Lectionary Year B
April 13, 2003
John 12:12-16

Step IV: Cross-Section

A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) The Synoptic Gospels all contain this story as pivotal, in Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11 and Luke 19:28-40. Part of this week's Epistle Lesson, Philippians 2:7f, portrays Jesus' human form of poverty according to worldly and nationalistic standards, as does His riding on a donkey in our Gospel Lesson at hand. Lacks of and questions regarding understanding are noted frequently in the New Testament. After all, we read of many a mystery in here, e.g., Mark 9:32, Matthew 13:14, Luke 24:45 and John 8:43, as well as Acts 8:30 of Scripture itself, and Romans 7:15 and I Corinthians 13:2, and see II Peter 3:16 especially.

B. Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) Zechariah 9:9 prophecies, poetically, the reference to "your King comes to you, triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Then, as remarked previously, the 13th verse of our text quotes Psalm 118:25f. I Maccabees 13:51 has the Jews going into the citadel "with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments and with hymns and songs . . ." II Samuel 14:4 and 6:26 use ~Wsanna as "an acclamation or greeting", according to Brown (Anchor Bible). Zechariah 9:9 is the Scripture cited to in John 12:15b. Mh. fobou/, "occurs frequently in the LXX of Isaiah, e.g., xl 9; but the full expression that John uses resembles most closely MT (not LXX) of Zeph iii 16: 'Do not be afraid, O Zion [O daughter of Zion' occurs in iii 14]" as Brown notes. The Gospel of John sees Old Testament truths completed in Jesus of Nazareth as the Gospel presents him; especially cited are Christ's fulfillment in John 1:7, 5:45-47 and 9:28f. The Sibylline Oracles 8:325 says, "Your king comes in, mounted on a foal, appearing gentle to all so that he may lift our yoke of slavery, hard to bear, which lies on our neck and undo the godless ordinances and constraining bonds. Know that he is your God, as he is son of God."

C. Hellenistic World

(JFC) As stated before, on the first page of the introduction to C. K. Barrett's The Gospel According to St. John, we read of how this Gospel was called "the Gospel of the Hellenists". Barrett concludes this theory's argument by stating, "The notion that it is in any sense Hellenistic is contrary to its whole tenour," quoting W. Temple, Readings in St. John. Then later in that Introduction, Barrett admits, "The most illuminating background of the fourth Gospel is that of Hellenistic Judaism", citing especially C. H. Dodd's "The Background of the Fourth Gospel" in J. R. B. (1935). He further acknowledges, "It is probable that the newly discovered Hebrew MSS will throw light on Hellenistic and other syncretistic movements within Judaism; but it is still too early to use them with confidence." Raymond E. Brown, in Anchor Bible's Commentary on the Gospel of John, notes, "There was a strong Hellenistic element in the Judaism of NT times, both in Palestine and Alexandria. Therefore, if John was dependent on contemporary Judaism, there was inevitably a Hellenistic influence on Johannine thought." So much of the Gospel of John is symbolism and mysterious, it must have provoked the Greek-speaking philosophers to discuss and/or write about it and its many meanings. Some of the several explanations and/or instructions, re: meanings of Jesus' words and/or deeds, might have been surreptitiously addressed to the Hellenists, who might have been among those, like "the priests and Jewish rabbis, Jesus' family, his disciples (as in the text at hand) and friends, the Samaritan woman, Pontius Pilate - all of them missed the point of his sayings and are dumbfounded by his behavior," as Massey H. Shepherd, Jr., describes in The Interpreter's One Volume Commentary. Furthermore, Jesus' choosing a lowly donkey instead of a swift stead on which to enter the city must have confused these condescending elitists. If the celebration is to acclaim Jesus, it might have occupied their time to discuss and the references to His supposed royalty, of course. The disciples misunderstanding-turned-remembering could have gotten their attention enough to compliment the disciples' honesty and progress in learning to try wait and to try to recall and then to do so. Good progress in their accustomed modes of operations.

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