t h e o r y , but i t may p r o v i d e an

important insight into the way i n which the f i n a l compiler of the

Gospel understood both the miracle itself and the role of Jesus'

mother i n i t . We note, f o r example, t h a t many commentators suggest

that the d i a l o g u e between Jesus and h i s mother i n 2:3-4 was not part

of the o r i g i n a l s t o r y , but has been i n s e r t e d by t h e r e d a c t o r i n order

t o serve a t h e o l o g i c a l / c h r l s t o l o g i c a l purpose^: such a purpose would

be of obvious interest t o our present investigation, and m a t t e r s of

this sort will be discussed as they arise In the course of our

e x a m i n a t i o n o f the s t o r y .
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4.1.1 EXEGETICAL COMMENTS

The opening temporal reference ( T t [ f\\iip<f tptxij) of 2: 1

presents a problem when read as a mere c h r o n o l o g i c a l marker i n the

sequence s t a r t e d i n 1:29,35,43. Various a t t e m p t s have been made t o

r e c o n c i l e t h e d a t i n g of c h a p t e r s 1 - 2 , most seeing i t as a sequence

making up a 'week', so t h a t t h e f i r s t m i r a c l e occurs on the f i r s t day

of the week*. While these a t t e m p t s are I n t e r e s t i n g , i t i s much more

likely that the r e f e r e n c e t o the t h i r d day i s meant t o be understood

as t h e Day of R e s u r r e c t i o n ^ , the day on which the So^a of Jesus i s

revealed*. The i n t e n t i o n would then be t o i n d i c a t e the purpose of the

ministry upon which Jesus now embarks, t o r e v e a l the So^a which will

ultimately become established through his death and resurrection.

A l t h o u g h Schnackenburg f e e l s such an I n t e r p r e t a t i o n goes "beyond what

can be gathered from the n a r r a t i v e itself"^, two t h i n g s are i n i t s

favour. Firstly, the crmetov reaches i t s goal i n 2:11 with the

r e v e l a t i o n o f Jesus' So^a, which i n t u r n e l i c i t s b e l i e f on the p a r t of

the ^iaQi]zcxi. Secondly, t h e f o l l o w i n g p e r i c o p e about the a t t a c k on the

Temple s p e c i f i c a l l y mentions the ' t h r e e days' as the p e r i o d I n which

Jesus would be 'destroyed and rebuilt'. Thus, a l t h o u g h the Fourth

Gospel does not r e f e r t o the r e s u r r e c t i o n itself as t a k i n g place on

the third day, i t was c l e a r l y understood i n these terms by those I n

the Johannine community r e s p o n s i b l e f o r the Gospel who reflected on

the ministry of Jesus a f t e r the event (2:22). The r e f e r e n c e t o xfj

r\p.tpq. xflj xpixij I n 2:1 becomes u n n e c e s s a r i l y d i f f i c u l t when t r e a t e d as

J u s t another c h r o n o l o g i c a l marker, being b e t t e r understood as setting

the tone f o r both the m i r a c l e and ministry of Jesus Sophia which

follow.
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The appearance o f t h e \iocQr\xoci i n 2:2 poses another problem: t o


whom does John r e f e r ? U n l i k e t h e Synoptic t r a d i t i o n , we have no
r e c o r d o f a c a l l o f t h e 'Twelve', a l t h o u g h they do suddenly appear o u t
of t h e b l u e i n 6:67ff. More l i k e l y we should regard 2:2 as a
r e f e r e n c e t o those c a l l e d i n l:35ff«, a l t h o u g h i t may a l s o be p o s s i b l e
t h a t they s t a n d here i n some c o n t r a s t t o t h e d i s c i p l e s of John t h e
Baptist'. Whoever i s meant, we must note t h e i r e s s e n t i a l passivity in
the s t o r y over a g a i n s t t h e a c t i v i t y o f Jesus' mother, a p o i n t t o which
we s h a l l r e t u r n below. T h e i r purpose i n t h e s t o r y i s f u l f i l l e d i n t h e
f i n a l statement o f 2:11 - \ai eniateuaav e i q auxdv o l iiaQr\zai auxoC.

4.1.2 THE ROLE OF JESUS' MOTHER

Jesus' mother'" i s one o f t h e p r i n c i p a l c h a r a c t e r s i n the s h o r t

drama o f 2:1-11, b e i n g mentioned specifically i n t h e opening verse.

Not only I s she i d e n t i f i e d directly, i n c o n t r a s t t o t h e anonymous

group o f pa8r)xat, but she a l s o p l a y s a prominent and a c t i v e r o l e i n

what follows. She i s i n v o l v e d i n a d i a l o g u e w i t h Jesus and even

beyond t h a t m a i n t a i n s an i n t e r e s t i n t h e m i r a c l e i t s e l f by I n s t r u c t i n g

the s e r v a n t s t o f o l l o w t h e commands of Jesus. T h i s should perhaps

s u r p r i s e us, s i n c e we have no evidence t h a t t h e wedding takes place i n

a home where Jesus' mother would have i n f l u e n c e , and c e r t a i n l y n o t

where she would have a u t h o r i t y over servants: she a p p a r e n t l y takes

charge where she i s n o t i n charge! T h i s matter w i l l l a t e r r e q u i r e an

explanation''.

Having s e t t h e scene and l i s t e d t h e p l a y e r s , t h e author proceeds

immediately t o t h e meat o f t h e s t o r y by means o f a simple statement


s;
from Jesus' Mother: otvov oux 'ixo^o'^^- T h i s b r i e f phrase has been t h e
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s u b j e c t o f I n t e n s e d i s c u s s i o n by s c h o l a r s over t h e years: does i t show


any e x p e c t a t i o n o f t h e m i r a c u l o u s on t h e p a r t o f t h e son by t h e
mother? Has Mary a l r e a d y shown r e c o g n i t i o n o f who Jesus i s i n t h i s
statement? Since t h i s i s t h e f i r s t m i r a c l e i n John's Gospel, t o have
expected a m i r a c l e from Jesus would be an i n d i c a t i o n o f some s p e c i a l
i n s i g h t on Mary's p a r t . T h i s has l e d a number o f commentators t o
reject t h e s u g g e s t i o n * 2 , though why Mary should be viewed any
d i f f e r e n t l y from e i t h e r John t h e B a p t i s t or N a t h a n a e l " , both o f whom
have a l r e a d y shown knowledge o f who Jesus i s , i s a t l e a s t open t o
question!** Others see i n t h e statement a d i r e c t request f o r a
m i r a c l e ' s , b u t t h i s may be g o i n g t o o f a r on t h e evidence o f t h e t e x t .
C l e a r l y Jesus' answer i m p l i e s t h a t Mary expected something o f him, but
we s h o u l d be c a u t i o u s about c l a i m i n g e x p e c t a t i o n o f a miracle.

Our c o n t e n t i o n i s t h a t t h e answer t o t h e meaning o f her statement

may be found i n understanding i t i n the l i g h t o f Jesus as Sophia

incarnate. The d i s c i p l e o f Sophia knows whom t o ask f o r wine! "Come

eat my food and d r i n k t h e wine I have mixed" (Prov 9:5). "Whoever

d r i n k s f r o m me w i l l t h i r s t f o r more" ( S i r 24:21)**. Mary knows where

to go when t h e wine runs o u t , t o t h e one who o f f e r s a supply o f i t t o

those who w i l l d r i n k ; t o h e r son, Jesus Sophia'^. L i k e both John t h e

Baptist and Nathanael b e f o r e h e r , Mary recognises who Jesus i s , and

shows her r e c o g n i t i o n by her a c t i o n . However, u n l i k e t h e \xaQr\zai, who

are shadowy f i g u r e s i n t h e background, Mary recognises t h i s before t h e

miracle occurs and prepares herself and o t h e r s f o r t h e p r o v i s i o n o f

all t h a t Jesus Sophia can o f f e r . The )ia9t)Ta< o n l y come t o f a i t h a f t e r

the m i r a c l e / s i g n has o c c u r r e d . Mary's d l s c i p l e s h i p i s t h e r e f o r e t r u l y


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Johannine i n i t s c h a r a c t e r (20:29), i n t h a t i t shows a f a i t h without


signs, r a t h e r than one which needs them i n o r d e r t o be convinced'*.

The d i a l o g u e c o n t i n u e s w i t h Jesus' r e p l y : li e^ioi %ai (joi, yCi\a\;

oonto f j x e i fi ^pa \io\). Due t o t h e d i f f i c u l t y i n f i n d i n g an a p p r o p r i a t e

E n g l i s h e q u i v a l e n t t o yivax, t h i s appears a t f i r s t s i g h t t o be a very

i m p o l i t e response. However, a l t h o u g h t h e use o f ytvai i n r e l a t i o n t o

h i s mother i s somewhat s t r a n g e , I t i s i n no way I m p o l i t e or unusual as

an address t o women". Indeed, i t i s t h e most common address used

toward women by Jesus i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel (4:21; 8:10; 19:25; 20:13).

I t s use a g a i n towards h i s mother i n t h e pathos-laden scene a t t h e f o o t

o f t h e c r o s s (19:25-27) i n d i c a t e s c l e a r l y t h a t t h e term does n o t show

a lack o f a f f e c t l o n ^ o . There i s , however, no precedent i n any source,

either Jewish o r Greek, f o r a son t o address h i s mother i n this

somewhat f o r m a l manner^'. Does t h i s , then, i m p l y a r e j e c t i o n by Jesus

of h i s mother? Evidently n o t , s i n c e she I s f u l l y accepted, though

similarly addressed i n t h e c r u c i f i x i o n account. What we see here i s

rather a deliberate p l a y i n g down o f Mary's motherhood as a significant

influence on t h e m i n i s t r y o f Jesus. She remains h i s mother, as t h e

c o n s i s t e n t use o f t h e t i t l e 'Mother o f Jesus' i n John suggests, but i n

common with the Synoptic Gospels^^^ John takes t h e view that the

driving-force behind Jesus' life and ministry is not family

expectations, but doing the w i l l o f God^^. T h i s theme I s discussed

f u r t h e r i n 7:1-10, where i t i s made c l e a r t h a t f a m i l y cannot i n t e r f e r e

w i t h h i s m i n i s t r y on t h e b a s i s o f t h e i r k i n s h i p . There i s , t h e r e f o r e ,

no rebuke o f Mary, b u t , as F l o r e n z a p u t s i t :

The address d i s t a n c e s Jesus from h i s b i o l o g i c a l mother


and r e j e c t s any c l a i m s she might have on him because
of her f a m i l y r e l a t i o n s h i p t o him. At t h e same time,
i t p l a c e s Mary o f Nazareth a t t h e same l e v e l as t h e
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Samarltan woman (4:21) and Mary o f Magdala (20:13),


b o t h o f whom were a p o s t o l i c w i t n e s s e s and exemplary
disciples^*.

The d i s t a n c i n g e f f e c t i s enhanced by t h e use o f t h e S e m i t i c phrase zi

sfiot x a t <jo£, which i s p r o b a b l y best translated: "What has this

concern o f yours t o do w i t h me?"^^ Apparently, at least on the

Johannine level, Jesus wants t o ensure the impression i s given that

what f o l l o w s i n terms o f a m i r a c l e does so because he has decided t o

get i n v o l v e d and n o t because i t was h i s business t o do so i n the f i r s t

p l a c e a t t h e b i d d i n g o f a f a m i l y member. The supply o f wine f o r t h e

wedding g u e s t s i s t h e p r o v i n c e o f o t h e r s , not o f Jesus. I n addition,

Mary has n o t understood that t h e 'hour' of Jesus has n o t y e t

arrived^*: t h a t i s , t h e hour o f g l o r i f i c a t i o n i n which the g i f t o f the

Spirit would be made, s u p p l y i n g t h e on-going need o f t h e d l s c l p l e s ^ ^ .

T h i s statement makes sense when placed a l o n g s i d e t h e r e f u s a l of Mary

Magdalene's 'clinging' i n 20:17 - t h e death, resurrection and

ascension of Jesus are a l l part of one process in John's

understanding, h i s ' l l f t i n g - u p ' (12:32-33), which i s completed o n l y i n

the giving of the S p i r i t (20:22)2". Just as Mary Magdalene

misunderstands the r e s u r r e c t i o n as a r e s t o r a t i o n of the o l d - s t y l e

bodily relationship and i s a c c o r d i n g l y told t o back-off^', so t o o

Jesus' mother, who correctly understands Jesus Sophia as t h e t r u e

source o f 'wine', needs t o see t h a t such wine w i l l o n l y be 'on-tap'

after t h e hour of g l o r i f i c a t i o n : that i s , after t h e coming of the

Spirit and t h e i n a u g u r a t i o n o f t h e new age. Of course, t h e m i r a c l e

occurs on t h e ' t h i r d day' and as such i s p a r t o f t h e Johannine scheme

of s i g n s o f t h e 'not y e t ' , so t h e wine which w i l l be s u p p l i e d i n t h e

miracle i s a sign o f what w i l l be f r e e l y available when t h a t 'not


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y e t ' , t h e 'hour', f i n a l l y comes. To understand t h e phrase ofenoi •l\Ke\ ^


&po( fiou i n t h i s l i g h t has t h e v i r t u e o f both m a i n t a i n i n g a c o n s i s t e n t
Johannine understanding o f t h e hour as t h a t o f Jesus' final
g l o r i f i c a t i o n , and o f r e f e r r i n g what he says d i r e c t l y t o what h i s
mother has s a i d : "we have no vine!' (.not: "we need a m f r a c i ^ ' ! ) .

What f o l l o w s Jesus' d i s t a n c i n g o f h i m s e l f from f a m i l y pressure i s

a statement o f h i s mother's new r o l e (2:5). No longer i s she viewed

as i m p o r t a n t because o f her f a m i l y t i e s t o Jesus Sophia, but i s seen

as a model o f t r u e d l s c i p l e s h i p . She a c t s i n f a i t h upon the knowledge

which she has, t h a t Jesus Sophia w i l l p r o v i d e wine f o r those who come

to drink. She thus assumes a p o s i t i o n of responsibility/leadership

and t e l l s t h e s e r v a n t s t o do as Jesus I n s t r u c t s them. We noted above

how this action reflects the Johannine understanding of true

dlscipleship i n i t s a n t i c i p a t o r y n a t u r e , but i t a l s o goes f u r t h e r i n

this respect by demonstrating the pattern jiapxupetv -» n i a t e t i e i v .

A l t h o u g h we acknowledge t h a t her i n t e r v e n t i o n i s n o t the reason f o r

the miracle, i t n e v e r t h e l e s s prepares t h e way f o r i t . Her f a i t h f u l

response i n p r e p a r a t i o n f o r what i s t o come (2:5) w i l l u l t i m a t e l y lead

others t o an encounter with t h e 66^a o f Jesus and a consequent

e x p r e s s i o n o f n<axtq on t h e i r p a r t (2:11). This p a t t e r n I s consistent

with t h e Johannine understanding of t h e witness/encounter schema

applied throughout t h e Gospel: t h e \iapxvpia may l e a d t o an initial

response, b u t t h a t leads on t o an encounter w i t h Jesus Sophia, which

Is the point a t which f u l l understanding ( n i a x x q ) occurs. We shall

see t h i s again i n clearer form I n t h e case o f t h e Samaritan Woman^'.

We may now understand t h e reason f o r Mary taking charge i n a

situation where she apparently has no actual authority or


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responsibility. F a i t h demands t h a t she e x e r c i s e a r o l e of l e a d e r s h i p ,


whether o r n o t she i s e n t i t l e d t o do so a c c o r d i n g t o s o c i e t a l r u l e s
and r e g u l a t i o n s . Such b a r r i e r s a r e o f no consequence t o f a i t h , which
must respond t o t h e presence o f Jesus Sophia. We can o n l y assume t h a t
t h i s t o some e x t e n t r e f l e c t s t h e s i t u a t i o n i n t h e Johannine community,
where t h e r e i s no s i g n o f a h i e r a r c h i c a l form o f l e a d e r s h i p , but of a
l e a d e r s h i p e x e r c i s e d on t h e b a s i s o f c a l l i n g and response, r e g a r d l e s s
of t h e v a l u e p l a c e d on t h e I n d i v i d u a l by o t h e r s (21:21-22). I t speaks
f o r t h e p o s s i b i l i t y t h a t women a c t u a l l y were f r e e t o e x e r c i s e such
l e a d e r s h i p w i t h i n t h e community i t s e l f - but more o f t h a t l a t e r !

The most striking of a l l features relating to disclpleship i n

t h i s s t o r y i s t h e marked c o n t r a s t between t h e r o l e o f Mary and t h a t o f

the \iaQi\tai. I t i s Mary who a c t i v e l y engages i n d i a l o g u e and who

exercises faith, w h i l e t h e pia9rixai p l a y no a c t i v e r o l e a t a l l , being

mere b y s t a n d e r s whose o n l y response i s t o b e l i e v e because o f what they

have seen. This i s unquestionably a secondary form o f response I n

that i t requires the 'sign' i n order t o be a c t i v a t e d . Barrett

comments t h a t "manifestations o f So^cx d u r i n g the incarnate l i f e are

e x c e p t i o n a l and a r e n o t g r a n t e d to a l l " * * , b u t what i s more i m p o r t a n t

is that t h e i r necessity i s already a s i g n o f a weakness o f f a i t h n o t

seen i n t h e case o f Mary. That t h e jiaeT^xa( do come t o an encounter

with t h e 5<5^a and thus t o b e l i e f , i s due i n no s m a l l measure t o t h e

faithful I n s i g h t and p r e p a r a t i o n o f t h e t r u e d i s c i p l e o f Jesus Sophia,

h i s mother.
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4.1.3 THE INFLOEHCE OF SOPHIA CHRISTOLOGY

Having seen t h e i n f l u e n c e of Sophia C h r i s t o l o g y on the r o l e o f

Mary i n t h e Wine M i r a c l e , we cannot leave the s t o r y w i t h o u t looking

f u r t h e r a t t h e way i n which such I n f l u e n c e has acted on other elements

of t h e account. We observed a l r e a d y how Mary recognised I n Jesus

Sophia t h e one who was a b l e t o o f f e r wine t o those who sought i t , but

the influence of Sophia carries further with regard to the wine

itself.

There has been much discussion both of the amount of wine

provided, some 120 g a l l o n s * 2 ^ and of the f a c t that i t r e p l a c e d the

water i n the purification Jars*'. Both of these m a t t e r s are a f f e c t e d

by t h e i n f l u e n c e of Sophia. Wisdom w r i t e r s p r a i s e the abundance of

Sophia's provision ( S i r 1:16; 6:19; 24:19-21; Wisd 7:11,14)»*, not

o n l y i n terms o f wine, but i n a l l of l i f e ' s needs. This abundance of

wine i s a l s o e a s i e r t o e x p l a i n when we understand t h e i m p l i c a t i o n s o f

Jesus Sophia replacing the purification water. Already i n the

Prologue t o t h e Gospel t h e a u t h o r has emphasised t h a t Jesus Sophia has

superseded t h e Torah (1:17). There i s p r o b a b l y a c o n t i n u a t i o n of the

hidden polemic here which we have n o t e d b e f o r e against the c u r r e n t

Jewish u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f Sophia's embodiment i n the Torah. The trend

towards t h i s i s a l r e a d y i m p l i c i t i n Proverbs' e q u a t i o n between keeping

the commands o f God and calling Sophia a friend (Prov 7:1-5). It

becomes e x p l i c i t i n t h e l a t e r wisdom school i n t h e o f t - c i t e d passages

in Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon and Baruch ( S i r 15:1-8; 19:20; 24:23ff;

Wisd 6:18; Bar 3:36 - 4:4)*s, and i s f i n a l l y a s u b j e c t of c o n s i d e r a b l e

discussion i n Rabbinic c i r c l e s * * . Picking up t h e threads of the

Prologue, t h e a u t h o r now r e c a l l s i n t h e Wine m i r a c l e the a l t e r n a t i v e


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posed i n Jesus: no l o n g e r i s Sophia t o be seen as boxed up i n t h e


c o n f i n e s o f t h e Torah, b u t I s i n c a r n a t e i n Jesus Sophia, who o f f e r s
" t h e wine o f H i s r e v e l a t i o n i n p l a c e o f t h e water o f t h e Torah"'^.

The same comparison appears i n a d i f f e r e n t form i n the p a r a b l e o f

t h e wine s k i n s i n t h e S y n o p t i c t r a d i t i o n <Mk 2:22 p a r ) . Just as t h e

new cannot be f o r c e d i n t o t h e c o n f i n e s o f t h e o l d , so t o o t h e new I s

infinitely more suited t o the feast and more desirable in i t s

abundance. The volume o f wine shows how e x t e n s i v e t h i s g i f t o f Sophia

incarnate i s : f a r more than even t h e most exuberant wedding guests

c o u l d hope t o consume! The 'water' o f t h e Torah i s l i m i t e d in its

scope, b u t t h e 'wine' o f Jesus Sophia i s u n l i m i t e d i n i t s supply.

Thus we may see t h a t both t h e p i c t u r e o f Jesus' Mother, her r o l e

in t h e account o f t h e Wine M i r a c l e , and t h e m i r a c l e i t s e l f have been

the subject of influence from the Fourth Evangelist's Sophia

christology.

4.2 JESUS SOPHIA AND THE SAMARITAN WOMAN (4;1-42)

The s t o r y o f Jesus' encounter w i t h a woman a t t h e w e l l o f Jacob

in Samaria i s an example o f Johannine e d i t o r i a l skill a t i t s peak.

The account i s so f u l l o f nuance and symbolism t h a t any treatment o f

i t w i l l o n l y be p r o v i s i o n a l i n n a t u r e . Having s a i d t h a t , however, i t s

beauty lies i n i t s essential clarity and s i m p l i c i t y : a t i r e d and

t h i r s t y Jesus s i t s down by a w e l l and asks a woman f o r a d r i n k . He

engages h e r i n c o n v e r s a t i o n l e a d i n g u l t i m a t e l y t o a r e v e l a t i o n of h i s

true nature. T h i s evokes faith i n t h e woman, who then f u l f i l s t h e

task of dtsclpleship by c a l l i n g others to a similar encounter and

response. I n t h e midst o f a l l t h i s t h e author i n s e r t s a d i a l o g u e on


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the n a t u r e o f t h e C h r i s t i a n m i s s i o n , which i l l u m i n a t e s t h e theory o f


the task which t h e woman a c t u a l l y undertakes. Our main i n t e r e s t l i e s
i n t h e r o l e o f t h e woman i n t h i s scene, but i n order t o understand i t
f u l l y we must f i r s t look a t some p e r t i n e n t e x e g e t l c a l p o i n t s ,

4.2.1 EXEGETICAL COMMENTS

The Samaritan incident belongs i n t h e immediate context of

chapters 2 - 4 . I n t h i s s e c t i o n t h e r e i s a concern f o r t h e q u e s t i o n

of f a i t h , and a d e f i n i t e movement can be d i s c e r n e d from lack o f f a i t h ,

through inadequate f a i t h , t o complete f a i t h i n t h e person o f Jesus'*.

I n 2:18-20, f o l l o w i n g Jesus' a c t o f c l e a n s i n g t h e temple, the 'Jews'

openly express t h e i r d i s b e l i e f , c h a l l e n g i n g Jesus' a u t h o r i t y . I n the

following chapter (3:1-21), Nicodemus, a leading Jewish figure,

expresses some measure o f f a i t h i n coming t o see Jesus, but never

adequately comes t o g r i p s w i t h what Jesus has t o say t o him. This i s

followed closely (3:22-36) by t h e w i t n e s s o f John t h e B a p t i s t , who

shows complete f a i t h i n Jesus as t h e 'bridegroom', and understands t h e

need f o r the diminishing o f h i s own role In relation t o Jesus.

Through these three accounts, t h e author i n d i c a t e s the v a r i e t y of

faith/non-faith responses t o Jesus within Judaism. Chapter 4 then

s t e p s beyond t h i s c i r c l e t o the question of f a i t h o u t s i d e I s r a e l and

follows a similar pattern, which we s h a l l examine i n more d e t a i l I n

r e l a t i o n t o t h e Samaritan woman's movement towards f a i t h .

There i s a clear allusion t o Old Testament tradition i n the

meeting between a p r i n c i p a l c h a r a c t e r and a woman a t a w e l l " . That

this connection i s Intentional can be seen i n the reference t o

'Jacob's w e l l ' (4:6) and t h e woman's q u e s t i o n i n 4:12. Other elements


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of t h e s t o r y a l s o p o i n t us I n t h i s d i r e c t i o n , n o t l e a s t t h e temporal
r e f e r e n c e i n 4:6 Spa rjv toq Vxxr). Some have t r i e d t o f i n d s p e c i a l
symbolic meaning i n t h i s hour**, b u t when placed a l o n g s i d e Gen 29:7,
where Rachel a r r i v e s i n t h e middle o f t h e day a t t h e w e l l , t h e
i n f e r e n c e becomes c l e a r . J u s t as t h e P a t r i a r c h Jacob met and found a
r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h a woman a t a w e l l , so t o o Jesus meets w i t h a woman
at a w e l l (Jacob's!), and forms what w i l l e v e n t u a l l y be a ' f r u i t f u l '
(4:39-42) r e l a t i o n s h i p with her**. Neyrey has a l s o compiled
c o n s i d e r a b l e evidence t o support t h e t h e s i s t h a t both Jews and
Samaritans used Jacob t r a d i t i o n s as a b a s i s f o r t h e i r understanding o f
w o r s h i p * 2 , and i f , as he suggests f r o m l a t e r Rabbinic m a t e r i a l s , t h e r e
was an e x p e c t a t i o n t h a t t h e Messiah would "have g r e a t e r knowledge than
Jacob"*', we would have a f i r m b a s i s f o r understanding 4:25.

The setting at the well may a l s o suggest that some m a t r i m o n i a l

imagery i s i n t e n d e d . Already i n the previous chapters, such imagery

has been used t o describe Jesus' a c t i o n s and r e l a t i o n s h i p s (2:1-11;

3:29). Here t h e q u e s t i o n o f t h e woman's m a r i t a l and e x t r a - m a r i t a l

r e l a t i o n s h i p s i s r a i s e d by Jesus, but beyond t h a t t h e r e seems t o be an

u n d e r l y i n g i n f e r e n c e t h a t Jesus, l i k e t h e Old Testament c h a r a c t e r s a t

the w e l l , i s o f f e r i n g t o t h e woman something i n terms o f a f u l f i l l i n g

relationship. We s h a l l look further at this i n t h e course o f our

e x a m i n a t i o n o f t h e woman's r o l e .

The m a t t e r o f sources l y i n g behind t h e s t o r y may a l s o shed light

on i t s s i g n i f i c a n c e f o r our study. A l l t h e major commentators agree,

that despite the h i s t o r i c a l problems which accompany t h e present form

of t h e s t o r y * * , behind i t l i e s a t r a d i t i o n a l account o f a c o n v e r s a t i o n

between Jesus and a woman, Bultmann*^ identifies this tradition i n


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verses 5-9,16-19,28-30 and 40, and t h i s a n a l y s i s has found a f a i r


consensus among subsequent commentators**. I f i t i s accepted as a t
l e a s t reasonably a c c u r a t e , i t becomes s i g n i f i c a n t f o r us t o note t h a t
the e v a n g e l i s t has expanded t h e s t o r y t o I n c l u d e both a r e v e l a t i o n o f
Messianic s t a t u s by Jesus t o t h e woman (4:26), and an account o f h e r
subsequent c o n f e s s i o n / w i t n e s s t o o t h e r s , l e a d i n g t o t h e i r i n i t i a l
f a i t h and l a t e r p e r s o n a l encounter w i t h o ocoTi^p xoO xdajiou (4:39-42).
The i m p o r t o f such a c o n c l u s i o n w i l l be apparent as we consider t h e
woman's r o l e .

4.2.2 THE SAMARITAN WOMAN'S ROLE

L i k e t h e Mother o f Jesus i n 2:1-11, t h e Samaritan Woman i s a

central c h a r a c t e r , second o n l y t o t h e f i g u r e o f Jesus I n t h e s t o r y .

She engages i n a l e n g t h y t h e o l o g i c a l d i s c o u r s e w i t h him, i s c o n f r o n t e d

by h i s c l a i m t o Messianic status, goes and shares her d i s c o v e r y and

b r i n g s o t h e r s t o t h e encounter of f a i t h . Again, l i k e Mary, she holds

the main s t a g e w h i l e t h e shadowy ^a9r\xai o n l y b r i e f l y and confusedly

appear i n the wings. We s h a l l examine each o f these aspects i n t u r n .

4.2.2.1 THE THEOLOGICAL DISCOSSION

The d i s c u s s i o n between Jesus and t h e woman d i v i d e s i n t o two

distinct sections: firstly, the question about water/living water;

secondly, the issue o f worship. I n the f i r s t i n s t a n c e she shows

little understanding, failing t o grasp either who Jesus I s , o r t h e

nature of the g i f t vrtiich he i s o f f e r i n g t o her. I n t h i s respect she

s t a r t s o f f f r o m a p o s i t i o n o f no f a i t h * ^ . However, we should not miss

the fact that she I s p o r t r a y e d as sufficiently aware of the

Jewish/Samaritan antithesis t o recognise i t as unconventional that


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Jesus s h o u l d even address her**, much l e s s ask i f he may use her


d r i n k i n g vessel*'. She i s a l s o s u f f i c i e n t l y open i n her a t t i t u d e t o
a l l o w Jesus t o share h i s i n s i g h t w i t h her, even a l t h o u g h she f a i l s t o
comprehend i t i n i t i a l l y .

Her main c o n t r i b u t i o n t o t h e opening s e c t i o n of dialogue I s the

I r o n i c q u e s t i o n about Jesus' r e l a t i o n s h i p t o Jacob. She recognises i n

Jesus' claim t o give water, t o which he has no access without a

m i r a c u l o u s occurrence, an I m p l i c i t a s s e r t i o n t h a t he I s a t l e a s t on a

par with the Patriarch. Since i t i s possible that the t r a d i t i o n s

r e g a r d i n g Jacob's m i r a c u l o u s water-drawing f r o m t h e w e l l were known a t

the t i m e o f t h e w r i t i n g o f t h e Gospel^*, t h i s would i n d i c a t e t h a t t h e

author wishes to portray t h e woman as having some theological

knowledge o r understanding. Contrary, then, t o the conclusions of

later Rabbinic writers, t h a t women should n e i t h e r be taught t h e o l o g y

nor engage i n d i s c u s s i o n o f i t w i t h men, t h i s woman i s seen t o know

something and t o be prepared t o d i s c u s s i t openly, w i t h a male Jew!

In t h e second p a r t o f the d i a l o g u e we see a f u r t h e r h i n t t h a t t h e

woman I s n o t t o be seen as a f o o l w i t h r e g a r d t o t h e o l o g i c a l insight.

Having been c h a l l e n g e d about her m a r i t a l s t a t u s , and having r e c e i v e d a

s u r p r i s i n g l y knowledgable r u n down on her past from Jesus, she engages

him i n d i s c u s s i o n about t h e r i g h t s and wrongs o f worship. Here she

shows knowledge o f b o t h Jewish and Samaritan tradition and p r a c t i c e ,

as well as g i v i n g v o i c e t o s p e c u l a t i o n r e g a r d i n g t h e coming Messiah

(Taheb)5i. I t i s this d i s c u s s i o n which moves t h e woman from t h e

Initial 'no f a i t h ' position t o one o f 'Incomplete faith"2, as she


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c a l l s Jesus a 'prophet' (4:19) and opens up the way f o r the r e v e l a t o r y


£y6 ei}ix o f 4:26.

What i n f l u e n c e o f Sophia t r a d i t i o n can we see i n this dialogue?

In the first part of the discourse the central theme i s that of

'living water', which will be a nr]yi\ w i t h i n the l i f e of the one who

receives i t . I n Wisdom L i t e r a t u r e t h e r e are several references to

Sophia as the ' s p r i n g of life' (eg, Prov 13:14; 18:4), and the

parallel between S i r 24:21 and John 4:14 has o f t e n been noted''. The

book o f S i r a c h a l s o mentions t h e '^Sap aoqjtaq i n c o n j u c t i o n w i t h 'SpToq

i n S i r 15:3=*. However, i t i s P h i l o who makes most f r e q u e n t a l l u s i o n

to Sophia as the Beta T^^yA< almost always in allegorical

i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of the well-scenes from Genesis. I n Fuga 195 and Post

136 he clearly describes Rebecca, the mother of Jacob, as the

r e c i p i e n t o f Sophia through her drawing a t the w e l l . Again i n QG IV,

98, he d e s c r i b e s the w a t e r - j a r which she c a r r i e s as a symbol of Sophia

( a l s o i n QG IV, 101,107)5'. we are again a b l e t o see t h a t a t the time

of the writing of the Fourth Gospel there was a well-developed

understanding of Sophia s i m i l a r t o t h a t which we discern within the

Gospel. Most interesting also i s the o b s e r v a t i o n of Bernard, who

notes:

I n v. 10 t h e thought i s o f God as the e t e r n a l f o u n t a i n ;


but i t was a l s o a Hebrew thought t h a t the man who has
a s s i m i l a t e d the D i v i n e Wisdom becomes h i m s e l f , as i t
were, a f o u n t a i n f r o m which streams o f t h e water o f
l i f e proceed ( I s 58:11)5*.

T h i s thought i s a l s o the theme o f the l a s t few verses of S i r a c h 24,

where Sophia speaks o f her f l o w of water expanding from a canal t o a

river and then t o a sea ( S i r 24:30-31). The last two verses (24:33-
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34) i n d i c a t e t h a t t h i s g i f t I s f o r f u t u r e g e n e r a t i o n s and f o r those


who seek Sophia (Totq exCiixoOatv auxt^v). Here i n t h e c o n v e r s a t i o n
w i t h t h e Samaritan Woman i n John 4 we see Jesus Sophia making t h e
o f f e r o f such f l o w i n g water t o a woman, whose openness t o t h a t o f f e r
a l l o w s I t t o grow i n h e r and u l t i m a t e l y t o f l o w o u t t o o t h e r s (Jn
4:39-42).

There may be a further pointer t o Wisdom Influence In the

' llvlng-water' dialogue through t h e use o f t h e phrase f\ Saped xoO

eeoO (4:10). There i s evidence t o suggest t h a t t h e ' G i f t o f God' in

Judaism was seen above a l l t o be t h e Torah^'', which i s a l s o referred

to i n Qumran l i t e r a t u r e as ' l i v i n g - w a t e r ' . Once again t h e I m p l i c i t

criticism o f t h e Jewish view that Sophia i s embodied i n t h e Torah

comes t o t h e f o r e i n John's p i c t u r e o f Jesus Sophia: the t r u e g i f t o f

God which t h e woman r e c e i v e s i s n o t t h e o l d water o f t h e Torah, but

the l i v i n g - w a t e r which i s t h e g i f t o f Jesus, Sophia Incarnate,

The Jacob t r a d i t i o n s a l l u d e d t o i n John 4 may p r o v i d e us w i t h an

Interesting link with Wisdom t r a d i t i o n s . The Samaritans c e r t a i n l y

held the Patriarchs i n the highest esteem^', and they interpreted

Mount Gerazim as t h e p l a c e i n which many o f t h e g r e a t events o f t h e

Patriarchal Narrative, i n c l u d i n g Jacob's v i s i o n ' " , took place. This

vision was p a r t i c u l a r l y i m p o r t a n t I n the establishment o f another

p l a c e o f w o r s h i p than Jerusalem, s i n c e i t was on awakening from h i s

dream that Jacob declared t h e Lord t o be " i n t h i s place (Gen

28:16>"'i, Having a l r e a d y compared Jesus w i t h Jacob i n t h e f i r s t part

of the theological discussion, t h e Samaritan Woman then turns t o

discuss the place (T6noq - as I n Gen 28:16 ev xdncp toCTqi) o f t r u e

worship w i t h him. I t i sstriking t o notice that three o f t h e major


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passages c o n c e r n i n g Sophia i n t h e Apocryphal l i t e r a t u r e make mention


of Jacob. S i r a c h 24 r e p o r t s t h a t she came t o " d w e l l i n Jacob" (24:8 -
c f . Jn 1:14), and h a v i n g become embodied i n t h e Torah she would become
the " i n h e r i t a n c e o f t h e assembly o f Jacob" (24:23). Among t h e d i v i n e
a c t s o f Sophia i n I s r a e l ' s h i s t o r y l i s t e d i n Wisdom o f Solomon 10 we
f i n d her c a r e and p r o t e c t i o n extended t o Jacob (10:10-12). Through
her c a r e he d i s c o v e r e d "Godly conduct (sua^Peia)" t o be t h e g r e a t e s t
power o f a l l (10:12). L a s t l y i n Baruch 3:37 Jacob i s again mentioned
and i n 4:2 he i s encouraged t o grasp h o l d o f Sophia, who i s t h e book
of t h e Law. Now i n John's account o f t h e i n c i d e n t a t Jacob's w e l l ,
the Samaritan Woman, whose t r a d i t i o n and theology f o c u s s i g n i f i c a n t l y
on Jacob t r a d i t i o n , i s c o n f r o n t e d by t h e ' i n h e r i t a n c e o f Jacob' who
has come t o ' d w e l l among Jacob', and who uncovers her 'ungodly
conduct' (Jn 4:16-18). T h i s one o f f e r s h e r something ' g r e a t e r than
Jacob': n o t t h e book o f t h e Law, as i n Baruch, b u t t h e g i f t of l i v i n g -
water, f r o m one who can say, eydi expix! As Neyrey puts i t : "The
woman's q u e s t i o n i n 4:12 seems t o c o n t a i n a pun, I m p l y i n g t h a t Jesus
i s s u p p l a n t i n g Jacob, t h e Supplanter, thus d o i n g t o Jacob what he d i d
t o Esau"*2.

The v e r y s e t t i n g o f t h e t h e o l o g i c a l d i s c u s s i o n between Jesus and

the woman i s e v o c a t i v e o f Sophia tradition. I t i s i n the public

p l a c e s t h a t she c r i e s o u t t o those who w i l l hear her (Prov 9 ) , and she

offers understanding t o those who w i l l listen and l e a r n . This I s

precisely what Jesus Sophia does a t t h e w e l l o f Samaria, and t h e

response i s just that which i s expected o f t h e t r u e disciple of

wisdom: she listens, discusses and learns. What i s even more

a s t o n i s h i n g i s t h a t she then goes on t o become t h e 'maidservant', as


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expected i n Prov 9:3 ( 71 -T) ~ ] V 3 ) , who goes o u t t o c a l l o t h e r s t o


Jesus Sophia. We w i l l r e t u r n t o t h i s theme l a t e r i n our study.

The theological discourse o f John 4:10-26 thus offers us a

p i c t u r e o f Jesus Sophia c a l l i n g and t e a c h i n g t h e d i s c i p l e , and o f t h e

r e s p o n s i v e d i s c i p l e o f Sophia who l i s t e n s and becomes her maidservant.

The dialogue Itself i s also laden with traits o f Sophia, whose

t e a c h i n g i s t o be shared as a s p r i n g o f l i v i n g - w a t e r flowing through

the d i s c i p l e t o o t h e r s .

4.2.2.2 THE RECIPIENT OF REVELATION (4:26)

At t h e c l i m a x o f Jesus' c o n v e r s a t i o n w i t h t h e woman comes t h e

classic self-revelatory formula eycS eifii,. This Is the first

appearance of t h i s important piece o f Johannine vocabulary I n the

Gospel and comes as a c l e a r response t o t h e prompting o f the woman i n

4:25 concerning o MsCTCTtaq. . , o Xeyd^tvoq XP^^'^^^- Despite i t s

obvious c o n t e x t , some major commentators have r e f u s e d t o recognise i n

it any d i v i n e r e v e l a t o r y f u n c t i o n * ' , but as we noted i n the p r e v i o u s

c h a p t e r * * , i n every i n s t a n c e where ey^ e t j i i i s used apart from t h e ' I

Am-saylngs" , i t s usage i s based on some aspect o f Jesus Sophia's

relationship t o God, In this Instance, as i n 8:28 and 13:19, I t

depends upon t h e r o l e o f Jesus as Revealer o r i m p a r t e r o f i n t i m a t e

knowledge*'. The woman's response t o t h i s statement i n itself also

bears o u t our c o n c l u s i o n w i t h r e g a r d t o i t s r e v e l a t o r y f u n c t i o n ; she

leaves what she i s doing forthwith and goes about t h e task o f

s p r e a d i n g t h e good news**.

One might ask why t h e Johannine Jesus i s w i l l i n g t o accept t h e

title Messiah at this point where a t o t h e r times i t seems t o be


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r e f u s e d * ^ , b u t t h e e x p l a n a t i o n may w e l l l i e i n t h e f a c t t h a t t h e
Samaritans d i d n o t l o o k t o t h e Taheb as a k i n g , b u t more as a teacher
and l a w g i v e r * ' .

The Samaritan Woman i s t h e r e f o r e t h e f i r s t r e c i p i e n t of a d i r e c t

revelation o f who Jesus is. We need n o t rehearse again here t h e

evidence f o r u n d e r s t a n d i n g eyco e i j i i as a statement o f Jesus Sophia.

Is i t s u r p r i s i n g t h a t i t should be t o a woman, a Samaritan w i t h a very

shady background, t h a t Jesus s h o u l d f i r s t e n t r u s t t h i s i n f o r m a t i o n and

not t o t h e \iaQr\xai? C l e a r l y I t a l r e a d y r a i s e d some eyebrows among

that very group (4:27!), b u t i n t h e dramatic s t r u c t u r e of the

evangelist, they a r e made t o accept t h e f a c t passively. Apparently,

for a t l e a s t one e a r l y C h r i s t i a n community, i t was q u i t e acceptable t o

have Jesus r e v e a l h i s e s s e n t i a l n a t u r e t o a 'shady l a d y " ! Whatever

c o n c l u s i o n i s drawn w i t h r e g a r d t o t h e h i s t o r i c i t y o f t h i s scene, t h e

evangelist clearly p i c t u r e s Jesus Sophia as t h e breaker down o f

natural, social and sexual barriers. To some degree t h i s a c t s as a

polemic against t h e entombed Sophia o f t h e Torah i n Sirach, who

expresses a n t i p a t h y both towards women (eg. S i r 42:14)*', and towards

Samaritans ( S i r 50:25-26).

4.2.2.3 THE WOMAN AS MISSIONARY/WITNESS

The r e s u l t of the revelation, ky(i> e i p i , i s that t h e woman

u n d e r t a k e s t h e task o f w i t n e s s i n g t o o t h e r s . Mapxupia and t h e v e r b a l

form ^apTupetv are important words i n t h e Gospel o f John'*. The

purpose o f witness i s always that others might come t o f a i t h , a

purpose most c l e a r l y expressed i n the Evangelist's own statement o f

intent i n writing t h e Gospel: Y v a niCTtsi)ar)i:e (20:31). We must ask.


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then, i f t h e w i t n e s s o f t h e woman f u l f i l s t h i s requirement or whether


the Inadequacy suggested by 4:42 i s s u f f i c i e n t f o r us t o d e c l a r e t h e
woman's r o l e t o be i n f e r i o r , or h e r w i t n e s s Incomplete.

The f i r s t thing we note i s that her w i t n e s s I s preceded by a

t y p i c a l l y a p o s t o l i c ^ ' r e a c t i o n t o t h e encounter and c a l l o f Jesus: she

leaves the present mundane task i n order t o take up t h e r o l e as

witness, A b r i e f comparison o f 4:28 w i t h t h e S y n o p t i c accounts o f t h e

call o f t h e f i s h e r m e n r e v e a l s a very s i m i l a r p a t t e r n o f response t o

the encounter w i t h Jesus:

Mk 1:18 - x a i Eu90q atftyzeq xd 5{xxua, , , ( c f Mt 4:20,22),


Lk 5:11 - x a i . . . a<p6vteq ndvxa, , , .
Jn 4:28 - acpfjxev oCv xfjv uSptav auxffc; f\ 'yuvf^. . . .

Barrett suggests quite another motive f o r leaving t h e j a r behind -

that Jesus might have t h e d r i n k which he had e a r l i e r requested and

that he might show h i s disregard f o r the l e v l t i c a l cleanliness

regulations^^. However, we f i n d t h i s an Inadequate s o l u t i o n on two

counts. Firstly, by a s k i n g t h e woman f o r a d r i n k i n t h e f i r s t place,

Jesus had a l r e a d y shown h i s d i s r e g a r d f o r these laws. Secondly, t h e

d i s c u s s i o n o f w a t e r / l i v i n g water has a l r e a d y been l e f t w e l l behind and

the detail seems t o f i t much more l o g i c a l l y w i t h t h e woman's urgency

to bear witness t o t h e one whom she has encountered, than with a

request f o r a drink.

A second a p o s t o l i c f e a t u r e o f t h e woman's w i t n e s s i s t h e r e s u l t :

the people o f t h e v i l l a g e i^pxovxo itp6q auxdv ( 4 : 3 0 ) , and many b e l i e v e

5ia x6v X670V xf{q yv)vaiK6c,. T h i s coming t o Jesus i s what Schneiders

calls the " f i r s t movement o f s a v i n g f a i t h i n Jesus"^'. This becomes


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c l e a r when we c o n s i d e r t h e words a t t r i b u t e d t o Jesus by t h e e v a n g e l i s t


i n t h e speech c o n c e r n i n g t h e Bread o f L i f e :

6 epydfievoc npdc e^^ ov fii^ irexvdtai]


xal o TCT-qteCaiv e l q e}it ou \s.f\ S i f f j a E t n&noxt (6:35)

There is a clear parallel to be drawn between 'coming' and

'believing', and i t i s t h e task of the witness to i n i t i a t e this

movement toward belief, though as 6:44-45 p o i n t s out, t h i s work i s

really from God^*. Thus, when we read that the v i l l a g e r s 'come t o

him' ( 4 : 3 0 ) , we r e a l i s e t h a t t h e h a r v e s t , o f which Jesus w i l l shortly

speak (4:35-38), i s made p o s s i b l e through t h e w i t n e s s o f the woman.

This i s further u n d e r l i n e d by 4:39, which directly a t t r i b u t e s the

belief o f some o f t h e v i l l a g e r s t o t h e word o f w i t n e s s g i v e n by t h e

woman. T h i s t y p e o f w i t n e s s and t h e consequent b e l i e f o f t h e hearers

i s e x a c t l y what Jesus p r a y s about i n t h e p r a y e r o f John 17. Note t h e

parallel between t h e w i t n e s s o f t h e woman, t h a t o f Jesus, and t h a t o f

those f o r whom he prays:

Woman noXXol eniCTxeuCTOtv 6 i d T6V X670V xffq ^uvaixdq (4:39)


Jesus TioXXffi nXetouQ eniaxevaav S\di x6v X670V aoxoO (4:41)
Others xSv Ttiaxeu6vx<av S i d xoO \6YOU otuxSv (17:20)

The Samaritan Woman's w i t n e s s i s n o t merely linguistically identical

to t h a t o f Jesus, b u t i s seen f r o m f u r t h e r comparison w i t h John 17 t o

be c o r r e c t i n terms o f i t s outcome. Jesus' request concerning those

who b e l i e v e t h r o u g h t h e word o f t h e d i s c i p l e s (17:21) i s i m p o r t a n t f o r

our u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h i s aspect o f t h e woman's work. He prays that

they 'might be one* i n him, and t h a t esapSatv xt^v 5<5^av xfjv EJIT^V. In

o t h e r words, i n Johannine m i s s l o l o g i c a l terms t h e r e i s a stage beyond


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mere b e l i e f on t h e b a s i s o f t h e w i t n e s s of a b e l i e v e r , t h a t being the


personal encounter w i t h t h e Redeemer h i m s e l f . Witness i s the v i t a l
i n i t i a l stage b e f o r e t h e b e l i e v e r encounters the 56^a of Jesus, This
i s e x a c t l y what happens i n the case of the Samaritan Woman's
m i s s i o n a r y endeavour: she t e l l s the v i l l a g e r s about her encounter w i t h
Jesus and causes them t o go out and see f o r themselves. The people
then no l o n g e r b e l i e v e s i m p l y on the b a s i s of the word of witness from
the d i s c i p l e , but because they themselves have heard (axr)K6afiEv) and
know (oYSajiev), Bultmann remarks: " j u s t as the B a p t i s t ' s m i s s i o n was
n o t h i n g of I t s e l f , i t s o n l y purpose being t o bear w i t n e s s t o Jesus
(3:22-30), so t o o t h e w i t n e s s of Jesus' messengers i s n o t h i n g of
i t s e l f , but f i n d s meaning o n l y I n hlm"^'.

That t h e r e i s no qualitative difference between the w i t n e s s of

the woman and t h a t of men i n the F o u r t h Gospel can be seen through a

brief comparison of t h e B a p t i s t ' s w i t n e s s , P h i l i p ' s w i t n e s s and that

of the woman h e r s e l f .

John t h e B a p t i s t Samaritan Woman

1:7-8 Came t o bear w i t n e s s t h a t


a l l might b e l i e v e

1:32-34 Receives r e v e l a t i o n and 4:26 Receives r e v e l a t i o n


w i t n e s s e s t o what he has 4:29(39) witnesses t o what she
seen and heard has seen and heard

(1:39) '^pxeffOe x a i 'oyeaee (Jesus) 4:39 Seuxe 'iSexe

1:42 Simon i s l e d t o Jesus as 4:39 Many people b e l i e v e


a r e s u l t of w i t n e s s as a r e s u l t of witness.

1:36 D i s c i p l e s of John are l e d 4:40 V i l l a g e r s are l e d t o


to Jesus through w i t n e s s Jesus through witness.

1:37 They f o l l o w Jesus 4:41 More b e l i e v e

1:41 They confess him as Messiah 4:42 They confess him as


Saviour of the World
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3:30 "He must i n c r e a s e , I must 4:42 Basis o f b e l i e f a l t e r s


decrease" (John B a p t i s t ) from t h e woman's word
t o t h e encounter w i t h
Jesus.

Philip Samaritan Woman

1:43 Jesus c a l l s Philip 4:7-26 Jesus c a l l s the woman

1:45 P h i l i p seeks o u t Nathanael 4:28 Woman seeks out t h e


townspeople.

1:46 Nathanael doubts Philip 4:39 [In contrast! Many


b e l i e v e her.

1:46 P h i l i p c a l l s Nathanael t o 4:29 Woman c a l l s t h e towns-


'come and see' people t o 'come and
see'

1;47-48 Leads t o an encounter 4:40-41 Leads t o an encounter


w i t h Jesus w i t h Jesus

1:49 Nathanael believes 4:41 More people b e l i e v e

1:49 Confession o f f a i t h 4:42 Confession o f f a i t h

The d i a l o g u e between Jesus and t h e d i s c i p l e s i n 4:31-38 f u r n i s h e s

us with an explanation of t h e task which t h e woman i s busy

undertaking. I t i s significant that t h e verb xoitiSv i s used t o

d e s c r i b e t h i s task, s i n c e by t h e end o f t h e f i r s t c e n t u r y t h i s was a

well-established technical t e r m f o r t h e work o f C h r i s t i a n mission'*.

Paul uses i t f r e q u e n t l y (19 times) t o d e s c r i b e both h i s own work and

that of others, j u d g i n g i t "worthy o f t h e h i g h e s t e s t e e m " " i n I Cor

16:16 and I Th 5:12. F i o r e n z a i s thus J u s t i f i e d i n her assessment o f

the Samaritan Woman's work: "since t h e term i s used here in a

technical missionary sense, t h e woman i s characterized as t h e

r e p r e s e n t a t i v e o f t h e Samaritan m i s s i o n " " .


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Thus t h e woman's w i t n e s s , d e s p i t e being superseded by the


encounter of the v i l l a g e r s w i t h Jesus, i s e x a c t l y what i s expected o f
a d i s c i p l e i n t h e Johannine s c h o o l . I n no sense i s t h e r e any
i m p l i c a t i o n o f her w i t n e s s b e i n g secondary or i n f e r i o r : r a t h e r i t i s
p a r a l l e l t o t h e task undertaken by t h e maidservant of Sophia i n Prov
9:3. She goes out t o i n v i t e o t h e r s i n , a t which p o i n t they too may
l e a r n f r o m Sophia t h e t r e a s u r e she has t o o f f e r . Indeed, t h e o f f e r i s
of something t o d r i n k and o f l i f e ( c f . Prov 9:5-6)! The d i s c i p l e of
Jesus Sophia i s t h u s seen here a t her d a i l y work.

That t h e v i l l a g e r s have encountered Sophia i n c a r n a t e i n Jesus I s

reflected i n the t i t l e by which they confess him i n t h e i r encounter

f o l l o w i n g t h e woman's w i t n e s s : o awxi^p xoO xbafiou (4:42). Foerster i s

able to state quite categorically that "there i s no evidence that

'Redeemer' or 'Saviour' was a current Messianic title i n the New

Testament period"", an assessment which f i n d s more or l e s s unanimous

accord amongst commentators. T h i s leaves us w i t h t h e problem of where

the title comes from, s i n c e i t i s n e i t h e r suggested by the Samaritan

Woman h e r s e l f (4:29), nor by Jesus' own r e v e l a t i o n of h i s Messlahshlp

(4:26). Brown suggests t h a t we should "seek t h e meaning of the term

in the Greek world where I t was applied to gods, emperors and

heroes"so, but t h i s seems an unnecessary leap f r o m the world of Jewish

Sophia speculation which we have seen d o m i n a t i n g the c h r l s t o l o g l c a l

thought o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel. The i d e a of a 'Saviour of the World' i s

a l r e a d y c o n t a i n e d i n Jn 3: 17, where t h e m o t i f of the sending of t h e

Son i n t o t h e w o r l d i s d i r e c t l y connected w i t h t h e purpose: \va amSq 6

x6ap,oq 5 t ' auxoO, We have noted i n our p r e v i o u s chapter how this

sending m o t i f is itself a f e a t u r e of Sophia's r o l e i n Jewish Wisdom


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speculatlon*», and we may f i n d f u r t h e r evidence o f her i n f l u e n c e i n


the sphere o f ' s a l v a t i o n ' i n t h e c h r o n i c l e s of Sophia i n Wlsd 1 0 - 1 1 .

The introduction t o t h e account o f Sophia's s a v i n g a c t s i n Wlsd

10-11 occurs i n 9 : 1 8 w i t h t h e words: xai oo<p{a ia6Qr]Qa'^. There

then follows t h e famous r e i n t e r p r e t a t l o n o f I s r a e l ' s h i s t o r y as t h e

history o f t h e manner I n which Sophia has preserved her people. A

number o f v e r b s a r e used by t h e LXX w r i t e r t o describe t h i s action,

i n c l u d i n g cr(iC<>> ( 1 0 : 4 ) * ^ , but t h e r e can be l i t t l e argument that their

meaning p o i n t s t o Sophia as t h e ' s a v i o u r ' o f I s r a e l . This i s a r o l e

n o r m a l l y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h e God o f I s r a e l , p a r t i c u l a r l y i n t e x t s such

as I s 4 3 : 3 * 5 , gnd indeed t h e t i t l e CT^TT^P I S used o n l y d i r e c t l y with

r e f e r e n c e t o God even i n t h e Book o f Wisdom ( 1 6 : 7 ) . However, s i n c e

the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t has made such a c l e a r e f f o r t t o p o r t r a y Jesus as

Sophia incarnate, and i s a l s o willing to identify this same Jesus

Sophia as o x6px6q |iou x a t o dsdq ^ov ( 2 0 : 2 8 ) , t h i s need not be an

o b s t a c l e t o our i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f the 'saviour' o f Jn 4 : 4 2 w i t h t h e

g r e a t Saviour Sophia o f Wlsd 1 0 - 1 1 . Just as t h e s a v i n g r o l e o f Sophia

and God r u n s i n t o one i n t h e Book o f Wisdom, so t o o does t h a t of Jesus

Sophia and God i n t h e Gospel o f John.

Thus we f i n d that i n 4:39-42 t h e maidservant of Jesus Sophia

fulfils her task of discipleshlp by b r i n g i n g her 'harvest' t o an

encounter o f f a i t h i n t h e s a v i n g presence o f Jesus, Sophia I n c a r n a t e .

4.2.2.4 T H E W M A H AND T H E MA9HTAI

Before l e a v i n g t h i s s t o r y we should n o t e a g a i n t h e c o n t r a s t

between t h e prominent r o l e p l a y e d by t h e woman and t h e background p a r t

of the pioceiiTai. The F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t c l e a r l y deemed t h e i r reaction


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t o Jesus' a c t i o n i n t a l k i n g t o a woman s i g n i f i c a n t enough t o mention


(4:27). T h e i r astonishment i s n o t brought about by t h e f a c t t h a t he
i s i n c o n v e r s a t i o n w i t h a Samaritan, but w i t h a woman. The comment o f
verse 9 might have l e d us t o expect o t h e r w i s e ! However, d e s p i t e t h e i r
s u r p r i s e , t h e \iaB^xai say n o t h i n g , and Jesus a l s o remains s i l e n t on
the issue. T h i s c o n t r a s t s w i t h h i s apparent a b i l i t y , shown i n other
p a r t s o f t h e s t o r y , t o 'know' what people a r e t h i n k i n g (4:17,34).
Here again we may see t h e i n f l u e n c e o f Sophia t r a d i t i o n on t h e s t o r y :
s i n c e Jesus Sophia I s t h e embodiment o f Sophia, who sends out her
maidservants t o do her work, t h e r e i s no need t o J u s t i f y such a c t i o n
t o a group o f male d i s c i p l e s , who as y e t have n o t expressed any r e a l
understanding o r f a i t h o t h e r than t h a t based on 'signs' (2:11).
D e s p i t e t h e i r own i n - b u i l t p r e j u d i c e s , t h e fiadr]xai o f Jesus Sophia
must come t o r e a l i s e t h a t he goes beyond human b i a s and l e g a l
I n s t i t u t i o n t o break down t h e b a r r i e r s o f d i v i s i o n . They a r e about t o
be a p a r t y t o r e a p i n g a h a r v e s t f o r which they have c e r t a i n l y not done
any work, so they a r e I n no p o s i t i o n t o demand an e x p l a n a t i o n o f
Jesus' a c t i o n !

We may, w i t h some J u s t i f i c a t i o n , speculate that the surprise o f

4:27 m i r r o r s t h e r e a c t i o n o f some w i t h i n (and w i t h o u t ) t h e Johannlne

community, who doubted the s u i t a b i l i t y o f women f o r the r o l e of

leadership, witness or teaching i n t h e C h r i s t i a n community. They

would be c o n f r o n t e d here w i t h t h e simple fact t h a t Jesus Sophia saw

neither a need to Justify this, nor a reason t o stop it: on t h e

contrary, he b o t h encouraged and accepted i t without question or

comment.
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4.3 J E S U S S O P H I A AND T H E WOMEN A T BETHANY (11:1-44; 12:1-8)

The account o f Jesus' relationship with t h e two s i s t e r s o f

Bethany, Martha and Mary, d i v i d e s i n t o two d i s t i n c t stories, i n each

of which one woman plays a major role and the other a minor,

background part. These two women, along with Mary o f Magdala and

Jesus' mother, are characters known t o us a l s o from t h e Synoptic

tradition (Lk 10:38-42), which has raised the question of the

relationship between the d i f f e r e n t traditions'*. While some have

noted similarities between the portrayal of t h e women i n both

Gospels*5, t h e r e remain a number o f i m p o r t a n t s t u m b l i n g - b l o c k s t o any

theory of direct dependence, not least the fact that Luke knows

nothing o f a b r o t h e r , Lazarus, nor o f h i s remarkable excursion into

the r e a l m o f t h e dead**! I f t h e r e has been any borrowing o f m a t e r i a l

by t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t f r o m Luke i n r e l a t i o n t o these women, i t has

been so m a s t e r f u l l y retouched and couched i n Johannlne language,

thought and symbolism, as t o be almost irretrievable. I n terms o f

t h i s p r e s e n t study, we a r e best t o consider t h e s t o r i e s on t h e b a s i s

of t h e i r appearance as Johannine accounts, r a t h e r than a t t e m p t i n g any

comparison w i t h p o s s i b l e Synoptic parallels.

These two s t o r i e s mark t h e climax o f Jesus' ministry ' i n the

w o r l d ' , t h e former b e i n g t h e c u l m i n a t i o n o f t h e " s i g n s ' (11:1-44), and

the l a t t e r a p r e c u r s o r o f t h e coming hour o f g l o r i f i c a t i o n through t h e

death o f Jesus on t h e c r o s s (12:1-8). I t i s o b v i o u s l y noteworthy that

a t such a c r u c i a l stage i n t h e u n f o l d i n g drama o f t h e F o u r t h Gospel,

we a g a i n find women i n a prominent role. We s h a l l c o n s i d e r t h e two


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s t o r i e s s e p a r a t e l y b e f o r e drawing some o v e r a l l c o n c l u s i o n s r e l a t e d t o
both,

4.3.1 MARTHA A T T H E TOMB O F L A Z A R U S (11:1-44)

The story of theresuscitation o f Lazarus i s undoubtedly t h e

most p r o b l e m a t i c account I n t h e e n t i r e Gospel t r a d i t i o n i n terms o f

historicity and sources*^. On the other hand. I t s theological/

christological purpose i s quite clear, as Schnackenburg indicates:

"together with t h e h e a l i n g o f t h e man born blind, the raising o f

Lazarus expresses the central Christological idea of the f o u r t h

gospel, that Jesus i s t h e l i g h t and l i f e of t h e world (cf.l:4)"»8.

While this i s an a c c u r a t e assessment o f t h e present form of the

narrative, i t r e f l e c t s a tremendous s w i t c h i n emphasis from what must

have been t h e o r i g i n a l miracle story*'. There t h e r e s u s c i t a t i o n o f

Lazarus was t h e c e n t r a l element o f t h e account, b u t i n i t s present

Johannlne re-formulation, t h e m i r a c l e has become almost Incidental,

the emphasis l y i n g much more on t h e d i a l o g u e between Jesus and Martha,

c u l m i n a t i n g i n h i s r e v e l a t i o n o f h i m s e l f as t h e g i v e r o f l i f e and h e r

c o n f e s s i o n o f h i m as t h e Son o f God.

The story bears comparison w i t h t h a t o f t h e Samaritan Woman i n

terms o f i t s s t r u c t u r e . Both s t o r i e s have an i n t r o d u c t i o n f o l l o w e d by

an extended t h e o l o g i c a l d i s c u s s i o n between Jesus and a woman r e a c h i n g

a climactic point of revelation. There then f o l l o w s a b r i e f interlude

(Jesus and t h e \iaQr\zai I n 4:31-38; Jesus, Mary and t h e mourners i n

11:28-38), b e f o r e t h e woman reappears and t h e s t o r y i s played o u t t o

its c o n c l u s i o n i n another encounter w i t h Jesus. L i k e John 4:31-38, i n

chapter 11 we have a d i a l o g u e between Jesus and t h e \iaBi\xai (11:6-16),


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whlch shows t h e i r l a c k o f u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f both Jesus' message and h i s


intention. We s h a l l a l s o see, as we t u r n t o Martha's r o l e , how she
too becomes a model f o r t h e Johannlne community.

4.3.1.1 HftRTHA'S ROLE

The opening verses o f t h e chapter g i v e us an i n t r o d u c t i o n t o

the main c h a r a c t e r s Involved i n the story. I t i s significant that

within this introduction there i s an i n s i s t e n c e on Jesus' affection

f o r these f o l k , n o t l e a s t i n verse 5: ^y&na 6t o iT^CToCSq xf\v Mdtp9av x a t

Ttjv b(6eX<pt^v aoxf[q x a t T 6 V AiiCapov. Some have suggested that this

emphasis was made s i m p l y t o make t h e reader aware t h a t Jesus was n o t

being callous i n delaying visiting and d e a l i n g w i t h t h e problems o f

close friends: he a c t u a l l y d i d l o v e them d e s p i t e h i s a c t i o n ' " . This

does n o t , however, do J u s t i c e t o t h e Johannlne use o f t h e verb ayan&oi,

which elsewhere i s used t o d e s c r i b e t h e I n t i m a c y o f r e l a t i o n s h i p which

Jesus shows with his disciples". The prominence of t h i s usage

prompts W i t h e r l n g t o n t o comment:

I n t h e l i g h t o f t h e t h e o l o g i c a l s i g n i f i c a n c e o f such
language elsewhere i n John and i t s use t o d e s c r i b e t h e
r e l a t i o n s h i p between Jesus and H i s d i s c i p l e s , i t seems
the E v a n g e l i s t i s implying that these women and
Lazarus were d i s c i p l e s o f Jesus; and t h a t t h e r e were
women prominent among t h e d i s c i p l e s even d u r i n g Jesus'
earthly ministry'

While we would agree i n p r i n c i p l e w i t h t h i s conclusion, we would see

the r e l a t i o n s h i p as more c l e a r l y d e f i n e d through t h e f i g u r e of Jesus

Sophia. The Wisdom w r i t e r s f r e q u e n t l y speak c f Sophia's l o v e f o r her

disciples, as w e l l as o f t h e l o v e which God has f o r both Sophia and

those who l o v e her:


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Prov 8:17 - eyih Tor3q efie (ptXoOvxeq ayanas ( c f 8:21)


Wisd 7:28 - ou96v Y<^P ayom& o eedq ex xdv oo<fiq auvoixoOvxa
Sir 4: 14 - x a i xoOq ayomSiyxoc, auxt\v ayan& 6 xiJpioq

Indeed, S i r 4: 12 makes a d i r e c t c o n n e c t i o n between those who love

Sophia and those who l o v e l i f e : o ayan&v auxi^v otYotna C ^ " ^ - I n the

g r e a t hymn o f Sophia i n S i r 24 she i s a l s o s a i d t o d w e l l among those

(in t h e c i t y ) who a r e beloved ( S i r 24:11). Once again, i n t h i s use o f

ayandui) t o d e s c r i b e t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p o f God t o Sophia and the D i s c i p l e ,

we may see t h e touch o f Sophia's i n f l u e n c e upon t h e f i g u r e of Jesus i n

the F o u r t h Gospel and on h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p s w i t h h i s d i s c i p l e s .

4.3.1.1.1 THE R E C I P I E H T OF REVELATIOM (11:25)

For t h e second time i n t h e Gospel o f John, we f i n d w i t h i n

this account, that Jesus makes a s i g n i f i c a n t r e v e l a t i o n about h i s

divine nature i n the context of a conversation with a woman. The

c o n t e n t and background o f t h e s a y i n g , ey<i) exp.i. r\ avAcrxaatq nai r\ Cui^,

has a l r e a d y been discussed'*, and we noted t h a t t h e emphasis l i e s on

the gift of life, initially the province o f Yahweh i n Israel's

tradition, then a t t r i b u t e d t o Sophia, and now f i n a l l y t o Jesus Sophia.

The r e v e l a t i o n o f t h i s I m p o r t a n t f a c e t o f Jesus Sophia's n a t u r e comes

in response to Martha's expression of her understanding of

resurrection (11:24): of 5a o x t avaoxi^aexax ev x^ avaaxdaex ev xfj

eax^xij r\}itp(f. In this she appears t o be p r e s e n t i n g a form o f one

particular Jewish theology of the resurrection, possibly that of

Pharisaic groups'though i t may also be addressing the

eschatologlcal viewpoint of the Christians t o whom John's Gospel i s

written'^. As i n t h e case o f t h e Samaritan Woman, .so a l s o w i t h Martha

we f i n d t h a t women a r e accepted as worthy p a r t i c i p a n t s I n t h e o l o g i c a l


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d l s c u s s l o n , and a r e s u f f i c i e n t l y w e l l - v e r s e d i n i t t o be able t o
present a r e p r e s e n t a t i v e viewpoint'*.

The Initial J u d a e o - C h r l s t l a n c o n f e s s i o n o f 11:24 f a l l s s h o r t o f

the r e a l i z e d e s c h a t o l o g i c a l expectation of the Fourth Evangelist, that

"the gift of l i f e which conquers death i s a present r e a l i t y i n Jesus

Christ"'". However inadequate i t may be, i t i s n o t openly r e j e c t e d by

Jesus, b u t r a t h e r opens up an o p p o r t u n i t y f o r a r e v e l a t i o n o f t h e t r u e

life-giving power o f Sophia I n c a r n a t e . I t seems as though Sophia i s

t u t o r i n g her d i s c i p l e , r e c a l l i n g some o f the P r o v e r b i a l and S a p i e n t i a l

sayings about those seeking Sophia finding life (Prov 3:16; 8:35;

9:11; Wisd 8:13). That Jesus' statement i s Intended both as

revelation o f h i s n a t u r e and as t e a c h i n g i s c o n f i r m e d by the use o f

eyii e\\i\., and by t h e f o l l o w i n g q u e s t i o n addressed t o Martha t o ensure

her u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f what has been s a i d : niaxeOeiq xoOxo;. I t i s that

q u e s t i o n which leads on t o t h e most remarkable p i e c e o f Johannine r e -

interpretation of Christian tradition y e t encountered - Martha's

c o n f e s s i o n o f f a i t h i n Jesus (11:27).

4.3.1.1.2 MARTHA'S C O N F E S S I O N OF FAITH

In the discussion of the r o l e o f women i n t h e Fourth

Gospel, t h e r e can h a r d l y be a s i n g l e verse which i s more s i g n i f i c a n t

than Jn 11:27. I n t h e words a t t r i b u t e d t o Martha a t t h i s p o i n t we

perceive a movement from the i n i t i a l Judaeo-Christlan confession of

11:24 t o a statement o f the c o n f e s s i o n o f t h e e a r l y Church i n general

and t h e Johannine community i n p a r t i c u l a r . Culpepper assesses i t i n

the f o l l o w i n g manner:

Martha moves f r o m t h e a f f i r m a t i o n of t r a d i t i o n a l
e s c h a t o l o g i c a l e x p e c t a t i o n s ('the l a s t day') t o t h e
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c l i m a c t l c c o n f e s s i o n , which i s echoed i n 20:30-31.


T h i s i s t h e c o n f e s s i o n which i n o t h e r t r a d i t i o n s was
made by Peter. Here i t i s made by a female d i s c i p l e
and t i e d s e c u r e l y t o t h e Johannine a f f i r m a t i o n o f
Jesus as t h e r e s u r r e c t i o n and t h e l i f e (11:25)'*.

L i k e Jesus' Mother at the feast i n Cana, Martha, i n her confession,

a l s o demonstrates t h e Johannlne p r i n c i p l e o f t r u e f a i t h , i n that I t

anticipates the sign rather than f o l l o w i n g i t . I t I s a response t o

the vord o f Jesus Sophia r a t h e r than t o t h e sl^. Bultmann i s c o r r e c t

in d i s m i s s i n g those exegetes who c l a i m t h a t Martha has f a i l e d p r o p e r l y

to understand Jesus, acknowledging I n s t e a d that she recognises t h a t

"in Jesus t h e e s c h a t o l o g l c a l I n v a s i o n o f God i n t o t h e w o r l d has come

to pass"". I n t h e moment o f c o n f e s s i o n , Martha t r u l y becomes " t h e

model f o r f u l l C h r i s t i a n c o n f e s s i o n " * »<>. We s h a l l see t h i s c l e a r l y as

we examine t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p o f her c o n f e s s i o n both t o t h a t o f Peter a t

Caesarea P h i l l p p l and t o t h a t o f t h e Johannine community, as r e f l e c t e d

In t h e summary statement o f purpose i n Jn 20:30-31.

4.3.1.1.2.1 MARTHA AND PETER

Even t h e most s u p e r f i c i a l r e a d i n g o f t h e Gospels will

reveal that Martha's confession i n Jn 11:27 bears a striking

similarity t o that normally attributed t o Peter i n the Synoptic

tradition. A comparison o f t h e r e l e v a n t t e x t s c o n f i r m s t h i s t o be t h e

case:

Mt 16: 16 aO e t o y^pxoxtc, o ux6q xoO eeoO xoiJ ^flvxoq


Mk 8:29 at> o xpxoxbc,
Lk 9:20 . . .xdv XP'^'^'^^^ "^^^ ^to^
Jn 11:27 aii tX o Ypxaztc, o ux6q xoO GeoO o exq x6v x6a^ov Epx6fievoq
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I t i s n o t i c e a b l e t h a t t h e P e t r i n e i n c i d e n t a s s o c i a t e d w i t h Caesarea
P h i l i p p i i s absent i n t h e Johannine t r a d i t i o n , thus a l l o w i n g us t o see
Martha's v e r s i o n as a replacement. Indeed, t h e o n l y confession which
i s a t t r i b u t e d t o Peter by t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t (6:68-69) n e i t h e r
c l e a r l y p a r a l l e l s t h a t o f Mt 16:16 a t Caesarea P h i l i p p i c <>», nor
expresses t h e Johannine community's recognised c o n f e s s i o n of f a i t h
(20:31). T h i s leads Fiorenza t o remark t h a t Martha's statement

i s a c h r l s t o l o g i c a l c o n f e s s i o n i n t h e f u l l e r Johannlne
messianic sense. . . . Thus Martha r e p r e s e n t s t h e
f u l l a p o s t o l i c f a i t h o f t h e Johannine community. Just
as Peter d i d f o r t h e Matthean community"*"*.

It i s u n l i k e l y t h a t t h e r e i s any r e a l attempt on t h e p a r t o f t h e

a u t h o r o f John t o d e n i g r a t e Peter through t h i s s u b s t i t u t i o n * < " . The

Fourth Evangelist i s neither interested in t h e prominence of

individuals, nor I n a h i e r a r c h y o f o f f i c e s , but rather i n " d i s c i p l e s

i n t h e i r common r e s p o n s i b i l i t y o f mutual l o v e and mission"***. Martha

i s n o t t o be accorded a s p e c i a l place o f prominence i n t h e community

on account o f her c o n f e s s i o n any more than Peter should be, but she i s

r e p r e s e n t a t i v e o f t h e c o n f e s s i n g b e l i e v e r w i t h i n t h a t community. That

she i s used as a r e p r e s e n t a t i v e I n t h i s way by t h e Gospel w r i t e r i s

helpful f o r our understanding of the r o l e vrfilch women may have

occupied i n t h e Johannine community, f o r as Schneiders remarks w i t h

reference t o Martha's role: " I t i s difficult t o understand unless

women i n John's community actually d i d function as community

leaders"*The E v a n g e l i s t t h e r e f o r e does n o t have t o e x p l a i n , o r

a p o l o g i s e f o r h e r c o n f e s s i o n , b u t accepts i t as a matter o f f a c t that

a woman, " i n her own r e s p o n s i b i l i t y " * ' * , may r e c e i v e t h e r e v e l a t o r y

t e a c h i n g o f Jesus Sophia, make the a p p r o p r i a t e C h r i s t i a n response, and


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so s t a n d as a symbol o f f a i t h f u l d i s c i p l e s h l p and c o n f e s s i o n f o r the


whole community.

4.3.1.1.2.2 Jn 11:27 = J n 20:31

We have already asserted that Martha's c o n f e s s i o n i s

r e p r e s e n t a t i v e o f t h e f a i t h o f t h e Johannlne community: but how can we

be sure of t h i s ? F o r t u n a t e l y t h e E v a n g e l i s t has provided us w i t h a

c l e a r statement of the i n t e n t i o n behind the w r i t i n g of the Gospel i n

20:30-31. I n doing so, i t i s indicated that t h e purpose i s the

ellcitation of the b e l i e f that Jesus i s the C h r i s t , the Son of God.

When we p l a c e t h i s statement of I n t e n t a l o n g s i d e the words of Martha's

c o n f e s s i o n we can immediately see t h e i r similarity:

Jn 11:27 ati e t o xpi-<^t^d<; o ux6q xoO 9eoO o exq x6v X6CT>JIOV epx6pevoq
Jn 20:31 'ir^aoCq eaxxv o xpi-0"'^6q o ux6q xoO 9eotS

This summary remark of 20:31 goes on t o r e c o r d t h e goal of such a

confession: x a t Vva nxaxetiovxeq C4)J)V ^X^"^^ 6v6piaxx auxoO. Not

only does Martha's c o n f e s s i o n parallel the ' t r u e ' confession of the

Johannine community, b u t i t a l s o leads on t o t h e p r e s c r i b e d goal i n

the d e m o n s t r a t i o n of Jesus as the g i v e r o f l i f e !

We have not come f a r enough, however, i n merely n o t i n g the

linguistic parallel between 11:27 and 20:31. We noted above, that

Martha does n o t respond t o t h e sign which Jesus performs, but t o the

word. Throughout t h e Gospel t h e r e I s a c o n t i n u i n g emphasis on the

fact that t h e atj^e'ia do n o t i n themselves evoke t r u e c o n f e s s i o n or

b e l i e f 0^. I n 2:23-25, following the f i r s t of t h e s i g n s a t Cana,

Jesus does not e n t r u s t himself t o those who b e l i e v e because of the


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slgn. I n 4:48 Jesus rebukes those viho w i l l n o t b e l i e v e w i t h o u t a


sign. On s e e i n g t h e s i g n i n 6: 14-15, t h e people t r y t o make Jesus
t h e i r k i n g , showing complete m i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f what has happened.
I n s t e a d o f t h e r e q u e s t e d s i g n i n 6:30, Jesus o f f e r s words, namely t h e
r e v e l a t i o n o f h i s c h a r a c t e r as t h e Bread o f L i f e . I n 9: 16 the s i g n
causes d i v i s i o n and m i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g , and f i n a l l y i n 11:47, as a
r e s u l t o f t h e s i g n p r e s e n t l y under e x a m i n a t i o n , t h e d e c i s i o n i s made
to k i l l Jesus. By c o n t r a s t , however, i t i s t h e word o f Jesus which
o f f e r s l i f e and t o which t h e b e l i e v e r i s expected t o respond (4:39,42;
6:63; 8:30), W i t h i n t h e c o n t e x t o f t h e Lazarus account Jesus again
makes t h i s p o i n t c l e a r (11:40): I t i s n o t those who see t h e s i g n who
w i l l b e l i e v e , but those who respond i n b e l i e f t o t h e word who w i l l see
and understand t h e s i g n . Indeed, t h i s i s t h e present r e a l i t y f o r the
community t o whom Martha's c o n f e s s i o n i s addressed: Jesus i s no longer
p h y s i c a l l y p r e s e n t t o p e r f o r m s i g n s , but through t h e word b e l i e f i s
p o s s i b l e , t h u s opening t h e way t o t h e r e v e l a t i o n and p e r c e p t i o n o f h i s
glory***. Martha shows us how t h e community understands t h i s f a i t h 4
seeing/understanding process by a n t i c i p a t i n g the sign i n her
r e s p o n s i v e c o n f e s s i o n on t h e b a s i s o f the word.

We must now c o n s i d e r t o what e x t e n t t h e words o f t h e c o n f e s s i o n

itself actually reflect t h e Sophia i n f l u e n c e which we have seen p l a y s

such a major role elsevrfiere. I t I s Important to recall the

observation o f Culpepper, that the confession of 11:27 i s " t i e d

s e c u r e l y t o t h e Johannine a f f i r m a t i o n o f Jesus as t h e r e s u r r e c t i o n and

the life"**'. I n o t h e r words, f o r t h e Johannine community, t h e one

who i s confessed as Son o f God equals t h e one who makes the c l a i m t o

be t h e g i v e r of l i f e . We have a l r e a d y noted t h e connection between


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these concepts i n 20:31, and a t the same time we have c o n s i s t e n t l y


seen t h a t the one v^o g i v e s such l i f e i s none o t h e r than Jesus Sophia.
We may t h e r e f o r e draw the e q u a t i o n - Son of God = Jesus Sophia. This
i s not s u r p r i s i n g when we c o n s i d e r the I n t i m a t e r e l a t i o n s h i p which
e x i s t s i n the Gospel between Jesus and the 'Father'. Placed a l o n g s i d e
the i n t i m a c y of r e l a t i o n s h i p we have a l r e a d y observed between God and
Sophia, we f i n d a s o l i d b a s i s f o r making t h i s equation. There i s a
sense i n which b o t h Jesus and Sophia are s t i l l s u b o r d i n a t e t o God, but
at t h e same t i m e they are both f u l l y I n union w i t h God. So we f i n d
t h a t Sophia can be c a l l e d t h e "Daughter of God"'**, and t r e a t e d almost
as a l o v e r , c e r t a i n l y the "beloved" of God'*'. The Johannlne Son of
God stands i n the same p o s i t i o n b e f o r e God ( t h e ' F a t h e r ' ) , and
c o n f e s s i o n o f him as such (11:27) by a 'maidservant', i s governed by
the p r e v i o u s s e l f - r e v e l a t i o n of h i s c h a r a c t e r as Jesus Sophia, the
g i v e r of l i f e (11:25). I t i s because of the e x i s t i n g model of
Sophia's r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God t h a t the author of the Fourth Gospel
has no problem w i t h t h e i d e a of what l o o k s l i k e ' s u b o r d i n a t i o n ' t o the
'Father' b e i n g placed i n the same c o n t e x t as apparent e q u a l i t y w i t h
God. Schnackenburg comments:

Johannlne C h r i s t o l o g y a l l o w s f o r t h e prayer by Jesus


because the s u b o r d i n a t i o n of the Son t o the Father i s
never denied ( c f 14:28,31), but because the Son l i v e s
c o m p l e t e l y i n u n i o n w i t h t h e Father, whose w i l l he
knows and c a r r i e s o u t , h i s prayer I s always sure of
being heard. I t i s because he i s one w i t h God t h a t he
prays, and because he prays he i s one w i t h God«*2,

However, as we noted previously, the term 'subordination' is an

I n a p p r o p r i a t e one in relation t o what the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t wants t o

say about Jesus Sophia's r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h God. The point i s rather


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one o f continuity I n both a u t h o r i t y and r e v e l a t i o n rather than t h e


s u p e r i o r i t y / I n f e r i o r i t y o f one over t h e o t h e r .

We may now conclude w i t h c e r t a i n t y t h a t Martha's c o n f e s s i o n o f

Jesus as t h e Son o f God i s b o t h f u l l y Johannine i n i t s language and i n

its chrlstological insight. I t i s consistent with the p a t t e r n o f

r e v e l a t i o n o f Jesus as Sophia I n c a r n a t e , and once again a l l o w s a woman

to stand as t h e t r u e r e p r e s e n t a t i v e of "discerning f a i t h " w i t h i n the

C h r i s t i a n community**'.

4.3.1.2 MARY'S R O L E

Mary's role within t h e Lazarus narrative i s almost i n -

significant i n comparison w i t h t h a t o f her s i s t e r . I t nevertheless

merits b r i e f comment. Pollard, who c o r r e c t l y assesses Martha's r o l e

in the story, sees i n Mary t h e contrast t o b e l i e v i n g dlscipleshlp:

"Mary's faith crumbled entirely i n her g r i e f " ' * * . This i s not

altogether f a i r , s i n c e t h e r e i s no d i s c u s s i o n o f her f a i t h , or lack o f

it, i n the t e x t . What was taken as an open-ended statement showing

the c o n f i d e n c e o f her f a i t h i n t h e case o f Martha* *5 - ' I f you had

only been here my b r o t h e r would n o t have d i e d ' (11:21) - i s construed,

for some inexplicable reason, as iacir of faith i n Mary's mouth

(11:32)***! I f Mary's weeping i s a s i g n of lack of f a i t h , then we

must note that, i n t h e words of the shortest verse i n the B i b l e ,

eSdnpuaev o 'lT|aoOq (11:35).

We would contend q u i t e the opposite with regard t o Mary, there

being small pointers even i n 11:32-33 that Mary was a n y t h i n g but

lacking i n f a i t h . Her g r i e f over t h e death o f her b r o t h e r i s hardly a

matter f o r surprise, but i t does n o t prevent her, immediately on


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s e e i n g Jesus, f r o m f a l l i n g a t h i s f e e t i n an a c t o f apparent d e v o t i o n .
T h i s f e a t u r e i s n o t u n l i k e t h e p i c t u r e we have o f her from Lk 10:38-42
(Mapxd^i xax itapaxaSeaeefaa Jtpdq xoi>q Tt65aq xoO xupiou [ L k 10:39])**^,
but perhaps more t e l l i n g s t i l l i s t h e p i c t u r e which f o l l o w s i n Jn
12:1-8 o f Mary a t Jesus' f e e t d e v o t e d l y a n o i n t i n g them and w i p i n g them
w i t h her h a i r . As we t u r n now t o t h a t account we w i l l see how her
r o l e i s a l s o an example o f d i s c i p l e s h i p f o r t h e Johannlne community,
a g a i n c o n s t r u c t e d under t h e i n f l u e n c e o f Sophia c h r i s t o l o g y .

4.3.2 MARY OF BETHANY - THE ANOINTING (12:1-8)

Although we have briefly encountered Mary i n t h e events

s u r r o u n d i n g t h e r e s u s c i t a t i o n o f her b r o t h e r , i t was f o r her p a r t i n

the anointing o f Jesus' feet i n her home a t Bethany that she was

p a r t i c u l a r l y remembered i n t h e Johannine community. This i s c l e a r n o t

only from the f a c t that the story i s recorded I n 12:1-8, b u t a l s o

earlier from 11:2, where she i s i d e n t i f i e d n o t only as t h e s i s t e r o f

Lazarus and Martha, b u t more s p e c i f i c a l l y as t h e one who 'anointed t h e

L o r d w i t h o i n t m e n t and wiped h i s f e e t w i t h her h a i r ' * * * .

This incident i s one o f t h e very few accounts i n the Fourth

Gospel f o r which we have direct Synoptic parallels (Mk 14:3-9; Mt

26:6-13; [ L k 7:36-50?])**', b u t even so i t i s c l e a r t h a t t h e s t o r y has

been c o n s i d e r a b l y i n f l u e n c e d by Johannlne thought i n i t s present form

in t h e Gospel**">. A l t h o u g h Mark and Matthew both s i t e t h e I n c i d e n t a t

Bethany, n e i t h e r names t h e woman i n v o l v e d . I f we examine t h e a c t o f

anointing itself, we f i n d t h a t , d e s p i t e t h e marked d i f f e r e n c e I n the

purpose and s e t t i n g o f t h e s t o r y , there i s at least as much o v e r l a p


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w l t h t h e account o f Lk 7:36-50 as w i t h t h e more s i m i l a r s e t t i n g o f the


o t h e r S y n o p t i c accounts:

Mt 26:6-13 Mk 14:3-9 Lk 7:36-50 Jn 12: 1-8

Location Bethany Bethany Bethany

House of Simon Simon Simon Mary ( e t c . )

Anointed Head Head Feet Feet

Material Expensive Expensive Tears and Expensive


Ointment Ointment Ointment Ointment

Further Wipes away Wipes away


Action tears with ointment
her h a i r with hair

Purpose Preparation Preparation Response t o Preparation


for burial for burial forgiveness for burial

A l l o f t h i s might l e a d us t o t h e c o n c l u s i o n t h a t t h e Fourth E v a n g e l i s t

has simply been involved in a hopeless confusion of sources*2*.

C e r t a i n l y t h e r e a r e some s i g n s t h a t t h e two t r a d i t i o n s might have been

conflated, but t h a t i s hardly a result of confusion, rather of

i n t e n t i o n on t h e p a r t o f t h e author. We a r e n o t Intended t o look so

much a t t h e l i t e r a l d e t a i l o f t h e type or amount o f t h e ointment used

i n t h e account, but r a t h e r "we a r e v i r t u a l l y f o r c e d t o a t t a c h p r i m a r y

significance to i t s symbolism"*, This is a t y p i c a l l y Johannine

approach t o t r a d i t i o n , as we can see from, f o r example, the s t o r y o f

t h e m i r a c u l o u s f e e d i n g i n Jn 6. There, as I n t h e a n o i n t i n g s t o r y , t h e

d e t a i l of the feeding i s not the central point, t h e emphasis b e i n g on

that t o which t h e event p o i n t s , namely Jesus as t h e Bread o f L i f e .

Here i n t h i s p r e s e n t case, as we s h a l l see, t h e a c t o f f o o t w a s h l n g i n

c h a p t e r 13 i s t h e p o i n t t o v*iich t h e a n o i n t i n g i s b e i n g addressed.
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I n t h e c o n t e x t o f our present i n v e s t i g a t i o n i t i s p r e c i s e l y t h i s
symbolism which i s i m p o r t a n t f o r our understanding o f the t e x t . I t
comes a t t h e b e g i n n i n g o f t h e end o f Jesus' p u b l i c m i n i s t r y i n John,
h i s d e p a r t u r e from ' t h e w o r l d ' being imminent*2*. I n content i t i s
both a " p r o p h e t i c a c t i o n " * a n t i c i p a t i n g t h e death and b u r i a l o f
Jesus, and a p r e c u r s o r o f t h e a c t i o n performed by Jesus i n washing t h e
f e e t o f t h e \iaQi\xai (13:1-20). We s h a l l t u r n t o an examination o f
these f e a t u r e s i n an attempt t o d i s c e r n both t h e s i g n i f i c a n c e o f
Mary's a c t i o n f o r our u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f t h e r o l e o f women i n t h e
Johannine community, and t o determine any I n f l u e n c e which Sophia
t r a d i t i o n has brought t o bear upon i t s f o r m a t i o n .

4.3.2.1 MARY'S R O L E

The first problem we have I n d e t e r m i n i n g Mary's r o l e i n the

story o f t h e a n o i n t i n g comes i n understanding t h e purpose t o which

that action I s directed. O s t e n s i b l y i t i s an a c t o f p r e p a r a t i o n f o r

burial (exq xfjv ^pi^pav xoO evxacpxaafioO ^lou - 12:7), but as such i t

appears r a t h e r s t r a n g e . Why should she a n o i n t h i s feet t o t h a t end i n

such a p u b l i c d i s p l a y ? I s t h i s simply an a s s i m i l a t i o n t o the Lukan

n a r r a t i v e w i t h i t s emphasis on d e v o t i o n and penitence, thus suggesting

a similar theme i n t h e F o u r t h Evangelist's mind? I s i t merely an

attempt t o avoid the implication o f t h e Markan/Matthean accounts,

where a s i g n of kingship, t h e a n o i n t i n g o f t h e head, i s given* 2 * ?

C e r t a i n l y t h e r e would have been j u s t i f i c a t i o n f o r a k i n g s h i p a n o i n t i n g

J u s t p r i o r t o t h e E n t r y i n t o Jerusalem ( 1 2 : 1 2 f f ) , but John s h i e s away

from any i d e n t i f i c a t i o n o f Jesus as k i n g (6: 15) even i n t h e e n t r y

narrative i t s e l f (12:14-16).
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The a n o i n t i n g of f e e t was a v i r t u a l l y unknown a c t i o n i n the


Palestinian s e t t i n g * a l t h o u g h the w r i t e r Athanaeus s t a t e s t h a t i t
was an A t h e n i a n custom i n p l a c e s v^ere people " l i v e d l u x u r i o u s l y " * .
Even i f t h i s i s t r u e , i t i s h i g h l y q u e s t i o n a b l e i f John (or Luke)
would have known o f such a t r a d i t i o n , and i t c e r t a i n l y would have been
q u i t e out o f p l a c e i n r u r a l P a l e s t i n e * 2 « • T h i s compels us t o look a t
the a c t i o n i n the l i g h t o f Johannine symbolism. Only a few paragraphs
later (13:1-20) t h e author r e c o u n t s f o r the community t h a t most
d i s t i n c t i v e o f Johannine a c t i o n s o f Jesus s y m b o l i s i n g d i s c i p l e s h i p ,
namely t h e f o o t w a s h l n g . I n t h a t i n c i d e n t Jesus undertakes t o wash the
f e e t o f the }ia.Qr]xai and then wipes them d r y w i t h a towel. There i s an
immediate s i m i l a r i t y between t h i s i n c i d e n t and Mary's a c t i o n i n
a n o i n t i n g Jesus' f e e t , so we must ask whether or not i t was the
a u t h o r ' s intention t o suggest t o the reader t h a t a d i r e c t c o n n e c t i o n
be made between t h e two.

There are two pointers within the a n o i n t i n g story itself which

l e a d us toward an a f f i r m a t i v e answer t o t h i s q u e s t i o n . F i r s t l y , as we

have a l r e a d y noted, John changes the a n o i n t i n g from one of the head t o

one of the feet. This would suggest that i t was particularly

significant f o r the author (and r e a d e r ) t h a t the feet were a n o i n t e d !

It Is difficult t o f i n d any s i g n i f i c a n c e i n t h i s change o t h e r than i n

its proximity t o the f o o t w a s h i n g account, but the matter i s f u r t h e r

c l a r i f i e d by our second p o i n t e r ; she wipes t h e f e e t d r y again w i t h her

hair. T h i s r e a l l y i s an a s t o n i s h i n g a c t i o n on two counts: f i r s t l y , i t

must have been a hideously messy thing to do; secondly, i t

necessitated what could have been seen as a notably 'disgraceful'

piece of behaviour on her part in loosing her hair in public.


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Jeremias comments t h a t " i t was t h e g r e a t e s t d i s g r a c e f o r a woman t o


unbind h e r h a i r i n t h e presence o f men"*2», and quotes a number o f
Rabbinic sources t o support t h i s c l a i m * ^o, J^IQ p i c t u r e o f Mary as a
v i r t u o u s , b e l i e v i n g member o f t h e household i n which Lazarus had been
r a i s e d f r o m t h e dead, n o t t o mention t h e devoted Mary o f Luke's
account, may be t a i n t e d by t h e i m p r o p r i e t y o f such an a c t i o n . This
s t r a n g e t u r n o f events f o r c e s us t o consider t h e motive behind t h i s
p r e s e n t a t i o n o f Mary i n t h e mind o f the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t .

The a c t o f f o o t w a s h i n g was n o r m a l l y performed by a servant of t h e

household as a sign o f welcome and h o s p i t a l i t y , o r by guests

themselves u s i n g water p r o v i d e d by the h o s t ' " . I t would appear t h a t ,

i n Jewish circles, t h e s e r v a n t c o u l d n o t be f o r c e d t o wash f e e t , b u t

o f t e n d i d so as an a c t o f d e v o t i o n o r l o y a l t y towards the m a s t e r " 2 .

I n t h e f o o t - w a s h i n g scene i n John 13 t h e r e a r e a number o f breaks w i t h

t h e t r a d i t i o n a l form o f footwashing: ( i ) Jesus performs the act during

t h e meal and n o t immediately on a r r i v a l . < i i ) As Brown puts it,

"Jesus humiliates himself and takes on t h e form of a servant"»s3

(iii) I t was s p e c i f i c a l l y cited as an example t o be f o l l o w e d by

others i n the future (13:14-15), the sign par excellence o f t h e

exercise of true discipleship (13:12-17). Now when we compare these

details with t h e a c t i o n o f Mary i n 12:1-6, we d i s c o v e r a remarkable

similarity between t h e two: ( i > Her a c t i o n takes p l a c e during t h e

meal as Jesus i s r e c l i n i n g as t h e guest o f honour a t t a b l e . ( i i ) She

potentially h u m i l i a t e s h e r s e l f by l o o s i n g h e r h a i r i n a manner which

c o u l d have been a s s o c i a t e d w i t h women o f 'easy v i r t u e ' , i n order t o

complete t h e task normally associated with a servant. ( i i i )

Following the spurious o b j e c t i o n s of Judas Iscariot (one o f t h e


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^iaBr]xai [ ! ] ) , Jesus i m p l i c i t l y recommends her a c t i o n by the double-


s i d e d s a y i n g o f 12:8, vrfiich we may paraphrase: "You won't have me w i t h
you much l o n g e r , so I t i s good t o take t h i s o p p o r t u n i t y ; but a t t h e
same time, you w i l l have p l e n t y o f o p p o r t u n i t y i n t h e f u t u r e t o serve
the poor who a r e always w i t h you". When considered i n t h i s way, t h e
p a r a l l e l between Mary's a c t i o n and t h a t o f Jesus towards t h e \i.aQr\iai
i n 13:1-20 i s unmistakable.

Perhaps t h e most i m p o r t a n t p o i n t t o emerge from t h i s comparison

for our p r e s e n t consideration, i s the reminder t h a t t h e emphasis I n

John 13: 1-20 lies upon the exercise o f true discipleship. I t is

significant t h a t t h e Johannine Jesus has t o p o i n t o u t t h e path of t r u e

discipleship - preparedness f o r h u m i l a t i o n and servanthood - t o t h e

^iaQr]xai, and indeed has t o argue w i t h t h e a r c h e t y p a l fio(9r)ty)q, Peter,

before they a r e able t o grasp i t s s i g n i f i c a n c e . Mary, by contrast,

already knows t h e way t o show her d e v o t i o n and l o y a l t y t o Jesus

Sophia, and does so i n an u n s o l i c i t e d a c t which presages Jesus' own

action. Her a n o i n t i n g o f Jesus' feet I s thus evocative of true

disclpleshtp i n t h r e e ways. Firstly, i t shows a knowledge o f what

needs t o be done w i t h o u t first having t o 'see' i t done by Jesus.

Secondly, i t accepts t h e p o t e n t i a l f o r h u m i l i a t i o n as p a r t and p a r c e l

of the exercise of l o y a l t y and d e v o t i o n t o Jesus Sophia. Thirdly, i t

takes on t h e r o l e o f servanthood i n t h e e x e c u t i o n o f t h e task. We

must, therefore, agree with Schneiders' conclusion, that i n the

anointing scene "we have a p r e s e n t a t i o n o f Mary as a d i s c i p l e o f Jesus

i n t h e strict sense of t h e word"*^*.


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4.3.2.2 MARTHA'S ROLE [12:2]

A l t h o u g h Mary c l e a r l y has t h e major r o l e i n 12:1-8, she i s

n o t t h e o n l y woman t o serve as an example o f t r u e d i s c i p l e s h i p f o r t h e

community. I n our urgency t o deal w i t h t h e main body o f t h e account,

we should t a k e care n o t t o pass over t h e s h o r t phrase i n 12:2 - \ai r\

MfipSa 5tT)x6vex. The immediate impression here i s that she i s

maintaining the classic 'feminine role' of waiting on t h e men a t

table, b u t t o leave our u n d e r s t a n d i n g on t h i s l e v e l would be t o miss

c o m p l e t e l y t h e p o i n t which we b e l i e v e t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t i s making

here.

By t h e end o f t h e f i r s t c e n t u r y t h e words SxaxovfecD, h\axov\a and

Sidxovoi; had come t o take on special meaning f o r the C h r i s t i a n

community, b e i n g a s s o c i a t e d w i t h p a r t i c u l a r o f f i c e s o f m i n i s t r y w i t h i n

the Church*3s. i n Paul's writing we f i n d r e f e r e n c e t o Sxdxovoi i n

both t h e Churches at Philippi and Rome»3'. The book of Acts

recognises the necessity of s e t t i n g aside c e r t a i n people w i t h i n the

Christian community f o r t h e task o f S i a x o v t a * ' ^ , and by the time o f

the w r i t i n g of the Pastoral E p i s t l e s , t h e r e appears t o be a d i s t i n c t

o f f i c e e s t a b l i s h e d under t h e t i t l e Sidtxovoq'^», Thus, by t h e time t h e

Fourth Evangelist compiled t h e Gospel, there was an e s t a b l i s h e d

c o n t e x t f o r t h e use o f t h e term.

The verb 5taicov6<o appears o n l y three times i n John's Gospel, a i J

of these being i n chapter 12 [12:2,26(x2)]. I t i s generally

acknowledged that t h e Johannine community was n o t concerned with

ecclesiastical offices, b u t a t t h e same time, t h e author o f the Gospel

c o u l d h a r d l y have been unaware o f t h e I m p l i c a t i o n s o f u s i n g the verb


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6iaxov6co. We must, t h e r e f o r e , examine how John understands the word


and c l a r i f y i t s meaning i n t h e mouth o f Jesus Sophia. Here 12:26
g i v e s us an i m p o r t a n t i n s i g h t : t h e one who 'serves' Jesus, 'serves'
God* 3', and w i l l be rewarded by s h a r i n g I n t h e 56^a o f Jesus*
Brown comments t h a t t h e S y n o p t i c s do n o t speak o f t h e d i s c i p l e s as
' s e r v i n g ' Jesus, b u t o f t h e women d o i n g so (Mk 15:41; Lk 10:40)**', so
once a g a i n we may have an example o f t h e way i n which t h e Fourth
E v a n g e l i s t adapts t r a d i t i o n t o show a d i f f e r e n t p e r s p e c t i v e on t h e
r o l e o f women i n t h e community. I f i t i s t h e servant who t r u l y
f o l l o w s , i . e . who i s t h e t r u e d i s c i p l e , then Martha has a l r e a d y shown
t h a t q u a l i t y , again i n advance o f any i n s t r u c t i o n t o do so.

In answer t o those vdio might dismiss this I n t e r p r e t a t i o n as an

over-emphasis o f a s m a l l detail we must a l s o s t r e s s t h e f o l l o w i n g

points. Firstly, s i n c e t h e Johannine account i s c l e a r l y p a r a l l e l t o

t h e anonymous Synoptic a n o i n t e r s , t h e r e was no need f o r t h e E v a n g e l i s t

t o mention Martha a t a l l * * ^ . Secondly, t h e p i c t u r e g i v e n i n John 11-

12 o f t h e household o f Mary, Martha and Lazarus suggests i t was a

reasonably prosperous Jewish home. There was, t h e r e f o r e , no need f o r

Martha t o have been s e r v i n g a t t a b l e , t h i s being t h e duty o f a servant

in t h e household r a t h e r than o f t h e householder herself, Indeed,

W i t h e r i n g t o n notes t h a t " i n a Jewish c o n t e x t , women were not allowed

to serve a t meals i f men were i n attendance, unless t h e r e were no

servants t o perform the task"**'. T h i r d l y , s i n c e t h e whole a n o i n t i n g

s t o r y I s , as we have suggested, an a n t i c i p a t o r y example o f t h e task o f

t r u e d i s c i p l e s h i p r e v e a l e d I n t h e word and a c t i o n o f Jesus Sophia, i t

would h a r d l y be s u r p r i s i n g t o f i n d a s i m i l a r sequence i n t h e case o f

Martha's S i a x o v t a , e s p e c i a l l y g i v e n i t s c l o s e p r o x i m i t y t o 12:26.
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Thus, I n Martha's b r i e f appearance i n 12:2 we see another example


of t h e i n v o l v e m e n t o f women as t h e t r u e symbols f o r C h r i s t i a n
d i s c i p l e s h i p i n t h e Johannine community. We would submit t h a t i t i s
at l e a s t p o s s i b l e t h a t t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t has consciously chosen t o
use t h e v e r b Sxaxov^© as a means o f both r e i n t e r p r e t i n g e s t a b l i s h e d
C h r i s t i a n t r a d i t i o n and p r o m o t i n g women i n t h e r o l e o f exemplary t r u e
disciples.

4.3.2.3 SOPHIA INFmEHCE ON THE MARTHA/MARY ACCOUNTS

We have a l r e a d y noted i n t h e course o f our examination o f t h e

stories i n c h a p t e r s 11 and 12, t h a t Sophia t r a d i t i o n has i n f l u e n c e d

the development o f t h e Johannine accounts a t s e v e r a l p o i n t s , not l e a s t

in t h e d e s i g n a t i o n o f t h e Bethany c i r c l e as 'beloved' (11:5) and i n

the o v e r a r c h i n g theme o f Jesus as the g i v e r o f l i f e (11:25). There

are, however, f u r t h e r p o i n t e r s t o such i n f l u e n c e i n the p o r t r a y a l o f

Martha and Mary.

Firstly, we note t h e emphasis on t h e response Martha makes t o t h e

word o f Jesus, r a t h e r than t o t h e s i ^ which f o l l o v s . Throughout the

canon o f Wisdom l i t e r a t u r e , there i s an i n s i s t e n c e on t h e need t o

respond t o t h e words/speech o f Sophia. I n t h e opening chapter o f

Proverbs we f i n d t h a t Sophia c r i e s o u t i n t h e s t r e e t and r a i s e s her

v o i c e i n t h e p u b l i c p l a c e s (Prov 1:20). I n t h e g r e a t hymn o f p r a i s e

t o her i n c h a p t e r 8 we a g a i n f i n d r e f e r e n c e t o her ' l i f t i n g her v o i c e '

(8:1,4); 'calling out' (8:3,4); the c l a r i t y or t r u t h o f her speech

(8:6,7,8); and t h e r e i s a p e r s i s t e n t injunction to 'listen' t o what

she has t o say (8:6,32,33,34). To those who do l i s t e n t h e promise i s

given o f f i n d i n g l i f e (8:35). T h i s p a t t e r n i s r e p e a t e d i n t h e book o f


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S i r a c h , where i n c h a p t e r 24 t h e c a l l goes o u t t o l i s t e n t o the words


which come f r o m Sophia's mouth ( S i r 24:1-3), and u l t i m a t e l y , i n t h e
identification o f her with t h e Torah (24:23), there i s c l e a r
i n d i c a t i o n t h a t her words must be heeded and obeyed.

It i s p r e c i s e l y t h i s kind of a t t i t u d e that the Fourth Evangelist

seeks I n t h e d i s c i p l e o f Jesus Sophia: t o respond t o the word which he

b r i n g s i s t o be seen as a t r u e d i s c i p l e . T h i s i s e x a c t l y what Martha

does i n t h e d i a l o g u e which precedes the sign o f the r a i s i n g of

Lazarus. I n l i s t e n i n g t o t h e words o f Jesus Sophia r e g a r d i n g t h e g i f t

of life (Jn 11:25), she i s a b l e t o respond w i t h words o f f a i t h which

need no s i g n to e l i c i t them (11:27), This i s a p a r a l l e l process t o

t h a t expected o f t h e d i s c i p l e o f Sophia i n t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n .

We may a l s o here see another i n s t a n c e o f t h e s u b t l e Johannine

polemic against t h e view that Sophia i s bound up i n Torah. Jesus

Sophia i s t h e one t o whom t h e d i s c i p l e comes f o r l i f e , and t h e one

whose word b r i n g s a response, i n c o n t r a s t t o t h e view o f S i r a c h which

we n o t e d above. Taken on i t s own, t h i s I n s t a n c e might be a difficult

case t o argue, but when seen a l o n g s i d e t h e v a r i o u s stages o f t h i s

polemic we have remarked upon f r o m 1:17 onwards i t may be taken as

f u r t h e r g r i s t t o t h e m i l l i n t h e argument.

Secondly, t h e q u e s t i o n of s e r v i c e and d e v o t i o n t o the master lies

at the root of the p i c t u r e o f Mary i n both accounts and Martha i n

12:2. To be a t someone's f e e t as a d e l i b e r a t e act could well be

understood as a s i g n o f d e v o t i o n o r reverence toward t h a t person***.

It was c e r t a i n l y an I n d i c a t i o n on t h e p a r t of those behaving thus,

t h a t they accepted a p o s i t i o n o f servanthood i n r e l a t i o n t o t h e one a t


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whose f e e t they p l a c e d themselves*•^. Martha i s e x p l i c i t l y r e f e r r e d


t o as one who 'served', so i n both women we see t h i s a t t i t u d e o f
a c c e p t i n g t h e r o l e o f devoted s e l f - o f f e r i n g i n r e l a t i o n t o Jesus.
Both these women's s e r v i c e , o f course, r e f l e c t s t h a t which Jesus
h i m s e l f o f f e r s h i s d i s c i p l e s i n Jn 13 and indeed throughout h i s l i f e ,
death and r e s u r r e c t i o n .

We hear f r e q u e n t l y i n t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n o f t h e way i n which

Sophia also offers herself t o those who w i l l l o v e her, and how h e r

d i s c i p l e s a r e c a l l e d t o o f f e r devoted s e r v i c e t o her. While t h e word

Sxaxovetv i s n o t used of the r e l a t i o n s h i p between Sophia and her

disciples, t h e r e i s a c l e a r and c o n s t a n t I n s i s t e n c e on t h e need f o r a

t h o r o u g h g o i n g d e v o t i o n t o her ways and t e a c h i n g s , which we may r i g h t l y

call 'service'. Prov 4:7, f o r example, emphasises t h a t even though i t

costs everything, t h e d i s c i p l e should pursue t h e cause o f Sophia.

Devotion t o her involves sitting daily a t her door, and her

m a i d s e r v a n t s go o u t and c a l l others t o t h e t a b l e s which have been

prepared (Prov 9:2-3).

Once a g a i n i n t h e s t o r i e s o f t h e women o f Bethany, we may see t h e

influence o f Sophia's hand a t work. Her d i s c i p l e s are a t t e n t i v e ,

obedient, self-giving servants, just as Jesus Sophia a l s o c a l l s h i s

s e r v a n t s t o be.

4.4 JESUS SOPHIA AND THE WCMEW AT THE CROSS (19:25-27)

The Incident a t the foot o f t h e cross i n t h e Fourth Gospel

(19:25-27) remains a d i f f i c u l t passage to Interpret f o r a number o f

reasons. Firstly, t h e presence o f women c l o s e enough t o t h e cross t o

be I n v o l v e d i n a c o n v e r s a t i o n stands i n d i r e c t contradiction t o the


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S y n o p t i c p i c t u r e of the women o b s e r v i n g from a d i s t a n c e ' * * . Secondly,


t h i s d i f f i c u l t y i n a l i g n i n g t h e Johannine and Synoptic accounts,
a l l i e d t o t h e a l r e a d y c o n s i d e r a b l e symbolism noted i n the Fourth
Gospel, has l e d most s c h o l a r s t o t r e a t the scene s y m b o l i c a l l y r a t h e r
than h i s t o r i c a l l y : but what does i t symbolise**^? T h i r d l y , none o f
t h e S y n o p t i c s mentions the Mother of Jesus i n t h e v i c i n i t y of the
c r o s s , a l t h o u g h s p e c i f i c a l l y m e n t i o n i n g o t h e r women: why i s she
suddenly i n t r o d u c e d by t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t a t t h i s p o i n t f o r the
f i r s t t i m e s i n c e t h e Wine M i r a c l e a t Cana? F o u r t h l y , the q u e s t i o n
remains as t o v*io i s a c t u a l l y b e i n g placed i n charge of whom: does the
Beloved D i s c i p l e r e p l a c e Jesus as a son t o be cared f o r , or i s the
emphasis more on the new r o l e of the Mother of Jesus i n 'adopting' the
Beloved D i s c i p l e as a son? We s h a l l look a t these questions b r i e f l y
i n t u r n , b e f o r e a t t e m p t i n g t o determine any i n f l u e n c e of Sophia
C h r i s t o l o g y on the scene as a whole.

4.4.1 EXEGETICAL COMMENTS

The S y n o p t i c Gospels are c l e a r i n t h e i r a s s e r t i o n t h a t none of

Jesus' f o l l o w e r s were a t the foot of the cross at the time of h i s

death. I n Mk 14:50 and Mt 26:56 we hear t h a t the d i s c i p l e s (fiaer^tat)

f l e d , l e a v i n g Jesus t o f a c e h i s f i n a l hours alone. Even the Johannine

t r a d i t i o n I m p l i e s t h i s i n the p r e d i c t i o n of Jn 16:32, t h a t they would

be s c a t t e r e d and Jesus left alone. In addition, the women i n Mk

15:40/Mt 27:55/Lk 23:49 are also said t o be "at a distance" (aTi6

)iaxp68ev), t h u s l e a v i n g none of Jesus' c l o s e s t companions at h i s s i d e .

While i t i s t r u e t h a t some t h e o l o g i c a l c o n s i d e r a t i o n s on the p a r t of

the authors of the other Gospels may have, at least in part,

influenced their picture of events'**, i t would be difficult to


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e x p l a l n e i t h e r t h e absence o f a r e f e r e n c e t o Jesus' Mother a t the


c r o s s , o r t h e o m i s s i o n of t h e very s i g n i f i c a n t words of Jesus
c o n c e r n i n g her f u t u r e and t h a t o f the Beloved D i s c i p l e . I n placing
the women, and i n p a r t i c u l a r t h e Mother o f Jesus itapd ataupS, the
F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t i s s e t t i n g t h e scene f o r t h e coming l a s t w i l l o f
Jesus f o r h i s Mother and t h e Beloved D i s c i p l e .

Jn 19:26-27 must certainly have stemmed from the hand of the

F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t and n o t f r o m e i t h e r the Synoptic t r a d i t i o n or some

o t h e r source**'. I n i t , as Brown remarks, " a r e brought t o g e t h e r t h e

two g r e a t symbolic f i g u r e s of t h e F o u r t h Gospel whose personal names

are never used by t h e e v a n g e l i s t " * . At t h e c r i t i c a l hour of Jesus'

life, h i s death, two r e p r e s e n t a t i v e d i s c i p l e s are t o be found a t the

c e n t r e o f proceedings. T h i s I s again a t v a r i a n c e w i t h the Synoptic

tradition, where t h e women o n l o o k e r s are mentioned o n l y after Jesus

has e x p i r e d . I n c o n t r a s t , Jesus' Mother stands and r e c e i v e s the f i n a l

words of Jesus b e f o r e he d e c l a r e s h i s work complete (19:30). I n other

words, t h e words spoken to t h e Mother of Jesus and the Beloved

D i s c i p l e a r e p a r t of t h e c o m p l e t i o n of the e a r t h l y m i n i s t r y of Jesus,

a f t e r which he i s a b l e t o hand over h i s s p i r i t and d i e .

It is difficult t o assess t h e e x t e n t t o which t h e presence of the

women a t t h e c r o s s involved courage. While some have doubted the

accuracy o f t h e r e p o r t on t h e b a s i s t h a t Roman s o l d i e r s would not have

allowed relatives t o approach the foot of the cross f o r fear of

a t t e m p t s t o r e l i e v e the s u f f e r i n g o f t h e v i c t i m * s * , s t i l l o t h e r s have

been able to produce evidence to the contrary, suggesting that

r e l a t i v e s were o f t e n present and c l o s e by a t such events*However,

Ochshorn's comment that " i n i t s cultural setting, the presence of


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women a t the c r o s s or a t the tomb of Jesus was not e x c e p t i o n a l , and i n


i t s e l f might n o t have s i g n i f i e d e x c e p t i o n a l courage or d e v o t i o n " ' ,
needs t o be weighed a g a i n s t I t s r e l e v a n c e t o the i n t e n t of the Gospel
writer. The women stand i n c o n t r a s t t o the male d i s c i p l e s a t the
c r o s s , r a t h e r than out of any v i r t u e of t h e i r own. They showed a
faithfulness t o t h e end which was singularly lacking i n the
t r a d i t i o n a l male d i s c i p l e s a c c o r d i n g t o the t r a d i t i o n , even a l l o w i n g
t h a t t h e Beloved D i s c i p l e was a man.

In our examination of the r o l e played by Jesus' Mother a t the

Wedding i n Cana, the opening of Jesus' e a r t h l y m i n i s t r y , we saw that

Jesus was deliberately distancing himself from any kind of familial

pressure to perform 'signs', i n order to be free to exercise the

ministry f o r which he had been sent by God. T h i s was done p a r t l y

through the f o r m a l i t y of t h e address t o h i s mother, y()va\, and the

avoidance by t h e E v a n g e l i s t of her proper name. Here again, i n the

scene a t t h e c l o s e of h i s e a r t h l y m i n i s t r y , we see exactly the same

technique applied: x\ jxyjxiip autoO (19:25,26); -yiivai. (19:26). As also

in 2:1-11, where Jesus' %pa had not yet a r r i v e d , here again we find

r e f e r e n c e t o i t s imminent a r r i v a l and the r o l e of t h e Beloved D i s c i p l e

and Jesus' Mother i n i t (19:27)'**. Just as t h e Cana account was

imbued with symbolism, so too the scene at Golgotha has similar

overtones. I t i s thus no s u r p r i s e when L i n d a r s remarks, t h a t i n these

verses "John's creative hand is more evident than any signs of

historical tradition"'. But as i n the Cana account, so here we must

also be careful in defining the symbolism more closely. Many

suggestions have been made, n o t a b l y : t h a t Mary evokes the New Eve, or

Lady Z l o n , who b r i n g s f o r t h her o f f s p r i n g i n the new age's*; t h a t Mary


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r e p r e s e n t s the J e w i s h - C h r i s t i a n Church w h i l e the Beloved D i s c i p l e


r e p r e s e n t s the G e n t i l e Church, the t e x t being an i n d i c a t i o n of t h e i r
need f o r u n i t y I n the new age*^^; or t h a t Mary r e p r e s e n t s the Church
and the Beloved D i s c i p l e the C h r i s t i a n i n the new community*'*.
Whatever d i r e c t i o n we t a k e i n t h i s matter, i t i s w o r t h n o t i n g L l n d a r s '
o b s e r v a t i o n r e g a r d i n g the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of t h a t symbolism:

Considering what has been s a i d in the Supper


d i s c o u r s e s about the new r e l a t i o n s h i p which i s t o
f o l l o w Jesus' death, i t i s n a t u r a l t o i n t e r p r e t t h i s
i n the l i g h t of 16:7 ' I t i s t o your advantage t h a t I
go away' . From t h i s p o i n t of view the mother/son
r e l a t i o n s h i p of Mary and the Beloved D i s c i p l e has a
q u a l i t y which c o u l d not have e x i s t e d i f Jesus had not
been c r u c i f i e d ' .

It i s o n l y as a r e s u l t of Jesus' 'going away' t h a t any need a r i s e s to

d e a l w i t h h i s mother's and the Beloved D i s c i p l e ' s future. I t must be

significant that Jesus does not say "Mother", but prefers "Woman",

thus c o n t i n u i n g the trend we have a l r e a d y noted i n r e l a t i o n to his

family members*'". Since his mother's acceptance in the first

instance (2:1-11) was on the b a s i s of her true discipleship and not

family ties, here again as the "yuvai" appears, i t Is as a

representative disciple. With her stands another of the g r e a t symbols

for true discipleship in the Fourth Gospel, namely the Beloved

Disciple, and i t i s these two who are c a l l e d i n t o a new relationship.

On the b a s i s of t h i s , the e v a n g e l i s t has Jesus Sophia's d y i n g words as

a call t o mutual r e l a t i o n s h i p and dependency: n e i t h e r i s more or less

dependent on the o t h e r , but each i s c a l l e d t o a new and Interdependent

relationship.

T h i s echoes many of the themes a l r e a d y o u t l i n e d i n the Gospel,

not l e a s t t h a t of the f i n a l meal w i t h i t s footwashing, and the t a l k of


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the v i n e and the branches. The scene at the cross i s a reminder t o


the community t h a t both male and female d i s c i p l e s s t a n d e q u a l l y before
Jesus, and a r e t o be m u t u a l l y a c c e p t i n g of each o t h e r i n the new
kingdom which i s i n a u g u r a t e d w i t h the death (and u l t i m a t e l y the
r e s u r r e c t i o n ) of Jesus Sophia. The Mother of Jesus and the Beloved
D i s c i p l e s t a n d as symbols of the new community on the basis of t h e i r
f a i t h f u l d i s c i p l e s h i p and s e r v i c e of Jesus Sophia. Brown comments:

T h i s seems t o have been a community where i n the


t h i n g s t h a t r e a l l y m a t t e r e d i n the f o l l o w i n g of C h r i s t
t h e r e was no d i f f e r e n c e between male and female - a
P a u l i n e dream (Gal 3:28) which was not completely
r e a l i s e d I n t h e P a u l i n e communities'*'.

It i s clear that t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t has gone beyond the e x i s t i n g

Synoptic tradition (whether or not she/he was aware of i t ) , by adding

Jesus' Mother and t h e Beloved D i s c i p l e t o those r e p o r t e d a t the cross.

In the process of doing so, the Fourth E v a n g e l i s t has made Jesus'

mother a symbol of t r u e d i s c i p l e s h i p i n her s e r v i c e and faithfulness,

which encompasses t h e earthly ministry of Jesus Sophia. While we

might almost have a n t i c i p a t e d such a r o l e on account of her Intimate

relationship t o Jesus as h i s mother, we find t h a t I n s t e a d , i t i s not

at a l l on this basis, but rather on the basis of her new family

commitment - t o the emerging C h r i s t i a n community - t h a t she i s a b l e t o

be c a l l e d f o r t h as an example t o be remembered.

4.4.2 THE INFLUENCE OF SOPHIA

The picture of Jesus' Mother as the faithful disciple who

stands at the foot of the cross to the very end and becomes the

symbol, a l o n g w i t h the Beloved D i s c i p l e of t h e new age community, may

again be i n t e r p r e t e d a g a i n s t t h e background of the Sophia christology


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whlch we have seen dominates t h e F o u r t h Gospel as a whole. I t is


i m p o r t a n t t o remember t h a t t h e Passion N a r r a t i v e i n John's Gospel i s
seen as b e i n g p a r t o f t h e process o f Jesus' g l o r i f i c a t i o n and t h e
f u l f i l l m e n t o f t h e Prologue's theme o f t h e r e j e c t i o n o f Jesus Sophia
by h i s own people. We have observed t h a t t h e r e j e c t i o n theme c o n t a i n s
elements which may w e l l have been c a r r i e d over from t h e t r a d i t i o n s
c o n c e r n i n g Sophia and h e r r e j e c t i o n * * 2 . i t i s t h i s Jesus, who has
r e v e a l e d h i m s e l f as Sophia i n c a r n a t e , who now experiences t h e f i n a l
a c t o f r e j e c t i o n i n t h e b r u t a l i t y o f the cross.

I n t h i s c o n t e x t , t h e behaviour o f t h e naBi\xai, and o f those v^om

Jesus 'loved', calls for a degree of scrutiny. As i n so many

situations we have examined already, t h e ^lad^iai a r e conspicuous by

their absence (whether I n body o r i n u n d e r s t a n d i n g ! ) , w h i l e t h e women

are p r e s e n t and f a i t h f u l i n t h e e x e r c i s e o f t h e task o f d i s c i p l e s h i p .

Among these women s t a n d s t h e Mother o f Jesus, added t o t h e t r a d i t i o n a l

lists by t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t , an a d d i t i o n which, whatever e l s e i t

means, has " h e i g h t e n e d ( h e r ) d r a m a t i c importance and g i v e n Mary a

greater role"**^. That r o l e we have i d e n t i f i e d as symbolic f o r t h e

discipleship of t h e new age community, t o whom t h e Gospel is

addressed. I t i s a discipleship which i s faithful even a t t h e p o i n t

of greatest rejection o f Jesus Sophia. This i s precisely what t h e

Wisdom w r i t e r s encourage i n t h e i r c a l l t o f o l l o w Sophia:

(3) eXeT)fioCTi3vo(v x a l ntcrxetq exXxn^xdxJdv oe

(4) nai npovooO xaXd evc&Jiiov x u p i o u x a l av9p(i7t(ov (Prov 3:3-4)

fiT)66 eVtaxcxXiJiijq auxt^v, x a t av0^^exar cou


ip&er\x\ otuxfjq, x a i xripi^aei oe (Prov 4 : 6 )
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There i s a p a r a l l e l drawn between t h e f a i t h f u l n e s s o f t h e d i s c i p l e s o f


Sophia and h e r f a i t h f u l n e s s toward them. She w i l l take care o f those
who f o l l o w h e r , a theme which f i n d s I t s f i n a l triumph i n t h e r e -
i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f I s r a e l ' s h i s t o r y as t h e h i s t o r y o f the saving a c t s
of Sophia i n Wisdom o f Solomon 10-11. I t I s t h e Mother of Jesus, who
knew where t o go f o r wine as a d i s c i p l e o f Jesus Sophia even before
the fiaSr^Tat i n t h e e a r l i e s t stages o f h i s m i n i s t r y , who now f a i t h f u l l y
goes t o t h e end w i t h o u t f o r s a k i n g (e-yxaxaXetJcco)' * • him. The r e s u l t a n t
p r o v i s i o n f o r her i s n o t so much as a r e s u l t o f f a m i l i a l r e l a t i o n s h i p
as on t h e b a s i s o f her endurance as a f a i t h f u l d i s c i p l e .

I t may be o f i n t e r e s t i n t h i s c o n t e x t t o note t h e ' f a m i l y ' terms

used i n addressing the d i s c i p l e s o f Sophia i n Wisdom L i t e r a t u r e .

There i s a f r e q u e n t use o f words like uioq o r natSeq t o address t h e

p e a r l s o f Sophia's wisdom t o those s e e k i n g her teaching. Among t h e

opening verses o f Proverbs (1:8-9) we hear the c a l l t o receive the

teaching of 'father' and 'mother', which t e a c h i n g i s o f course t h e

very t h i n g s which Sophia h e r s e l f has imparted t o them. There i s a

continuing emphasis on t h e p a s s i n g on o f Sophia's g i f t s w i t h i n the

context of the family relationships. I t i s such a r e l a t i o n s h i p which

Jesus Sophia establishes as the basis f o r future care and

communication among those whom he loves, so once a g a i n i t may be t h a t

we see here a touch o f Sophia's i n f l u e n c e coming through i n t h e type

of r e l a t i o n s h i p which i s e s t a b l i s h e d .

Thus, a t t h e f o o t o f t h e cross, i n t h a t most d e v a s t a t i n g moment

of Jesus Sophia's r e j e c t i o n , we f i n d t h a t h i s d i s c i p l e s a r e present

and r e c e i v e even then t h e care and concern which she/he has promised.
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4.5 JESUS SOPHIA AND MARY CF MAGDALA (20:1-18)

The final encounter between Jesus Sophia and a woman I n the

F o u r t h Gospel comes i n t h e c o n t e x t o f t h a t most dramatic and c l i m a c t i c

event of Christian experience, the resurrection story. As i n the

o t h e r i n s t a n c e s i n John's Gospel where an o v e r l a p e x i s t s w i t h m a t e r i a l

f a m i l i a r t o us f r o m t h e Synoptic t r a d i t i o n , we seem t o be faced w i t h a

strange mixture o f Johannine and Synoptic source m a t e r i a l . We a r e

also faced with t h e t e m p t a t i o n t o read t h e Johannine account i n t h e

light o f t h e Synoptic tradition, as though we might presuppose I t I n

t h e background as a b a s i s f o r what t h e F o u r t h Gospel now presents. We

must t h e r e f o r e e x e r c i s e care, above a l l i n r e l a t i o n t o t h i s p a r t i c u l a r

s t o r y , when approaching our i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f t h e Johannine m a t e r i a l ,

t o a l l o w t h a t community's v i e w p o i n t , r e p r e s e n t e d i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel

tradition, t o speak for Itself. We thus begin by examining some

points r e l e v a n t t o our u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the r o l e exercised by Mary

Magdalene and Jesus Sophia i n these verses, b e f o r e examining Mary's

contribution and t h e i n f l u e n c e which John's Sophia c h r i s t o l o g y has

e x e r c i s e d on i t .

4.5.1 EXEGETICAL COMMENTS

There can be no doubt that 20:1-18 i n i t s present form

represents a combination o f a t l e a s t two, and p o s s i b l y t h r e e d i f f e r e n t

accounts connected t o t h e empty tomb/post-resurrectlon appearance

tradition**5. There a r e some i n c o n s i s t e n c i e s and d u p l i c a t i o n s which

point us i n t h i s direction. Firstly, we f i n d that Mary Magdalene

opens t h e account by d i s c o v e r i n g t h e empty tomb and c a l l i n g t h e male

d i s c i p l e s t o come and see f o r themselves. However, she appears t o be


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f o r g o t t e n i n t h e r u s h of the two toward t h e tomb, and i s l e f t s t a n d i n g


a l o n e w i t h o u t any e x p l a n a t i o n as they r e t u r n home, i n a r a t h e r
u n p e r t u r b e d manner. A second and c l e a r l y connected i n c o n s i s t e n c y l i e s
i n t h e r e p o r t e d b e l i e v i n g a t t i t u d e of the Beloved D i s c i p l e (20:8),
d e s p i t e h i s i g n o r a n c e o f t h e s c r i p t u r e and P e t e r ' s unawareness of the
p o s s i b l e consequences of t h e empty tomb. I f he r e a l l y did b e l i e v e
t h a t Jesus was r i s e n from t h e dead w i t h such assurance, why was i t
necessary f o r Mary Magdalene t o go and r e p o r t her s i g h t i n g o f t h e Lord
as though no one knew a n y t h i n g about i t ? T h i r d l y , we n o t e the
" e n t i r e l y s u p e r f l u o u s ' " * * d u p l i c a t i o n o f m a t e r i a l i n verses 11-13 and
14-15, due t o t h e apparent I n s e r t i o n of an angel m o t i f , perhaps i n
sympathy w i t h t h e S y n o p t i c d e s c r i p t i o n s of the presence of the angels
at t h e t o m b i " .

Many t h e o r i e s have a r i s e n with r e g a r d t o t h e way i n which the

F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t has used t h e sources i n t h e c o m p i l a t i o n o f t h e f i n a l

f o r m o f 20:1-18»*«. What i s perhaps most s t r i k i n g i s the r e l a t i v e l y

small amount o f s p e c i f i c a l l y Johannine language i n t h e passage, the

reference to 'darkness' (axoTia) in 20:1 being one of the few

examples'". T h i s would suggest t h a t most of the m a t e r i a l used, with

the obvious e x c e p t i o n of the p e c u l i a r l y Johannine Beloved Disciple

tradition, stems from other sources. Bultmann's contention, that

verses 1,11-13 f o r m the o r i g i n a l b a s i s of t h e t r a d i t i o n concerning the

women a t the tomb, t o which t h e E v a n g e l i s t has added both t h e P e t r i n e

incident and verses 1 4 - 1 8 ' s e e m s a t t r a c t i v e , but i s not borne out

by t h e t e x t itself»7*. More commentators are now of the o p i n i o n that

there are good grounds for supposing a tradition existed which

mentioned a v i s i t o f Peter (and Mary?) t o the tomb, of which our t e x t


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represents a developed example'Schnackenburg, following


p a r t i c u l a r l y G.Hartmann''*, presses f o r an u n d e r l y i n g s t o r y of Mary
and Peter v i s i t i n g t h e tomb, which has been re-worked by the w r i t e r o f
t h e Gospel t o i n c l u d e t h e Beloved D i s c i p l e ' ^ * . T h i s theory has the
v i r t u e o f making sense of t h e f a c t t h a t Mary Magdalene I s r e p o r t e d as
r e m a i n i n g (20:11) w h i l e Peter goes o f f back home s t i l l puzzled: both
saw the empty tomb and were d i s t r e s s e d i n t h e i r own way. We w i l l
argue t h a t t h i s i s h i g h l y s i g n i f i c a n t i n the E v a n g e l i s t ' s mind, s i n c e
i t a l l o w s Mary t o be s i n g l e d - o u t , r a t h e r than Mary and Peter, t o be
t h e r e c i p i e n t o f t h e f i r s t p o s t - r e s u r r e c t i o n appearance.

Before t u r n i n g t o Mary's own r o l e i n the s t o r y we would do well

to establish the primary focus of a t t e n t i o n i n t e n d e d by the Fourth

Evangelist i n p r e s e n t i n g the account i n t h i s p a r t i c u l a r form. Most

commentators agree t h a t John's main t h r u s t i s t o emphasise the new

relationship of faith which now c h a r a c t e r i z e s the post-resurrection

d i s c i p l e ' s a t t i t u d e t o Jesus. B a r r e t t sums up by s a y i n g t h a t we "must

not regard the risen Jesus as simply the o l d Jesus a l l over again.

Sight plays i t s part; but the C h r i s t i a n life i s l i v e d by falth""s.

Here we see t h a t John i s very much concerned f o r the community t o whom

t h e Gospel i s addressed, a community f o r whom the r e s u r r e c t i o n and

appearance s t o r y t r a d i t i o n s now l i e well i n the past, but who must

nevertheless come to terms with their meaning in their present

situation. They are no longer i n the p r i v i l e g e d p o s i t i o n of being

able to 'see' the Risen Christ, but must depend on the chain of

w i t n e s s which begins w i t h t h e c o n f e s s i o n ' I have seen the Lord!'. The

Fourth Evangelist is concerned in this story to open up that

p o s s i b i l i t y f o r t h e community, so we would agree w i t h L i n d a r s ' summary

of t h e a u t h o r ' s i n t e n t i n these verses:


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The e s s e n t i a l p o i n t f o r htm i s t h a t the C h r i s t i a n i s


in a vital personal r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h the Risen
C h r i s t , t h e mutual i n d w e l l i n g expounded i n the Supper
discourses. The R e s u r r e c t i o n N a r r a t i v e s are handled
i n such a way as t o l e a d t o the response o f f a i t h by
which t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p i s e s t a b l i s h e d * ^ 6 .

What i s s t r i k i n g f o r our study at this point i s the f a c t that the

vital link i n t h i s whole process i s not one of the t r a d i t i o n a l male

f i g u r e s of the e a r l y C h r i s t i a n tradition, but a woman, Mary Magdalene.

It i s t o her r o l e i n the account t h a t we must now turn.

4.5.2 THE ROLE OF MARY MAGDALENE

There i s unanimous agreement i n the t r a d i t i o n s of a l l f o u r

Gospels t h a t Mary Magdalene was present as a w i t n e s s t o the empty tomb

(Matt 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10; John 20:1). While t h i s g i v e s her

presence a high degree of historical probability, there is

considerable variation in the assessment of her role among the

different accounts''''. I t i s the Fourth E v a n g e l i s t , however, who

g i v e s t o her t h e most prominent and indeed s i g n i f i c a n t p r o f i l e . This

is achieved t h r o u g h a number of s p e c i a l devices: f i r s t l y , the focus a t

t h e tomb i s narrowed from a number o f women i n the Synoptic tradition,

to a s i n g l e woman i n t h e Johannine account. Secondly, she i s s i n g l e d

out and recognises Jesus Sophia by t h e c a l l i n g o f her name, i n an

episode which p r o v i d e s a b e a u t i f u l p a r a l l e l and illustration of the

parable of t h e Good Shepherd. Thirdly, Mary Magdalene i s g i v e n a

double apostolic r o l e when, as the f i r s t w i t n e s s t o the empty tomb,

she goes t o c a l l Peter and t h e Beloved Disciple, then f o l l o w i n g t h e i r

d e p a r t u r e and her encounter as t h e f i r s t w i t n e s s t o the Risen Christ,

she is sent with the message of her experience to the group of

disciples. F o u r t h l y , she i s given the c l a s s i c apostolic claim to


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a u t h o r i t y i n t h e words o f 20: 18 - e(^pa\a t d v xi3pvov. Through t h e


c o m b i n a t i o n o f these elements, Mary Magdalene i s g i v e n a r o l e
u n p a r a l l e l e d i n any o f t h e S y n o p t i c accounts of t h e empty tomb o r
appearance s t o r i e s . We s h a l l examine each element i n t u r n .

The narrowing of focus on the f i g u r e o f Mary Magdalene i s

s u r p r i s i n g n o t o n l y i n r e l a t i o n t o t h e Synoptic accounts o f t h e empty

tomb, but also i n relation t o John's own p r e c e d i n g account of the

crucifixion, at which event there was clearly knowledge of the

presence o f s e v e r a l women, i n c l u d i n g Mary Magdalene (19:25). We note

Schnackenburg's comments on John's e d i t o r i a l work a t t h i s p o i n t :

If V. 1 may w e l l be f r o m a source a k i n t o t h e
S y n o p t i c s , then t h e f a i l u r e t o mention t h e o t h e r women
i s noticeable. Was John f o l l o w i n g a source which o n l y
mentioned Mary Magdalene ( c f . Bultmann)? But o'{'6a^ev
i n V.2 speaks r a t h e r f o r t h e s u p p o s i t i o n t h a t , a t
l e a s t a t t h e b e g i n n i n g , o t h e r women were mentioned
t o g e t h e r w i t h her. I f so, t h e e v a n g e l i s t would have
c a r r i e d through h i s c o n c e n t r a t i o n on Mary Magdalene,
which i s w h o l l y understandable because of h i s
p r e f e r e n c e f o r b r i n g i n g s i n g l e persons ( d i s c i p l e s ) t o
the fore*7».

We t h e r e f o r e see t h e s i n g l i n g o u t o f Mary Magdalene as a d e l i b e r a t e

a c t on t h e p a r t o f t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t , even g i v e n t h a t a t r a d i t i o n

may well have existed which p l a c e d Mary and Peter together at the

tomb. I t i s Mary Magdalene who comes alone t o t h e tomb i n the f i r s t

i n s t a n c e , and then r e t u r n s t o c a l l Peter and t h e Beloved D i s c i p l e .

We s h o u l d remind ourselves a t t h i s point o f t h e q u e s t i o n mark

which many contemporaries o f John might have placed against the

r e l i a n c e o f f a i t h upon t h e w i t n e s s o f a woman t o such an event. While

it would be n a i v e t o s i m p l y accept the c o n c l u s i o n o f Jeremias, t h a t a

woman's w i t n e s s was o n l y v e r y r a r e l y accepted i n l e g a l c a s e s * " , there


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i s n e v e r t h e l e s s c l e a r evidence from the d i s c u s s i o n s of the second


c e n t u r y Rabbis, t h a t her u n c o r r o b o r a t e d w i t n e s s was l i a b l e t o a
s u s p i c i o n not n e c e s s a r i l y accorded t o a s i m i l a r a c t of w i t n e s s on the
p a r t o f a male Jew»«». I f then, as appears q u i t e p o s s i b l e , t h e r e was
a t r a d i t i o n p l a c i n g Mary and Peter t o g e t h e r as witnesses a t the tomb,
we may have a second i n s t a n c e i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel where a woman
r e p l a c e s P e t e r i n h i s a p o s t o l i c r o l e , p a r a l l e l t o t h a t of Martha's
c o n f e s s i o n i n 11:27.

The role of the Beloved Disciple seems to some extent to

'threaten' Mary Magdalene's p o s i t i o n as t h e p r i m a r y w i t n e s s when we

consider t h e statement o f 20:8, t h a t he looked and believed. There

are, however, some problems i n t a k i n g t h i s statement as an indication

that t h e Beloved D i s c i p l e actually b e l i e v e d i n t h e r e s u r r e c t i o n of

Jesus. Schnackenburg i s q u i t e c e r t a i n t h a t ertdoteuaav here r e f e r s t o

"full faith i n the r e s u r r e c t i o n of Jesus"***, and sees t h i s as an

exemplary k i n d of f a i t h which has not seen y e t b e l i e v e d . However, as

we already noted i n our e x e g e t i c a l comments, this exemplary faith

neither leads t o any excitement i n the manner of d e p a r t u r e of the

disciple, nor to h i s sharing i t with the r e s t of t h e group, t o whom

Mary Magdalene i s sent w i t h the message of r e s u r r e c t i o n ! Apparently

he does not even share i t with his partner, Peter! Here the

s u g g e s t i o n o f Minear seems t o l e n d a b e t t e r e x p l a n a t i o n of the events

as r e c o r d e d by John: "They now ' b e l i e v e d ' i n Mary's r e p o r t and thus

Joined i n her c o n f e s s i o n o f Ignorance, 'we don't know w h e r e ' " ' T h e

Beloved D i s c i p l e and Peter thus appear as a c o r r o b o r a t i n g f a c t o r i n

Mary Magdalene's w i t n e s s t o the empty tomb, r a t h e r than as a p l a t f o r m

for a l l o w i n g the Beloved D i s c i p l e precedence over Peter, or exemplary


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s t a t u s as a b e l i e v e r i n t h e resurrection*«^. The way i s thus s t i l l


l e f t open f o r Mary Magdalene t o be s i n g l e d out as t h e primary w i t n e s s
to t h e Risen C h r i s t , her primacy being i n no way challenged by t h e
presence o f t h e Beloved D i s c i p l e , but r a t h e r enhanced by h i s b e l i e f i n
her t e s t i m o n y c o n c e r n i n g t h e tomb.

The singling out process i s most narrowly focused i n the

encounter between Mary Magdalene and t h e Risen C h r i s t , where he c a l l s

her specifically by name. I n her i n i t i a l encounter she f a l l s t o

r e c o g n i s e Jesus, m i s t a k i n g him f o r the gardener, but i t i s on h e a r i n g

her own name spoken t h a t she f i n a l l y r e a l i s e s who i t i s . T h i s Initial

failure t o grasp who t h e Risen C h r i s t i s , i s a common f e a t u r e o f New

Testament appearance s t o r i e s * ' * , but i t s s i g n i f i c a n c e i s heightened by

the following recognition on account o f her name being spoken. When

compared w i t h t h e p a r a b l e o f t h e Good Shepherd, we can see t h a t Mary

Magdalene i s b e i n g accorded a p o s i t i o n as an example t o t h e community

of how Jesus Sophia knows h i s own and they know him. Jn 10:3 r e p o r t s

t h a t t h e Good Shepherd c a l l s h i s own by name, and i t i s on t h i s b a s i s

that they r e c o g n i s e who he i s . Brown's comments take t h i s a little

f urther:

Mary Magdalene c o u l d serve as an example t o C h r i s t i a n s


of t h e Johannine community a t t h e end o f t h e 1st
Century, whose c o n t a c t w i t h t h e r i s e n Jesus i s through
the P a r a c l e t e who d e c l a r e s t o them what he has
r e c e i v e d from Jesus ( 1 6 : 1 4 ) * * 5 .

There can be l i t t l e doubt t h a t the Fourth Evangelist intended this

cameo t o be an example t o t h e community o f how the r e l a t i o n s h i p

between t h e b e l i e v e r and t h e Risen C h r i s t functions i n t h e days when

actual contact with h i s 'physical' presence i s no longer possible.


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T h i s i s f u r t h e r r e f l e c t e d , as we s h a l l s h o r t l y see, i n the command t o


refrain from t o u c h i n g him (20:17). Thus, h a v i n g s i n g l e d Mary
Magdalene o u t , she i s now a l l o w e d by the F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t t o stand as
a paradigm f o r t h e b e l i e v i n g d i s c i p l e i n the community t o whom the
Gospel i s addressed.

We now t u r n t o t h a t aspect of 20: 1-18 v*iich has gained f o r Mary

Magdalene t h e t i t l e Apostola Apostolorum *«*. Firstly, we note t h a t

her a p o s t o l i c f u n c t i o n i s t w o - f o l d . As the f i r s t w i t n e s s t o the empty

tomb I t s e l f , she goes and c a l l s the d i s c i p l e s , i n t h e persons o f Peter

and t h e Beloved Disciple, t o come and see f o r themselves. Secondly,

f o l l o w i n g t h e i r d e p a r t u r e she performs the f a r more i m p o r t a n t p a r t of

her role, in encountering the Risen Christ and carrying out his

command t o t a k e the news o f h i s r i s i n g t o the r e s t of the gathered

disciples. Of course, her t i d i n g s o f r e s u r r e c t i o n are superseded by

the subsequent encounter with the Risen Christ h i m s e l f i n 20:19-23,

but t h i s i s no more than we would expect from t h e Johannine p a t t e r n o f

witness. As i n the case of the Samaritan Woman, Mary Magdalene's

w i t n e s s i s o n l y a stage which leads on t o a personal encounter with

Jesus Sophia and thus t o f a i t h i n i t s f u l l e s t sense, as we hear i n the

c o n f e s s i o n o f Thomas (20:28). Thus, the f o l l o w i n g i n c i d e n t s of 20:19-

23 i n no way d e t r a c t from the Importance or primacy of her m i s s i o n i n

20:18. J u d g i n g by t h e a t t i t u d e s of some New Testament w r i t e r s t o the

role of women in the early Church, we may share something of

F i o r e n z a ' s s u r p r i s e a t t h i s Johannine account:

She c a l l s Peter and t h e Beloved D i s c i p l e t o the empty


tomb and then i s sent t o the 'new f a m i l y ' of Jesus. .
. . She communicated t h e message t o them uAiich he had
g i v e n t o her. Thus she i s t h e p r i m a r y a p o s t o l i c
w i t n e s s t o the r e s u r r e c t i o n . . . . Since the
t r a d i t i o n of Mary Magdalene's primacy I n a p o s t o l i c
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witness challenged the Petrine t r a d i t i o n , i t is


remarkable t h a t i t has s u r v i v e d i n two independent
streams o f t h e Gospel t r a d i t i o n . Moreover, l a t e r
apocryphal w r i t e r s r e f l e c t t h e t h e o l o g i c a l debate over
apostolic primacy o f Mary Magdalene and Peter
explicitly**^

That debate i n t h e apocryphal w r i t i n g s ' * * i s an i n d i c a t i o n t o us t h a t

the kind of questions we pose with regard t o Mary Magdalene's

'suitability' as a primary witness t o the resurrected C h r i s t are not

merely a t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y i s s u e , b u t were c l e a r l y perceived already

i n t h e e a r l y c e n t u r i e s o f t h e C h r i s t i a n Church.

The f i n a l s e a l on Mary's a p o s t o l i c w i t n e s s I s t h e confession with

which she d e l i v e r s her news t o t h e o t h e r d i s c i p l e s : et&paxa x6\ xOpiov.

That this confession was recognised as one of the hallmarks of

a p o s t l e s h l p i n t h e e a r l y C h r i s t i a n Church i s seen from Paul's argument

In I Cor 9:1 - oux ei\ii andaxoKoc,; ou^t ' iTjcxoOq t 6 v xCpiov fjjiffiv

ecbpoxa;. E v i d e n t l y Paul's understanding of apostleshlp included the

n e c e s s i t y o f having 'seen t h e Lord', a f a c t which Conzelmann s t r e s s e s

i n h i s commentary on t h i s passage:

I n verse 16 h i s c l a i m t o t h i s standing (apostleshlp)


i s based on h i s v i s i o n o f Christ. This i s a
c o n c l u s i v e argument, Inasmuch as the r e c e i v i n g o f a
commission f r o m t h e r i s e n Lord i s c o n s t i t u t i v e f o r the
concept o f a p o s t l e s h i p ' * ' .

The c o n f e s s i o n o f 20:18 i s thus the f i n a l seal on Mary Magdalene's

apostolic commissioning, but i t i s a l s o the culmination o f her

movement towards faith, an i m p o r t a n t emphasis, as we noted, i n the

Johannine c o n s t r u c t i o n o f t h e r e s u r r e c t i o n n a r r a t i v e . On h e a r i n g her

name, Mary Magdalene responds w i t h t h e t i t l e , pa0Pouv(, v*ilch Brown

correctly describes as " c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of t h e beginning of faith


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r a t h e r than of i t s c u l m i n a t i o n " * ' " . However, l i k e the Samaritan Woman


and Martha b e f o r e her i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel, Mary Magdalene a l s o shows
a movement from t h i s i n c o m p l e t e understanding of f a i t h t o the
c o n f e s s i o n o f f u l l f a i t h i n t h e xi3pxo<; of 20:18. The t i t l e 'teacher'
(20:16) I s an e x p r e s s i o n o f the o l d c l i n g i n g which Jesus r e f u s e s from
Mary i n 20:17. I t r e f l e c t s a f a i t h which wants t o h o l d on t o the
bodily presence of Jesus, which would r e s t r a i n him from the
p o s s i b i l i t y of g i v i n g h i s permanent presence i n the power of the
Spirit*'*. T h i s power w i l l become a l i v i n g r e a l i t y i n the l i f e of the
d i s c i p l e s o n l y a f t e r he has breathed on them and f i n a l l y ascended t o
the 'Father'. L i n d a r s comments o f 20:17:

The d e s i r e t o h o l d Jesus must be r e s t r a i n e d , because


it i s an attempt t o r e c a p t u r e the c o n d i t i o n s of
i n c a r n a t e l i f e i n place of the u n i v e r s a l and a b i d i n g
r e l a t i o n s h i p which i s the o b j e c t of h i s mission. Mary
has experienced something of t h i s i n the moment of
recognition. . . . I t i s important to explain that
the new r e l a t i o n s h i p i s not dependent on p h y s i c a l
contact*'^.

The Johannine account makes c l e a r t h a t Mary Magdalene understood what

the Risen C h r i s t was trying t o communicate, by showing her take the

message to the disciples and confess Jesus Sophia no longer as

paPPouvt but as xupxoq,

In summary, then, we may s a f e l y conclude t h a t Mary Magdalene i s

the final link i n a c h a i n of female d i s c i p l e s vrtio stand as paradigms

for the C h r i s t i a n community t o which the F o u r t h Gospel i s addressed.

Her f a i t h f u l n e s s i n coming t o the tomb; her c a l l i n g of o t h e r s t o come;

her response t o the c a l l of t h e Good Shepherd, and her obedience t o

his command c u l m i n a t e i n her c o n f e s s i o n of him i n an act of faithful

witness t o t h e C h r i s t i a n community. Herein l i e s the p a t t e r n f o r the


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C h r i s t i a n d i s c i p l e s whom t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t seeks t o encourage i n


the new age o f t h e S p i r i t , f o r whose coming Mary Magdalene i s
p r e p a r i n g t h e way.

4.5.3 THE INFLUEHCE OF SOPHIA CHRISTOLOGY

We must finally reflect on t h e way i n which t h e Sophia

christology adopted by the Fourth Evangelist as a vehicle f o r

expressing the relationship of the e a r t h l y Jesus t o God and t o h i s

d i s c i p l e s has i n f l u e n c e d t h e p a r t i c u l a r approach t o t h e n a r r a t i v e o f

the empty tomb and r e s u r r e c t i o n appearance s t o r i e s . We must firstly

acknowledge again t h e major r o l e which t r a d i t i o n a l m a t e r i a l must have

played i n the formation o f t h e Johannine account, s i n c e these two

events constituted one o f t h e most central blocks of t e a c h i n g and

faith-engendering material i n the early Church traditions. Having

said that, however, we must s t i l l concede t h a t t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t

has used t h e t r a d i t i o n a l m a t e r i a l i n a most i n d i v i d u a l way. I t is in

the r e a l m o f t h i s r e d a c t i o n a l work t h a t we must seek the i n f l u e n c e o f

Sophia c h r i s t o l o g y .

The f i r s t t h i n g we s h o u l d n o t e i s t h e q u e s t i o n w i t h which Jesus

addresses Mary Magdalene: xtva Cltetq;. I t i s notable that this

p a r t i c u l a r q u e s t i o n o n l y comes from Jesus and n o t from t h e angels who

have p r e v i o u s l y asked t h e f i r s t p a r t o f t h e q u e s t i o n which Jesus a l s o

repeats: y6\ca, xi xKcxietq; . The q u e s t i o n about 'seeking' i s thus

r e s e r v e d f o r t h e mouth o f t h e one who i s being ' s o u g h t ' T h e idea

of 'seeking' Jesus has a l r e a d y played a crucial role i n t h e Fourth

Gospel, particularly i n 8:21, where we noted parallels between t h e

withdrawal o f Sophia and t h e u n a v a i l a b i l i t y o f Jesus t o those who


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r e j e c t him and then come s e e k i n g l a t e r * C u l p e p p e r reminds us t h a t


the process o f seeking c o u l d o n l y begin a f t e r t h e r e s u r r e c t i o n , and
t h a t t h r o u g h t h e i r " o b s e r v i n g t h e new commandment and remembering the
words o f Jesus (15: 10; 16: 4 ) , they were d i s t i n g u i s h e d from the Jews and
a b l e t o seek (and f i n d ) Jesus ( t h e Word)"*»s. i t i s precisely this
'Word' (=A6'yoq/2o(p{a) whom Mary Magdalene seeks i n the Garden, a l b e i t
w i t h an i n c o m p l e t e knowledge of the s i g n i f i c a n c e o f her search, but
n e v e r t h e l e s s , as she would d i s c o v e r , i n the c o n t e x t of t h e post-
resurrection.

The Old Testament speaks f r e q u e n t l y of t h e need t o seek God, n o t

l e a s t i n t h e book of Psalms*'*. L i n k suras up t h e development of the

understanding o f seeking by s a y i n g ; "To seek God a c q u i r e s t h e meaning

to seek after Qod, where he i s t o be found, i n temple and cult.

Seeking finds its fulfillment in oracles, instructions and

adoration"*". T h i s s e e k i n g a f t e r God was t r a n s f e r r e d a l s o t o Sophia

fairly e a r l y on i n t h e Wisdom t r a d i t i o n , as i s r e f l e c t e d i n the words

of Proverbs (8:17). There i s an i m p o r t a n t connection a l r e a d y made i n

that verse between love f o r Sophia and seeking after her. In

addition, t h a t s e e k i n g i s met w i t h a promise of success: Sophia may be

found by those who l o v e her and take the t r o u b l e t o seek her o u t .

This i s p r e c i s e l y what Mary Magdalene I s doing i n the scene a t the

tomb. Her l o v e f o r Jesus can s c a r c e l y be doubted both i n her i n i t i a l

d e v o t i o n i n coming t o what she assumes t o be the dead body of Jesus

and also i n her e v i d e n t distress on d i s c o v e r i n g i t m i s s i n g (xXaia

20:13,15). I t i s n o t i m p o r t a n t t h a t one a l r e a d y has knowledge before

seeking Sophia: t h a t knowledge w i l l come as a r e s u l t of f i n d i n g her.

J u s t so, i t m a t t e r s l i t t l e t h a t Mary Magdalene comes i n ignorance of


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the r e s u r r e c t i o n , but i n t h e a c t o f seeking Jesus Sophia she i s g i v e n


much more than she c o u l d ever have expected. Fiorenza summarises: "As
the f a i t h f u l d i s c i p l e who 'seeks' her Lord-Sophia, Mary o f Magdala
becomes t h e p r i m a r y a p o s t o l i c w i t n e s s t o t h e r e s u r r e c t i o n " ' ' * . Since
t h i s s e e k i n g and f i n d i n g by Mary Magdalene i s d i r e c t l y and c l o s e l y
t i e d t o t h e new r e l a t i o n s h i p emerging between t h e r i s e n Jesus Sophia
and h i s d i s c i p l e , r a t h e r than t o t h e r e l a t i v e l y anonymous 'angel -
women' d i a l o g u e o f t h e Synoptic t r a d i t i o n , we would see i t as another
i n s t a n c e o f t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t ' s a p p l i c a t i o n o f Sophia c h r i s t o l o g y .

The use o f t h e t i t l e paPPouvt i s a l s o i n t e r e s t i n g i n r e l a t i o n t o

the I n f l u e n c e e x e r t e d by Sophia s p e c u l a t i o n . I t i s clear that this

title, be i t i n t h e form p a p p t , p a p g o o v t , o r 6i.5d:aKaXe, was a common

address used o f teachers by t h e i r pupils i n New Testament times'",

and i s indeed used elsewhere i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel by t h e d i s c i p l e s o f

John the Baptist t o address their master (3:26). However, we saw

a l r e a d y i n o u r e x a m i n a t i o n o f t h e o u t w o r k i n g o f Sophia c h r i s t o l o g y i n

the Gospel, that the role o f teacher i s one o f t h e most prominent

attributes a p p l i e d t o Sophia^"": indeed i t i s h e r raison d'etre t o

pass on h e r wisdom t o t h e wise. I t i s as such a teacher t h a t Mary

Magdalene r e c o g n i s e s Jesus Sophia: y e t her f a i t h and r e c o g n i t i o n must

move beyond t h a t a s c r i p t i o n t o t h e u l t i m a t e p o i n t o f c o n f e s s i n g him as

xuptoq (20:18). Both t h e Johannine Jesus and Sophia have as t h e f o c a l

p o i n t o f t h e i r t e a c h i n g t h e r e v e l a t i o n o f t h e t h i n g s o f God (Jn 7:16-

17; Wisd 6:12-19;7:22-28), b u t i n t h e manner o f t h e i r t e a c h i n g and

revelation also draw attention t o themselves. Jesus assures t h e

disciples that h i s presence as teacher w i l l c o n t i n u e i n t h e form o f

the gift of the S p i r i t , even a f t e r h i s d e p a r t u r e from them (14:26).


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The S p i r i t ' s purpose again i s t o r e v e a l t h e t h i n g s o f God^o*, but a l s o


t o b r i n g p e o p l e u l t i m a t e l y t o t h e c o n f e s s i o n o f Jesus as xtjpioq
(20:18) or as t h e uidq T O O G E O O (20:31).

Looking a t t h i s t e x t from t h e p o i n t o f view o f our q u e s t i o n as t o

Sophia's i n f l u e n c e , we may offer t h e f o l l o w i n g suggestion as t o i t s

interpretation. What appears t o happen i n t h e r e c o g n i t i o n process i n

which Mary Magdalene i s i n v o l v e d , i s t h a t she f i r s t l y sees him as the

Jesus Sophia i n c a r n a t e whom she had known b e f o r e t h e Cross (teacher),

but subsequently comes t o see this same Jesus Sophia as none o t h e r

than God him/herself present i n a radically new way. I t i s this

experience which brings the confession, ecSpaKa t d v x u p i o v (20:18).

Just as t h e i n i t i a l r e c o g n i t i o n o f Sophia as teacher leads on t o a

knowledge o f God, so t o o the r e c o g n i t i o n o f the r i s e n Jesus Sophia,

the teacher, must l e a d on t o a c o n f e s s i o n of h i s t r u e i d e n t i t y .

A third pointer to Sophia's Influence on the

resurrection/appearance account comes i n t h e p a r a l l e l s between the

parable of the Good Shepherd and Mary Magdalene's response t o Jesus

Sophia c a l l i n g her by name (20:16). I n our r e f l e c t i o n on t h e p a r a b l e

of John 10, we noted t h a t t h e Johannine s t r e s s on t h e i n t i m a c y of t h e

Shepherd and Sheep owed much t o t h e s i m i l a r i n t i m a c y shown between

Sophia and her disciples (Wisd 7:27;8:2-16; S i r 24:19-22)^"^. In

20:16 t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t makes i t c l e a r t h a t i t i s on the b a s i s of

such a r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h Jesus Sophia t h a t Mary Magdalene recognises

who he i s and makes her response. Her initial lack of r e c o g n i t i o n

(20:14) i s broken through by t h e Good Shepherd, Jesus Sophia, who

knows h i s own and c a l l s her by name.


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Thus we can see, t h a t a l t h o u g h t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t has used


t r a d i t i o n a l m a t e r i a l as a b a s i s f o r t h e account i n 20:1-18, t h e
i n f l u e n c e o f Sophia c h r i s t o l o g y has once again c o n t r i b u t e d t o a very
i n d i v i d u a l v e r s i o n o f events being p u t f o r w a r d . As i n t h e other
s t o r i e s o f women i n t h e F o u r t h Gospel, here i n t h i s f i n a l account, we
may w i t h some J u s t i f i c a t i o n suggest t h a t i t i s none other than Jesus
Sophia who c a l l s and t o whom t h e maidservant responds w i t h a f a i t h f u l
example o f d i s c i p l e s h l p .

4.6 COWCHJSIONS

I n t h e course o f t h i s c h a p t e r we have r e f l e c t e d i n some d e t a i l on

the r o l e s g i v e n by t h e F o u r t h E v a n g e l i s t t o v a r i o u s women i n r e l a t i o n

t o t h e m i n i s t r y o f Jesus Sophia. I n every case we have seen t h a t they

Illustrate f o r the Christian community t o whom John w r i t e s , various

aspects of Christian discipleshlp. This i s hardly s u r p r i s i n g when we

consider Raymond Brown's claim, that "discipleshlp i s t h e primary

Christian category f o r John"2"'. The second half of h i s claim,

however, t h a t " t h e d i s c i p l e par e x c e l l e n c e i s t h e D i s c i p l e whom Jesus

Loved"2°*, may now be open t o some c h a l l e n g e . Certainly i n terms o f

the ayanfj shared between Jesus Sophia and t h e Beloved D i s c i p l e we may

see an exemplary p o i n t f o r the disciples whom t h e Gospel addresses:

but we must now a l s o t a k e i n t o account those women who stand by Jesus

throughout h i sm