Abducting John III

Just one quick post to finish this line of thought off for now. There is a dialectic between interpreting John and registering John’s resistance to interpretation – you might say, a dialectic between theological interpretation and historical-critical interpretation. And this dialectic can be seen as a way of paying homage to the two sides of the idea that John’s true identity is ‘hid with Christ in God’ – the theological interpretation witnessing to the ‘in Christ with God’ side, the historical-critical to the ‘hid’.

I think I want to say slightly more than that, though. On the one hand, I can say that John’s true identity is hid with Christ in God only because I trust that the God who addresses the world (and John) in Christ has no ‘interests’ – that this God is not bending John to some personal need, and distorting him in the process. It is only in relation to such a God that there is any freedom, any true identity – only such a God can tell us who we are without distortion. On the other hand, I hesitate to say that John’s true identity is hid with Christ in God because I know that the Christians who say this certainly do have interests, in fact are never free of interests, and are quite capable of bending John to some personal need.

To the dialectic of interpretation and registering resistance, then, I want to add a third element: such a hermeneutical trajectory can only be pursued with integrity in the context of interpreters, interpreting communities, that are pursuing the purification of their interests – that are pursuing holiness. It can only be pursued with integrity by individuals and communities that are discovering their true identities, hid with Christ in God.

When we’re talking about John the Baptist, that point may sound somewhat abstract – or, worse, like a bit of rather demonstrative breast-beating. If we start thinking about the topic that’s been (not very far) in the background through this discussion: interpretation of the Hebrew Bible – well; I think the point becomes rather more urgent and important. To read the Hebrew Bible as Old Testament – that seems to me to involve a dialectic between theological interpretation, and registering the resistance of the text to theological interpretation (by means of historical criticism, certainly, but also I think by reading alongside Jewish readers) – and can only be done with integrity by individuals and community in pursuit of holiness – and that must include especially holiness in dealings with the people of this book.

Hmmm. I’m not sure I’ve quite convinced myself with all this – but it will do for now.

One Thought on “Abducting John III

  1. Just posting a quick comment as a reminder to myself. A thought as I re-read this: the trouble with this supposed solution is that what is written in Mark is not the abstract claim that John’s true identity is hid with Christ in God. It is, instead, a particular, strong reading of John’s identity-in-relation-to-Christ, a reading through which John’s unassimilable idenity shines only dimly. In other words, Mark appears to stand only on one side of my dialectic….

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