Wisdom Motifs And John’s Gospel -- By: Henry R. Moeller
BETS 6:3 (Summer 1963) p. 92
Wisdom Motifs And John’s Gospel
The present paper was read at the meeting of the Midwestern section of ETS, April 19, 1963, and has been partially revised in the light of comments from the floor.
For the last fifteen years the attention of many biblical scholars has focussed upon the Qumran materials and their possible relevance for biblical interpretation, especially for the interpretation of John’s Gospel.1 Within the past decade, however, several studies have opened again discussion of an older question,2 namely, the question of the relation of the Jewish Wisdom Literature to the structure and thought of the Gospel of John.3
This paper proposes (1) to set forth a number of parallels between motifs which appear in the Judaic Wisdom writings and similar motifs appearing in the Gospel of John; and (2) to raise the question as to whether John’s presentation of the person and work of Christ may not have been influenced by these Wisdom motifs. For this purpose, four motifs will be examined: 1) the creative-revelatory activity of the Wisdom-Word of God; 2) the descending-ascending Wisdom and transcendent “Son of man”; 3) Wisdom as the divine arbiter of human destinies; and 4) Wisdom as “Prosagogeus” to God. A motif will be understood as a prominent idea or theme of the Wisdom Literature, or some portions of it, which reappears in the fourth Gospel as an interpretive concept relative to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The main sources which will be used in this study (not excluding others) are: Proverbs 1-9 (esp. chs. 1 & 8) ; Daniel (esp. ch. 7); Ecclesiasticus (the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirah); Sapientia (the Wisdom of Solomon); and 1st, or Ethiopic, Enoch, (esp. the “Similitudes” of sees. 37-71).4 Daniel and Enoch are included because they” belong to a special branch of the Wisdom tradition, and are relevant to pur purpose. Although classified as apocalyptic, there is a heavy emphasis upon Wisdom both in Daniel and the Enochian Similitudes.5 One branch of the apocalyptic movement shared the same general creation tradition and spirit of universalism (see below) that characterized the Wisdom school and, like the latter, cultivated an understanding of “the times and seasons” (cf. Sap. 7:18-22). The apocalyptists differed from the ordinary wisdom teachers in...
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