Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Chiasmus in John 1.23

The word εφη is a commonly used  word in the gospel accounts and is often translated as “said.” It is used 14 times in Matthew, six times in Mark, seven times in Luke, but it is used only twice in John: 1.23 “John replied...” and 9.38 “Then the man said....”  

Even though εφη is often used with the meaning “said,” John uses it with a stronger meaning of “affirm” or “declare.”  In John 9.38 he used εφη where the man who was born blind confesses his faith in Jesus “Lord I believe” and in John 1.23 John declared who he was when the Jews demanded “Who are you...What do you say about yourself?” And John, in this passage, makes it the center of a chiasmus.

Tell me what you think of this:

A  Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and
       levites to ask him who he was.

B  He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.”
C They asked him, “Then who are you are you? Are you Elijah?” He said “I am not.”
        “Are you the Prophet”
He answered, “No.”
D  Finally they said, “Who are you?  Give us an answer to take     back to those who sent us.  What do you say about yourself?”
E John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
D’  Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ,
C’ nor Elijah
nor the Prophet?”
B’ “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know.  He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
A’ This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

In A and A’ we find geographical statements; about where the Jews were from and then where this scene happened.  In B and B’ we read two of John’s statements; he affirmed “I am not the Christ” and then “I baptize with water.”  In D and D’ we find the two  sets of “Christ, Elijah and the Prophet.”  Then in E we have John’s statement of who he was introduced with the word εφη: “...the voice of one calling in the desert....”

Do you all agree with this arrangement?  Would you make any changes?


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