Unstable Belief

:
Poststructuralist ¬io¬tutiv ¬io¬tutiv ¬io¬tutiv ¬io¬tutiv in John 3÷4


Matthew Hazell









Submitted to the Uni·ersitv oí Sheííield
in partial íulíilment oí the requirements íor the
Degree oí Master oí Arts in
Biblical Studies Research,
Uni·ersitv oí Sheííield. 2006










In memorv oí Samuel \aters
1924-2005



¨`¨S `C¨2 ¨"¨¨C
```¨"N ``.2 `¨LN
Pro·erbs 20:¯,



CON1LN1S


Summary of the Dissertation....................................................................................... 4
Abbreviations............................................................................................................... 5

Chapter J: Introductory Matters.................................................................................. 6
¬io¬tutiv in John`s Gospel .............................................................................................. ¯
\hv Deconstruction· ......................................................................................................... 8
Deconstruction in Johannine Studies............................................................................. 10

Chapter 2: Nicodemus and the Confusing Christ......................................................J5
ovoûtv. ¬io¬tutiv and the Impossibilitv oí 1ranslation ......................................... 16
Double-Bl,ind laith......................................................................................................... 20

Chapter 3: 1hirsty Jesus Meets a Samaritan Woman ............................................... 24
Derrida and the Giít oí God` ......................................................................................... 25
1he Bottom oí the \ell ................................................................................................... 29

Chapter 4: (1his is Not a) Conclusion.......................................................................3J

Bibliography .............................................................................................................. 36


4
SUMMARY OI 1HL DISSLR1A1ION


1he aim oí this dissertation is to. in some small wav. help to answer the question what is
belieí´íaith in John`s Gospel·` Much that is worthwhile has been written about ¬io¬tutiv
in John`s Gospel. but certainlv as íar as I am aware poststructuralist methodologv has not
been brought to bear on the matter. Poststructuralism and deconstruction ha·e now been
around` íor nearlv íortv vears.
1
vet it is still onlv comparati·elv recentlv that these ideas
ha·e been utilised in biblical studies. I am coníident that deconstruction and Derrida`s
·iews on language can oííer something useíul and incisi·e to the studv oí ¬io¬tutiv in
John-we shall see whether mv coníidence has been misplaced as we proceed!
(hapter 1 starts oíí with asking the question whv deconstruction·`. as opposed to
anv other method I could ha·e chosen. and also brieílv examines the íew poststructuralist
contributions to Johannine studies. (hapter 2 looks at the encounter between Jesus and
Nicodemus and. oí course. the reader, in John 3. considering ¬io¬tutiv as part oí
impossible translation and a Johannine double-bind. Jesus and the Samaritan woman are
the subjects oí chapter 3. which uses Derrida`s concept oí gitt to examine the Samaritan
woman`s íaith-and also the íaith oí Jesus himselí. linallv. chapter 4 attempts to make
some conclusions` about what this studv has shown us about the useíulness oí
deconstruction as an exegetical approach. and the possible eííects poststructuralist
¬io¬tutiv can ha·e on the liíe oí the (hristian church.

1
I am íullv aware that the idea oí beginning` in poststructuralist thought is metaphvsicallv problematic!
Ne·ertheless. I am assuming here that poststructuralism begins` with Derrida`s 196¯ triple-whammv oí
!ritivg ava Ditterevce trans. Alan Bass: London: Routledge. 2001 edn |196¯|,. ´peecb ava Pbevoveva L·anston:
Northwestern Uni·ersitv Press. 19¯3 |196¯|,. and Ot Cravvatotogy Baltimore. Marvland: Johns lopkins
Uni·ersitv Press. 199¯ edn |196¯|,.
5
ABBRLVIA1IONS

AB Anchor Bible (ommentarv series
ANL Ancient Near Last
BI Biblical Interpretation series Brill,
ßibívt ßibticat ívterpretatiov
CßO Catbotic ßibticat Ovarterty
(LV (ontemporarv Lnglish Version
í·) í·po.itory )ive.
ííí íovvaatiov. ava íacet. íorvv
JB 1he Jerusalem Bible
¡ßí ¡ovrvat ot ßibticat íiteratvre
¡í) ¡ovrvat ot íiteratvre ava )beotogy
¡´^) ¡ovrvat tor tbe ´tvay ot tbe ^er )e.tavevt
JSN1S Journal íor the Studv oí the New 1estament Supplement Series
¡´O) ¡ovrvat tor tbe ´tvay ot tbe Ota )e.tavevt
LXX Septuagint
Moa)beo Moaerv )beotogy
M1 Masoretic 1ext
M)´R Metboa ava )beory iv tbe ´tvay ot Retigiov
NA

^e.tte·.tava ^orvv )e.tavevtvv Craece Stuttgart: Deutsche
Bibelgesellschaít. 1993. 2¯th edn,
NL1 New Li·ing 1ranslation
No·1Sup Supplements to ^orvv )e.tavevtvv
NRSV New Re·ised Standard Version
N11S New 1estament 1ools and Studies
SBLDS Societv oí Biblical Literature Dissertation Series
SBLABS Societv oí Biblical Literature Academia Biblica Series
SBLSS Societv oí Biblical Literature Svmposium Series
SN1SMS Societv íor New 1estament Studies Monograph Series
SS Semeia Studies
´tva)beot ´tvaia )beotogica
)ß )yvaate ßvttetiv
)!^) )beotogi.cbe. !örterbvcb .vv ^evev )e.tavevt
CHAP1LR J
Introductory Matters









A text is not a text unless it hides írom the íirst
comer. írom the íirst glance. the law oí its
composition and the rules oí its game.

Jacques Derrida
Di..evivatiov. p. 69




Biblical criticism is at present passing through
a mirror stage.

Stephen Moore
Po.t.trvctvrati.v ava tbe ^er
)e.tavevt. p. ¯8




Deconstructi·e criticism will go awav: it is in the
nature oí sudden reílex-mo·ements oí absurdist
cogniti·e scepticism to be short-li·ed.

Iain \right
listorv. lermeneutics.
Deconstruction.` p. 88

¯
¬io¬tutiv iv ¡obv`. Co.pet

Ií we made a list oí kev words` in John. ¬io¬tu tiv would certainlv be on that list. along
with other íamous words such as ioyo. But whereas ioyo in most commentaries is the
subject oí a rather large excursus.
2
¬io¬tutiv seems to ha·e been somewhat neglected.
1his is not to sav that commentators ha·e vtterty neglected it.
3
but thev seem to take the
Johannine concept oí belieí` as íairlv selí-explanatorv and ob·ious. and more than a íew íit
belieí` into a tidv structure or process. (ulpepper. íor example. has le·els` oí íaith within
John: signs íaith. íaith in (hrist`s word. and a íaith voaet rather than an abstract íaith.
4
1his
last le·el` comprises oí those who know. lo·e and bear witness to Jesus: íor (ulpepper.
these are íigures like the Belo·ed Disciple. 1he goal oí íaith. is a knowledge oí God that
brings a unitv between belie·er and Lord like that between Jesus and the lather.`
5
Kvsar
makes some excellent points in his book ¡obv. tbe Mareric/ Co.pet but still succumbs to the
temptation to break things down into stages.
6
In his examination oí the signs. Brown also
has stages` oí íaith.
¯
and writes that belieí in·ol·es much more than trust in Jesus. it is
an acceptance oí Jesus and oí what he claims to be and a dedication oí one`s liíe to him.`
8

Brodie`s recent commentarv is unique in that it makes belieí its main íocus. Likelv.
this is down to the íact that Brodie positions it as a literarv-critical and theological

2
See. íor example. (. K. Barrett. )be Co.pet accoraivg to ´t. ¡obv London: SP(K. 19¯8. 2nd edn,. pp. 151-56:
Ravmond L. Brown. )be Co.pet accoraivg to ¡obv AB 29: London: Geoíírev (hapman Ltd.. 1966,. I. pp. 519-
24: Rudolí Bultmann. )be Co.pet ot ¡obv Oxíord: Basil Blackwell. 19¯1,. pp. 19-36.
3
Ravmond Brown`s commentarv has a reasonablv thorough. ií brieí. excursus ¡obv. I. pp. 512-15,. and R.
Schnackenburg has a more detailed excursus regarding íaith` )be Co.pet accoraivg to ´t ¡obv |trans. Ke·in
Smith: London: Burns & Oates Ltd. 1968 1965,|. I. pp. 558-¯5,.
4
R. Alan (ulpepper. )be Co.pet ava íetter. ot ¡obv Nash·ille. 1ennessee: Abingdon Press. 1998,. pp. 99-100.
5
(ulpepper. Co.pet ava íetter.. p. 100.
6
Robert Kvsar. ¡obv. tbe Mareric/ Co.pet Louis·ille. Kentuckv: \estminster John Knox Press. 1993. re·. edn,.
pp. 80-85. 93-96.
¯
Brown. ¡obv. I. pp. 530-31.
8
Brown. ¡obv. I. p. 513.
8
commentarv rather than majoring on historical concerns.
9
Indeed. Brodie`s outline íirmlv
structures the entire Gospel around belieí.
10
As such. his work seems more aware than
most oí the diííerent attitudes towards belieí in John`s Gospel.
lowe·er. though commentators írequentlv acknowledge that there are diííering
strands in Johannine belieí. this does not mean that the instabilities and incoherencies are
explored to anv great degree. lor example. there is the perplexing double role oí the signs`
2:1-11: 4:46-54: 5:1-18: 6:1-15: 9:1-12: 11:1-44,: thev both e·oke and coníirm. but do not
guarantee belieí. Neither do thev make up the íull path oí belieí.
11
Barrett acknowledges
this complexitv. but does not explore it.
12
Ií we acknowledge that these ambiguities cannot
merelv be the result oí a signs gospel` being clumsilv put together. then there has to be
some reason or reasons, as to whv the ambiguities exist in the íirst place. 1hus. ¬io¬tutiv
in John`s Gospel does not seem to be as coherent or stable as most people like to think or
assume it is.

!by Decov.trvctiov.

Postmodernism and poststructuralism occupv strange places in biblical studies. On the one
hand. those postmodernists acti·e in the discipline. such as Stephen Moore.
13
Roland
Boer.
14
and \·onne Sherwood.
15
írequentlv complain that biblical studies is a latecomer to

9
1homas L.. Brodie. )be Co.pet accoraivg to ¡obv Oxíord: Oxíord Uni·ersitv Press. 1993,. pp. 11-13.
10
Brodie. ¡obv. pp. 41-45.
11
Brodie. ¡obv. p. 63.
12
Barrett. ¡obv. pp. 24¯-48: John`s ·iew oí signs is complex. Blessed are those who belie·e without seeing`
does not implv (ursed are those who belie·e because thev ha·e seen`. íor this would damn the apostolic
testimonv which the gospel claims to represent.`
13
Particularlv. see Stephen D. Moore. Mar/ ava ív/e iv Po.t.trvctvrati.t Per.pectire.: ¡e.v. ßegiv. to !rite New
la·en: \ale Uni·ersitv Press. 1992,: Moore. Are 1here Impurities in the Li·ing \ater that the Johannine
Jesus Dispenses·`. ßibívt 1 1993,. pp. 20¯-22¯: Moore. Po.t.trvctvrati.v ava tbe ^er )e.tavevt: Derriaa ava
íovcavtt at tbe íoot ot tbe Cro.. Minneapolis. MN: Augsburg lortress. 1994,.
14
Boer`s most notable and pro·ocati·e!, work has to be Kvoc/iv` ov íearev`. Door: )be ßibte ava Popvtar Cvttvre
London: Routledge. 1999,.
9
the postmodern partv. On the other hand. a lot oí the academv seems to ·iew
postmodernism as either something to be suspicious oí. or as a deluded. sad. and ultimatelv
useless philosophical and hermeneutical ·iewpoint.
16
So. as someone who regards the Bible
as sacred text. what does deconstruction oííer that more traditional and accepted
methodologies such as historical-criticism do not·
1o attempt to answer this. we ought to brieílv examine what deconstruction is and
is not,. lirst oí all. it should be said that deconstruction is not a methodologv-and it is
certainlv not mv intention to e·er use it as one! It is most easilv thought oí as a critiqve. a
strategv oí reading which attempts to expose unquestioned metaphvsical assumptions and
contradictions within texts. In using the term metaphvsics.` Derrida is usuallv speaking oí
pre.evce. the assumption oí an area oí certaintv which is immediatelv a·ailable to us.

And a
large part oí this critique rests on how we see language. Derrida takes Saussure`s concepts
oí signiíier´signiíied and his ·iew that language is a network oí diííerences.
18
and radicalises
them. |1|he signiíied alwavs alreadv íunctions as a signiíier.`
19
which means that when we
read a sign. meaning is not immediatelv clear. Since signs reíer to what is absent. meaning is

15
)be Pro.titvte ava tbe Propbet: ío.ea`. Marriage iv íiterary·)beotogicat Per.pectire Sheííield: Sheííield Academic
Press. 1996,. especiallv pp. 150-253: also \·onne Sherwood ed.,. Derriaa`. ßibte: Reaaivg a Page ot ´criptvre ritb
a íittte íetp trov Derriaa New \ork: Palgra·e Macmillan. 2004,. See also her Derrida` entrv in A. K. M.
Adam ed.,. íavaboo/ ot Po.tvoaerv ßibticat ívterpretatiov St. Louis. MO: (halice Press. 2000,. pp. 69-¯5.
16
It is worth acknowledging here that those who take this ·iew usuallv ha·e an ideological´íaith-based
commitment to the Bible. L·angelical scholarship has been especiallv critical oí postmodernism-which is
perhaps to be expected gi·en its ·iews on. among other things. truth and scriptural inspiration. D. A. (arson
writes that |n|ot a little postmodernism borders on the incoherent and is in íact more than a little sad` )be
Caggivg ot Coa |Leicester: Apollos. 1996|. p. 134,. And Marcus lonevsett is equallv scathing oí Derrida as
well as íigures such as Michel loucault. Judith Butler and Jean Baudrillard,: Deconstruction is corrosi·e. It
sees attacking truth-claims as an ethical dutv. It is anti-truth. in theorv and in practice.` Mettaorv: Ma/ivg ´ev.e
ot a Cvttvre iv Cri.i. |Leicester: Inter-Varsitv Press. 2002|. p. 43,

See Jacques Derrida. !ritivg ava Ditterevce trans. Alan Bass: London: Routledge. 2001 edn |19¯8|,. p. 353:
iaev. Ot Cravvatotogy trans. Gavatri (hakra·orti Spi·ak: Baltimore. Marvland: Johns lopkins Uni·ersitv
Press. 199¯ corrected edn |196¯|,. pp. 22-26.
18
lor more on Saussure. see 1he Bible and (ulture (ollecti·e. )be Po.tvoaerv ßibte New la·en: \ale
Uni·ersitv Press. 1995,. pp. 124. 19¯-98: (hristopher Norris. Decov.trvctiov: )beory ava Practice London:
Routledge. 2002. 3rd edn,. pp. 24-32.
19
Derrida. Ot Cravvatotogy. p. ¯.
10
also absent. ne·er íastened to a particular sign.
20
Now. out oí this assumption oí presence
comes togocevtri.v: anv signiíving svstem go·erned bv the notion oí the selí-presence oí
meaning.`
21
íor example. the pri·ileging oí speech o·er writing. 1his phonocentrism can be
traced right back to the beginnings oí western philosophv:

Once it is written. anv piece oí work can be wheeled around all o·er the
place. alike to those who those who know about it and then. in preciselv the
same íorm. to those íor whom it is completelv irrele·ant. It has no wav oí
speaking to those it should speak to. and not speaking to those it should not
speak to. And ií it gets into anv diííiculties. and is uníairlv criticised. it
alwavs needs its íather to stand up íor it. It cannot. oí its own accord.
deíend itselí or stand up íor itselí.
Plato. Pbaearv.. 2¯5d-e,

\ho is this íather` oí writing· Speech! Most oí the Pbaearv. is taken up with how
to speak properlv. but it is in a section towards the end írom which the abo·e quote is
taken that Socrates. in Plato`s words. plavs down writing. Indeed. Plato describes writing as
a ¢opµo|ov. and this oííers Derrida a deconstructi·e opening in Plato`s Pharmacv.`
22

\hat Derrida shows here and elsewhere is that this can also work the other wav around:
writing is the precondition oí speech.
23

So. whv deconstruction· It challenges those ideas which purport to explain
e·ervthing. and also questions those ideas which perhaps are íondlv-held. saíe and íamiliar
to us. lowe·er. unlike other schools oí criticism. it does not attempt to replace ideas with

20
Madan Sarup. .v ívtroavctory Cviae to Po.t·´trvctvrati.v ava Po.tvoaervi.v lemel lempstead: lar·ester
\heatsheaí. 1993. 2nd edn,. p. 33.
21
Derrida. Di..evivatiov trans. Barbara Johnson: London: (ontinuum. 2004 edn |1981|,. p. 4 n. 1.
22
Derrida. Di..evivatiov. pp. 6¯-186.
23
See in particular Derrida. Ot Cravvatotogy. pp. 141-64. Secondarv literature on this includes Sarup. Po.t·
´trvctvrati.v ava Po.tvoaervi.v. pp. 38-41: Norris. Decov.trvctiov. pp. 2¯-32: Nicholas Rovle. ¡acqve. Derriaa
London: Routledge. 2005,. pp. 4¯-59.
11
vet another o·er-arching metanarrati·e. Deconstruction has the potential to add something
radicallv new to debates and con·ersations in biblical scholarship. It ·alues pluralitv oí
thought. and pluralitv oí interpretation-reíreshing in what can seem to be the white.
\estern. male and (hristian domain oí biblical studies.
24
On a personal note. I íind
deconstructi·e criticism to be a ·erv humbling exercise-possiblv because I am white.
\estern. male. and (hristian! I want the wav I read the Bible to be challenged. and
poststructuralist theorv oííers challenges galore.

Decov.trvctiov iv ¡obavvive ´tvaie.

low. then has deconstruction íared in Johannine studies· Unsurprisinglv. the most
attention paid to deconstructi·e exegesis is. more oíten than not. a cursorv and oíten
derisorv reíerence or íootnote. John Ashton. íor example. is particularlv scathing oí
deconstruction.
25
lowe·er. this situation does seem to be changing as more scholars either
start to become interested in deconstruction or accept that one can no longer call it a
passing íad. 1hus. in biblical studies in general. we now ha·e chapters on poststructuralism
in hermeneutics textbooks.
26
we baa dedicated issues oí ´eveia.

we ha·e the journal ßibticat

24
I admit that to sav this is a little contro·ersial. lowe·er. these issues ha·e ·erv recentlv resuríaced on the
Societv oí Biblical Literature website íorum. speciíicallv the articles oí Jacques Berlinerblau. 1he Unspeakable
in Biblical Scholarship.` http:´´www.sbl-site.org´Article.aspx·ArticleId~503. and lector A·alos. 1he
Ideologv oí the Societv oí Biblical Literature and the Demise oí an Academic Proíession.` http:´´www.sbl-
site.org´Article.aspx·ArticleId~520. A·alos`s article in particular turned out to be quite pro·ocati·e.
prompting ·arious responses on both the Societv`s website Letters in Response to A·alos.` http:´´www.sbl-
site.org´Article.aspx·ArticleId~530, and ·arious biblical studies weblogs e.g. Jim \est. 1he Latest SBL
lorum and 1he Irrele·ancv oí lector A·alos.` http:´´petrosbaptistchurch.blogspot.com´2006´05´latest-sbl-
íorum-and-irrele·ancv-oí.html: (hristopher leard. 1he rele·ance oí academic biblical studies: response to
lector A·alos part 1,.` http:´´www.heardworld.com´higgaion´2006´06´rele·ance-oí-academic-biblical-
studies.html,.
25
In his rather large and quite detailed tome. |vaer.tavaivg tbe íovrtb Co.pet Oxíord: (larendon Press. 1993,.
reader-response criticism and related tools are relegated to ove íootnote on p. 114. which bemoans the lack oí
anv diachronic perspecti·e lowe·er manv incidental insights such an approach mav produce. it can oííer no
help in answering the real riddles oí the text`,. See also ´tvayivg ¡obv: .pproacbe. to tbe íovrtb Co.pet Oxíord:
(larendon Press. 1994,. pp. 200-204. aptlv headed 1he 1hreat oí Deconstruction.`
26
L.g. Robert P. (arroll. Poststructuralist approaches. New listoricism and postmodernism` in John Barton
ed.,. )be Cavbriage Covpaviov to ßibticat ívterpretatiov (ambridge: (ambridge Uni·ersitv Press. 1998,. pp. 50-
12
ívterpretatiov with its emphasis on contemporarv approaches.`
28
and there is the odd
monograph here and there dedicated to deconstructi·e and poststructuralist approaches to
·arious texts.
29
It is still. howe·er. a minoritv approach-I doubt ·erv much whether
organs such as ^orvv )e.tavevtvv will e·er publish anvthing e·en remotelv
poststructuralist!
Stephen Moore is perhaps the most well-known proponent oí poststructuralism in
Johannine studies and Gospel studies generallv. ha·ing ílirted o·er the vears with not just
Derridean deconstruction but also Michel loucault
30
and Jacques Lacan.
31
One gets the
íeeling that. though he helped spearhead the poststructuralist new wa·e in biblical studies
something which I am sure he would ne·er lav claim to himselí,. he is now starting to
mo·e awav írom this area. Masculinitv studies and postcolonialism-which ha·e cross-

66: \illiam A. Beardslee. Poststructuralist (riticism` in Stephen R. lavnes & Ste·en L. McKenzie. )o íacb
ít. Orv Meavivg: .v ívtroavctiov to ßibticat Critici.v. ava tbeir .ppticatiov London: Geoíírev (hapman. 1993,. pp.
221-35: and. oí course. chapter 3 pp. 80-141, in Antonv 1hiselton`s ^er íori.ov. iv íervevevtic. London:
larper(ollins. 1992,.

See in particular issues 51 Poststructural (riticism and the Bible: 1ext´listorv´Discourse`, and 54
Poststructuralism as Lxegesis`,. ´eveia has now mutated exclusi·elv into a book series. with such titles as
James A. Smith. Mar/. ot av .po.tte: Decov.trvctiov. Pbitippiav.. ava Probtevati.ivg Pavtive )beotogy SS 53: Atlanta:
Societv oí Biblical Literature. 2005,.
28
Articles with a poststructuralist edge include Stephen (urkpatrick. Apostrophic Desire and Parousia in the
Apostle Paul`s Lpistles: A Derridean Proposal íor 1extual Interpretation.` ßibívt 10 2002,. pp. 1¯5-93:
(oleen M. (onwav. Speaking 1hrough Ambiguitv: Minor (haracters in the lourth Gospel.` ßibívt 10 2002,.
pp. 324-41: Liliana M. Nutu. 1he Seduction oí \ords and llesh and the Desire oí God: A Poststructuralist
Reading oí John 1:1. 14 and )be Pittor ßoo/.` ßibívt 11 2003,. pp. ¯9-9¯: and Robert M. Rovaltv. Don`t
1ouch )bi. Book!: Re·elation 22:18-19 and the Rhetoric oí Reading in, the Apocalvpse oí John.` ßibívt 12
2004,. pp. 282-99.
29
Lxamples include Da·id Seelev. Decov.trvctivg tbe ^er )e.tavevt Leiden: Brill. 1994, and Alison M. Jack.
)e·t. Reaaivg )e·t.. ´ecvtar ava ´acrea JSN1S 1¯9: Sheííield: Sheííield Academic Press. 1999,. I would also
include Jeíírev L. Stalev. Reaaivg !itb a Pa..iov: Rbetoric. .vtobiograpby. ava tbe .vericav !e.t iv tbe Co.pet ot ¡obv
New \ork: (ontinuum. 1995,. See also the íorthcoming book bv Liliana M. Nutu. ívcarvate !ora. ív.cribea
íte.b: ¡obv`. Protogve ava tbe Po.tvoaerv Sheííield: Sheííield Phoenix Press. due 2006,. (rossing into the realm
oí theologv. we ha·e works such as Jean-Luc Marion. Coa !itbovt ßeivg (hicago: (hicago Uni·ersitv Press.
1991 |1982|,. Mark (. 1avlor. írrivg: a Po.tvoaerv .´)beotogy (hicago: (hicago Uni·ersitv Press. 1984,. and
Don (upitt. )a/ivg íeare ot Coa London: S(M Press. 1980: note that most oí (upitt`s work post-1984 has a
poststructuralist edge to it,.
30
Po.t.trvctvrati.v ava tbe ^er )e.tavevt. pp. 85-112: also more recentlv Coa`. ßeavty Partor: ava Otber Oveer
´pace. ív ava .rovva tbe ßibte Staníord: Staníord Uni·ersitv Press. 2001,. pp. 133-¯2.
31
L.g. 1he Gospel oí the Look.` ´eveia 54 1992,. pp. 159-96. Are 1here Impurities in the Li·ing \ater that
the Johannine Jesus Dispenses·` also uses a little Lacanian theorv.
13
pollinated with poststructuralism and other disciplines. such as íeminism-seem to be his
new interests.
32

One oí the most signiíicant monographs in the last íew vears is Patrick (hatelion
(ounet`s ¡obv. a Po.tvoaerv Co.pet. though it does not seem to ha·e garnered the attention is
deser·es.
33
(hatelion (ounet`s book stands alone in the world oí Johannine studies in that
it is the onlv book-length treatment oí Derridean deconstruction as applied to John`s
Gospel. lor example. he describes the disciples` coníessions. such as those íound in John
1:49. 3:2. 13:3¯. 16:30 and 20:28. as voaerv because thev speak on their own initiati·e. and
togocevtric because thev contain ultimate truths with transcendental content.
34
lowe·er. we
ha·e the example oí the blind man in chapter 9. oí which he writes:

|1his| is a magniíicent example oí a íaith which comes írom outside. 1here
is nothing in the man which needs to be conquered anv more. It is not he
nor anvthing in him which brings him to íaith. Jesus himselí brings him to
the intended state. lis íinal íaith is pvre taitb: I belie·e`. 1here is no
coníession oí content so there is no reason íor Jesus to negate it.
35


In a similar wav to the blind man. (hatelion (ounet sees the Belo·ed Disciple as a
postmodern character`: he belie·es. but there are no words íor his belieí. L·en with a
deconstructi·e analvsis. though. (hatelion (ounet misses out on a discussion about the
ideal` nature oí the Belo·ed Disciple and whether he reallv is an ideal` within the text.

32
See the co-edited ·olume bv Stephen D. Moore and Janice (apel Anderson eds.,. ^er )e.tavevt
Ma.cvtivitie. SS 45: Atlanta: Societv oí Biblical Literature. 2003,. especiallv pp. 6¯-92: also Stephen D. Moore
and lernando l. Sego·ia eds.,. Po.tcotoviat ßibticat Critici.v: ívterai.ciptivary ívter.ectiov. London: 1. & 1. (lark
International. 2005,. especiallv pp. 1-22. ¯9-96.
33
Patrick (hatelion (ounet. ¡obv. a Po.tvoaerv Co.pet. ívtroavctiov to Decov.trvctire í·ege.i. .pptiea to tbe íovrtb
Co.pet Leiden: Brill. 2000,. 1o be íair. it is a íairlv hea·v going and dense book. and thus I am not sure that it
completelv warrants the word introduction` in its title.
34
(hatelion (ounet. ¡obv. . Po.tvoaerv Co.pet. p. 1¯9.
35
(hatelion (ounet. ¡obv. . Po.tvoaerv Co.pet. p. 181.
14
lowe·er. because the Belo·ed Disciple is not this simple character. it adds to the
poststructuralist nature oí belieí.
(hatelion (ounet also writes about the testimonv in John. and that it mostlv
attempts to determine the truth about Jesus` identitv and íunction. Kvsar mentions this
creedal` aspect oí Johannine íaith. the íact that the gospel is not made up oí the words oí
Jesus. but words abovt Jesus.
36
Part oí (hatelion (ounet`s thesis is that Jesus deconstructs
the logocentric statements oí belieí made bv his disciples.

and the Gospel itselí actuallv
re·els in postmodern theories oí reading and language:

John`s Gospel can be read not onlv írom the ·iewpoint oí the postmodern
deconstructi·e reading stvle. but also as an example oí it. |.| John`s
Gospel can be read as an example oí a text which is aware oí the íact that
language is essentiallv inadequate to ·erbalise certain experiences and.
thereíore. also to sav what those experiences are,.
38


Language íails to properlv` ·erbalise belieí in John. and as such. Johannine belieí can be
read as poststructuralist. undermining and questioning selí-e·ident` readings and
representations oí what it means to belie·e` in Jesus.

36
Kvsar. ¡obv. tbe Mareric/ Co.pet. p. 94: Schnackenburg. ¡obv. I. pp. 566-¯1.

(hatelion (ounet. ¡obv. . Po.tvoaerv Co.pet. pp. 1¯¯-90.
38
(hatelion (ounet. ¡obv. . Po.tvoaerv Co.pet. p. 12.
CHAP1LR 2
Nicodemus and the Confusing Christ









1here is something I don`t know
that I am supposed to know.
I don`t know rbat it is I don`t know.
and vet am supposed to know.
and I íeel I look stupid
ií I seem both not to know it
and not know rbat it is I don`t know.
1hereíore I pretend I know it.

R. D. Laing. Kvot.. p. 56




ou ti o öiöoo|oio ¬ou Ioponi |oi
¬ou¬o ou yivoo|ti;

John 3:10
16
1hough he onlv speaks sixtv-three words in the entire Gospel.
39
I íind the character oí
Nicodemus íascinating. It should be mentioned that mv opinion is bv no means
uni·ersal-Barrett thinks Nicodemus is quicklv íorgotten.`
40
and Bultmann`s section on
Jesus and the 1eacher oí Israel` makes hardlv anv meaningíul mention oí Nicodemus at all.
let alone anv possible character traits.
41
L·en (ulpepper. who acknowledges Nicodemus`
important role and characterisation in the Gospel. ascribes the discipleship-related
description oí |t|puµµtvo 19:38, to Nicodemus. when onlv Joseph is actuallv described
in this wav.
42
1he earlv church íathers. when thev mentioned Nicodemus.
43
also tended to
be negati·e: Augustine. íor one. saw Nicodemus as carnal-minded íovity 11.5,. lowe·er.
regardless oí one`s opinion oí Nicodemus. what is undisputable is that betiet plavs a major
role where·er he appears in the lourth Gospel 3:1-12:
44
¯:50-51: 19:39,.

ovoûtv. ¬io¬tutiv ava tbe ívpo..ibitity ot )rav.tatiov

In Derrida`s work. translation írequentlv occurs as a theme-speciíicallv. the impossibilitv
oí the whole endea·our. Much oí the essav Plato`s Pharmacv.` in which Derrida attempts
to show that the binarv oppositions Plato constructs in the Pbaearv. such as

39
Ob·iouslv. this depends on the Greek manuscript. though e·en gi·en textual ·ariations Nicodemus`s
words change ·erv little marginal readings at 3:4: ¯:51,. lere. the calculation is made using the main text oí
NA

.
40
Barrett. ¡obv. p. 202.
41
Bultmann. ¡obv. pp. 130-¯5. 1he closest Bultmann gets is a íootnote on p. 144: 1he dialogue ends bv
lea·ing Nicodemus íaced with the íinal issue oí íaith and unbelieí. and thus bv bringing the reader into the
same situation.`
42
(ulpepper. .vatovy ot tbe íovrtb Co.pet Philadelphia: lortress Press. 1983,. pp. 135-36.
43
Nicodemus does not seem to ha·e been a major íigure íor writers oí (hristian apocrvphal literature-the
onlv real de·elopment oí his character is contained in the .ct. ot Pitate. which boldlv ascribes the status oí
disciple to Nicodemus 1he Jews said to Nicodemus: \ou became his disciple and speak on his behalí.`` .ct.
ot Pitate 5:2,
44
\here does the discourse between Jesus and Nicodemus stop· 3:15· 3:21 as Brown. ¡obv. p. 149,· It seems
likelv to me that the discourse between Jesus and Nicodemus actuallv stops at 3:12. in that it is at that point
where it ceases to be anv sort oí discourse at all reallv. was it e·er·,. 3:13-15 seem to me to be just as much
commentarv on 3:1-12 as 3:16-21 is and in this I am supported bv Schnackenburg. ¡obv. p. 361,. It is also in
3:11-12 when the shiít írom ooi to the plural uµiv irre·ersiblv happens.

speech´writing. liíe´death. soul´bodv etc., are undermined bv Plato`s own logic and
rhetoric. is based around the íact that ¢opµo|ov has two contradictorv meanings which
can be rendered bv the Lnglish words remedv` and poison.`
45
Indeed. Derrida preíers the
term trav.torvatiov to translation:

|l|or the notion oí translation we would ha·e to substitute a notion oí
trav.torvatiov: a regulated transíormation oí one language bv another. oí one
text bv another. \e will ne·er ha·e. and in íact ha·e ne·er had. to do with
some transport` oí pure signiíieds írom one language to another. or within
one and the same language. that the signiíving instrument would lea·e ·irgin
and untouched.`
46


Poststructuralist theorv is kev here: though language mav gi·e the impression that
there is a one-to-one correspondence between signiíieds and signiíiers. this is not the case.
As such. modern` translation theories-a categorv in which both the literal and dvnamic
equi·alent schools oí translation íall-cannot ultimatelv succeed. because there is this
dependence on the idea oí linguistic, presence. 1he philosophv mav be diííerent. but both
literal and dvnamic equi·alent theories aííirm the possibilitv oí meaning-íull cultural
exchange oí ideas between the ANL and íirst-centurv worlds and the twentv-íirst centurv.
1he high-sounding platitudes oí the NRSV translation committee-as literal as possible. as
íree as necessarv`-suddenlv seem misplaced and untenable.
Now. there is a ·erv similar word to ¢opµo|ov in John 3. and that word is
ovoûtv. )!^) handilv iníorms us oí the roots oí ovoûtv bv subsuming it under the
entrv íor ovo´ovo¬tpov.

ovo can be rendered into Lnglish as either an ad·erb oí

45
Derrida. Di..evivatiov. pp. 98-118.
46
Derrida. Po.itiov.. pp. 19-20. his emphasis.

)!^). I. pp. 3¯6-¯8.
18
place abo·e`, or oí time earlier`,. lowe·er. as well as hea·en.` it also has the meaning oí
land` as opposed to sea,. and e·en the earth as opposed to the underworld.`
48
Now. since
land` is certainlv not something abo·e.` there is a seeming contradiction íor Lnglish-
speakers within the word ovo. which íilters down into ovoûtv. 1his ovoûtv birth oí 3:3
is equated with being born oí the spirit 3:6. 8,. but what ovoûtv· (ertainlv. translations oí
John 3 are in no hurrv to attach the meaning oí again` to Jesus` use oí ovoûtv.
49
e·en
though contemporarv (hristian discourse can be.
50
But there are una·oidable residual
traces oí each meaning leít in ovoûtv-again.` írom abo·e.` írom beíore`-and still
íurther traces oí the contradictorv ovo. Should we translate ovoûtv írom the land`· Note
that Jesus in 3:12 tells Nicodemus that he has told him about ¬o t¬iytio the earthlv
things`,!
It is clear that. e·en though in the lourth Gospel thev are both speaking Greek.
51

Nicodemus and Jesus are not speaking the same language. Nicodemus /vor. Jesus to be a
teacher írom God 3:2,. but Nicodemus cannot vvaer.tava Jesus. le cannot translate
Jesus.
52
Neither can we sav. as manv commentators do.
53
that Jesus ivteva. to communicate
the particular meaning oí born írom abo·e.` as we ha·e made the assumption that

48
)!^). I. p. 3¯6
49
1he NRSV tvpiíies the approach taken. with írom abo·e` in the main text and Or borv aver` in a íootnote.
Other translations which take this approach include the JB and rather surprisinglv. I ha·e to sav, the (LV.
1he NL1 oddlv puts born again` in the main text and born írom abo·e` in a íootnote-though its ·erv
prominent e·angelical bias is probablv responsible íor this. Interestinglv. Lugene Peterson`s paraphrase )be
Me..age: )be ^er )e.tavevt iv Covtevporary íavgvage puts the Lnglish born again` into Nicodemus` mouth as
well p. 222,-more than likelv out oí a desire to get Jesus and Nicodemus explicitlv talking about the same
thing and thus making the text that bit easier to read!
50
L.g. describing oneselí as a born-again (hristian.`
51
And this. ií John 3 is indeed recording some historical e·ent. is itselí a translation írom more than likelv,
Aramaic! lerman Ridderbos savs that the ovoûtv equi·elant in Aramaic would undoubtedlv mean born
írom abo·e.` )be Co.pet ot ¡obv: . )beotogicat Covvevtary |trans. John Vriend: Grand Rapids: \m. B.
Lerdmans. 199¯ 198¯´1992,|. p. 125, though in terms oí the rrittev Gospel itselí this is speculation at best.
since we ha·e no Aramaic original!
52
1he translation itselí is an act oí, interpretation oí the text and onlv one such interpretation at that`:
Robert P. (arroll. (ultural Lncroachment and Bible 1ranslation: Obser·ations on Llements oí Violence.
Race and (lass in the Production oí Bibles in 1ranslation.` ´eveia ¯6 1996,. p. 48.
53
Brown. ¡obv. p. 130: Schnackenburg. ¡obv. pp. 36¯-68: Ridderbos. ¡obv. pp. 125-26. Bultmann suggests a
translation into rebirth ¡obv. pp. 135-36 n.4,. Barrett ¡obv. pp. 205-206, gi·es credit to Nicodemus bv saving
his interpretation is not totallv wrong and ovoûtv has both írom abo·e` and again`.
19
meaning precedes the language-e·ent. that there is some sort oí pre.evce behind language.
54

In poststructuralist thought. as we ha·e alreadv seen. meaning is the eííect oí language.,
1he explanation oí the use oí ovoûtv is leít íor the narrator. who mav not be successíullv
translating Jesus either. Aíter all. |t|ranslation does not ha·e as essential mission anv
covvvvicatiov.`
55
It is a double-bind: translate me. I desire to be translated-but don`t
translate me. because vou will not be able to.
56

Should we translate ovoûtv as írom beíore`· It mav ·erv well be a dreadíul
pleonasm.`

but to be born again.` ií we use that (hristian phrase tainted bv the Lnglish-
speaking Nicodemus. requires one to ha·e alreadv been born on land.` írom the earthlv
womb.
58
Again. the meanings o·erlap. bleed into one another. and become untranslatable.
unspeakable-but we ine·itablv bare to translate. \e cannot speak ovoûtv. Or. at the ·erv
least. we cannot pre.vve to be able to speak it. And. ií we cannot speak about-or. as Jesus
puts it. ¬io¬tut¬t 3:12,-these ¬o t¬iytio. does Jesus do us a ía·our bv not telling us
about ¬o t¬oupovio·
59

lrom this untranslatable double-bind oí ovoûtv. a belieí-related question íollows:
how can one belie·e` when we cannot understand or e·en translate this requirement íor
belieí. to be born ovoûtv· Does this sacred text become utterlv useless· 1his is where
Derrida`s ·iew oí transíormation rather than translation can help us. Derrida sees sacred
text as ha·ing a special translation-related íunction. acting as the limit. the pure e·en ií

54
Kathleen Da·is. Decov.trvctiov ava )rav.tatiov Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing. 2001,. p. 53.
55
Derrida. Des 1ours de Babel.` ´eveia 54 1992,. p. 14. his emphasis.
56
Derrida. )be íar ot tbe Otber: Otobiograpby. )rav.terevce. )rav.tatiov trans. Peggv Kamuí: New \ork: Schocken
Books. 1985 |1982|,. p. 102.

)!^). I. p. 3¯8.
58
In an unpublished paper. Jorunn Okland argues that Nicodemus realises this. and thus is the more sensible
oí the two. |l|e understands that as íar as humans are concerned. it is not possible to be born oí Spirit
beíore one is born oí ílesh.` In the Beginning \as. (hora or the \ord· An Archaeologv oí Origins.` p.
19, lowe·er. her ·iew that born írom beíore` is a cbora that the text again íails to mention` p. 18. her
emphasis, can be countered bv mv reading oí these untranslatable polv-meanings oí ovoûtv.
59
lrom not-speaking ovoûtv. an air oí mvsterv de·elops around it: cí. 1 Ln. 41:3: 60:12: 2 Bar. 48:3-4.
20
inaccessible model. oí pure transíerabilitv.`
60
A sacred text is onlv sacred because it avvovvce.
it.ett a. trav.terabte: as text. it is alreadv ·erv aware oí its own iterabilitv and re-presentabilitv.
Kelli O`Brien. though in all likelihood not iníluenced bv Derrida. writes that through the
Gospel as sacred text,. |r|eaders learn to see the meaning oí things in new categories: thev
mo·e bevond the realm thev know and begin to see the hea·enlv realm.`
61
Ií the aim oí the
lourth Gospel is to cause people to betiere 20:31,. it onlv achie·es this as sacred text
through Derridean trav.torvatiov. the deconstruction oí language through translation.


Dovbte·ßtt)iva íaitb

All íour canonical gospels quote Isaiah 6:9-10 at some point in their narrati·es Mt. 13:14-
15: Mk 4:12: Lk. 8:10: Jn 12:40,. but tvpicallv the svnoptics and John are di·ided as to the
context oí the quote. \hilst the svnoptics use Isaiah 6:9-10 to reíer to Jesus` parables and
the µuo¬npiov oí the kingdom oí God. John's gospel puts the quote íirmlv in the context
oí íaith öio ¬ou¬o ou| nöuvov¬o ¬io¬tutiv. 12:39a,. 1his. I would contend. alters our
entire ·iew oí ¬io¬tutiv in the gospel. and reiníorces in a diííerent wav the íaith-based
double-bind examined abo·e.
In Isaiah 6:9. \hwh`s command to listen hard .`CL `.CL , and to look careíullv
`N¨ `N¨`, is onlv íulíilled through not-listening and not-looking. Ií one is to heed the
command. one must not understand it. \hwh then enlists Isaiah in this double-bind 6:10,:
the prophet is to communicate through non-communication .L¨ ``.`.` ¨23¨ ``.lN`,.

60
Derrida. Des 1ours de Babel.` p. 31.
61
Kelli S. O`Brien. \ritten 1hat \ou Mav Belie·e: John 20 and Narrati·e Rhetoric`. CßO 6¯ 2005,. p. 288.
21
John`s Gospel. with its use oí Isaiah 6:9-10.
62
takes this double-bind and runs with it. 1here
is an apparent attempt to ·eil it in 12:42. but this ends up coníusing the situation e·en
more.
63
\hat good is it to write with one stroke that the people ou| nöuvov¬o ¬io¬tutiv
12:39,. whilst with another write oµo µtv¬oi. ¬oiioi t¬io¬tuoov 12:42,· low can
thev belie·e ií thev are without eves. without understanding and. according to the narrator.
cannot belie·e· \hat do thev belie·e. anvwav· Ií \hwh has plucked out the people`s eves.
burst their eardrums. and ripped out their hearts. there are onlv a íew senses leít-and it
would stand to reason that. gi·en the option. \hwh would quite happilv se·er their arms
and cut out their tongues as well. Ob·iouslv. \hwh is a big ían oí Shakespeare`s )itv.
.varovicv.. particularlv Act 2.iii-i·!, It seems to be. quite literallv. btiva taitb. But is blind íaith
bad íaith·
Let us return to John 3 and Nicodemus. Does he ha·e blind íaith· \ell. ií no-one
can .ee iötiv. 3:3, the kingdom oí God without being born ovoûtv. then Nicodemus
surelv is as blind as a bat. e·en though he has seen the signs 3:2,. Jesus testiíies to what he
has .eev topo|oµtv. 3:11,. but Nicodemus and the rest-it is a plural vou` here, does
not ha·e íaith. 1here is a demarcation oí inside and outside here. brutallv reiníorced bv
3:18. But. when we get to chapter twel·e. Isaiah`s double-bind makes us realise that the
outsiders are the insiders
64
-those who cannot belie·e are being íaithíullv obedient to
\hwh`s recontextualised edict. 1he Johannine imperati·e to belie·e results in not-belieí.` ií
we belie·e what the narrator savs Isaiah said! 1here is hope vet íor Nicodemus in his

62
1he text does use the Isaianic quote-there is nowhere else it could ha·e come írom!-but the íorm oí the
quote does not correspond with either a translated M1 or IsaO
a´b
. or the LXX though the source seems most
likelv to be the LXX,.
63
Brodie. ¡obv. pp. 419-20.
64
And. oí course. one oí Derrida`s headings in Ot Cravvatotogy is 1he Outside Is the Inside` p. 44,.
22
coníusion and unbelieí. since his autonomv is an illusion anvwav 12:36b-40,.
65
Doesn`t
Jesus tell him the same thing in 3:8 ¬o ¬vtuµo o¬ou ûtiti ¬vti,·
1he inside´outside opposition is completelv broken down when we take into
account Kelli O`Brien`s argument that misunderstanding is a narrati·e strategv. part oí the
process oí belieí
66
-not a new idea.

but what is interesting is that no disciple oí Jesus in
John escapes this dvnamic.
68
Not e·en the ideal.` the Belo·ed Disciple. .tt belie·e in Jesus
through misunderstanding. L·en the scholars.
Robert Kvsar. like Nicodemus. ends up ·erv coníused with (hrist`s language in
John 3. le describes the chapter as abuse.`
69
and in a similar wav to Mark Stibbe. combines
contradictorv metaphors in a description oí the author`s strategv: 1he strategv. is to pile
image upon image. letting each ittvvive ava covceat the others.`
¯0
lrancis Molonev also charts
his own experience reading John 3 as a (atholic priest. especiallv 3:10: 1he Johannine
Jesus was telling me that I was a íake. that mv understanding oí liíe in the Kingdom had
little to do with the swirling winds oí the Spirit leading me I know not where into a destinv
bevond mv knowledge and control.`
¯1
Misunderstanding. a lack oí understanding. the

65
(olleen M. (onwav sees hope in this ambiguitv in Nicodemus` character. and e·erv other minor character
in the Gospel: the construction oí the characters gi·es implicit recognition oí what actuallv constitutes a liíe
oí íaith. whether in the íirst or twentv-íirst centurv.` Minor (haracters in the lourth Gospel.` p. 340,
66
Kelli S. O`Brien. \ritten 1hat \ou Mav Belie·e.` pp. 284-302.

See. e.g.. (. K. Barrett. ¡obv. pp. 200. 208: 1homas L. Brodie. )be Co.pet .ccoraivg to ¡obv Oxíord: Oxíord
Uni·ersitv Press. 1993,. pp. 16-19.
68
(.í. (ulpepper. .vatovy ot tbe íovrtb Co.pet. pp. 152-65. Lvle Lslinger mentions misunderstanding as a
narrati·e de·ice in 1he \ooing oí the \oman at the \ell: Jesus. the Reader and Reader-Response
(riticism.` ¡í) 1 198¯,. pp. 1¯2-¯5. as also do ·arious others e.g. Da·id Mark Ball. í .v` iv ¡obv`. Co.pet:
íiterary ívvctiov. ßac/grovva ava )beotogicat ívpticatiov. |JSN1S 124: Sheííield: Sheííield Academic Press. 1996|.
p. 63: \avne A. Meeks. 1he Man írom lea·en in Johannine Sectarianism.` ¡ßí 91 |19¯2|. pp. 48. 56. 5¯,.
69
Kvsar. 1he Making oí Metaphor: Another Reading oí John 3:1-15` in lernando l. Sego·ia ed.,. !bat i.
¡obv. Reaaer. ava Reaaivg. ot tbe íovrtb Co.pet SBLSS 3: Atlanta. Georgia: Scholars Press. 1996,. p. 30.
¯0
Kvsar. 1he Making oí Metaphor`. p. 39. mv emphasis. Maria Anicia (o`s sense-experience reading` is also
interesting. She attempts to completelv immerse herselí in the storv. but what is reallv interesting is her
response to this: I realize the limitation oí mv words to con·ev the íeelings engendered. As I immerse
mvselí in John`s storv oí Jesus. I íind mvselí growing in mv sense oí commitment.` Reading and sense-
experiencing the Gospel oí John` in Ingrid Rosa Kitzberger |ed.|. )be Per.ovat 1oice iv ßibticat ívterpretatiov
|London: Routledge. 1999|. p. 95,
¯1
lrancis J. Molonev. An Ad·enture with Nicodemus` in Ingrid Rosa Kitzberger ed.,. )be Per.ovat 1oice iv
ßibticat ívterpretatiov London: Routledge. 1999,. p. 101.
23
inabilitv to understand-all. through the paradoxical double-bl,ind. seem to lead in some
sense to belieí` in the e·perievce oí reading John`s Gospel. ¬io¬tutiv. íor these authors.
cannot be coherentlv expressed through´in language-a ·erv poststructuralist ·iewpoint!
In this diííicultv-poststructurallv una·oidable-ultimatelv we all end up as coníused as
Nicodemus. (hatelion (ounet`s belieí without language becomes a necessarv possibilitv.
¯2

|l|ow can vou belie·e.·` Personallv. this has become íor me one oí Jesus` most
penetrating questions in the lourth Gospel. especiallv in light oí the double-bind it creates
coupled with the Isaianic quote in chapter twel·e. (. K. Barrett writes that Nicodemus is
uncomprehending and incredulous in spite oí his proíessional knowledge oí the Old
1estament which should ha·e prepared him íor its íulíilment.`
¯3
but he can be no other
wav. Am I reallv anv diííerent. in spite oí mv own proíessional knowledge`· As lugh
Pvper writes about the book oí Zechariah. easv scripture is no scripture.`
¯4
and I would add
that exactlv the same holds íor John 3-so rira ta coníusion!

¯2
(hatelion (ounet. ¡obv. . Po.tvoaerv Co.pet. pp. 1¯¯-90.
¯3
Barrett. ¡obv. p. 203.
¯4
Reading in the Dark: Zechariah. Daniel and the Diííicultv oí Scripture.` ¡´O) 29 2005,. p. 503.
CHAP1LR 3
1hirsty Jesus Meets a Samaritan Woman









o¬t|piûn Inoou |oi ti¬tv ou¬n ti
nöti ¬nv öoptov ¬ou ûtou...

John 4:10a




1he impossibilitv or double-bind oí the giít:
lor there to be giít. it is necessarv that the giít
not e·en appear. that it not be percei·ed or
recei·ed as giít.

Jacques Derrida
Gi·en 1ime. p. 16




|M|an`s desire íinds its meaning in the desire
oí the other.

Jacques Lacan
lunction and lield oí Speech
and Language.` p. 65




25
1he Derridean concept oí giít` is not something which. like Derridean theorv in general.
has not recei·ed an awíul lot oí use in biblical studies though it has íound its wav into
theologv
¯5
,. so we shall start with a brieí examination oí what giít` actuallv is and entails in
Derrida`s thought.

Derriaa ava tbe Citt ot Coa`

Generallv. we suppose that we know what a giít is and what happens when someone gi·es
us a giít. So. íor example. ií someone handed me a book and said happv birthdav.` I would
know that thev were gi·ing me a giít because it is mv birthdav. and on birthdavs it is
customarv íor people to be gi·en giíts. But whv is it customarv· \hat psvchological
dvnamics does this create· 1he person gi·ing me a birthdav giít expects some sort oí
reciprocation-at the ·erv least. thank vou.` 1heir subconscious desire íor me to recognise
them is related to how ·aluable I percei·e the giít to be. I mav panic at the expense oí the
giít. and worrv about how I might go about returning the giít in some wav. 1here is more
to giít-gi·ing than at íirst appears. and Derrida`s account seeks to acknowledge the
insidious extent to which narcissistic selí-gratiíication or unconscious gratiíication mav be
at work in the act oí gi·ing.`
¯6

Derrida contends that these unconscious aspects annul the giít. producing the
annulment. the annihilation. the destruction oí the giít.`
¯¯
(haracteristicallv. Derrida uses
the properties oí giít-donor intention to gi·e,. giít gi·ing oí something, and donee
someone otber than donor,-against itselí. in order to deconstruct it and show its ultimate

¯5
Notablv Jean-Luc Marion. Coa !itbovt ßeivg (hicago: (hicago Uni·ersitv Press. 1991,. which has oyo¬n
as a pure gi·en.` See also (arl Olson. Lxcess. 1ime. and the Pure Giít: Postmodern 1ransíormations oí
Marcel Mauss` 1heorv.` M)´R 14 2002,. pp. 350-¯4.
¯6
Rovle. ¡acqve. Derriaa. p. 138.
¯¯
Derrida. Cirev )ive: ]. Covvterteit Movey trans. Peggv Kamuí: (hicago: Uni·ersitv oí (hicago Press. 1992
|1991|,. p. 12.
26
impossibilitv.
¯8
le attempt to think about giít outside oí anv svstem oí exchange. return or
debt. 1hus. íor a giít to actuallv be a giít there must categoricallv be no giít-returning oí anv
kind. and no expectation oí restitution: indeed. it is best that the giít not e·en appear. that
it not be percei·ed or recei·ed as giít.`
¯9
L·en acknowledging something as giít is enough
to destrov it. which creates a double-bind. A giít cannot be a giít unless both donor and
donee veitber see vor know it as giít.
80
lor there to be a giít. there must be no reciprocitv.
return. exchange. countergiít or debt.`
81

Does this mean we should just throw out the idea oí giít`· \ell. not quite-
Derrida ne·er ad·ocates that we merelv stop bothering to think about such things. Ií the
giít is another name oí the impossible. we still think it. we name it. we desire it. \e intend
it.`
82
And to desire to think or gi·e` the impossible is a íorm oí madness. a mad gi·ing.`
83

an excessi·e gi·ing without calculation or measure. It is onlv this kind oí giít that is pure.`
without borders. unrecognisable. impossible.
low then read ¬nv öoptov ¬ou ûtou John 4:10,· 1raditionallv-both in
academic and ecclesial settings-John 4:1-42 has been seen as a metaphorical discourse
between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.
84
primarilv about sal·ation since this is the last
thing mentioned in this pericope |oi oiöoµtv o¬i ou¬o to¬iv oinûo o oo¬np ¬ou
|ooµou. 4:42b,. and the making oí disciples seems to írame the whole storv 4:1b. 41,.
85


¯8
Derrida. Cirev )ive. pp. 12-13.
¯9
Derrida. Cirev )ive. p. 16.
80
Again. this neither´nor Derridean logic` is ob·ious: see íurther Derrida. Po.itiov.. pp. 38-39.
81
Derrida. Cirev )ive. p. 12.
82
Derrida. Cirev )ive. p. 29.
83
Penelope Deutscher. íor to Reaa Derriaa London: Granta Books. 2005,. p. 9¯: Olson. Lxcess. 1ime and
the Pure Giít.` p. 360.
84
So Lrnst laenchen. ¡obv trans. Robert \. lunk: Philadelphia: lortress Press. 1984,. I. p. 230: Barrett. ¡obv.
pp. 228-9.
85
Dorothv A. Lee notes the two svnonvmous themes oí mission and íaith )be ´yvbotic ^arratire. ot tbe íovrtb
Co.pet: )be ívterptay ot íorv ava Meavivg |JSN1S 94: Sheííield: Sheííield Academic Press. 1994|. pp. 64-5,. See
also the missional emphasis oí 1. Okure. )be ¡obavvive .pproacb to Mi..iov: . Covte·tvat ´tvay ot ¡obv 1.]·12

(ertainlv in biblical tradition. li·ing water can be sal·iíic: Lxodus 1¯:1-¯ tells the storv oí
the Israelites being pro·ided with water írom a rock just aíter thev ha·e had bread írom
hea·en. Lzekiel 4¯ has a liíe-gi·ing ri·er "".¨ ¨CL N`2`¯¨LN "3 `"`. 4¯:9,. and
Jeremiah 2:13 portravs \hwh as 2``" 2`C ¨`¨C also 1¯:13,.
86
1he Oae. ot ´otovov also
ha·e the image oí a li·ing stream oí water 30:1-¯: also 6:8-18,. \ater is also associated
with wisdom and the law Pro·. 13:14: Sir. 15:1-3: 24:21: Bar. 3:2,.


1he woman attempts to recognise the giít oí God.` this li·ing water.` but in the
narrati·e she does not-to be íair though. it is not through lack oí trving ··. 11. 15,.
88

Lslinger e·en suggests that. as a result oí the semantic links oí li·ing water` with Song
4:12. 15. the woman has recognised sexual o·ertones in Jesus` oííer. and that her
pro·ocati·e intention uníolds in what íollows` as she asks to see the source` oí Jesus`
li·ing water` with a knowing wink,.
89
Oí course. Jesus then steers the con·ersation awav
írom the giít. and towards her husbands.` le is. aíter all. the concealer.
1he last we hear oí water` in John 4:1-42 is in ·. 28. where the woman lea·es
behind her water jar and presumablv the water,. lowe·er. we still ha·e the outcome that
we ha·e perhaps been led to expect-because oí the woman`s testimonv. ¬oiioi
t¬io¬tuoov ti ou¬ov 4:39,. 1hus. the woman and the Samaritan citv bare recei·ed the
giít aíter all. though none ha·e recognised it as giít. 1he giít oí God.` Jesus` u öop Cov. is
an impossible giít. It is without borders 4:9. 2¯,: manv commentators ha·e rightlv noticed

\UN1 31: 1übingen: Mohr |Paul Siebeck|. 1988,. Rudolí Bultmann also acknowledges the theme oí
mission ¡obv. p. 1¯5,.
86
Lvle Lslinger notes the possible sexual connotations oí Jeremiah 2:13. paralleling it with Song 4:12. 15
1he \ooing oí the \oman at the \ell: Jesus. the Reader and Reade-Response (riticism.` ¡í) 1 |198¯|. p.
1¯0,.

See Jane S. \ebster. ívge.tivg ¡e.v.: íativg ava Driv/ivg iv tbe Co.pet ot ¡obv Atlanta: Societv oí Biblical
Literature. 2003,. pp. 53-59 íor more.
88
Bultmann notes here that the L·angelist must here sav uöop Cov without the article. to make the
misunderstanding possible.` ¡obv. p. 180 n. 3, (an giít` be radicallv íorgotten so easilv. with the accidental·,
slip oí a the`·
89
Lslinger. 1he \ooing oí the \oman.` pp. 1¯6-¯¯.
28
the Jewish´Samaritan ethnic boundaries that are broken in this storv.
90
It is without
measure 4:14,: those who drink oí it will ne·er thirst ou µn öi¢noti,. and it will become
a íountain ¬nyn uöo¬o, which gushes up.
In manv respects. this giít oí God` in John 4 seems to match up to Derrida`s
concept oí pure giít.` lowe·er. things are not ne·er·, this simple. \e cannot escape the
double-bind oí giít-that íor giít to exist. it cannot be recognised
91
as existing. Bultmann
puts it succinctlv when he writes that there is a knowledge oí God`s giít rbicb preceae. the
actual receipt oí the giít.`
92
Jesus thus nulliíies
93
this giít oí God as giít bv entering it into an
exchange mechanism oí belieí ¬io¬tutiv. 4:39. 41. 42, and knowledge: he retains his
pri·ileged role as the dispenser oí knowledge.`
94
and almost seems to tease the woman. Ií
vou knew nöti,. vou would ha·e asked.` 4:10, 1o a./ íor a giít is a denial oí
e·ervthing the giít should be!
linallv. we shall step brieílv outside John 4. to a related passage in John ¯:3¯-39:

On the last dav oí the íesti·al. the great dav. while Jesus was standing there. he cried
out. Let anvone who is thirstv öi¢o , come to me. and let the one who belie·es in me
drink. As the scripture has said. Out oí the belie·er`s heart shall ílow ri·ers oí li·ing
water uöo¬o Cov¬o,.`` Now he said this about the Spirit. which belie·ers in him
oi ¬io¬tuoov¬t ti ou¬ov, were to recei·e ioµþovtiv,: íor as vet there was no
Spirit. because Jesus was not vet gloriíied.


90
L.g. (ulpepper. .vatovy ot tbe íovrtb Co.pet. p. 13¯: Jerome l. Nevrev. \hat`s \rong with this Picture·
John 4. (ultural Stereotvpes oí \omen. and Public and Pri·ate Space.` p. 110 in Amv-Jill Le·ine ed.,. .
íevivi.t Covpaviov to ¡obv London: Sheííield Academic Press. 2003,. I. pp. 98-125.
91
Ravmond Brown translates the start oí John 4:10 as Ií onlv vou recogvi.e God`s giít` )be Co.pet accoraivg to
¡obv. I. p. 166. mv emphasis,.
92
Bultmann. ¡obv. p. 181. mv emphasis.
93
Just like the Pharisees nulliív the word oí God through their tradition and knowledge·, in Mark ¯·
94
Moore. Are 1here Impurities in the Li·ing \ater that the Johannine Jesus Dispenses·` p. 213.
29
Most commentators are happv to link the li·ing water in this passage with that in John 4.
95

and thus according to Jesus here it is the Spirit which is the giít oí God.` Now. here it is
the use oí ioµþovtiv which íinallv gi·es the game awav. 1he Johannine belieí exchange
mechanism implicit in 4:10 suddenlv becomes agonisinglv explicit. \ho recei·es` the
Spirit. the giít· 1hose who betiere in Jesus-oi ¬io¬tuoov¬t ti ou¬ov. ¬io¬tutiv is the
currencv oí Jesus. that which he uses to purchase the giít then gi·en to the íaithíul.
96


)be ßottov ot tbe !ett

\hat do íaith and giít ha·e to do with desire· \ell. in John 4. quite a lot. as it turns
out. It is made abundantlv clear that. e·en ií as we ha·e seen abo·e. ¬nv öoptov ¬ou
ûtou cannot be construed as pure giít. the Samaritan women still wants it. 1he spirit oí
seeing. with which comes desire` )e.tavevt ot Revbev 2:4, has kicked into action-(ome
and .ee |iöt¬t| a man who told me e·ervthing I ha·e e·er done!` 4:29,
Stephen Moore has pre·iouslv argued a deconstructi·e case íor John 4. in the ·erv
íirst ·olume oí ßibticat ívterpretatiov. 1raditionallv. the storv has been taken as a humilitv
lesson gi·en bv Jesus to the woman.

le does not need the water-whv would he·-the
woman does. But Moore íollows a critical route iníluenced bv both Derrida and Lacan. and
asks whether Jesus` need is reallv anv less than that oí the woman`s. Jesus thirsts to arouse
ber thirst. lis desire is to be the desire oí this woman`:
98
or. put diííerentlv. Jesus desires
the woman`s ¬io¬tutiv in him. Jesus thirsts on the cross to íulíil the scripture 19:28, .o

95
Bultmann. ¡obv. p. 303: Brodie. ¡obv. pp. 318-19:
96
Outside oí John`s Gospel. it is interesting to obser·e that this idea íinds resonance in a diííerent wav in the
Svnoptics: And he could do no deed oí power there. except that he laid his hands on a íew sick people and
cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelieí.` Mark 6:5-6: note the Markan ou| töuvo¬o is soítened to
ou| t¬oinotv in Mt. 13:58, 1he theme seems to be that giíts` are bought bv belieí in Mark and Matthew.
giíts oí healing: in John. the giít oí the Spirit,.

So Brown. ¡obv. I. p. 426: Schnackenburg. Jobv. I. p. 426.
98
Moore. Are 1here Impurities in the Li·ing \ater that the Johannine Jesus Dispenses·`. p. 208.
30
tbat people can belie·e in him. 1he ílow oí water írom his side 19:34, can also be read as a
íulíilment oí sorts oí ¯:3¯-39. the gi·ing up, oí the Spirit ¬optöo|tv ¬o ¬vtuµo. 19:30:
whose S´spirit·,. And what does Jesus sav about the Spirit in the íarewell discourse chs.
13-1¯,· Ií I go awav. the ¬opo|in¬o will not come` 16:¯,: indeed. sounding ·erv much
like Derrida. Ravmond Brown describes the ¬opo|in¬o as the presence oí Jesus when
Jesus is absent.`
99

Ií the li·ing water` is a metaphor íor the ¬opo|in¬o which is itselí a metaphor
íor the Spirit. which is a metaphor íor the presence oí God. which is.,. what does this tell
us about the giít oí God`· In desiring and asking íor it e.g. 4:15: 14:8: 15:¯,. not onlv do
we nulliív it as giít. but we also desire the permanent absence oí Jesus. (hristians proíess to
wait íor him to return to earth. but it seems that. secretlv. we would be happier ií he ne·er
came back. \e ha·e or think we ha·e, what we desire-through íaith in both the
presence oí Jesus ava bi. ab.evce. At least Don (upitt has it halí-right with his non-realist
theologv
100
-but íor ¬io¬tutiv to íunction in John`s Gospel. we need to be both realists
and non-realists. waiting and not-waiting íor (hrist`s return. low does one not-wait. ií
waiting is all one knows·,
Not onlv are we part oí this desiring-íaith network. Liliana Nutu. writing about the
prologue to John. savs that in the Johannine íundamental oí the incarnation 1:11. 14. 18,.
God desires our ílesh.
101
le desires to be looked at. to be gloriíied-we gazed upon his
glorv` tûtoooµtûo ¬nv öoEov ou¬ou. 1:14b,. Indeed. Nutu also remarks that the
incarnation is humanitv`s presenting oí a giít to God. and that this is actuallv closer to pure
giít as it is seeminglv not acknowledged as such bv God.
102



99
Brown. ¡obv. II. p. 1141.
100
L.g. (upitt. )a/ivg íeare ot Coa. pp. 98-10¯.
101
Nutu. \ords and llesh and the Desire oí God.` p. 96.
102
Nutu. \ords and llesh and the Desire oí God.` pp. 94-95 n. 31.
CHAP1LR 4
(1his is Not a) Conclusion









seeker oí truth

íollow no path
all paths lead where

truth is here

L. L. (ummings
¨² Poev.. no. 3




I asked vou where to begin. and vou ha·e led
me into a labvrinth.

lenri Ronse
Derrida. Po.itiov.. p. 5

32
\ell. we ha·e quicklv reached the end oí this studv. and I íeel as ií I ought to sav just a íew
things more though I doubt whether I ha·e reallv said anvthing,. low useíul has
deconstruction been as an exegetical approach· I ha·e íound and continue to íind it ·erv
useíul. though this is onlv mv opinion and vou mav disagree with me aíter ha·ing read the
pre·ious sections. lowe·er. I think biblical studies and theologv need to be encouraged to
ele·ate the marginal and problematic within texts. Bearing in mind the ambiguitv oí
characters in John`s Gospel. it seems quite ob·ious that ¬io¬tutiv. ií it is not problematic.
and ií it does not lead us into a labvrinth. is not reallv ¬io¬tutiv at all.
As íar as the church and postmodernitv goes. the literature just seems to keep on
growing.
103
Most oí the books. howe·er. ha·e a tbeotogicat emphasis rather than a biblical
studies´textual emphasis as well. \here. íor example. does this deconstructi·e studv` oí
John 3-4 lea·e (hristian tradition that uses John`s Gospel íor creedal. íaith-based
statements about the person oí Jesus· \here does this lea·e John`s Gospel itselí. since it is
in part a collection oí such creedal statements· Is the postmodern Johannine Jesus. this
Jesus who is ab.covaitv. atqve prae.av..
104
íorced into a position where he has to negate the
coníessions put into his mouth bv belie·ers`· Lieu points out that John`s Gospel warns
that allegiance to scripture mav pro·e decepti·e c.í. Jn. 5:39. 45,.
105
1his is not without
ironv in a text that is itselí accepted as scripture! \hat I hope this brieí studv has the

103
1wo oí the most popular (hristian authors currentlv writing in this area are Brian McLaren e.g. . ^er
Kiva ot Cbri.tiav: . )ate ot )ro írieva. ov a ´piritvat ¡ovrvey |San lrancisco: Jossev-Bass. 2001|: )be ´ecret Me..age
ot ¡e.v.: |vcorerivg tbe )rvtb )bat Covta Cbavge írerytbivg |Nash·ille: 1homas Nelson. 2006|, and Leonard Sweet
e.g. ´ovt).vvavi: ´iv/ or ´riv iv ^er Mittevvivv Cvttvre |Grand Rapids: Zonder·an. 1999|: |ed.| )be Cbvrcb iv
ívergivg Cvttvre: íire Per.pectire. |Grand Rapids: Zonder·an. 2003|,. McLaren and Sweet are o·erwhelminglv
positi·e about postmodernism-but as we acknowledged earlier on. bv no means does e·ervone take this
·iewpoint. As oí 5 Julv 2006. the ·erv íirst search result on Google íor the phrase postmodern church` is
Postmodern Views and (hurches.` http:´´www.crossroad.to´News´(hurch´post-modern.html. Browsing
the site re·eals a hea·v scepticism towards anvthing postmodern: indeed. most things that íall outside oí a
rather literalist American interpretation oí the Bible come in íor condemnation. including larrv Potter.
Japanese anime. the United Nations and Zonder·an Publishers. See Our Search: Google 1echnologv.`
http:´´www.google.com´technologv´index.html íor more iníormation on how Google ranks pages.,
104
Mark Stibbe. ¡obv`. Co.pet London: Routledge. 1994,. p. 31: Stibbe. ¡obv a. ´torytetter SN1SMS ¯1:
(ambridge: (ambridge Uni·ersitv Press. 1992,. pp. 90-92.
105
Judith Lieu. Scripture and the leminine in John.` p. 239 in Athalva Brenner ed.,. . íevivi.t Covpaviov to
tbe íebrer ßibte iv tbe ^er )e.tavevt Sheííield: Sheííield Academic Press. 1996,. pp. 225-40.
33
potential to contribute to is an increased textual and biblical awareness in postmodern
pop-,theologv.
Perhaps the one thing which has struck me most in this studv is the uselessness oí
describing sal·ation as a gitt. as manv (hristians do in their e·angelism. 1o do so in light oí
Derrida`s thoughts on giít seems íoolhardv. (ertainlv in John`s Gospel. ií not the other
Gospels as well. ¬io¬tutiv is the currencv oí sal·ation. which does denigrate it somewhat.
Barthes writes that |t|o declare what I am gi·ing is to íollow the íamilv model: too/ at tbe
.acritice. re`re va/ivg tor yov: or again: re gare yov tbe gitt ot tite -ßvt rbat tbe tvc/ ao í care abovt
tite! etc.,.`
106
and. as with much in . íorer`. Di.covr.e. this to me seems uncomíortablv true.
\e as in (hristians and the church, should not be consciouslv trving to gi·e giíts. because
as soon as one tries to do that. there is no giít. Jean-Luc Marion`s elucidation oí oyo¬n as
pure giít resonates with the ·erv Johannine desire !, in me to see the church show God`s
lo·e to the world 15:12-13,.
I coníess that I ha·e also oíten bought into the lourth Gospel`s binarv oppositions
without either thinking too much about it. or íeeling like I somehow need to. Mv analvsis
oí Nicodemus in chapter two. one oí the coloríullv drawn characters that resist the
Gospel`s binarv categories.`
10¯
has shown me otherwise. ¬io¬tutiv is. in part. dri·en bv
resistance and questioning. breaking down the inside´outside dichotomv. and losing naï·e
certaintv. I ha·e started to acknowledge the simultaneous íutilitv and necessitv oí language
in mv own íaith: language is an instrument which íalls short oí what it wants to sav or
write. As a result. ¬io¬tutiv has become less stable. but no less producti·e.`
108

Deconstructi·e exegesis is the attempt to speak apophaticallv:
109
in this case. it has been an
attempt to retrace whv ¬io¬tutiv is not realised in language.

106
Roland Barthes. . íorer`. Di.covr.e trans. Richard loward: London: Vintage. 2002,. pp. ¯6-¯¯.
10¯
(onwav. Speaking through Ambiguitv.` pp. 339-40.
108
(onwav. Speaking through Ambiguitv.` p. 340.
109
(hatelion (ounet. ¡obv. . Po.tvoaerv Co.pet. pp. 1¯0-¯1.
34
Gi·en time aovver te tevp.,. or e·en ií I were to start all o·er again-which I
ine·itablv will do when the last word oí this dissertation is written and the book is closed-
I would ha·e liked to ha·e dealt with the Belo·ed Disciple. to reallv think about whether he
is a postmodern character.`
110
or whether that is just another wav oí making him into the
ideal disciple the Gospel is seeminglv so keen to a·oid. I would also ha·e used the
poststructuralist work oí Gilles Deleuze and lélix Guattari.
111
to see whether what Michel
loucault describes as an introduction to the non-íascist liíe`
112
could be used in Johannine
studies as the starting-point proper to an introduction to a non-íascist íaith. íor the Gospel
which is so írequentlv used as the basis tor a íascist íaith. lor now though. this studv in its
weakness will ha·e to suííice.



110
(hatelion (ounet. ¡obv. . Po.tvoaerv Co.pet. pp. 184-86.
111
L.g. .vti·Oeaipv. trans. Robert lurlev. Mark Seem & lelen R. Lane: London: (ontinuum. 2004 |1984|,:
. )bov.ava Ptateav. trans. Brian Massumi: London: (ontinuum. 2004 |1988|,.
112
Deleuze & Guattari. .vti·Oeaipv.. p. x·.
36
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