Monday, February 12, 2007

John 1:50-51: Jesus' Affirmation or Correction?

John 1:47-51 narrates Nathanael's encounter with Jesus, his climactic confession and Jesus' enigmatic response. Traditionally Jesus' response has been viewed as somewhat of an implicit correction of Nathanael's inappropriate nationalistic expectations. In order to back up this reading reference is made to two pieces of evidence from John. In the first place, a typical hand waving toward the direction of John 18:36 is offered. Here Jesus is quoted by John as saying "My kingdom is not of this world". While this is no doubt an important passage, what exactly is meant by the clause in John's Gospel is not only a crucial question, but also one that needs careful reevaluation--this will not be undertaken here.

Still, the main piece of evidence offered in support the traditional "correction"-reading is John's Jesus' reference to the "Son of Man" (v 51). With this phrase John is clearly making reference to the Danielic Son of Man in Daniel 7:13-14. It is thought by many that this reference "is less laden with political overtones than are the designations such as the just-used 'king of Israel'" (Koestenberger 2004: 87; citing also the work of Carson & Burge).

This explanation, to my mind, fails on two accounts: (1) It does not appreciate the inherent connection between the Jacob's Ladder allusion and the essence of the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam 7; Psa 89) apparently maximized by John; and (2) the politically charged context of Daniel 7:13-14.

On the basis of these observations, which admittedly need to be developed--and will in a forthcoming blog, I assert that far from muting the political overtones of Nathanael's statements, John's Jesus intensifies them beyond Nathanael's conception by forging the Davidic and Danielic ideals together to show that in Jesus of Nazareth heaven and earth meet.


Michael F. Bird said...

Sounds scintillating. Please continue.

exegetical fallacy said...


A good buddy of my here at Aberdeen (Ben Reynolds) is finishing up his diss on "the Son of Man in John." He agrees with you that "John is clearly making reference to the Danielic Son of Man," but is able to write a PhD defending it because most scholars, apparently--and surprisingly (!), don't.


Michael Barber said...

Wow--what a great post!

I've been working a lot on the Davidic expectations and finding surprising connections with Son of Man traditions. Brant and I have been discussing this among ourselves for sometime now... and now it's leaking out onto our blog.

What is going on?! This is such an exciting time to be involved in biblical studies!

By the way, we also heard from an Andrew Streett, who is doing a Ph.D. dissertation on the "Son of Man" at University of Wales--he is looking at Adamic parallels with the Son of Man. Sounds like great stuff.

exegetical fallacy said...

And then of course there's Maurice Casey's new book coming out in May/June (depending on when I finish the indexing!!), "The Solution to the Son of Man Problem." He's got some really interesting stuff on John as well his work on the synoptics.

Ben said...

Thanks for these comments. I agree with you that 1.51 is not a correction to Nathanael's statement, but I also do not think that it is entirely necessary to assume that 1.51 is an intensification of 1.49. It is possible to see the Son of Man saying as an addition or supplement to what M.-E. Boismard calls the 'bouquet of titles' in John 1 without the saying correcting or intensifying what Nathanael said.

As far as the connection to Daniel 7 is concerned, there does seem to be a link, but I am sceptical that we can make a strong link directly to the Danielic son of man based on Nathanael's statement or the words 'ho huios tou anthropou'. There is, I think, an apocalyptic influence on the Johannine Son of Man deriving from Daniel 7, but this brings with it numerous other themes and not only or primarily Davidic and messianic connections. These factors and the remaining Johannine Son of Man sayings must also play a part in discussions of John 1.51. I look forward to reading the rest of your thoughts.

Ben Reynolds

exegetical fallacy said...

Ben, I knew this post would pull you out of the shadows!

Daf said...

Hello Joel. I'm the David Kirk mentioned in Mike's recent post. Thanks for the post - very stimulating. Mike drew my attention to it because I mentioned to him that I'd been looking at these verses myself. I've posted on my own blog my own thoughts on John 1:50-51 arising largely from Carson's commentary on John. I'm only a humble BA student, but the content of the divine speech in Genesis 28 for me links strongly with the vision of the Son of Man in Daniel 7. If you have time to look my blog is Vorsprung Durch Theologie - Mike's put a link under Christian Blogs on your blog.

Joel Willitts said...

Ben: Thanks for your thoughts. You probably have thought through this much further than I have. I am primarily critiquing the idea that the allusion to the Son of Man from Dan 7, if it is in fact there-which I think it is!- does not soften or mute the political/national implications of the statement. The combination of the Jacob ladder allusion and possible Danielic nuances in the "Son of Man" present here intensify Nathanael's comment politically speaking; they do not undermine it.

David: welcome to the blog-sphere. Thanks for you comments and for your point on Genesis and Daniel 7. I will check your blog out.

Ben said...

Joel, if you haven't seen Craig Koester's article 'Messianic Exegesis and the Call of Nathanael (John 1.44-51)' JSNT 39 (1990) 23-34, you would definitely find it helpful and interesting.