Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Johannine Jesus needs no earthly nourishment

The following three paragraphs are borrowed from Professor Kobel's book Dining with John [372-374], and they deal with her analysis of the vinegar (sour wine) given to Jesus as he suffered on the cross:

Some commentators appear to be uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus was thirsty at this climactic moment. Hodges suggests that the sour wine functions as a poison and that Jesus, by drinking the oxos [i.e., vinegar], synecdochically takes upon himself the sin of the world. This explanation, however, is not convincing, for the Gospel claims that crucifixion – not poison – is the cause of Jesus' death. Others argue that, because Jesus' death paradoxically enables life for those who believe in him, the wine is in actual fact life-giving. Under any interpretation, however, the passage draws attention to Jesus' corporeality. Jesus' one and only unambiguous and explicit act of consumption is the immediate prelude to the most fundamental testimony to his corporeality, namely, his death.

The narrative analysis has elaborated that the Johannine Jesus has a peculiar way of dealing with earthly food. While he acts as the host in many scenes and provides abundant food and drink for others, he himself is never portrayed as actually eating. When the disciples offer earthly food to Jesus, he rejects it with a reference to his own food which is to do the will of the Father. The exception to the pattern is the one and only drink that Jesus receives on the cross moments before his death.

Perhaps the Gospel's silence with regard to Jesus' own consumption of food and drink simply means that during his earthly life Jesus ate and drank like any other human being. But the absence of references to his partaking of physical nourishment, and the focus on food and drink as metaphors for the faith that leads to eternal life, suggest that Jesus, the Son of God, does not require earthly food, because he subsists entirely on the will of the one who has sent him. In other words, Jesus is on a very special diet, one that is dictated by the Father and not by the normal corporeal needs of mortal beings. [372-374]

Kobel's insistence on the corporeality of Jesus is not far from my own such insistence concerning Jesus's body, so I am not "uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus was thirsty at this climactic moment."  Does Kobel's view "that Jesus, the Son of God, does not require earthly food" undermine her insistence that Jesus is corporeal and that he thirsts? As I wrote in yesterday's post, the fourth evangelist does indeed think that the crucifixion killed Jesus. I emphasize today that the acceptance of the vinegar was simply the culminating step in the crucifixional process. I would note only one additional point, that Jesus himself is shown as being fully in charge of the crucifixional process at all times. As such, he allows himself to die.


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