The Trials (Forensic) and
Tribulations (Honor Challenges) of Jesus:
John 7 in Social Science Perspective

Jerome H. Neyrey, S.J.
University of Notre Dame

1.0 Topic, Focus and Hypothesis

Even the most casual reading of the Fourth Gospel indicates that Jesus is constantly engaged in tribulations, which the narrator most frequently portrays as a formal trial or forensic proceeding against Jesus. This is clear in 5:17-45, where Jesus is charged with crimes, for which he delivers a defense and calls witnesses on his behalf. The gospel narrates how in 10:22-39 he is again put on trial, charged with evil and obliged to defend himself of the charges. The Pharisees, chief priests and the council try him in absentia according to 11:45-53. Of course, one should include the final trial of Jesus before Pilate in the Passion Narrative. In addition to this, an inquiry is held with the man born blind, which in effect is another trial of Jesus; for, in chapter 9 Jesus is charged with breaking the Sabbath; witnesses are called concerning his action; a judgment is rendered about Jesus and his witness, the man born blind. The sentence in this case is expulsion from the synagogue. Yet the proceedings, while they focus on the man born blind, are all about Jesus. The events narrated in John 7-8 fit into this larger pattern in the Fourth Gospel of the trials (forensic) and tribulations (honor challenges) of Jesus: he is charged, put on trial and judgments are rendered concerning him. Needless to say, this gospel can be said to narrate the tribulations of Jesus in terms of a forensic trial proceeding. It is in light of this large pattern of forensic proceedings against Jesus throughout the gospel that we wish to read in detail the narrative of his tribulations in John 7.

Many commentators have experienced great difficulties in "seeing a coherent and logical progression" (Attridge 1980:161) through John 7. A careful reading of the narrative in terms of the setting at the Feast of Tabernacles and in light of typical forensic proceedings can go a long way into solving some of the problems of coherence and logic. But it is especially in terms of the way that the tribulations of Jesus are portrayed in the Fourth Gospel that we can learn not only about John 7 but also the passages parallel to this chapter in the rest of the gospel (see Harvey 1976).

It is now apparent that in the synoptic gospels, the endless conflict between Jesus and his adversaries is portrayed in terms of the chreia, in particular the "responsive chreia" (Mack and Robbins 1989). This type of narrative showcases the wit and cleverness of a sage, hence "honor" and "praise" are its formal aims. The chreia works by having some hostile question asked of the sage or some criticism made of him and his practice, to which he necessarily responds with cleverness, so as to vanquish his questioners and critics. In the Fourth gospel, the ubiquitous chreia is replaced by formal forensic proceedings against Jesus, which move beyond hostile questions and criticism to legal charges, which if sustained, would end in Jesus' death. Yet, both chreia and forensic proceedings both embody conflict between Jesus and others. John simply favors the forensic form over the chreia to narrate the tribulations of Jesus.

To understand and appreciate the tribulations of Jesus described in ch 7, we need an appropriate set of analytical tools and an adequate set of lenses. When we examine John 7 in terms of its narrative craft, we will benefit by considering it according to the conventions of forensic proceedings in ancient Judea, that is as the trial (forensic) of Jesus. It is a fact that the Johannine narrative repeatedly presents Jesus on trial before Judeans, and thus the forensic proceeding in John 7 should be examined in terms of this formal, redactional literary presentation. Then, if we would fully appreciate the cultural meaning of the tribulations of Jesus, we should interpret the same disputing process in terms of the pivotal cultural value of the ancient world, namely, the struggle to gain honor and to avoid shame. This level of analysis invites us to examine the narrator and his characters in terms of a world of cultural meanings given to their behavior, not just by anthropologists, but by the ancient culture itself. "For Jesus testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country" (4:44). Thus characters in the gospel both grant and withhold "honor" from Jesus.

It is our hypothesis that the narrator chose to present Jesus continually in situations of conflict to highlight how alien both Jesus and his disciples were to their respective worlds. The narrative choice of forensic proceedings follows a regular pattern in which Jesus-the-accused honorably turns the tables on his accusers and conducts his own trial of them. Thus in response to intense conflict, both Jesus and his disciples acquit themselves honorably, at least on the narrative level. Finally, in view of the shame of the cross (Heb 12:2), the narrator fully appreciates the need to present Jesus in cultural terms as a successful person, a winner, and an honorable man. Thus the levels of analysis (forensic trials and tribulations of honor) are two compatible and even necessary ways of reading John 7 to appreciate how honorable Jesus is, so that people may join themselves to him and become his loyal disciples (see 20:31).

2.0 The Unity of John 7: Form and Context

2.1 Tribulation Everywhere: Formal Unity

The narrative in John 7 begins with an abrupt statement: "After this, Jesus went about in Galilee; he would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him" (7:1). Readers know that this refers back to the conflict narrated in John 5. The remark in 7:1, then, simply describes the latest stage of conflict in the narrative, for the narrator presumes that readers will recall the cause of this hostility from the earlier trial of Jesus which occurred at another feast in Jerusalem: "This is why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal to God" (5:18). Although his adversaries put Jesus on trial then, they did not resolve that conflict, which resurfaces on the occasion of another pilgrimage feast in Jerusalem, namely Tabernacles. On the link between John 5 and 7, see Brown 1966: 307; Martyn 1968:68-74 and Von Wahlde 1981 and 1984.

Yet the narrative reintroduces the conflictual relationships between Jesus and certain people in Jerusalem with the notice that "the Jews' feast of Tabernacles was at hand" (7:2). Two distinct conflicts immediately appear: first, the brothers of Jesus urge him to attend the feast "that your disciples may see the works that you do" (7:3). If these "brothers" were true disciples, we might take their advice seriously; but inasmuch as the evangelist remarks that "even his brothers did not believe in him" (7:5), the narrative audience perceives conflict between Jesus and them, which Jesus expresses in terms of "hate." The brothers are evidently not in conflict with "the world" as Jesus is: "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me" (7:7). Hence, the brothers belong to "the world" which "hates" Jesus. The conflict between the "brothers" is resolved by Jesus' command that they go to the feast, but he will remain in Galilee, although "resolved" is much too strong a term here. Second, Jesus indeed goes to Judea, where "the Jews sought to kill him." Despite what he said to his "brothers," he ostensibly aims "to be known openly." The result is that, while Jesus cannot be said to initiate the tribulations in John 7, he courts conflict by positioning himself face-to-face with his adversaries on a special occasion and in a highly public place: "About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught" (7:14). Smouldering conflict explodes into a full-blown dispute; formal forensic proceedings against Jesus begin; attempts are made to arrest and silence him. Thus John 7 presents first a tribulation between Jesus and his brothers, and then with the Jews in Jerusalem. Thus tribulation and conflict aptly describe the whole set of relationships which Jesus has in John 7, namely, with his "brothers," "the world," and "the Jews" of Jerusalem.

2.2 Narrative Unity: the Feast of Tabernacles

Yet in addition to the record of tribulations, 7:2-3 indicates that "the feast of Tabernacles" was at hand, for which many would make pilgrimage to Jerusalem. His brothers command him, "Leave here and go to Judea," obviously for the feast. To them, at least, Jesus refuses to participate in the feast (7:3-9; Gibson 1980:206-8), and so misses the beginning of the festivities, but eventually makes the pilgrimage up to Jerusalem, albeit in secret (7:10). He makes his grand entrance in the Temple "about the middle of the feast" (7:14), at which hostilities begin which are described in 7:11-36. Finally, "on the last day of the feast, the great day" (7:37), Jesus makes a bold public claim.

Inasmuch as the narrator locates the conflict described in ch 7 during the Feast of Tabernacles, we should pay attention to the shape of that event vis-à-vis the narrative events described. Because Tabernacles was basically a harvest feast, the rituals pertinent to that feast correspond to the basic necessities of an agricultural community: a prayer for the winter rains (water) and for the renewal of sunlight (light) (see König 1905:660-61; Jacobs 1971:499-500). Apropos of these two foci, the Mishnah Sukkah tells us about "the Water libation," in which a large golden flagon was filled at the Siloam spring and brought to the temple for libations (4.9). The same tractate tells of giant golden candlesticks which burned during the festival (5.1), the wicks of which were made of discarded priestly garments (5.3). These two foci of water and light seem to be alluded to in the narrative when Jesus declares on the last day of the feast a promise of new water ("If any one thirsts, let him come tome and drink," 7:37) and when he claimed to be the prayed-for light ("I am the light of the world; who follows me...will have the light of life," 8:12 (Ulfgard 1989: 117-18; Talbert 1992: 148-49).

The narrative, then, positions Jesus in the midst of a major feast and presents him making claims to replace the benefactions prayed for at that time (Neyrey 1979:436-37; 1988:131-37, 158-58). In one sense the Fourth Gospel has presented Jesus repeatedly replacing the Temple, its feasts and its cultic objects, which is, to say the least, a cause for significant grievance among the Temple elite. Yet this replacement motif does not seem to function as a formal irritant in John 7; the conflict is about old matters, namely, healing on the Sabbath (5:10, 18 and 7:21-23). Nevertheless, the evangelist indicates that Jesus is not above giving further provocation to his adversaries, and in the most public fashion. To speak boldly and in public as he does is the mark of an honorable male (see 18:20). He does nothing to mitigate the conflict, first by showing up in the Temple and teaching, and then by claiming to be the very things prayed for at the feast, namely, water and light. We would have to say that Jesus acts very provocatively here, which is part of the narrative strategy.

One immediate result of examining the Johannine narrative in terms of the Feast of Tabernacles is the connection between the forensic proceedings against Jesus in 8:12-20 with comparable actions in ch 7 (Neyrey 1987:512-15). Just as the conflict in John 7 begins with Jesus' appearance at the middle of the feast and reaches a climax with his claim to be the prayed-for water, so the trial in John 8 occurs in the context of Jesus' claim to be the prayed-for light (8:12). The formal structure of chs 7 and 8 witness to repetitive elements of a typical forensic process, where some Jerusalemites formally charged Jesus (7:19-23), examined his testimony (7:16-18; 8:13-18), judged him (7:24; 8:15), and tried to arrest him (7:32, 44, 45-47; 8:20). This is prima facie evidence of a scene of a continuous conflict and forensic proceedings which cluster around the two thematic elements of the Feast of Tabernacles, water and light. For the purposes of this study, we focus only on John 7.

3.0 A First Reading: Forensic Proceedings

3.1 John 7 and Johannine Forensic Imagery.

A series of narrative clues in John 7 ask considerate readers to connect it with the forensic proceedings described in John 5. The accusation of Sabbath violation (5:10, 16) continues to be the primary forensic charge against Jesus (7:21-23). The "court" which tried and sentenced him ("sought to kill Jesus," 5:18) still seeks to kill him (7:1, 19). Now in six brief scenes in John 7 the adversaries of Jesus constantly render both informal and formal judgments about Jesus, as the trial of Jesus continues. As I hope to show, the narrator views these as formal parts of an elaborate and extended trial, that is, forensic proceeding against Jesus. They concern his "arrest" (7:32, 45), witnesses bearing testimony both for and against him (7:12, 25-27, 40-43), and a rump trial of Jesus who is absent (7:50-52). One scene in particular gives formal instructions to the judges, urging them to judge correctly: "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment" (7:24; see 8:15). Thus, a cursory reading of John 7 indicates a considerable unity to the chapter in terms of two narrative features: first, the chronological framework created by the Feast of Tabernacles, but especially the extensive forensic proceedings against Jesus.

Let us be clear about what constitutes a typical "trial" or forensic proceeding in the narrative world of the Fourth Gospel. From the trial of Jesus before Pilate, we learn a great deal about Roman judicial process (Sherwin-White 1963 and Cadbury 1933: 295-337). The following diagram indicates the formal elements in Jesus trials, as seen in the accounts of both Luke and John (Sherwin-White 1963:24-27; Neyrey: 1985:80-82, 1987:510; 1995:XX):



Luke 32:14-15
John 18:1-19:4
John 19:5-16

1. arrest
2. charges
3. judge's cognitio
4. verdict
5. sentence
6. judicial warning

This procedure is also evident in the trials of Paul before the Roman governors, Felix and Festus (Neyrey 1985: 104-107). There the identity and authority of the judge is evident from the beginning, who is the chief civil and/or military magistrate. The bulk of the process consists in the cognitio of the judge, that is, the face-to-face interrogation of the accused by the judge, in which he evaluates the testimony of the defendant in response to the charges alleged against him. In Acts, moreover, we have formal forensic speeches, both those of Paul's accuser, Tertullus (24:2-8), and those of Paul, the defendant (22:1-21; 24:10-21; 26:1-23), which are readily intelligible in terms of classical forensic rhetoric (see Neyrey 1984: 210-224).

But Jesus and many of his early followers were engaged in forensic proceedings with Jews as well as Romans. Jewish forensic process differed from Roman in three principal areas (Falk 1972: 98-110; Harvey 1976; and Derrett 1971: 178-191). (1) Legal authority: the "judges" may not necessarily be civic magistrates with clearly defined authority but simply the leading men or elders of city and village (McKenzie 1964: 100-105; Kohler 1956: 149-75). For example, although Jesus is tried before the Sanhedrin, which consisted of the Chief Priests, Scribes and Elders, Susanna was tried simply before the Elders of the city. (2) Matter for Judgment: as Harvey points out, some trials might focus on establishment of facts, as in the case of murder or theft, for which purpose eyewitnesses are indispensable. But many forensic situations deal only with allegations or claims by witnesses (see 1 Kgs 21:12-14), in which the brunt of the process consists of the testimony of honorable witnesses and the scrutiny of these, as in the case of Susanna and the elders. No new evidence is presented before the judging elders, only (a) the discrediting of the accusing witnesses whose testimony is shown to be contradictory, and so false and (b) the acceptance of testimony from honorable witnesses (Harvey 1976: 20-21; Swarney 1993). Considerable attention will be placed, then, on the social status of the witnesses as proof of their reliability. (3) Witness and Character: testimony from an honorable, educated, and prominent person simply commands more credibility in forensic situations than that of a slave, a woman, or an uneducated person (see Acts 4:13). Jewish forensic process, then, was much less formally structured than Roman procedure. The judges might well be the elders of the city or village, assembled in the city gate, who attend primarily to the testimony of witnesses and their character. Obviously both Roman and Jewish forensic procedures are similar in that "judges" assemble to hear "charges" and investigate the truth of the "witnesses" in the case. Finally, even the narrative of John 7 indicates that other customs pertaining to trials seem to be in view, such as requiring a hearing for the accused (see John 7:51; Acts 25:16; see Josephus, Wars 1.209 and Ant. 14.167).

All of this has a bearing on how we view the proceedings in John 7. First, the narrator intends us to view a formal forensic process under way, which includes (1) arrest (7:32, 44, 45), (2) charges (7:21-23 and 12, 47), (3) testimony, either for the defense (7:15-24, 51) or for the prosecution (25-27), all of which should issue in (4) a verdict and (5) a sentence (see 11:49-53). Although many will give testimony in the various scenes of this extended trial, we must ask whether any of it is subject to a cognitio, or scrutiny by the judges. Furthermore, we must be careful to ascertain who the judges are in any given sequence and who is on trial.

Yet we must immediately recognize that this forensic material in the Fourth Gospel comes to us through a filter. This gospel distinguishes itself by presenting two distinct readings of judgmental materials. On the one hand, Jesus is himself given all power to judge (5:22, 27), and he acts as judge in certain scenes (i.e., 8:21-58; see Neyrey 1987:515-19). But another stream exists where the hearers of Jesus take the role of judges and judgment occurs when they confront the light which has come into the world (3:19). Their evaluation or judgment of Jesus ironically becomes the basis of a judgment about them: as they judge, so they are judged . This second stream of judgmental material seems to be especially operative in John 7. Who, then, really is on trial, Jesus or his judges? For the narrative tells us that judges are judged by the judgment they render (7:24; 8:15). Hence, the narrative audience, who sees and hears the "trial of Jesus" by the crowds and by the "Jews" also judges those judges.

Thus as we examine "judgment" in John 7, we must be aware of differing levels of forensic proceedings, about which the Johannine narrative makes clear reference elsewhere. (1) Jesus judges others: although on some occasions Jesus proclaims that he does not judge (3:17; 8:15; 12:47), yet he also claims authority from God to judge (5:22, 27; 8:26) and to conduct trials (8:31-58). (2) Others judge Jesus: the narrative contains an escalating series of trials and judgments about Jesus (5:16-18; 7:14-24; 8:12-19; 10:22-38), which climax in the Sanhedrin's condemnation of Jesus in absentia (11:45-53). These trials usually end either with attempts to "arrest" Jesus (7:32, 45; 10:39) or plots to "put him to death" (5:18; 8:59; 11:53). (3) The judge are themselves judged: according to the principle of "measure for measure" (Matt 7:2), those who judge Jesus will likewise be judged according to their just or unjust judgment. On the widespread citation of "measure for measure" in both Jewish and Christian literature, see Rüger 1969:174-76.

3.2 Who's on Trial? Who's Judging Whom? Let us examine the six scenes which comprise the narrative of the events during Jesus' visit at the Feast of Tabernacles. Since we are viewing an extended trial of Jesus by various "courts," we should consider each scene formally in terms of the traditional elements of a forensic proceeding, which was noted above.

3.2.1 The First Scene (7:10-13). The narrator seems to intend us to associate the group which controls the action at the announcement of the Feast of Tabernacles ("the Jews sought (ezêtoun) to kill Jesus," 7:1) with the group who appears at the outset of the first trial scene: "The Jews sought (ezêtoun) him at the feast, saying 'Where is he?'" (7:11). We note the double meaning of the term "seek," which could mean friendly association with Jesus (1:38-39), but in this context more likely means hostile assault on him (Richard 1985; Carson 1982). The repetition of "seeking" Jesus in 7:11 presents an ominous hint that the subsequent events in Jerusalem could result in Jesus' arrest and execution, as indeed they do (8:59; 10:39; 11:45-53). The narrative informs us that a formal judgment has already been rendered by "the Jews" who seek to kill him, which is sufficiently public that the crowd knows of it: "For fear of 'the Jews' no one spoke openly of him'" (7:13). Readers, then, initially identify these "Jews" as people evaluating Jesus, and hence as his "judges."

There are other people on stage, namely, "the crowds" who are "murmuring" about Jesus; the last "murmurers" in the narrative were the "dropouts" who criticized every one of Jesus' claims in the Bread of Life discourse in the scene immediately previous to this one (6:25-65; see "murmuring" in 6:41, 43, 61). "Murmuring" in the Scriptures, moreover, is a very critical and judgmental action. Not everyone in this "crowd," however, appears hostile to Jesus. For, in fact, the crowd's reaction is "divided": some say "He is a good man," while others insist that "He leads the people astray" (7:12; on "deception," see Martyn 1968:73-81). The crowd, then, seems to function as witnesses in the trial, either testifying on Jesus' behalf ("he is a good man") or on behalf of the prosecution ("he leads the people astray"). The presence of this divided testimony indicates that despite the previous judgment against Jesus, his trial is still very much in progress and a final judgment has not yet been reached.

Judges are judging Jesus; witnesses are testifying for and against him. The judgment that they render about him allows the audience of the Fourth Gospel to stand in judgment of both judges and witnesses. Those who judge Jesus innocent of sin would be said to judge justly. Those, however, who agree with the testimony of Jesus' enemies and judge him a false and deceiving prophet would be said to judge according to appearances or hearsay, and so to judge unjustly. The judges, then, are judged by the judgment they render.

3.2.2 Second Scene (7:14-24). As long as Jesus remains in private (v 10), no one could arrest and prosecute him. But Jesus appears in public in the Temple (v 14) and a trial immediately ensues (see 10:22). The fact that he taught openly in the Temple serves as the grounds to re-opens the case against him as a false prophet (v 12): "How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied" (v 15). From a forensic point of view, this question serves as a charge against Jesus by calling into question his status as a valid teacher. Already Jesus has been charged with "leading the people astray" (7:12), which, in the biblical idiom, is equivalent to an accusation that he is a false prophet, the sentence for which is death. This charge reasons that Jesus cannot know the Law and so teach correctly, for he has no formal education. On the importance of famous and noble teachers in the rhetoric of antiquity, see Malina and Neyrey 1996: 27-28, 41-43. In effect, he is to them a self-made imposter, who vainly claims special status.

A first reading of 7:14-24 appears to be a trial of Jesus by others. In this vein, the "Jews" are judging Jesus, charging him with the crime of being a false prophet and leading the people astray. Hence we recognize Jesus' remarks in 7:16-24 as a defense against their charges, with appropriate testimony on behalf of the honorable person who sent Jesus to teach. In regard to his defense, he testifies that he indeed has "schooling." In response to the charge of false teaching, Jesus claims to have teaching from a learned and powerful authority: "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me" (v 16). As proof of this, he continues: "If any man's will is to do his will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority" (v 17). Thus he denies that he is a self-made imposter, for his argument rests on the legal principle accepted even by this court: "Who speaks on his own authority, seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood" (7:18; see also 8:12-13). According to the normal roles assumed at a trial, Jesus acts both as the accused and as a witness on behalf of the one who sent him before the "Jews" who play the role of judges.

What makes a trustworthy witness (see 8:13-14)? Why should anyone believe Jesus in this trial? First of all, he does not seek glory for himself; he does not "make himself" equal to God or "make himself" king. He is but the agent of a most prominent person, even the God of Israel. His teaching is not his own, that is, false prophecy, but the authentic word of God. In this witness "there is no falsehood." Thus the first part of the charge that "he leads people astray" is rebutted and proven to be false. Those who held and continue to hold this judgment have judged wrongly. Such judges will be judged for this false judgment.

A second reading of the scene is warranted by a number of narrative clues. For example, Jesus makes very bold accusation of his own against his interlocutors He accuses them of failing to keep the law of Moses: "Did not Moses give you the law. And not one of you keeps it" (v 19). Presumably he is speaking of circumcision on the Sabbath (see 7:22-23), but this may cryptically refer to other aspects of Moses' law, such as just judgment (see 7:25; 8:15; Deut 19:15-21) or the prohibition against murder and lying. Why murder and lying? In the continuation of this trial in John 8, Jesus will formally accuse his hearers of both murder and lying. Those whom Jesus addresses are shown to be not children of Abraham, who received heavenly messengers, but rather offspring of the devil:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth. . .When he lies, he speaks according to his nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (8:44; see Neyrey 1987:525-28).

This has a direct bearing on how we should read the next exchange in 7:19-20 between Jesus and his judges. He raises both of these issues: murder and lying. First, he asks "Why do you seek to kill me?" (v 19), which accuses them of murder. Their defense is to lie: "Who is seeking to kill you?" (v 20). Readers know that this is a lie because the evangelist's inaugural remark at the beginning of this scene stated that people were in fact trying to murder Jesus: " Jesus went about in Galilee; he would not go about in Judea because the Jews sought to kill him" (7:1). The crowds in Jerusalem all know that murder is afoot: "Is not this the man whom they seek to kill" (7:25). Murder and lying, therefore, truly characterize these judges of Jesus, despite what they say. Thus, we suggest that when Jesus begins his countercharge in 7:19, the true accusation which he makes is the double charge of both murder and lying, which he will finally prove in 8:44 when he exposes certain people as offspring of the devil, who is both murder and liar from the beginning. Admittedly, this is not apparent at first reading of 7:19, but will become so only in time and through the intense scrutiny of the remarks of others, which in forensic jargon is called the judge's cognitio. Thus, in terms of roles, Jesus no longer acts as accused, but now begins to judge his judges; they in turn change from judges to accused.

Most of us think that the meaning of the remarks in 7:19 has to do with healing on the Sabbath, which was the formal charge against Jesus at the previous trial on the occasion of the previous feast in Jerusalem (5:10-17). And indeed such is the clear meaning of the continuation of the exchange in 7:21-23. "I did one deed, and you all marvel at it" (7:21) must refer back to the healing on the Sabbath in 5:1-10. At the time, no formal defense was made to the charge of Sabbath violation, but rather to the more important accusation that Jesus "made himself equal to God" (5:18; see Neyrey 1988:18-28). Now Jesus offers one as he compares what he did on the Sabbath with Moses' command to circumcise on the eighth day, even if it falls on a Sabbath (7:22-23). He offers a defense using a standard argument of qal wayhomer or a fortiori reasoning. If Jesus is guilty for healing on the Sabbath, then they too are guilty for circumcising on the Sabbath. According to Jesus, his judges judge hypocritically; for, they act on the Sabbath to circumcise Judean males, and are not held guilty for it. If they harm a very small bodily organ so as to make the body "whole" for membership in the covenant group, how can they object to Jesus' making a man "whole" as well?

But let us not be distracted by 7:22-23; it may seem like an appropriate defense for violation of the Sabbath, but it actually provides the warrant for the true accusation against these judges, namely, that they judge unjustly. Their very accusation against Jesus as a sinner and Sabbath violator is a bad judgment, which Jesus has now exposed. The truly important remark here is Jesus' statement on the absolute need to judge justly and not by appearances: "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment" (7:24). According to this law, then, Jesus has taken over the role of judge who judges the local judges. He has accused them of a very serious crime, partial and unjust judgment, the sentence for which was death.

My reading of this second scene, then, would require in fact two readings. On the surface, the Jews are judging Jesus, accusing him of crimes worthy of death, for which he defends himself. But typical of this evangelist, there is a cryptic second meaning to Jesus' remarks and behavior; for, he becomes the accuser and judge and the judges are themselves judged. The charges against Jesus (false prophet, Sabbath violator) pale in comparison to his charges against them, which I take to be both murder and lying and partial and unjust judgment. The reader who is attentive to the narrative clues recognizes both the attempts at murder and the lie, but especially the erroneous and false judgment of Jesus by his judges.

3.2.3 Third Scene (7:25-30). The dramatis personae shift from Temple elite to "the people of Jerusalem." At first, it seems that they are simply one more voice of the divided crowd in 7:12-13; but upon closer inspection, we discover that they are allies of Jesus' judges. In 7:13 we were told that "for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly (parrêsiai elalei) of him," that is, favorably about him. And they are openly speaking about him; for, in 7:25-26 they comment, "Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly (parrêsiai lalei) and they say nothing to him!" But are they speaking favorably or unfavorably about him? We will show that their conversation about Jesus should not be viewed as favorable. While they may not be formally part of the party of Jesus' judges, their negative evaluation of Jesus identifies them as being in sympathy with those who judge Jesus. But what forensic role do they play in the narrative? Are they "judges" as well? Or perhaps witnesses for the prosecution? In any event, the narrator would have us put them in the same camp as Jesus' judges.

Although they testify about Jesus, their testimony supports the prosecution, not the defense. They are aware of the previous forensic proceeding against Jesus: they know the judges ("the authorities"), the charges ("the [false] Christ"), and the proposed verdict and sentence ("seek to kill him"). Their remarks, moreover, are neither a confession about Jesus' identity nor a testimony on his behalf. Rather they voice a question, "Can this be the Christ?" which they immediately answer in such as way as to bring testimony against Jesus: "We know where this man comes from. When the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from" (v 27). In effect, they mount an argument that Jesus must be a false Christ. He cannot be the real one because their lore indicates that no one will know where the true Christ comes from (deJonge 1977a:85-92). Yet their testimony is subject to scrutiny, as Jesus himself mounts a cognitio of their testimony. The person who conducts a cognitio generally plays the role of judge, which signals the reader that this scene entails a reversal of roles: although they seem to judge Jesus, he in fact is judging them and will judge them on the basis of the demand voiced in 7:24 that judges should judge rightly, and not according to appearances.

The narrative plays with the telling phrase about "knowing" Jesus. Having claimed to "know Jesus," they are shown not to know him authentically or truly. Jesus remarks with heavy irony, "So you know me and you know where I come from?" indicating that they "judge by appearances," when they claim to know whence Jesus comes, either from Galilee (7:41, 52) or from peasant parents in Nazareth (6:42; Nathanael made the same error in judgment in 1:45-46). In any other context this would be important and valuable knowledge about the character of a person (Malina and Neyrey 1996:23-26, 113-25). But here Jesus shows that it is both inadequate and even erroneous knowledge. They are "judging according to appearances," bearing false testimony about Jesus --false, that is, from the perspective of the narrator.

Genuine knowledge of Jesus, we are told, consists in acknowledging the one who has authorized him and sent him: "I have not come on my own accord; he who sent me is true, and him you do not know" (v 29). As Jesus did with the accusation in 7:19, so he issues a countercharge to those who testify against him here. They "do not know" God, and so they "do not know" the one whom God sent. This is no mere lapse of information or fallible ignorance, which special remedial education will repair. Not in the Fourth Gospel! Not to know comprises a serious charge by Jesus and this gospel's community (see 8:47, 55). Failure to know certain things in this gospel merits a terrible sentence (see 8:24).

This segment of the forensic proceeding ends with an attempt to "arrest him" (v 30). Actually, the technical term here is "seek" (ezêtoun), the same verb used in 7:1, 19, 25, 34, 36, usually in the sense of "seek" to kill. Linguistically, then, this "court" is linked with others in the narrative who have judged that Jesus is a false prophet or false Christ. And the very fact that this group of people seeks to "arrest" Jesus reveals them as allies of Jesus' judges and thus Jesus' enemies. Their judgment agrees with other false judgments of Jesus. In terms of forensic roles, then, the narrator has turned the tables: the judges of Jesus are themselves judged and Jesus, the judged one, becomes the judge. The crime now is the failure to act according to the law enunciated by Jesus in 7:24, namely, "to judge rightly and not by appearances." Claiming to know Jesus, they judge only according to appearances, and so judge unjustly. Thus these witnesses for the prosecution bring judgment upon themselves for that false judgment. As they judge (falsely), they will be judged.

3.2.4 Fourth Scene (7:32-36). The process against Jesus quickens as the Jerusalem elites respond to the crowd. Although "some of the people in Jerusalem" bear testimony against Jesus (7:25-27), yet others "believed in him" and said."When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?" (7:31). In reaction to this testimony on Jesus' behalf they "sent ;officers to arrest him" (7:32). Thus in terms of forensic roles, "the chief priests and the Pharisees" serve as judges with power to arrest and prosecute; and Jesus remains the accused defendant who continues to speak, that is, to bear testimony. At least this is what appears to be going on.

Yet when Jesus speaks in 7:33-34, he is not defending himself against a specific charge as he did in 7:14-23; nor is he conducting a cognitio of the false testimony of hostile witnesses as he did in 7:25-29). His remarks now serve as testimony on his behalf, and as proof of the evil of his accusers. Hence, his role is more than accused defendant, as it metamorphoses into that of accusing judge. Let us examine more closely the three parts of his public declaration in 7:33-34.

(1) "I shall be with you a little longer, and then I go to him who sent me" (2) "you will seek me

and you will not find me"; and (3) "where I am you cannot come." We notice first of all the signature literary pattern occurring in which Jesus makes a statement, which is generally misunderstood, and which often leads him to offer a clarification (see Leroy 1968:45-47, 53-67; Neyrey 1988:42-43, 234n11; 1994:83-84). Jesus speaks in 7:33-34, but is completely misunderstood by his hearers in 7:35-36. In this instances, he offers no clarification, which is a highly significant change in the pattern. This pattern of statement-misunderstanding-clarification functions in two ways in the Fourth Gospel: in most instances, it describes how outsiders become insiders as they move from "not being in the know" about Jesus to insight, knowledge and finally loyalty. Yet on occasion, it serves to clarify for the readership that the person to whom Jesus speaks is and remains an outsider, that is, someone who is impervious to Jesus' revelation and who cannot hear his voice, because he or she is not one of the sheep (3:1-12; 10:24-27 and 18:37-38). Let us call this a judicial function: to remain in ignorance and to be impervious to Jesus' word proves a fact, namely, that the person addressed by Jesus is not one of his sheep and does not hear his voice and does not believe in him -- all serious charges in this non-ecumenical gospel, which charges warrant a terrible sentence. And the fact that Jesus does not offer a clarification here is further evidence that he judges those who misunderstand him to be hopelessly obtuse and irrevocably fixed in evil.

In addition to the form of the exchange, let us attend also to the content of Jesus' remarks. Let us see just what is ignored by the hearers and what is misunderstood; and let us ask why the audience says what it says. Inasmuch as Jesus earlier accused them of both murder and lying, we should not presume good faith and candor now.

Jesus' Statement (7:33-34) Their Misunderstanding (7:35-36)

1. I shall be with you a little longer,

and then I go to him who sent me; Where does this man intend to go that we

shall not find him? Does he intend to go to

the Dispersion among the Greeks and

teach the Greeks?

(2) you will seek me What does he mean by 'You will seek me

and you will not find me; and you will not find me'

(3) where I am and 'Where I am

you cannot come. you cannot come'?

We consider it highly significant that this "court" ignores Jesus' remarks about "going to him to sent me" (7:33), just as others in this extended forensic process likewise ignore all of Jesus' testimony about God who sent him (7:16-18, 28). Since Jesus acts as God's agent, speaks what God has authorized him to speak and performs the signs which God deputized him to do, it is utterly shameful for his judges and critics to ignore this part of his testimony (see 9:31-33). Moreover, by ignoring Jesus' testimony about God who authorizes him, the hearers prove a very important thing, namely, that they do not know God, which is a terrible evil. Jesus earlier laid down the principle of judgment which is operative behind all of these remarks: "If any man's will is to his will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority" (7:17). Hence, only those who know and are faithful to God will judge Jesus correctly; how terrible then not to know God or the one whom God has sent. Part of Jesus' constant accusation against these very judges has been that "you do not know him":

"He who sent me is true and him you do not know" (7:28)

"You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know

my Father also" (8:19)

"The reason why you do not hear them [my words] is that you are not of God" (8:47)

"You have not known him; I know him. If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar

like you" (8:55).

We find here relentless accusations by Jesus that his judges "do not know God," who sent Jesus. And by the ignoring of Jesus' remark, "I go to him who sent me" (7:33), readers are given dramatic proof of the studied refusal to attend to this significant legal datum. The audience which ignores Jesus' testimony refuses to know God. Out of their own mouths they are convicted.

Furthermore, Jesus' statement contains cryptic references to an important theme in this gospel, namely, whence Jesus comes and whither he goes. We saw in regard to 7:27 that outsiders regularly "judge by appearances" and so constantly misunderstand whence Jesus comes (see also 7:41-42, 52). Similarly, they fail to understand whither he goes. The narrator and his informed audience know that Jesus comes from heaven and from God, his true whence, and that he goes back to God and to heaven (1:1-18; 13:1-3; 17:5). Dolts like Nicodemus cannot understand whence wind comes and whither it goes (3:8); if he cannot understand earthly things, he will never grasp heavenly ones (3:12); likewise Jesus' critics and judges simply do not know "whence are you?" (19:9) or think they know (6:41-42; 7:27, 41-42, 52). In 7:33-36, the audience does not even attend to whence Jesus comes and utterly fails to understand whither he goes. Here they think that he will leave Judea and go among the Dispersion (7:35), but in 8:22 they think that he will commit suicide.

But let us examine more closely their misunderstanding of whither he goes. They claim not to know what Jesus means by "you will seek me"; but is that true? Granted that we are dealing with fictional characters, but has the narrator given us sufficient clues to know whether they are telling the truth when they ask "What does he mean by saying, 'You will seek me?'"? Consider the following series of statements about people "seeking" Jesus:

"The Jews sought (ezêtoun) to kill him" (7:1)

"The Jews sought (ezêtoun) him at the feast" (7:11)

"Why do you seek (zêteite) to kill me?" (7:19)

"Who seeks (zêtei) to kill you?" (7:20)

"Is this the man whom they seek (zêtousin) to kill?" (7:25)

"They sought (ezêtoun) to arrest him" (7:30)

"You will seek (zêtêsete) me and you will not find me" (7:34)

"What does he mean by 'You will seek (zêtêsete) me'?" (7:36)

"Seeking" Jesus, then, means either to "seek to arrest" him or to "seek to kill" him; even seeking to arrest him serves as the prelude to killing him and so comes to the same thing. "Seeking" in John 7 is tantamount to murder. From the narrative point of view, then, this audience is either unbelievably obtuse as to the public controversy over Jesus or it is lying when it says that it does not know what Jesus means about "seeking" him. I favor the latter interpretation for two reasons. In 7:20 the judges and critics of Jesus already lied by asking "Who seeks to kill you?" when the narrator has clearly informed his readers that they are in fact "seeking to kill him" (7:1); Jesus know this and so asks the question, "Why do you seek to kill me?" (7:19). Moreover, Jesus will shortly expose many of his audience as sons of the devil, who is both liar and murderer from the beginning (8:44). Hence, we read the crowd's question in 7:35-36 as a lie about murder; they are "seeking" Jesus to arrest and kill him, but now they are lying about it.

But what did Jesus mean about "seeking and not finding"? In the other gospels, those who seek find (Matt 7:7//Luke 11:9); seeking and finding have to do with the kingdom of God. Like so many other double-meaning terms in John, this admits of a wide range of meanings. On occasion it describes how others find positive benefit by finding Jesus themselves or by finding others whom they bring to Jesus (1:41, 43, 45) or finding pasture (10:9) or fish (21:6). Jesus "found" the man healed of his disease who reports him to the Jews (5:14) and "found" the man born blind who was excommunicated for his testimony on Jesus' behalf (9:35); only in the latter case is this a positive thing. In forensic circumstances, moreover, Pilate twice does not "find" any cause to execute Jesus (18:38; 19:4). Still none of these meanings fits John 7. Rather, what Jesus says is that ". . .you will not find me," which we take to mean their impotence in arresting and killing him. The officers sent to arrest him in 7:32 return empty handed in 7:45; and because his hour has not come, those who try to arrest him in 8:20 cannot; and when the crowd takes up stone to throw at him, Jesus hides (8:59); nor when they try to arrest him in 10:39 can they succeed.

In summary, at first it seemed that Jesus was still acting the role of the accused who testified once more in his defense. But the more we let ourselves be educated by the evangelist, the clearer we learn to "judge justly" as Jesus commanded. By this we perceive that roles are being reversed here: Jesus begins to act as judge by accusing this audience of evil and proving it to be sinful because (1) it does not know God, who sent Jesus and (2) it lies publicly to cover up murderous intent. The ostensible judges do not judge justly, but "judge by appearances" when they assess whence Jesus comes and whither he goes. And so the judges are judged.

2.2.5 Fifth Scene (7:37-44). Jesus bears new testimony in 7:37-39 that he is the desired "water" for which pilgrims pray at the feast of Tabernacles. Again people must judge his testimony, whether it is true or false, and again the gospel records a divided judgment, "Some people said. . .Others said." In the court of public opinion, some accept his testimony and render a positive verdict about Jesus, "This is really the prophet. . .This is the Christ" (7:40-41a), but others simply dismiss him (7:41b-42). In substance this testimony repeats the earlier negative judgment of Jesus in 7:26-27.

John 7:26-27 John 7:41b-42
1. This is the Christ? 1. Is the Christ. . .
2. yet we know where this man comes from 2. to come from Galilee?
3. When the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from. 3. Has not the Scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?

In each a claim is made to know whence Jesus comes (deJonge 1977a:93-94).The narrator and audience now know how to evaluate these judgments. In both cases, these people judge Jesus "according to the flesh," for they clearly do not know "whence Jesus comes" (see 7:28). Thus we judge those who falsely judge Jesus and condemn them. By wanting to "arrest him," moreover, they are allied with Jesus' judges and enemies (7:30, 32, 45) and become equally guilty of attempted murder.

2.2.6 Sixth Scene (7:45-52). The forensic character of the whole narrative becomes most apparent in 7:45-52. The arrest, which was engineered earlier (7:32), fails; the guards sent to arrest him actually favor the accused and bear favorable testimony on his behalf: "No man ever spoke like this man!" (7:46). The judges, however, reject their testimony, "Are you led astray, you also?" (7:47). In fact, this only confirms the original charge against Jesus, namely, "He is leading the people astray" (7:12). Here is further proof for the judges that Jesus is a false prophet and a danger to Israel.

The judges also dismiss the positive testimony from the crowd on behalf of Jesus (7:12b, 40-41a); they are "accursed" (v 49). In the judges' cognitio, therefore, the crowd's testimony, like that of the guards sent to arrest Jesus, is not acceptable in this court. But another person stands and speaks, someone with standing in the court. Nicodemus, "a ruler of the Jews" (3:1), raises a point of law: "Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?" (7:51). How should the reader take this? As further testimony on behalf of Jesus?

Commentators point out the ambiguity of Nicodemus in this context (Bassler 1989:639-40; deJonge 1977b:29-35):

(1) he is "one of them," that is, a member of the group judging Jesus;

(2) he says nothing favorable about Jesus; he does not acclaim him "a good man," a "prophet" or the "Christ"; he merely asks a point of law;

(3) he is already characterized for the reader as the person "who had gone to him before" (7:50); but he went "at night" (3:2; 19:39).

He cannot be said to be testifying on Jesus' behalf; he neither refutes the charge that Jesus is a false prophet nor judges him justly (i.e., as a true prophet). Thus he is not giving testimony on Jesus' behalf; he only raises a point of law.

Yet he serves an important function in the forensic proceedings, for he calls attention to the false judgment of the judges. Nicodemus is correct that a true and just trial demands the face-to-face accusation of an alleged malefactor and an formal investigation of the charges, something which in 11:45-53 is denied Jesus (see Pancaro 1972). By speaking up, Nicodemus shows that this important factor of a just judgment is not being followed here (Malina and Neyrey 1988: 124-26). As such, he functions as a witness against the judges. Moreover, he occasions the further false judgment of the judges who continue to judge "according to the flesh": "Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee" (7:52). The judges, then, have passed judgment. But the narrative tells us clearly that they have judged unjustly. And so these judges bring judgment upon themselves.

3.3 Summary and Conclusions. The narrator instructs us to read the entire story of Jesus at the feast of Tabernacles in terms of an extended forensic process (8:12-59 included). Sometimes the proceedings are informal, as when "the people" or "the crowds" evaluate Jesus and testify for him or against him (7:12, 40-43); at other times, a more formal process in envisioned (7:14-24, 45-52). In terms of the formal elements of a forensic process, we can identify the following:

(1) arrest, only attempted (7:30, 32, 44, 45-46);

(2) charges against Jesus: a false prophet who "leads the people astray" (7:12, 41, 47), a sinner who violates the Sabbath (7:21-24);

(3) judges, the Pharisees and chief priests (7:32, 45-52) or "the Jews" (7:13, 15);

(4) testimony, either on Jesus' behalf (7:12b, 16-18, 21-24, 40-41, 46) or against him (7:12c, 27, 41-42);

(5) cognitio: either the judges' examination of Jesus' testimony (7:14-14, 37-43) or Jesus' scrutiny of the testimony of others (7:28-29);

(6) verdict: a guilty verdict implied in vv 30 and 44 when the court officials "seek to arrest" Jesus;

(7) sentence: the references to "seeking" Jesus refer to a death sentence, i.e., they "seek to kill" him (7:1, 19, 34).

The judges, moreover, are formally instructed on the principles of right judgment (7:24); and one participant instructs the judges about valid legal procedure (7:51). On the narrative level, there is no doubt that there are judges and a defendant. In keeping with the informality of forensic proceedings in Jesus' time, the "court" might be constituted by the public crowds and located in the city (7:11-12, 25-31, 40-43) or by the Pharisees and chief priests and situated in the Temple (7:14-24, 32, 45-52). People indeed render testimony about Jesus and pass judgment on him. The whole narrative, then, should be read as an extended forensic process.

On the level of the gospel's narrative rhetoric, however, all of these judges are themselves on trial. As they judge, so will they be judged. And so another trial occurs, not just the trial of Jesus, but that of his judges. It is no accident that the narrative keeps a strict record of the right and wrong judgments made about Jesus:

Contrasting Judgments about Jesus

1. A saint 1. Not a saint

v 12 "a good man" v 20 "you have a demon"

v 21 lawbreaker

2. The Christ 2. Not the Christ

v 31 "when the Christ comes will v 27 "we know where he comes from"

he do more signs than this man?"

v 41 "this is the Christ" v 42 "the Christ...comes from Bethlehem"

3. A prophet 3. Not a prophet

v 40 "this is really the prophet" v 12 "he leads the people astray"

v 47 "are you led astray?"

v 52 "no prophet is to rise from Galilee"

Thus readers can judge the judges and test whether they are judging according to appearances or whether they judge justly. As one judges, so is one judged.

4.0 A Second Reading: Challenge and Riposte in an Honor-Shame Culture.

As illuminating as a formal study of John 7 in terms of forensic proceedings might be, such a reading is not enough. It tells us some things, perhaps many things, but it remains at the level of interesting, but surface description. Such a literary and formal reading of the trials (forensic) of Jesus does not and cannot tell us about the pervasive social and cultural tribulations of Jesus narrated in the gospel. If we choose to ask different questions, we must do a second reading of the material. What questions? Social and cultural ones such as: Why do these people fight constantly? What is their conflict about? How do they generally fight, because only rarely are people put on trial? When we ask these questions we are inquiring about the cultural world of the Fourth Gospel of which conflict is a familiar aspect. The best way to examine the cultural nature of the tribulations of Jesus described in the Fourth Gospel is to employ concepts and models from the cultural anthropology of honor and shame. The pervasive tribulations of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, we maintain, are about the honor of Jesus, that is, his status and role. As Aristotle and other ancient informants tell us, any successful person in that cultural world will be subject to envy and attacked in any number of ways (Rhet. 2.10.1; see Elliott 1992:58-60). Trials (forensic) are but one form of this envious conflict (Cohen 1995:61-118). Let us then begin to read John 7 in terms of honor and shame and the conflict over reputation, worth and fame which is dramatized there.

4.1 Meaning of Honor and Shame. Over the years, this journal has published a number of studies of biblical documents which use the formal model of honor and shame (Moxnes 1993; Collins 1995; Elliott 1995). It is not necessary to repeat the entire model, but only to make salient remarks to guide our second reading. In general, honor is the abstract, general term for the positive worth, value, reputation and fame of a person. It refers to the public evaluation of an individual in city or village in terms of the code of excellence (aretê) or cultural norms for success of the ancients. Classicists and anthropologists of the Mediterranean world both ancient and modern consider honor as a pivotal value in this cultural world (Peristiany 1966; Malina 1993; Cohen 1995). Greeks and Romans alike were driven by a love of honor, which inspired them to boldness and success. This positive public evaluation might be expressed in a variety of ways, as Aristotle notes:

Honor is a sign of reputation for doing good . . .The components of honor are sacrifices [made to the benefactor after death], memorial inscriptions in verse or prose, receipt of special awards, grants of land, front seats at festivals, burial at the public expense, statues, free food in the state dining room, among barbarians such things as proskynesis and rights of precedence, and gifts that are held in honor in each society; for a gift is a grant of a possession and sign of honor, and thus those ambition for money or honor desire them. Both get what they want: those ambitious for money get a possession, those for honor an honor (Aristotle, Rhet. 1.5 1361a.27-1361b.3, trans. George A. Kennedy 1991:59-60).

Yet, what is honor? A leading authority on the topic describes it as both a claim to worth and the public acknowledgment of that claim:

Honour is the value of a person in his own eyes, but also in the eyes of his society. It is his estimation of his own worth, his claim to pride, but it is also the acknowledgment of that claim, his excellence recognized by society, his right to pride (Pitt-Rivers 1977:1).

By this he means that people present themselves to their peers and neighbors as worthy. This might be an individual claiming for himself respect because of some prowess or benefaction or a family claiming for its offspring the same regard in which the family itself is held. Yet claims mean nothing unless acknowledged by some public; for, honor comes down precisely to this public grant of worth and respect. If claims are publicly acknowledged, then a grant of honor is bestowed. Should claims be rejected or challenged, shame becomes a possibility. For shame refers to the denial of respect and worth or to its loss.

4.2 Sources of Honor. How does one get public respect and worth? Reputation and evaluation occur in two ways, either ascribed worth or achievement based on merit. Ascribed honor is like an inheritance: simply by virtue of birth (or adoption) into an honorable family, appointment to office by an elite, or consecration for sacred tasks, worth, status and regard are given to someone independent of actions or merit. Ascribed honor becomes a life-long trait, such that the person is always and in every situation viewed by some appropriate title or status (e.g., "father," "king," "master"). Conversely, individuals could achieve a reputation and fame through merit, excellence (aretê), and prowess. Prowess in military, athletic and literary competitions earned ancient Greeks battle trophies and laurel wreaths, as well as celebration in literature (besides Homer, see 1 Sam 18:7-8; 21:11; 29:5). Aristotle, writing about urban elites, describes how honor is earned through civic benefaction.

All of these examples depict how an elite person might perform socially recognized deeds of excellence in the civic center and receive official recognition of success and worth. What of achievement by non-elites in very modest circumstances? Honor, worth, respect and reputation are generally achieved even by non-elites in the ubiquitous and constant game of push-and-shove which characterized the agonistic nature of ancient societies. Not simply on the battle field or at the Olympic games or at the royal court did individuals merit the praise of others; they might just as well seek and earn it in the ordinary intercourse of daily life through the game of challenge and riposte. But why does honor involve challenge? how does it necessarily imply conflict?

4.3 An Agonistic World: Conflict Over Limited Goods.

Honor apparently leads invariably to conflict because of the way those who pursue it understand their world. Classicists often describe the ancient world as a highly agonistic society (Vernant 1988:29-56; Walcot 1978: 52-76 and Goulder 1965:41-77). They observe how the ancients competed vigorously and continuously for success and thus for the reputation and honor which it brings. It takes little imagination to recall how Jesus is constantly engaged in conflict, whether we describe this in terms of responsive chreia in the synoptics or forensic proceedings in the Fourth Gospel. In all gospels, we maintain, this conflict was a competition for respect and honor. Yet this combat and conflict needs to be understood in terms of a cultural perception of "limited good" if we are to understand why it was so pervasive and intense and why the stakes so high. George Foster, the premier expositor of the cultural perception of limited good defines it as:

By "Image of Limited Good" I mean that broad areas of peasant behavior are patterned in such a fashion as to suggest that peasants view their social, economic, and natural universes--their total environment--as one in which all of the desired things in life such as land, wealth, health, friendship and love, manliness and honor, respect and status, power and influence, security and safety, exist in finite quantity and are always in short supply, as far as the peasant is concerned. Not only do these and all other "good things" exist in finite and limited quantities, but in addition there is no way directly within peasant power to increase the available quantities (1965: 296).

What are the likely outcomes if one perceives the world in this fashion? Foster suggests an intense conflict which is motivated by envy: "[A]ny advantage achieved by one individual or family is seen as a loss to others, and the person who makes what the Western world lauds as 'progress' is viewed as a threat to the stability of the entire community" (Foster 1972:169). Why? If the supply of good things is radically limited, the gain by one person must come through loss by another. And if the "good" for which people are competing is "honor," which exists in a very limited supply, then any claim to worth by another will inevitably be seen as threat to the worth and standing of others. Jesus' success, then, was perceived by many of the people around him as their personal loss. And no honorable person can afford to lose the most precious thing he has, namely, his honor or public reputation, without a fight. Failure to stem the loss of public reputation would itself be shame, which is the equivalent of social death.

Although Foster describes modern peasant villages in Latin America, the same perception seems equally true of the Greco-Roman and Semitic worlds of antiquity. For example, an anonymous fragment of Iamblicus states: "People do not find it pleasant to give honor to someone else, for they suppose that they themselves are being deprived of something" (cited in H. Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. 5th ed. Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1935. 2.400). Plutarch describes the discomfort which people experience listening to a successful lecturer which he credits to their own perceived loss of worth at the lecturer's rise in reputation: "As though commendation were money, he feels that he is robbing himself of every bit that he bestows on another" (On Listening to Lectures 44B). Finally, Josephus not only tells of the envious discomfort of his rival as Josephus' success increased, but of the behavioral consequences of thinking this way, namely, aggressive envy and rivalry: "But when John, son of Levi. . .heard that everything was proceeding to my satisfaction, that I was popular with those under my authority and a terror to the enemy, he was in no good humour; and, believing that my success involved his own ruin, gave way to immoderate envy. Hoping to check my good fortune by inspiring hatred of me in those under my command, he tried to induce the inhabitants of Tiberias, Sepphoris, and Gabara -- the three chief cities of Galilee -- to abandon their allegiance to me and go over to him, asserting that they would find him a better general than I was" (Josephus, Life 122-123).

The perception of limited good can be observed in two incidents in the Fourth Gospel, both of which are invitations to conflict. First, the disciples of the Baptizer are outraged by the rising success of Jesus, for they rightly perceive that his gain is their loss (3:25-26). Their very complaint to their leader and mentor indicates that they are poised to combat Jesus' success in some fashion. But the Baptizer untypically accepts his loss at Jesus' gain and refused to act agonistically and in envy of Jesus: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (3:30). In this rare instance, combat is avoided because the person losing honor interprets the loss as divinely authorized; after all, John "was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light" (1:8). It was John's role to "bear witness to him, and cry, "This is he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me'" (1:15). He dutifully fulfilled that role by pointing out Jesus to his own disciples, "Behold, the Lamb of God" (1:29, 36), with the inevitable consequences that Jesus would increase at his expense. Not so the Pharisees and the Jewish council! They too perceive Jesus' success and interpret his gain as their loss in public worth (11:47-48). But unlike the Baptizer, they act agonistically and in envy to destroy Jesus (11:49-53). Both Mark and Matthew indicate that "it was out of envy that they handed Jesus over" (Mark 15:10//Matt 27:18). They acted true to their culture in envying Jesus' success and acting to reduce his stature and even crush him. Jesus' gain means their loss, and they were not mandated by God to allow this.

Therefore, why do the ancients, Greeks and Semites, fight? They perceive all of the worlds' goods to exist in a very limited supply -- including and especially honor-- such that the rise in another's fame and reputation necessarily means loss to others and to themselves. The conflict, moreover, is over the most valuable of all "goods," namely, honor and public worth. Such a perception necessarily leads to envy and the desire to level the successful person. As David Cohen has noted, in classical Athens the envious and competitive ancients use the law courts as the forum and vehicle of expressing this conflict and envy, a point which has relevance for the forensic proceedings against Jesus (1995: 61-142). Thus even the Fourth Gospel is no stranger to this cultural pattern of perception and action; and so, it should come as no surprise to find Jesus engaged in endless tribulations (honor challenges) from those who perceive themselves to be losing in the competition for this very limited good.

4.4 Challenge and Riposte. Given the cultural facts of an agonistic world, the cultural perception of limited good and the inevitable envy which arises, we are in a position now to describe in a general way the shape and aim of conflictual dynamics in antiquity, that is, challenge and riposte. In describing the kinds of challenges that occur in an honor-shame world, Bruce Malina distinguishes between positive and negative one (1993:34-37, 42-45; Malina and Neyrey 1991: 29-32). For our purposes, we focus on negative challenges. Negative challenges describe the actions of an enemy or adversary who explicitly sees to humiliate or slight or offend another. They can occur when someone physically or verbally attacks another person, engages in sexual aggression against another man's wife or drags him to court. These actions all have but one purpose: to harm the reputation of the successful person and so to level them or at least to reduce their prestige to an acceptable level.

A typical challenge situation tends to have the following four steps (Bourdieu 1966:215): (1) a claim to honor, often implicit, (b) a challenge to that claim, (c) a riposte to the challenge, and (4) a public verdict of honor or shame bestowed by the audience which must be present during the contest. Inasmuch as "honor" comprises the ability to defend what is one's own (property, wife, reputation, etc.), a riposte must be given to an honor challenge, lest the person so challenged be dismissed as a wimp or a patsy or an easy mark. With this cultural model of conflict in mind, let us re-read the trials (forensic) of Jesus in terms of honor challenges.

4.5 Conflict in John 7: Challenge and Riposte in an Honor-Shame World

4.5.1 Technical and Equivalent Terminology for "Honor" in John 7. Earlier in the narrative, Jesus declared that it was the will of God that he be honored with an exceedingly great honor. God had put all judgment in Jesus' hands "that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him" (5:23). This claim was made to Jesus' very critics, who, far from acknowledging it, prosecute him as a sinner and seek his shame, even his death (5:17). Given the narrative link between chs 5 and 7, the same claim to honor remains before both the narrative characters and the readers. Although the technical term "honor" (timê) does not occur in John 7 (see 4:44), equivalent expressions focus the challenge-riposte dynamics in terms of assessing Jesus' worth, status and reputation. Jesus himself articulates a key principle in the game of honor: "He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true" (7:18). "Glory" (doxa) is often and correctly translated as reputation or fame; it means "public opinion" quite simply, that is, "honor" (for doxa/glory as a synonym of honor, see Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:20-21; Jude 24-25; 2 Peter 3:18) As Jesus states the case, ambitious achievers seek honor for themselves, while those with ascribed honor seek honor for the ascriber. Aristotle and other rhetoricians do not praise but rather blame people who act for idiosyncratic and selfish motives (Rhet 1.9.17-18). Therefore, the narrative maintains that Jesus is not seek his own honor and "glory," but according to the virtue of righteousness seeks what rightfully belongs to his Patron-Father who sent him. He is not, then, acting out of "love of honor" or ambition.

In regard to "shame," although the technical term does not appear in John 7, the actions of Jesus' adversaries all converge on destroying his reputation and discrediting him from social life. Negative labels such as "deceiver" (7:12b, 47) and "demon possessed" (7:20), if sustained, would utterly disvalue Jesus; negative evaluations of Jesus' place of origin likewise discredit him: "nobodies" come from "nowhere." On negative labels, see Malina and Neyrey 1988: 35-38.

Putting Jesus "on trial" may be the appropriate narratological and form-critical classification of the story in John 7. But being "on trial" is precisely a test of Jesus' reputation, worth and status, in short, a test of his honor. The very demand of Jesus that the audience "not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment" (7:24) is an unequivocal demand that Jesus' honor claims be properly assessed and publicly acknowledged. Hence, the narrator frames the rhetorical issue in John 7 as an issue of the honor and shame of Jesus or the acknowledgment/rejection of his claims. Readers as well as the characters in the narrative must make evaluative judgments about Jesus, judgments of his worthiness or baseness, which are the grounds for praise or blame.

4.5.2 Ascribed or Achieved honor in John 7? Three native criteria for ascribed honor are clearly in the foreground of John 7: origins, teachers, and authorization. Does Jesus come from an honorable city or region, a typical topic whereby the ancients evaluated people in terms of their origins (Neyrey 1994a: 181-82, 189-90; Malina and Neyrey 1996:23-26). In terms of the honor one derived from being born and raised in a certain city, we cite the rules from the progymnasmata of Menander Rhetor for composing an encomium on a city. These rules were educational commonplaces in antiquity; all who learned to write Greek were schooled in them. They represent, moreover, the general cultural code of honor of the Hellenistic world. The very first thing an author should note when composing an encomium on someone is the honor which accrues simply from being born in an honorable city (or country). Because of its relevance for this study, we cite Menander in full:

If the city has no distinction, you must inquire whether his nation as a whole is considered brave and valiant, or is devoted to literature or the possession of virtues, like the Greek race, or again is distinguished for law, like the Italian, or is courageous, like the Gauls or Paeonians. You must take a few features from the nation . . . arguing that it is inevitable that a man from such a [city or] nation should have such characteristics, and that he stands out among all his praiseworthy compatriots (Menander Rhetor, Treatise II 369.17-370.10; trans. Russell and Wilson, p. 79).

Thus it was "inevitable" that a person from such an honorable city would have its honorable characteristics. Both in the Fourth Gospel and in Acts, Jesus and Paul are evaluated as honorable or worthy people precisely in terms of their origins: Jesus was dismissed by Nathanael simply because he came from the village of Nazareth (John 1:46), whereas Paul claimed honorable status because he was from Tarsus, "no low-status city" (Acts 21:39) and had visited Philippi, "the leading city of the district of Macedonia" (16:12).

In regard to the second criterion for ascribed honor, has Jesus been taught by a wise and respected teacher? Again, in the rules for composing an encomium in the progymnasmata, writers and speakers are instructed to pay attention to "nurture and training" which consisted of an evaluation of the person's education (paideia), his teachers, arts and skills (technê), and grasp of laws (nomoi). We cite again Menander Rhetor:

Next comes "nurture." Was he reared in the palace? Were his swaddling-clothes robes of purple? Was he from his first growth brought up in the lap of royalty? Or, instead, was he raised up to be emperor as a young man by some felicitous chance? If he does not have any distinguished nurture (as Achilles had with Chiron), discuss his education, observing here: "In addition to what has been said, I wish to describe the quality of his mind." Then you must speak of his love of learning, his quickness, his enthusiasm for study, his easy grasp of what is taught him. If he excels in literature, philosophy, and knowledge of letters, you must praise this. If it was in the practice of war and arms, you must admire him for having been born luckily, with Fortune to woo the future for him. Again: "In his education, he stood out among his contemporaries, like Achilles, like Heracles, like the Dioscuri" (II. 371.17- 372.2; trans. Russell and Wilson, p. 83).

In terms of ascribed honor, we highlight several things here. Individuals were thought to be shaped, molded and formed by their mentors and teachers, whose stamp they henceforth bore. Given the reverence for the past and the importance of tradition and the cultural expectation of living up to the mos maiorum (the customs of the ancestors) in ancient culture, young men were only as good as their teachers and those who formed them in the social values enshrined in their past culture. This correlates with the preceding notion of family stock. If the parents were noble, so must the children be; if the teachers were excellent, so must the pupil be.

Hence, when the question is raised, "How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?" (7:15), several things are in view. First, it seems to be a public fact, at least in the Johannine narrative world, that Jesus did not have a formal paideia and did not sit at the feet of any teacher, such as Paul did (Acts 22:3). This fact, moreover, implies that Jesus' worth can only be as good as the quality of his teachers; hence, if he had no teachers at all, much less distinguished ones, then there is no way to test or acknowledge his learning. His claims to learning, then, seem presumptuous and vain. The dispute over whether he speaks "on his own authority" or on the "authority of another" expresses the controversy over his education quite plainly; this may be simply a case of vainglory if Jesus falsely and foolishly claims to know something (see 1 Cor 3:18; 8:2) but because he has not engaged in the process which leads to wisdom and knowledge, he speaks on his own authority, which is empty and pretentious. Finally, formal lack of education was a cause for public shame even in the New Testament, to judge by the treatment of Peter and John in Acts 4:13.

The third indicator of ascribed honor is raised by Jesus himself who claims, neither to be acting on his own authority nor to be seeking his own glory, but to be "sent" and speak on the authority of another and to seek the glory of his sender (7:16-18; see Borgen 1968).

We might summarize the argument in John 7 by noting that Jesus' adversaries credit him with ambitiously trying to achieve honor and respect, albeit vainly and erroneously. They refuse to acknowledge any claims to achieved honor and see no grounds for conceding ascribed honor, especially honor deriving from culturally correct education. The narrator, on the other hand, presents Jesus' status and worth in terms of ascribed honor, which is likewise continually rejected by Jesus' adversaries. The precise debate over "judging by appearances" (7:24) might be accurately paraphrased as a controversy over the correct assessment of the source of Jesus' honor and worth: is it achieved or at least claimed on the basis of achievement, as some interpret the scene? or is it ascribed to Jesus by the most honorable person in the cosmos, as the narrator claims? John 7 presents a public debate with a "divided" crowd and hence a divided verdict: "While some say 'He is a good man,' others said, 'No, he leads the people astray'" (7:12) and "So there was division among the people over him" (7:43).

4.5.3 Challenges to Jesus. We will understand the challenges to Jesus in proportion to our appreciation of the claims made by him or for him. The narrator addressing the fictional audience has already made substantial claims on Jesus' behalf. He is "the Word" who is face-to-face with God and actually in the bosom of God (1:1, 18). John the Baptizer, "a burning and shining lamp" (5:35) bore testimony on Jesus' behalf as a superior person who "ranks before me, for he was before me" (1:15, 27, 30). Most of the narrator's claims on Jesus' behalf can be discerned when we see whether characters in the story acknowledge or reject Jesus in any way. After all, claims are either acknowledged or rejected. Again the Baptizer is the greatest acknowledger of Jesus' honor: "I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God" (1:34) and "Behold, the Lamb of God!" (1:29, 36; see also 5:32-35). Nathanael, an Israelite in whom there is no guile, acknowledges Jesus: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (1:49). Nicodemus (3:2), the Samaritans (4:42), crowds in Galilee (6:14-15), crowds in Jerusalem (7:12a, 40-41a; 9:17, 33; 11:27; 12:13) all acknowledge Jesus' role and status as a King or Prophet or Son of God or Christ. Truly exalted claims are made by Jesus in 7:37-39 to be the replacement for the prayed-for water and rains during the feast of Tabernacles; but the author does not record any reaction whatsoever to these claims. Yet claims to worth and status are constantly being made throughout the Fourth gospel and even in John 7.

Of course, this record of acknowledgement and testimony on Jesus' behalf is hardly the entire story of the Fourth Gospel, as most scenes and episodes deal with refusals to acknowledge Jesus' claims to honor. According to the choreography of honor and shame interchanges, these refusals are formal challenges to him. We focus here only on the challenges to Jesus in John 7, which are both numerous and deadly serious. The entire narrative consists of an escalating series of challenges to Jesus. First, his brothers urge him to go publicly to the feast, which we consider as a challenge for several reasons. As the narrator indicates, "even his brothers did not believe in him" (7:5) and they belong to the world which hates Jesus (7:7); hence they belong to the camp of Jesus' adversaries and so their remarks should be seen as hostile. Their implied motivation, while not to see Jesus arrested and killed, appears to be self-serving, namely, that Jesus continue to gain a great reputation, which will enhance their own standing as "brothers." Their "challenge," then, is to take a large share of Jesus' reputation and fame, which we saw in the discussion of limited good" means that Jesus must lose as they gain.

Second, challenges to Jesus in John 7 are typically cast in terms of the forensic process waged against Jesus. Most obvious are the charges leveled against him by the various "courts" who evaluate and judge him. For example, as we have seen, Jesus is engaged in a forensic process in 7:15-24, where the residual charge against him appears to be his previous healing on the sabbath (5:10, 16): "I did one deed, and you all marvel at it" (v 21). Other forensic judgments are made about him which attack his popularity and public reputation, such as, "He is leading the people astray" (7:12) and "How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?" (7:15).

Third, in keeping with the forensic process, others challenge Jesus when they testify against him and present arguments which attack his claims. For instance, some argue that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because they know whence he comes, but when the Messiah comes no one will know where he comes from (7:27). Others point to the fact that Jesus is from Galilee, but as all know, the Christ is not to come from there, but being "descended from David, he comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was" (7:41-42). Finally, the Pharisees and chief priests contest Jesus' role and status as a prophet by declaring that "No prophet is to rise from Galilee" (7:52). Thus any claims made that Jesus is the Messiah (7:31, 41) or a prophet (7:40, 52) are challenged outright.

Thus his "brothers" and his formal adversaries and the crowds each challenge Jesus, but in different ways. Yet in their challenges, each completely misses and thus fails to acknowledge the core of Jesus' claims, namely, his ascribed role and status: that he has an "hour" assigned him for his works (7:6), that he is authorized to do what he does (7:16-18) and that he "comes from" an exalted person who ascribes him great honor (7:25-29).

4.5.4 Always Answer a Challenge. Challenges must be answered; failure to deliver a riposte normally results in loss of honor. As we shall see, the ripostes come first and foremost from Jesus himself, with occasional assistance from others. The narrative presents Jesus adroitly giving a riposte to each of the three challenges just noted above. First, Jesus flatly rejects the suggestion of his "brothers" to perform more signs or honor claims at this time; it may be "their time," but his hour has not yet come (7:6). They, in effect, belong to "the world" which hates Jesus, which only serves to distance Jesus and his true disciples from his adversaries (see 15:18-25). Jesus effectively dismisses them with a command, "Go to the feast yourselves" (7:8); he refused their challenge to manipulate him for their own honor. He defends his honor by not being put upon or manipulated, which pattern Gibson has noted occurring in 2:1-10; 4:46-54; 7:1-8 and 11:1-16.

As we noted above, 7:15-24 contains a number of key strategic moves characteristic of a defense in forensic proceedings. Presuming that the charges against Jesus and the current public hearing are themselves challenges to him, Jesus mounts a careful riposte to the charges. His teaching and thus his authority to heal on the Sabbath come from God; and this God is "true, and in him there is no falsehood" (7:18). He has adequate "learning" to speak, hence he is no false prophet who leads the people astray. Jesus, moreover, only seeks God's honor, not his own advancement; hence he acts honorably, not dishonorably (7:18) in speaking as he has been commanded. Moreover, in defense of his healing on the Sabbath, Jesus offers a legitimate defensive argument: if Moses authorizes circumcision on the Sabbath, surely making a broken man whole on the Sabbath is permitted (7:23). Each and every accusation or insinuation is answered directly, often by simply being denied.

Again, as noted above in the section on forensic proceedings, it is characteristic for the narrator of the Fourth Gospel to present a "turning of the tables" during forensic proceedings against Jesus. Jesus himself articulates the shape of his riposte when he commands of his judges, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement" (7:24; 8:15). The judges themselves are put on trial and judged according to the judgment they make, that is, whether they truly know whence Jesus comes. In the choreography of honor and shame dynamics, this means that forensic proceedings against someone are effectively challenges to them, and that the turning of the tables means that the defendant's riposte consists of conducting the same proceedings against his accusers. Thus the narrative of the forensic trial equals a challenge to Jesus; but by the "turning of the tables" on the judges, he issues the groundwork for a fitting riposte.

In this vein, we interpret Jesus' bold accusations against his accusers as appropriate ripostes to challenges to him. If they accuse him of leading the people astray and violating the Sabbath, he returns the compliment by accusing them of murder (7:19) and lying (7:20). These countercharges are more than the turning of the tables and the judgment of the judges according to the measure with which they judge. Judging according to appearances is an evil, but it is not in the same category as murder and lying.

In the third instance of challenges to Jesus (7:26-29), he rebuts certain false claims to know whither he comes with a question, which we noted above often serves as a rhetorical index of a challenge. "You know me, and you know where I come from?" (7:28). The impact of Jesus' response depends on the audience appreciating the irony of the moment: very few people truly know "whence Jesus comes," although many claim to know. According to the narrative, their claim is false and Jesus mocks it (7:28), thus beginning his riposte. The rebuttal continues when Jesus says "I have not come of my own accord; he who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him for I come from him" (7:28-29). Aside from the fact that we have claims and counterclaims to correct knowledge, it is simply insulting on Jesus' part to call his audience both stupid and lying. Yet, such "insults" according to the choreography of honor represent a legitimate riposte to a prior challenge. The narrator emphasizes the power of the insult-riposte when he tells that as a result of Jesus' testy remark "they sought to arrest him" (7:30).

Apart from Jesus' personal ripostes to challenges, two other narrative characters come to his defense and participate in the process of delivering a riposte to challenges to Jesus. The officers sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to arrest Jesus return empty-handed (7:32, 45). Why? "No man ever spoke like this man!" (7:46). On the narrative level, it is always a coup of honor for an accused or executed person to elicit a final grant of honor and respect from his executioner (see Matt 27:54 and Luke 23:47). It does not matter if these officers are dismissed as "lead astray" and "accursed" (7:47, 49), they have borne their testimony which challenges Jesus' challengers. Second, Nicodemus, whether a true disciple or only one in secret, proposes a legal question which works on Jesus' behalf, "Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?" (7:51). However we evaluate this as a formal defense of Jesus, it serves to call in question the legitimacy of the challenges to Jesus, thus embarrassing them for their envious challenge in the first place. In the narrative, it was perceived as a gross insult to which a curt and stinging riposte is returned: "Are you from Galilee too? Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee" (7:52).

Moreover, despite the official censure of public discussion of Jesus, the officials do not have their way in silencing all defense and praise of Jesus, which challenges the negative evaluations and judgments; in contrast to the accusation that Jesus leads the people astray, some declare that "He is a good man" (7:12-13); and juxtaposed to those who argue that Jesus cannot be the Christ, others state "When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?" (7:31); and canceling the judgment that Jesus cannot be the Christ because he is not from Bethlehem, some acclaim him favorably: "This is really the prophet!" and "This is the Christ" (7:40-41). Thus the "schism" or divided judgment about Jesus contains both challenges and ripostes on his behalf. The challenges just will not stick, and so Jesus' honorable role and status remain acknowledged, at least by some.

5.0 Conflict in Two Keys: Summary and Conclusions

This study has focussed on conflict in John 7, both the trials (forensic) and tribulations (honor challenges) of Jesus. We hope to have shown that the narrative in ch 7 (along with 8:12-59) enjoys a distinctive unity in terms not only of the context which is the Feast of Tabernacles, but especially in terms of the extended forensic proceedings occurring. From a literary and formal consideration, John 7 consists of an extended trial of Jesus. Knowing the conventions of a forensic proceeding, we were able to identify the various characters in the narrative according to their proper role in a trial, thus learning how to read the story more accurately in light of the author's formal shaping of the narrative and his ideological perspective.

But it would have been shameful to rest contented with this literary, form-critical reading. For if we would truly understand the record of conflict described in the story, we need more social tools to sort out the cultural elements which go into an adequate reading of the conflict. To this end, we turned to the anthropology of honor and shame. This culturally appropriate model instructed us on things which could never be gleaned from even the most exacting literary and formal-critical analysis. We learned what the conflict was all about, namely the worth, reputation and status of Jesus -- his honor rating. Moreover, we learned more about the code of honor, that is, the typical things which the ancients considered in evaluating someone's worth, in this case the cultural importance of "origins/birth" ("whence") and "nurture and training" (paideia or education). The forensic model of analysis simply cannot tell us the importance of such things. Furthermore, we learned about the social and cultural patterns of Jesus' world, how they assessed honor in terms of ascription or achievement, how they perceived the limited character of all goods, including and especially honor, how success inevitably breeds envy, and finally how they typically fight by means of the choreography of challenge and riposte. John 7 is that much richer for reading it in two keys, literary-formal and cultural. With this perspective we begin to see that conflict, pure and simple, is the dominant game in town, whether it is expressed literarily in terms of chreia or forensic proceedings.

Finally, what do we know if we follow these interpretative leads? First and foremost, the rhetorical strategy of the gospel writer has been and remains the honoring of Jesus as a person of incalculable worth, status and prestige. For it is the will of God that "all shall honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. Who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him" (5:23). Hence, not only are the signs of Jesus told to elicit honor, but also the stories of conflict in which Jesus acquits himself nobly. The signs were performed and narrated "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (20:31); they manifest his "glory" or honor (2:11). They are, then, his claims to worth and status. But his forensic trials serve to highlight that his claims are truly defensible and that Jesus, the honorable man, knows how to defend his honor and thus earn our continual esteem and praise. The author, then, presents Jesus according to the value system and cultural code of his world, namely, honor and shame. And he portrays Jesus as a fully honorable person, both in terms of ascribed honor (origins/birth, education, authorization) and in terms of his ability to claim and defend his honor. If honor is the pivotal or premier value of the author's cultural world, then Jesus should be reckoned as a most exalted and worthy and celebrated person. This kind of value statement simply cannot be gleaned from a mere study of the forensic process.

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1977 The Fate of Shechem or the Politics of Sex. Essays in the Anthropology of the Mediterranean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Richard, Earl

1985 "Expressions of Double Meaning and their Function in the Gospel of John," NTS 31: 96-112

Rochais, G.

1993 "Jean 7: Une construction littéraire dramatique, à la manière d'un scénario," NTS 39: 355-78

Rüger, Hans Peter

1969 "Mit welchem Maß ihr meßt, wird euch gemessen werden," ZNW 60:174-82

Russell, D.A. and N.G. Wilson

1981 Menander Rhetor. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Rylaarsdam, J.C.

1962 "Booths, Feast of," IDB 1.455-456.

Sherwin-White, A.N.

1963 Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Swarney, Paul R.

1993 "Social Status and Social Behaviour as Criteria in Judicial Proceedings in the Late Republic." Pp. 137-55 in Baruch Halpern and Deborah Hobson, eds.., Law, Politics and Society in the Ancient Mediterranean World. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press

Trites, A.A.

1977 "The Concept of Witness in the Fourth Gospel." Pp. 78-127 in his The New Testament Concept of Witness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Ulfgara, Hakan

1989 Feast and Future. Revelation 7:9-17 and the Feast of Tabernacles. ConB NT series 22. Almqvist and Wiksell

Vernant, Jean-Pierre

1988 Myth and Society in Ancient Greece. New York: Zone Books

Von Wahlde, U. C.

1981 "The Witnesses to Jesus in Jn 5:31-40 and Belief in the Fourth Gospel," CBQ 43: 385-404

1984 "Literary Structure and Theological Argument in Three Discourses with the Jews in the Fourth Gospel," JBL 103: 575-84

Walcot, Peter

1978 Envy and the Greeks. A Study in Human Behaviour. Warminster: Aris and Phillips

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