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Observations on the Targumic Character of the Prologue of John

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2009

Peder Borgen
Bergen, Norway


Recent analyses of the Prologue of John have to a large degree centred around two questions, (1) the question of poetic and prose forms of styles, and (2) the question of unity or disunity of thought, both within the Prologue itself and between the Prologue and the rest of the Gospel. Several scholars, such as R. Bultmann, E. Käsemann, R. Schnackenburg and R. E. Brown, have reached the conclusion that the Evangelist has used and partly reshaped and supplemented a hymn.1 This hyposthesis has drawn criticism from scholars who stress that this distinction between poetry and prose is impossible to maintain. Thus E. Haenchen and W. Eltester have characterized the style as hymnic prose.

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page 288 note 1 Bultmann, R., Das Evangelium des Johannes (Krit. exeg. kom. über d. Meyer, N.T. von H. A. W., 2. Abt. 18th ed. with supplement in 1964) (Göttingen, 1941 10), pp. 15;Google ScholarKäsemann, E., ‘Aufbau und Anliegen des johanneischen Prologs’, Libertas Christiana, Festschrift f. F. Delekat (1957), pp. 7599;Google ScholarSchnackenburg, R., ‘Logos-Hymnus und johanneischer Prolog’, Biblische Zeitschrift, N.F. I (1957), 69109,Google Scholar and Das Johannesevangelium I, Einleitung und Kommentar zu Kap. 1–4 (Freiburg, 1965),Google Scholarad loc.; and Brown, R. E., The Gospel According to John, I-XII, The Anchor Bible (New York, 1966), pp. 137;Google Scholar cf. Demke, Chr., ‘Der sogennante Logos-Hymnus im Johannes-Prolog’, Zeitschrift für die neutestament-liche Wissenschaft LVIII (1967), 4568.Google Scholar

page 288 note 2 Haenchen, E., ‘Probleme des johanneischen Prologs’, Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, LX (1963), 305–34.Google Scholar

page 288 note 3 Eltester, W., ‘Der Logos und sein Prophet’, Apophoreta, Haenchen, Festschr. f. E. (Beih. ZNW xxx) (Berlin, 1967), pp. 109–34;Google Scholar cf. Dodd, C. H., The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge, 1953), pp. 292–6,CrossRefGoogle ScholarBarrett, C. K., The Gospel According to St John (London, 1955), p. 126,Google Scholar and Ruckstuhl, E., Die literarische Einheit des Johannesevangeliums(Freibrug in D. Schweiz, 1951), pp. 6397,Google Scholar who also advocate the unity of the Prologue.

page 289 note 1 Cf. the criticism of Eltester's interpretation by Chr. Demke, op. cit. pp. 45 n. 9 and 65 n. 140.

page 289 note 2 Borgen, P., Bread from Heaven, Supplements to Novum Testamentum X (Leiden, 1965), esp. pp. 5998.Google Scholar For a survey on exposition of the OT in the NT, see Ellis, E., ‘Midrash, Targum and the New Testament Quotations’, Neotestamentica et Semitica, Festschr. for Black, M. (Edinburgh, 1969), pp. 61–9.Google Scholar Ellis makes a helpful distinction between implicit and explicit midrash. According to his definition the Prologue of John is to be classified as an implicit midrash.

page 289 note 3 R. Bultmann, op. cit. p. 6; E. Haenchen, op. cit. p. 311, etc.

page 289 note 4 The reading μονογενής θεός is supported by evidence of the best Greek manuscripts. The reading μονογενής υιός probably results from a scribal tendency to conform, since the phrase occurs in John iii. 16, 18; I John iv. 9. See R. E. Brown, op. cit. p. 17.

page 289 note 5 The supplementary words are: ήν ό λόγος και ό λόγος ήν ρρός—ήν ό λόγος (i. 1) and ούτος (i. 2); έν ύν—τω;ν άνθρώρων (i. 4); and και—έν—ϕαινει, και—αύτέού κατέλαβεν (i. 5). The whole of i. 3 is supplementary to the text of Genesis i.

page 289 note 6 See R. Bultmann, op. cit. p. 31 and n. 6.

page 290 note 1 Hebrew text in (Jerusalem, 1949), ad loc. Engl. transl. in Freedman, H. and Simon, M. (ed.), Midrash Rabbah (London, 1939), vol. I,Google Scholarad loc.

page 290 note 2 See R. Bultmann, op. cit. pp. 6 f., and E. Haenchen, op. cit. p. 313.

page 290 note 3 Text in Colson, F. H. and Whitaker, G. H. (ed. and trans.), Philo (London, 1941), vol. v, ad loc. (translation is mine); cf. Fug.. 95.Google Scholar

page 290 note 4 See further Borgen, P., ‘Goďs Agent in the Fourth Gospel’, in Religions in Antiquity, Essays in Memory of Goodenough, E. R., ed. Neusner, J. (Leiden, 1968), pp. 144 ff.Google Scholar

page 290 note 5 With regard to the division between vv. 3 and 4, see Haacher, K., ‘Eine formgeschichtliche Beobachtung zu Joh. I: 3 fin’, Biblische Zeitschrift, N.F. XII (1968), 119–21.Google Scholar

page 290 note 6 Cf. the exegesis of Ps. xxxiii. 6 in Jewish sources, as Gen. R. III, 2, Midrash of the Psalms lxii. 1, etc. Cf. also the Egyptian formulas discussed by K. Haacher. See the reference in the preceding note.

page 291 note 1 John may thus reflect the continued use of the 6/7 days pattern in Jewish paraphrase of Gen. i. Examples of partial use of the pattern are also found. See Charles, R. H., The Apocalypse of Baruch (London, 1896), p. 53;Google ScholarBox, G. H., The Ezra Apocalypse (London, 1912), pp. 83 ff.Google Scholar; Jervell, J., Imago Dei, Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, N.F. LVIII (Göttingen, 1960), 19 f.Google Scholar

page 291 note 2 See similar analysis in R. E. Brown, op. cit. p. 28.

page 292 note 1 Concerning this interpretation of v. 9, see C. K. Barrett, op. cit. p. 134, and R. E. Brown, op. cit. pp. 9 ff.

page 292 note 2 The phrase τά ιδια has been understood by some as ‘the world’ and by others ‘Israel as God's people’. See R. Bultmann, op. cit. (the world), R. E. Brown, op. cit. p. 10 (Israel). The distinction seems to be false since Israel in John is seen as the centre of the world and therefore represents the world. See Dahl, N. A., ‘The Johannine Church and History’, Current Issues in New Testament Interpretation, ed. Klassen, W. and Snyder, G. F. (New York, 1962), esp. p. 129,Google Scholar and P. Borgen, Bread, pp. 148 f., 175–9.

page 292 note 3 See Boismard, M. E., St John's Prologue (Westminster, Md., 1957), pp. 136–40;Google ScholarSchulz, S., Komposition und Herkunft der johanneischen Reden, Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament, Füfte Folge I (Der ganzen Sammlung LXXXI) (Stuttgart, 1960), pp. 40 f.Google Scholar; N. A. Dahl, op. cit. p. 132; P. Borgen, op. cit. pp. 150 f.

page 293 note 1 See especially Dahl, N. A., ‘Formgeschichtliche Beobachtungen zur Christusverkündigung in der Gemeindepredigt’, Neutestamentliche Studien für Bultmann, R., Z.N.W. Beih. 21 (Berlin, 1954), pp. 39.Google Scholar

page 293 note 2 See Betz, O., ‘Was am Anfang geschah’, in Abraham unser Vater, Michel, Festschr. f. O. (Leiden, 1963), pp. 35 ff.Google Scholar

page 293 note 3 English translation in Etheridge, J. W., The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch with the Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum from the Chaldee, vol. I,Google Scholar ad loc. The Aramaic text is found in Altschüler, M., Die Aramäischen Bibelversionen (Targumim). Targum Jonathan Ben Uzziel und Targum Jerusalemij. Vol. I, Genesis (Wien/Leipzig, 1909),Google Scholarad loc.

page 294 note 1 Cf. that Targum on Prov. viii. 23,.

page 294 note 2 See for example: Gen R. II, 5: (a) built (b) destroyed (c) rebuilt and (a) built (b) destroyed (c) rebuilt. So also Pesikta, Piska 21. Cf. Gen. R. III, 8 ((a) (b), (b) (a), (a) (b), (a) (b), (b) (a)).

See especially Gen R. II, 5, which has the patterns of ((a) (b)/(b) (a): ‘From the very beginning of the creation of the World the Holy One, blessed by He, foresaw (a) the deeds of the righteous, (b) and the deeds of the wicked. (b) Thus, “Now the earth was formless and void” alludes to the deeds of the wicked. (a) and God said, “Let there be Light” to the actions of the righteous.’ (Engl. transl. in H. Freedman and M. Simon, op. cit. ad loc.)