Josaphat C. Tam, «When Papyri and Codices Speak: Revisiting John 2,23-25.», Vol. 95 (2014) 570-588
This paper revisits the role of John 2,23-25 in its literary and manuscript context. Contrary to many Johannine commentators who take it as an introduction to the Nicodemus pericope, 2,23-25 should be linked more to the preceding context, not the following. This view is supported by evidence from the sense-unit delimitations observed in the Greek papyri and codices dated within ca. 300 years from the New Testament era. Viewed from a narrative perspective, 2,23-25 should be seen as an anticlimactic concluding remark connected to 1,35 – 2,22.
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When Papyri and Codices Speak:
Revisiting John 2,23-25 1
When one reads the Gospel of John, one may easily overlook
the author’s brief comments, viz., 2,23-25, between Jesus’ encounter
with the disciples and his act of temple-cleansing in 1,35 – 2,22 and
the pericope of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3.
Scholars have speculated about the origin of these verses. Their
role in the context in the final form of the Gospel has also been
noted by commentators. In this paper, I will first review a near con-
sensus among modern commentators regarding the role of 2,23-25.
Then, I will turn to the earliest manuscripts to see the hints that
were left there. In view of this evidence, I will suggest an alterna-
tive view as to the role that 2,23-25 played. By highlighting its reas-
onableness from a narrative perspective, I will show that 2,23-25
should be seen as an “anticlimactic concluding remark” connected
to 1,35 – 2,22.
I. Viewpoints of Modern Commentators on John 2,23-25
A cursory examination of commentaries in recent decades reveals
that there is a near consensus concerning the role of John 2,23-25
in its literary context. C.H. Dodd in his Historical Tradition of the
Fourth Gospel writes: “The three verses [2,23-25] are probably the
evangelist’s introduction to the pericope of Nicodemus rather than
a true transitional passage” 2. Similarly, Rudolf Bultmann 3, Rudolf
Earlier versions of this paper were read at the 2013 meeting of the
British New Testament Conference (St. Andrews) and the Biblical Studies
Research Seminar at New College, the University of Edinburgh. I am
grateful for the helpful feedback offered by various participants.
C.H. DODD, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge
R. BULTMANN, Das Evangelium des Johannes (Kritisch-exegetischer
Kommentar über das Neue Testament; Göttingen 121952) 91-92.
BIBLICA 95.4 (2014) 570-588