Saturday, November 12, 2005

Jesus: Stranger from heaven, Man from heaven or Son of Man?

Over on Euangelion, Michael Bird has an interesting post on a variant in John 3.13, "the Son of Man who is in heaven". I'd be interested to hear more about this from the experts. But it reminds me of a variant in the secondary literature that I found this week, and a story connected with the book there mentioned.

I have been lecturing on John this week, and on Friday we were looking at John's Christology. Naturally, I spent some time exploring Wayne Meeks's classic article, “The Man from heaven in Johannine Sectarianism”, JBL 91 (1972): 44-72, reprinted in John Ashton (ed.), The Interpretation of John (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1997): 169-206, which I regard as the desert-island-article of Johannine studies (i.e. if you only had one article that you could take, which would it be?). Anyway, I noticed Stephen Barton, "Can we identify the Gospel audiences?" in Richard Bauckham (ed.), The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998): 173-94 refers to Meeks's classic article on 190 first by its correct title, and then twice under the incorrect title "The Son of Man in Johannine Sectarianism" (190, nn. 42-43).

Barton's variant reminds me of a story John Ashton used to tell about Wayne Meeks, viz. that he would refer to his own article, "Man from heaven . . . .", as "Stranger from heaven . . . .", apparently confusing the title of his piece with the title of Marinus de Jonge's 1977 book, Jesus: Stranger from Heaven and Son of God: Jesus Christ and the Christians in Johannine Perspective (SBLSBS, 11; Missoula: Scholars Press, 1977). I wonder if there is any truth in this?

Update (Sunday, 17.13): don't miss Ulrich Schmid's comments to this post.

Update (Monday, 09.14): Many thanks to David Mackinder in comments for the actual reference to Meeks's reference to his own article as "Stranger from heaven . . . ": "The simple answer is yes: have a look at p. 267 of the 1983 original edition of The First Urban Christians!"


Ulrich Schmid said...

"Son of Man _who is in Heaven_" (John 3:13) is the dominant reading of the textual tradition (majority text, some 1600+ mss)., though not of the first four centuries. It is absent from 3rd cent. Papyri (66+75) as well as fourth cent. Uncials (01, 03). The reading is first attested in a Greek ms in 4/5 cent. 02. It could be older though (according to the theories of our grandfathers), because it is attested in both Old Latin and Syriac witnesses.

There are more interesting readings to be found in this place: "Son of _God_ who is in Heaven" (063 + three minuscules; "Son of Man who is _from_ (EX) Heaven" (0141 + five minuscules).

Whether or not all (some of) those readings testify to christological concerns remains to be tested from extant 4/5 cent. debates.

However, the first tests to be performed -IMHO- refer to the immediate context of the passage trying to elucidate phenomena of frequently and better documented scribal behaviours than theological/christological motivations.
Just a few observations in passing: The longer reading seems consistent with johannine theology, because John emphasizes the SoM's heavenly offspring, even everlasting "substance" (besides 3,13, see 1,51 and esp. 6,53-58 [actually from 6,27 onwards]). The shorter reading could even be due to homoioteleuton (_O_YSTOY_ANOU_[_O_WNENTW_OUNW_]). On the other hand, could the longer reading be conceived as a scribal embellishment immitating johannine reasoning? But why then? Is there a crux with the shorter reading?

Here is precisely the point where 3rd-5th cent. christological controversies need to be explored as to whether and how John 3,13 might have been used there [a quick glance at the "Orthodox Corruption" and the "Living Text" yielded no positive results from the indices]. Consultation of ancient commentaries/homilies on John might also be helpful in that respect. Any evidence?

David Mackinder said...

You ask if there's any truth in Ashton's comment that Meeks used to refer to his article as 'Stranger from heaven . . .'. The simple answer is yes: have a look at p. 267 of the 1983 original edition of _The First Urban Christians_!