"Come and See": A Web Commentary on the Gospel of John

Appendix 2: The Meaning of ho Ioudaios in John's Gospel


The meaning of the substantive ho Ioudaios (sg)/hoi Ioudaioi (pl) in the Gospel of John is an apparently insoluable puzzle. Previous interpretations have proven unsatisfactory, and the most traditional of those solutions -- that the term refers to the Jewish people and shows enmity both from them toward Jesus and toward them by the evangelist -- is itself anti-Semitic and has been used to support anti-Semitic interpretation of the Fourth Gospel. The traditional attitude toward hoi Ioudaioi in John has thus been responsible for great evil. It has been repudiated both by responsible scholarship and the Second Vatican Council.1 The newer interpretation -- that the term indicates the division between the putative Johannine community and the Jewish community from which it has been involuntarily separated -- is little better, since it continues to foster the interpretation that the Fourth Gospel is basically hostile toward a group that can be identified as Jews who do not accept the Messiahship of Jesus.

A popular translation choice, considered by many to be a literal one, is to use the Jews or Jewish for all occurrences of the substantive Ioudaioi. This clearly is wrong for a variety of reasons. It is morally suspect because it perpetuates anti-Semitic readings of the text. But it is also a mistaken translation because more nuance is needed in a textual environment in which most of the persons referred to are either Jewish by ethnicity or religion or Judaean by geography. How can we come to such a nuanced translation while remaining sensitive to the text itself? Recent discussions of the meaning of Ioudaioi and related words in the period help to clarify some of the levels of meaning2 and can provide us with some guidance in the search for better understanding (and translation) of what the Fourth Evangelist wrote.

It is clear then that the problem of the meaning of hoi Ioudaioi in the Gospel of John is not only a problem of translation but a translation problem it still remains. In dealing with such apparently intractable problems the translator must navigate her course carefully. On the one hand there is the well-known Italian proverb Traditore, traduttore (Translator, traitor), describing the all-too-familiar situation of being unable to translate a phrase or a concept without resorting to paraphrase, or worse. And on the other, we have the dilemma described by Wilamowitz, the great German classicist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, with reference to ancient history specifically:

... our task is to revivify life that has passed away. We know that ghosts cannot speak until they have drunk blood; and the spirits which we evoke demand the blood of our hearts. We give it to them gladly; but if they then abide our question, something from us has entered them; something alien, that must be cast out...3

In short, we know we often cannot render a text without paraphrase or adaptation and yet when we pour something of ourselves into the translation, as we must to make the text alive to our time, we are in danger of introducing something alien and distorting. In the case of hoi Ioudaioi in the Fourth Gospel, the danger is that we will be so influenced by what we cannot help knowing about the abuses of its text over the intervening centuries that our rendering will in turn be distorted by anachronisms.

In trying to avoid these problems, I have adapted a method that I had found successful in dealing with small to mid-sized corpora of mediaeval and early modern Anglo-Latin texts for which I had to provide translations and glossary entries.4 There I used a key word in context (KWIC) concordance of the corpus to analyse the Latin vocabulary and usage of the various authors and clerks responsible for the texts of the corpus. Here to examine only one vocabulary item in a comparatively short text a KWIC concordance is unnecessary so what I have done is to put the occurrences of the substantive ho Ioudaios in a table in verse order at first.

Then I compared these passages with the two usual connotative meanings of the word in Biblical Greek, that is, in the usage of the Septuaginta (LXX). These are


1) a Judean, that is, a person living in or originating from the southern kingdom of Judah, and

2) as an extension of the former sense, a descendent of the Judaean exile community in Babylon (later Persia), including those who returned from exile to the Persian province of Judaea. Indeed this second sense is increasingly used for all inhabitants of the community in Judaea formed by post-Exilic leaders such as Ezra, without reference to their ancestral origin in Israel or Judah.5 In this second sense it is usually rendered as Jew in English.


By regarding the LXX usage as a baseline, we can see whether there are usages that are different, distinct from these two, or refinements of those senses. Historical change has compelled some obvious changes. By the first century CE, the kingdom of Judah was part of a distant past: ho Ioudaios in sense 1 (Judaean) refers to an inhabitant of Herodian or Roman Judaea rather than to a Judahite and in sense 2 (Jews) it referred more broadly to subjects of Herod the Great's former kingdom and beyond: persons from Galilee or Peraea, and even pilgrims from the Diaspora, might be included under the name hoi Ioudaioi in distinction to Samaritans or Romans.

There are 70 verses in the Fourth Gospel that contain the substantive ho Ioudaios. Once they are put into a table, several things become clear: there are three further refinements in the meaning of the word, distinct from our baseline in Biblical Greek, and the geographic context of the narrative or dialogue affects the applicable sense.

The three refinements in meaning are:

1a)one from the capital of Judaea, a Jerusalemite
This is not surprising, given Classical Greek usage, in which, for example, there were words that could refer either to an inhabitant of Attica, or of its principal city, Athens. In the story of the raising of Lazarus there are five occurrences of this substantive which seem to unmistakeably bear this meaning (Jn 11.19, 31, 33, 36, and 45); however, there are other occurrences in which it seems possible, if not probable, that it is intended.
2a) genitive plural used as a quasi adjective, Jewish
This is simply another example of what is known as the Defining Genitive,6 in which two nouns, one in the genitive (or possessive) case, substitute for a noun and an adjective.
3 a leading citizen, an authority, in or from Jerusalem
This is the most difficult of the three to account for. However there are 16 or 17 occurrences of this substantive in the Fourth Gospel which it is hard to explain in any other way, all of which are found in Jerusalem-related contexts.

This leaves us with the following definition for the substantive ho Ioudaios:


1) Judaean, a resident of Herodian or Roman Judaea, sometimes used in contrast to Galilean Jn 1.19 (22 occurrences, of which 16 may imply sense 1a);

1a) one from the capital of Judaea, a Jerusalemite Jn 11.19 (6 occurrences, plus the 16 mentioned above);

2) Jew, a resident of Herodian or Roman Palestine, sometimes used in contrast to Samarian or Roman, eg, Jn 4.22, 18.35 (14 total occurrences);

2a) genitive plural used as a quasi adjective, Jewish, eg, Jn 2.13 (10 total occurrences);

3) a leading citizen, an authority, in or from Jerusalem, eg, Jn 5.10 (17 occurrences, one of which may be an occurrence of sense 1 (Jn 7.11))


These senses are laid out below in Table 2. Table 1 shows the way in which some of these sense cluster by the place where the narrative takes places, for example, the certain occurrences of sense 1a are in a Judaean narrative, while all but 2 of the possible occurrences are in Jerusalem narratives. Or to take another example, all the probable or possible occurrences of sense 3 are in Jerusalem narratives.

Table 1: Occurences Sorted by Place and Verse

Verse

Place

Translation

Sense

  1. 2.13

Galilee

Jewish

2a

  1. 2.6

Galilee

Jewish

2a

  1. 3.25

Galilee

Judaean

1

  1. 5.1

Galilee

Jewish

2a

  1. 6.4

Galilee

Jewish

2a

  1. 6.41

Galilee

Judaeans

1

  1. 6.52

Galilee

Judaeans

1

  1. 7.1

Galilee

Judaeans

1

  1. 7.2

Galilee

Jewish

2a

  1. 19.19

Golgotha

Jews

2

  1. 19.20

Golgotha

Judaeans

1

  1. 19.211

Golgotha

Jews

2

  1. 19.212

Golgotha

Jews

2

  1. 19.213

Golgotha

Jews

2

  1. 2.18

Jerusalem

The Judaeans (or The Jerusalemites)

1? 1a?

  1. 2.20

Jerusalem

The Judaeans (or The Jerusalemites)

1? 1a?

  1. 3.1

Jerusalem

Jewish

2a

  1. 5.10

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 5.15

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 5.16

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 5.18

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 7.11

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the authorities)

1? 3?

  1. 7.13

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 7.15

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 7.35

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 8.22

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 8.31

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 8.48

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 8.52

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 8.57

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 9.18

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 9.22

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 9.22

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 10.19

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1a

  1. 10.24

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1a

  1. 10.31

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1a

  1. 10.33

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1a

  1. 13.33

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites) (int xref to 7.33-4)

1?1a?

  1. 18.12

Jerusalem

Jewish

2a

  1. 18.14

Jerusalem

the authorities(int xref to 11.47-52)

3?

  1. 18.20

Jerusalem

Jews

2

  1. 19.31

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 19.38

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 19.40

Jerusalem

Jewish

2a

  1. 19.42

Jerusalem

Jewish

2a

  1. 20.19

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 11.19

Judaea

the Jerusalemites

1a

  1. 11.31

Judaea

the Jerusalemites

1a

  1. 11.33

Judaea

the Jerusalemites

1a

  1. 11.36

Judaea

the Jerusalemites

1a

  1. 11.45

Judaea

the Jerusalemites

1a

  1. 11.54

Judaea

Judaeans

1

  1. 12.9

Judaea

the Judaeans or the Jerusalemites

1?1a?

  1. 12.11

Judaea

the Judaeans or the Jerusalemites

1?1a?

  1. 11.55

Judaea

Jewish

2a

  1. 1.19

Peraea

Judaeans

1

  1. 11.8

Perea

Judaeans

1

  1. 18.31

praetorium

Jews (in contrast w/Romans?)

2

  1. 18.33

praetorium

Jews

2

  1. 18.35

praetorium

Jew (in contrast to Roman)

2

  1. 18.36

praetorium

the authorities (cf 18.35)

3?

  1. 18.38

praetorium

Jews (in contrast w/Romans?)

2

  1. 18.39

praetorium

Jews

2

  1. 19.12

praetorium

the authorities (same ppl as 19.7)

3?

  1. 19.14

praetorium

the authorities (same ppl)

3?

  1. 19.3

praetorium

Jews

2

  1. 19.7

praetorium

the authorities (cf 19.6)

3?

  1. 4.22

Samaria

Jews (contrasted with Samaritans)

2

  1. 4.9

Samaria

(addressing Jesus w/in narrative) Jew

2

  1. 4.9

Samaria

(authorial aside) Jews

2





Table 2: Occurences Sorted by Sense and Verse

Verse

Place

Translation

Sense

  1. 1.19

Peraea

Judaeans

1

  1. 3.25

Galilee

Judaean

1

  1. 6.41

Galilee

Judaeans

1

  1. 6.52

Galilee

Judaeans

1

  1. 7.1

Galilee

Judaeans

1

  1. 11.54

Judaea

Judaeans

1

  1. 11.8

Perea

Judaeans

1

  1. 19.20

Golgotha

Judaeans

1

  1. 2.18

Jerusalem

The Judaeans (or The Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 2.20

Jerusalem

The Judaeans (or The Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 7.15

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 7.35

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 8.22

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 8.31

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 8.48

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 8.52

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 8.57

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 10.19

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 10.24

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 10.31

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 10.33

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites)

1?1a?

  1. 13.33

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the Jerusalemites) (int xref to 7.33-4)

1?1a?

  1. 7.11

Jerusalem

the Judaeans (or the authorities)

1? 3?

  1. 11.19

Judaea

the Jerusalemites

1a

  1. 11.31

Judaea

the Jerusalemites

1a

  1. 11.33

Judaea

the Jerusalemites

1a

  1. 11.36

Judaea

the Jerusalemites

1a

  1. 11.45

Judaea

the Jerusalemites

1a

  1. 12.9

Judaea

the Judaeans or the Jerusalemites

1?1a?

  1. 12.11

Judaea

the Judaeans or the Jerusalemites

1?1a?

  1. 4.22

Samaria

Jews (contrasted with Samaritans)

2

  1. 4.9

Samaria

(addressing Jesus w/in narrative) Jew

2

  1. 4.9

Samaria

(authorial aside) Jews

2

  1. 18.20

Jerusalem

Jews

2

  1. 18.31

praetorium

Jews (in contrast w/Romans?)

2

  1. 18.33

praetorium

Jews

2

  1. 18.35

praetorium

Jew (in contrast to Roman)

2

  1. 18.38

praetorium

Jews (in contrast w/Romans?)

2

  1. 18.39

praetorium

Jews

2

  1. 19.19

Golgotha

Jews

2

  1. 19.211

Golgotha

Jews

2

  1. 19.212

Golgotha

Jews

2

  1. 19.213

Golgotha

Jews

2

  1. 19.3

praetorium

Jews

2

  1. 2.13

Galilee

Jewish

2a

  1. 2.6

Galilee

Jewish

2a

  1. 3.1

Jerusalem

Jewish

2a

  1. 5.1

Galilee

Jewish

2a

  1. 6.4

Galilee

Jewish

2a

  1. 7.2

Galilee

Jewish

2a

  1. 11.55

Judaea

Jewish

2a

  1. 18.12

Jerusalem

Jewish

2a

  1. 19.40

Jerusalem

Jewish

2a

  1. 19.42

Jerusalem

Jewish

2a

  1. 5.10

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 5.15

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 5.16

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 5.18

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 7.13

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 9.18

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 9.22

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 9.22

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 18.14

Jerusalem

the authorities (int xref to 11.47-52)

3?

  1. 18.36

praetorium

the authorities (cf 18.35)

3?

  1. 19.12

praetorium

the authorities (same ppl as 19.7)

3?

  1. 19.14

praetorium

the authorities (same ppl)

3?

  1. 19.31

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 19.38

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?

  1. 19.7

praetorium

the authorities (cf 19.6)

3?

  1. 20.19

Jerusalem

the authorities

3?




1 After citing Jn 19.6 only to support the statement that the Jewish authorities and their adherents urged the execution of Jesus, the encyclical Nostra Aetate continues what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures (ea quae in passione Eius perpetrata sunt nec omnibus indistincte Iudaeis tunc viventibus, nec Iudaeis hodiernis imputari possunt. Licet autem Ecclesia sit novus populus Dei, Iudaei tamen neque ut a Deo reprobati neque ut maledicti exhibeantur, quasi hoc ex Sacris Litteris sequatur).

2 See Law and Halton, Jew and Judean and Shaul Magid and Annette Yoshiko Reed (eds), Forum on Cynthia Baker, Jew. The Marginalia Review of Books 6 May 2017 (http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/introduction-forum-on-cynthia-baker-jew/; accessed 13 June 2017).

3 Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff,Greek Historical Writing and Apollo: Two Lectures Delivered before the University of Oxford, June 3 and 4, 1908 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908. Reprint, Chicago: Ares, 1979), 25.

4The results of these analyses appear in the Latin Glossaries in volumes published by Records of Early English Drama (REED) from the York collection (1979) to Civic London (2015). Many of these glossaries have been combined in the Anglo-Latin Wordbook (http://reed.utoronto.ca/wordbook/; accessed 19 June 2017).

5 The LXX verses are from 4 Kgdms (2 Ki), Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Zechariah; the Apocrypha verses are from 1 Esdras, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Susannah and the Elders, and Bel and the Dragon. In the main it is fair to say that in the passages that pertain to the period before the Exile, or during the period between the two deportations to Babylon, the first meaning (Judaean) predominates, while in those pertaining to the Exile and the Restoration it is the second (Jew).

6 See C.F.D. Moule, An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek (2nd edn 1959, rpt 1971), 37-9.




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