John: Background to the "I am the ..." Statements
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'I am the [predicate nominative]', spoken by Jesus in seven instances (plus two borderline cases at 8.18 and 8.23). Data largely drawn from R. E. Brown, Anchor Bible commentary, plus Strack-Billerbeck, Bultmann and TDNT.
|6.35, 51:||"I am the bread of life [living bread]."|
|Bread = Torah/Wisdom (& Water = Torak/Wisdom - cf. Jn 7.38; 4.10-14; 19.34 - i.e. Spirit/|
|Wisdom as given by Jesus)|
|Setting: Passover season (6.4)|
|1)||Gen R (= Genesis Rabbah) 70|
|Proselyte Aquila to R. Eliezer (ca. 50 CE) re Deut 10.18 (God giving food to the stranger). R. Eliezer replies re Gen 28.20: 'God will give me [= Jacob] bread to eat', and says Bread = Torah/Wisdom.|
R (= Numbers Rabbah) 8 (repeated in bTal [= Babylonian Talmuid]),
Isa 3.1: 'stay of bread', in connection with Prov 9.5: 'Come, eat ye of my bread', which is the cry of Wisdom, Prov 9.1.
|3)||Pesiqta 80b (Midrashim): R. Berekja (ca. 340 CE) draws on Prov 25.21: 'If thine enemy be hungry ... thirsty, give him bread to eat ... water to drink. For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.' [cited in Rom 12.20], and then says Bread = Torah, Water = Torah.|
|//||Gen R 54: re Prov 9.6 for Bread of Torah; Isa 55.1 for Water of Torah.|
Sukka 52a // Exod R 25 // Pesiqta 178a
re Prov 8.10 with Isa 55.2 leading to Prov 9.5 - i.e. Bread = Torah
(cf. also Lev R 30).
|8.12 (9.5):||"I am the light of the world"|
|Light = Torah/Wisdom|
|Setting: Tabernacles (7.2, 14, 37), Probably by way of contrast with the festal lights|
|burning brightly in the court of the women at the Temple; Jesus in temple precincts (hieron), 7.14, 28; 8.20; leaves them in 8.59.|
|1)||Zech 14.7 (in Tabernacles story): "And there shall be continuous day ... for there shall be light even in the evening.|
|2)||Exod 13.21: The flaming pillar that guided the Israelites through the darkness of the night [Tabernacles as historicized commemorated the Wilderness wanderings and God's providential care in the Wilderness.]|
|3)||Wisd 18.3-4 identifies this pillar with "the imperishable light of the Law".|
8.22: Wisdom says that she was made at the beginning of God's ways.
Gen 1.3: the first creation was light.
Wisd 7.26: Wisdom is a reflection of everlasting light.
[Pre-Christian identification of Wisdom with Torah is found in Sir 15.1and Baruch 4.1; at Qumran the Essenes are the sons of light; their hearts illumined with the wisdom of life (1QS ii 3), and they can look on "the ligh5t of life" (i.e. the Qumran interpretation of the Law - 1 QS iii 20-21).]
|(8.18:||"I am one who gives testimony on my behalf.")|
|(8.23:||"I am of what is above.")|
|10.7, 9:||"I am the [sheep]gate." (thura, 'door')|
|[Sheep]gate = Messiah?|
|Setting: 'bridge' section between Tabernacles and Dedication (10.26-27, dated at Dedication|
|and mentioning sheep theme. Dedication (25th Kislev) is known as ' Tabernacles in winter', and has much of the same ceremonial and themes as Tabernacles.|
|1)||Ps 118 (LXX 117).21-28 (last psalm of Hallel, Pss 113-118, used at pilgrimage feasts, including Tabernacles and Dedication) was interpreted as applying to the Davidic Messiah.|
|a)||Pesiqta 119a (quoting R. Schemuel b. Nachman (ca. 260 CE), citing R. Jonathan (ca. 220 CE) applies each verse of Ps 118.21-28 to David .|
|b)||Similarly, Targ Ps 118.22-29. (Targum on the psalms)|
|c)||Ps 118 cited in NT as applied to Jesus:|
(the stone rejected): Lk 20.17; 1 Pet 2.4, 7:
118.22-23: Mt 21.42; Mk 12.10-11;
118.25-26 (Hosanna to the Son of David0; Mt 21.9; Mk 11.9; Jn 12.14;
118.26 (blessed ias the3 Coming One): Mt 23.39; Lk 13.35; 19.38.
|2)||Thus Ps 118.20: "Here is the gate (LXX: pulé; Heb. shcr) that leads to the Lord's presence, here only just souls find entry", may be alluded to messiaqnically.|
|2)||There are substantial, but later, gnostic materials for a door-motif, largely dealing with the heavenly gate through which the soul passes after death.|
|10.11, 14||"I am the good/beautiful/model/ideal (kalos) shepherd."|
|Model shepherd = ideal (Davidic?) shepherd[-king?] and guide; God as Israel's shepherd.|
|Setting: as above, i.e. with Dedication/[Tabernacles?] in mind.|
|1)||A. Guilding, The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship (Clarendon Press, 1960), pp. 29-132, argues that all the regular synagogue readings on the Sabbath nearest Dedication were concerned with theme of sheep and shepherds. Gen 46.28-47.31; Ezek 37.16 ff (H to Gen 44.18).|
34 was the prophetic reading at Dedication time (H to Lev 26), and is
single most important OT passage behind Jn 10.
Ezek 34.1-10: Israel as God's sheep;
34.11-16: God as Israel's shepherd;
34,.17-22: God as the judging shepherd, separating out rams and he-goats, etc.;
34.23-24: God to set his servant David as shepherd over them.
|11.25||"I am the resurrection and the life."|
|Resurrection and life = God-typology? or the real possibility of a new and true humanity? (see below on 14.6)|
|1)||On Ruddick's showing, Jn 11.1-18 matches Gen 49.1 (N1) * Gen 12.1 (T1); Jn 11.19-46 matches Gen 49.27-50.end (N1) & Gen 18.1 (T1). In Gibbs' hypothetical second time John is read through, Jn 11.1-18 matches Gen 29.31 (N1) * Gen 49.27 (T1); Jn 11.19-46 matches Gen 29.31 (N1). Guilding., op. cit., pp. 150-151, detects the following as lectionary background:|
of Joseph (Gen 49.28-50.26) & of Jacob, with mourning.
death of Joshua (= Greek 'Jesus') & Eleazar (of which 'Lazarus' is an abbreviation) (Josh 24.29, 30, 33) with Jesus' withdrawal to 'Ephraim' (Jn 11.54), where Joshua & Eleazar were buried. [Joshua 24 as H to Deut 29.9, which on Ruddick/Gibbs showing is N3 reading for Jn 11.53-57]
|2)||Guilding, op. cit., p. 150, suggests Jn 11.25 may allude to Deut 30.20: "Choose life ... to love the Lord thy God, for he is thy life and the length of thy days."|
|3)||Note parallels between Jesus' burial and Lazarus':|
// 21.1 (taking away stone);
11.34 // 20.2 (where he has been laid);
11.44 // 20.7 (napkin on head);
11.33 // 20.11 (Mary weeping).
|14.6||"I am the way, the truth and the life."|
|Way/Truth/Life = The embodiment of Wisdom, i.e. the true humanity|
|1)||See on 11.25.|
|2)||See Wisdom, Power and Well-being for the argument that Jesus is here presented as the source of true humanity:|
|'the Way' // Power|
|'the Truth' // Wisdom|
|'the Life' // Well-being|
|3)||In OT passages (Ps 99.30; Tob 1.3; Wisd 5.6) "the way of truth" is a way of life in conformity with the Law.|
|4)||Ps 86.11 puts "way" and "truth" in parallelism:|
me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in truth."
|Cf. Prov 15.24; Jer 21.8; Ps16.11; 1QS 4.15-16 (contrast between way that leads to life and way that leads to death.|
|5)||The figure of Wisdom itself/herself is presented in Wisd 7.22b-8.8 as encompassing:|
|(details in Wisdom, Power and Well-being)|
|6)||On the basis of (2) and (5) above, Gibbs is convinced that Jn 14.6 is a further Wisdom-based predicate wherein Wisdom is intimately related to the God-intended humanity|
|15.1, 5||"I am the [real] vine."|
|I. Vine = Israel (Thus Jesus as the righteous remnant of one)|
|1)||Vine as metaphor for Israel: cf. Jer 6.9; Ezek 15.1-6; 12.5-10; 19.10-14; Hos 10.1; Ps 80.8-17; 2 Esd 17.5-10 (and this usage is frequent in rabbinic sources). The interchangeable image of the vineyard is applied to Israel in Isa 5.1-7; 27.2-6; Jer 2.21; 5.10; Ezek 17.5-10.|
|2)||Sometimes the symbol is one of fruitfulness (Isa 27.2-6), but more often the vineyard is unproductive or desolate and disappointing to Yahweh (Jer 5.10; 12.10-11).|
|II. Vine = Wisdom (and hence life-giving)|
|1)||Sir 24.17-21 (which appears to lie behind Jn 6.35): Personified Wisdom says, "I bud forth delights like the vine; my blossoms become fruit fair and rich. Come to me, all you who desire me, and be filled with my fruits. ... He who eats of me will hunger still; he who drinks of me will thirst for more."|
|2)||Annie Jaubert, "L'image de la Vigne (Jean 15)", in Oikonomia (Cullmann Festschrift; Hamburg: Reich, 1967), p. 95, argues that in post-biblical Judaism there had been a certain assimilation of the vine to the tree of life. Brown comments that this may well have been taken up in sapiential thought as a means of symbolizing the life-giving power of wisdom, the Law, or the word of God.|
|SUMMARY:||From R. E. Brown, Anchor Bible, pp. 534-535 (typographically changed):|
|The predicate is not an essential definition or description of Jesus in himself;|
|it is more a description of what he is in relation to man.|
|In his mission Jesus is the source of eternal life for men ("vine", "life", "resurrection");|
|he is the means through whom men find life ("way", "gate");|
|he leads men to life ("shepherd");|
|he reveals to men the truth ("truth") which nourishes their life ("bread").|
|Thus, these predicates are not static titles of autodoxology but a revelation of the divine|
|commitment involved in the Father's sending of the Son. Jesus is these things to men because he and the Father are one (10.30) and he possesses the life-giving power of the Father (5.21). Jesus' statement, "I am the truth, the light, ..." must be related to similar statements about the Father's relation to men: "God is Spirit" (4.14); "God is light" (1 Jn 1.5); "God is love" (1 Jn 4.8, 16).|