January 11, 2005

Meredith on the Wedding and the Temple

(Just a little behind, here...)

This wedding feast seems to be a richly symbolic narrative. The story of the miracle of turning the water into wine could not happen in our experience. If we focus on this, we miss the richness of the symbolism. As John tells us, rather than ‘just’ a miracle, this is a sign. A sign that points beyond itself. The wedding banquet, which may have lasted a week, was a time of feasting and dancing. In this wedding banquet, a metaphor of our lives, the wine never runs out and the best is saved for last. A wedding, perhaps, symbolizes the intimacy of the divine-human relationship and the marriage between heaven and earth.

In the temple cleansing, there is again much rich metaphor. This parable on temple cleansing brings up issues such as anger, and violent expressions of anger by Jesus – one who we typically consider beyond anger, and certainly beyond violence – because ‘his Father’s house’ had become a marketplace or was being defiled. To remove this corruption by expulsion of sacrificial animals is symbolic perhaps, of the anticipation of the day when the Temple and its sacrifices would be gone and the sacrifice of the Lamb of God could be achieved. When asked for his authority, Jesus gives a sign of his death and resurrection. “If you destroy, I will raise up.” This is only understood much later.


At 12:40 p.m., Blogger Larry said...

The figure of the wedding feast occurs also in Matthew, but in a different context.

For another view of "the marriage between heaven and earth see

At 5:07 p.m., Blogger david said...

I like the wedding feast from Matthew.

Somehow the notion of heaven as a great big meal from which no one has turned away and with food passed around by boarding-house reaches appeals to me.

Meredith adds to me and Larry the folks who tend to read this stuff metaphorically. I'm hyper-aware thatnterpreations strategies are problem-solving strategies. I wonder what problems backing away from the literal solves for me?

At 6:31 p.m., Blogger Marjorie said...

Kwake, you may not be backing away from the literal, the passage just may not speak to you literally. I can't 'hear' these passages unless I look at them literally first and go from there.

Meredith, thanks for pointing out that Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, is driving away the lesser sacrifices, I'd never thought of that.

At 8:02 p.m., Blogger david said...

I think starting form the literal (even if you leave it) is a strategy. It provides guidance for the other work. And unless there is evidence (or the author is a poet -- much the same thing) it is safest to assume the author intended the surface meaning.

At 11:41 p.m., Blogger Meredith said...

Re: Literal vs metaphorical: John's gospel, with its beautiful use of symbolic language, is so different from the other synoptic gospels. It is often referred to as "the spritual gospel." This gospel contains the riches symbolic language about Jesus in the New Testament: for example, Jesus as the Word made flesh, as the light of the world, as the Lamb of God, as the bread of life, as the true vine, as the door, as the good shepherd. Dualistic symbols present the significance of Jesus and his work: darkness/light, below/above, flesh/spirit, death/life, and earth/heaven. In this gospel, Jesus speaks of himself and his identity in an entirely differnt, and more symbolic way as well. "I am the bread of life," "I am the light of the world" "I am the vine", "I am the way, the truth and the life," "I and the Father are one" and "He who has seen me has seen the Father." The portrait of Jesus in this gospel seems to be one of Christ of faith, and not of the Jesus of history. The Jesus Christ of faith is the light that leads people out of darkness, the spritual food that nourishes people on their journey, the way that leads from death to life! So this is all true, just not literally true.

At 2:24 p.m., Blogger Joe G. said...

As Meredith points out, the Gospel of John includes so many different ways of describing Jesus and God. It offers one of my favorites: God as Friend.

At 3:09 p.m., Blogger Marjorie said...

Certainly John is richly symbolic, but it could also be literal. Jesus said 'I am the vine.' No, he wasn't literally a vine, but he may have actually said those words (which would be a literal reading). I'm not arguing that others should read it literally, I'm just saying how I can start with literalism and move from there. I also need lots of help having the symbols explained to me ;-) but since I've done a study of John, I may be up on most of those.

At 4:01 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

I read the gospels, even this one which has such symbolism, mostly lierally in the sense that I see the Jesus of history in them. Philosophy is fun, but you can't have a personal love relationship with it :-)


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