Bearing Witness Nicodemusly: A Christomorphic Assessment Of Crypto-Discipleship In John 7 -- By: Annang Asumang
Conspectus 24:1 (September 2017) p. 1
Bearing Witness Nicodemusly: A Christomorphic Assessment Of Crypto-Discipleship In John 7
Johannine scholars routinely argue that the fourth evangelist regarded the secret behaviour of crypto-disciples as cowardly and contemptible. Some further propose that their shaming through the narrative was part of the evangelist’s pastoral strategy for ‘outing’ crypto-believers within the synagogues of his locality. While the broad outline of this assessment may be correct, a more nuanced picture emerges when particular instances of the phenomenon are examined in the light of the gospel’s Christology, for in John’s gospel, Jesus is sometimes also depicted as operating in secrecy and behaving in a clandestine manner. Scholars frequently interpret this Christological feature using theological categories, but there is copious evidence indicating that Jesus’ covert actions were grounded in his socio-historical and cultural setting. In that case, this article postulates that John does not always censure a disciple’s secret behaviour, and that each instance should therefore be evaluated with regard to its christomorphicity. To
Conspectus 24:1 (September 2017) p. 2
test this hypothesis, the article examines Jesus’ cryptobehaviour, especially in John 7:1-13, to establish and validate criteria for determining when the evangelist approved of covert conduct. It then employs these criteria to evaluate the portrayal of Nicodemus in John 7:45-52. It concludes that while John generally censured crypto-disciples, he nevertheless approved of secret conduct and witness in particular instances, if they conformed to Jesus’ mission. This finding has contemporary application to covert Christian witness in hostile contexts.
There are ample reasons to support the current consensus among scholars that John’s gospel characterises a group of individuals as crypto-disciples. These were believers in Jesus, who, for various reasons, kept their new-found faith secret from their fellow Jews. The evidence is overwhelming. For a start, the matter-of-fact manner in which Joseph of Arimathea is explicitly labelled as μαθητὴς τοῦ Ἰησοῦ κεκρυμμένος δὲ διὰ τὸν φόβον τῶν Ἰουδαίων (a disciple of Jesus having been in secret for the fear of the Jews; 19:38), suggests that he was one among several such secret disciples. Joseph certainly appears in the gospel in the company of ...
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