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Aphorisms of Jesus in John: An Illustrative Look at John 4.35

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This literary genre, the aphorism, finds full expression in the Gospel of John. Vestiges of the world of orality, these 'gems of illumination' invite intense reflection and response as they illuminate not only the literary landscape of the Gospel but also provide a lens for viewing the Jesus tradition in the Gospel of John. My work is indebted to the research of J.D. Crossan, author of In Fragments who has written the definitive work on the aphorisms of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. More explorative work, however, is needed for the aphorisms of Jesus with particular focus on John's Gospel. Although the aphorisms of Jesus in John were omitted in the database of authentic sayings of Jesus compiled by the members of the Jesus Seminar, might these lapidary gems be placed on the table once more for exploration? While I am confident that the Johannine aphorisms lead us through the narrative landscape of the Gospel and even reveal distinctive aspects of the community, is it possible that they might also provide at least a brief glimpse of Jesus? Using the agrarian aphorism of Jn 4.35 as a showcase illustration, this article proposes to identify the form and function of the Johannine aphorism; to investigate the authenticity of the saying in Jn 4.34-35 using established criteria of authenticity; and to suggest the often-overlooked criterion of orality is a most useful tool for continued exploration.


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