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Pancaro, Severino


The law in the fourth gospel 1980


Borgen, Peder

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Theologische Literaturzeitung 105. Jahrgang 1980 Nr. 5


Vf. kennt die Literatur gründlich. Aber es fehlen charakteristischerweise
einige Namen: etwa Haenchen und Klein.
Die zitierten Autoren sind korrekt dargestellt, aber es fehlt
die eigentliche theologische Auseinandersetzung mit evangelischen
Autoren, was vor allem im Falle Bultmann und
Moltmann dann doch zu Verzeichnungen führt. Die entscheidende
Frage aber ist, ob die Tradition so sehr zum Träger
der Lösung gemacht werden kann. Sicher hat Vf. recht,
daß die Tradition in der nachösterlichen Gemeinde von großer
Bedeutung war. Und wahrscheinlich hat er auch darin
recht, daß die kritische Forschung die Treue zu dieser Tration
unterschätzt. Aber: erstens gab es offenbar nicht eine,
sondern mehrere Traditionen. Zweitens steht zweifellos
Paulus gegen den vom Vf. verwendeten Traditionsbegriff.
Schließlich ist zu fragen, ob die Frage der Glaubwürdigkeit
des Christentums wirklich an der Frage des historischen Zugangs
zu Jesus hängt oder nicht vielmehr an der Bezeugung
des Christus durch die Kirche heute.

Wien Johannes Dantlne

Pancaro, Severino: The Law in the Fourth Gospel. The

Torah and the Gospel, Moses and Jesus, Judaism and
Christianity, according to John. Leiden: Brill 1975. XVII,
571 S. gr. 8° = Supplements to Novum Testamentum, 42.
Lw. hfl. 128,-.

In recent Johannine research scholars have given different
assessments of the role which the Old Testament plays in
the Gospel. For example R. Bultmann was of the opinion
that the Old Testament and the concept of Lawwere of little
or no importance for the Gospel. He wrote that "... der Begriff
v«(jog im 4. Evangelium eine auffallend geringe Rolle
spielt" (Ev. Theol. 1937, 128). By this Statement Bultmann
criticized E. Hirsch who maintained that the Law was one
of the governing ideas of the Fourth Gospel.

Scholars such as Th. Preiss and N. A. Dahl have reached
similar conclusions to that of Hirsch: judicial principles and
ideas play a central role in the Fourth Gospel. In his mono-
graph — a doctoral dissertation at the University of Münster
1972 — S. Pancaro links his study to the research done by
Hirsch and Preiss, and he takes as his point of departure
Preiss' examination of Johannine ideas about a "cosmic
trial" between God and the world. Pancaro wants to deter-
mine the meaning and function given to the Law by Jn and
the precise role it plays in the theological structure of the

The monograph is divided into five parts. Part One deals
with the Law as a norm which the Jews vainly try to use
against Jesus in order to judge and condemn him. In Part
Two it is shown that according to Jn the Law testifies
against the Jews and in favour of Jesus. Part Three views
the trial before Pilate as the denouement of the confronta-
tion of Jesus with the Jews and "their" Law. In Part Four
the author adds a section on the metamorphosis of nomistic
termini and the transferral of Symbols for the Law to Jesus
in the Gospel. Part Five gives a systematic summary of the

Pancaro employs various methods in his study, such as
those of Traditionsgeschichte, Redaktionsgeschichte, compa-
rative religion, and word studies. The central method used
is, however, the analysis of consistency or inconsistency in
the ideas on the Law in the Gospel seen within the context
of its Sitz im Leben. The present review will focus uoon the
last point and ask: how far has the author succeeded in
preser-ting a consistent and adequate picture of the Law In
the Gospel, and how far has he in a corresponding way
defined its Sitz im Leben in a consistent and adequate way?
The review will not concentrate upon Pancaro's discussion
of the metamorphosis of nomistic termini and the transferral
of Symbols for the Law to Jesus In the Gospel. Therefore it
should be stated in passing that such an understanding of
Johannine concepts is relevant and to the point. As for the
word studies, they have to some degree grown into lengthy

excursus which make the reading of the book unnecessarily
complicated. A more concentrated presentation would have
strengthened the monograph.

When the author concludes that the Johannine "theology"
of the Law is well defined and consistently worked out in
the Gospel, he does not defend his thesis only from literary
and logical analysis, but also from his understanding of the
Sitz im Leben of the Johannine Church. In order to under-
stand this Situation he draws on material from comparative
religion, in casu from Judaism. He bases his understanding
here on the works by G. F. Moore and J. Jocz and Sketches
the development of Judaism which took place between the
destruction of the Temple in the year 70 A.D. and the end of
the first Century.

Against this background the clue to the Situation reflected
in the Fourth Gospel is found in the conflict between normative
Judaism and the heretics, as seen in the rabbinic
writings. Normative Judaism on the one hand centered
around the piety of observance, observance being under-
stood in the sense of strict fidelity to the precepts. One's
attitude towards the individual precept determined one's
attitude towards the Law as a whole. There were on the
other hand heretics who entertained the doctrine of the two
powers. In the rabbinic writings such views are attacked
because in this way the purity of monotheism was lost.
Pancaro finds that the Rabbis probably had the Jewish
Christians in mind in their criticism because the Christians
raised the Messiah to a position almost equal to that of God.

1). Pancaro's basic method is sound: The Fourth Gospel
must be interpreted within the context of its Sitz im Leben.
In his analysis he succeeds in showing that much of the material
in Jn can be well understood from the model sketched
above. Points from his analysis of Jn 5 can serve as example.

From the view point of the Jews (the normative Judaism
of the Synagogue) Jesus is a sinner because of his disregard
for the Sabbath. At the same time they Charge him with
blasphemy because he Claims to be the Son of God and in
this way attacks God's glory. The error of the Jews consists
of misinterpreting the claim of Jesus as the Son of God, not
realizing that the Son is totally dependent on the Father and
that to honour the Son is to honour the Father. Thus when
the Synagogue regards the Christians as sinners to be ex-
cluded from the Synagogue (Jn 9), this only indicates that
they are worthy disciples of Jesus.

Pancaro's interpretation here is consistent and he shows
that the above mentioned model of conflict derived from
rabbinic writings proves fruitful for the points discussed
from Jn. It is of importance that the author has shown that
Law, precepts and judicial principles are not just stepping
stones to introduce Christological ideas but are central to
the logics and argumentation developed by the Evangelist.

This model of conflict is less adequate, however, for the
discussion of another aspect of the Law, namely that which
the author classifies as Heilsgeschichte. Pancaro shows that
the polemic in Jn 5:37—8 can be understood within the context
of his model. Here the Law testifies against the Jews;
they have not seen nor heard God at Mt. Sinai since they do
not recognize that the Father has sent the Son. In a corresponding
way Pancaro (in agreement with the reviewer,
Bread from Heaven, 1965, 150 ff.) understands Jn 6:45—6 also
to refer to the Sinaitic revelation; by grasping and assimilat-
ing the teaching the Father gave in the Torah, one comes to
Jesus. At this point, however, the consistency and adequacy
of Pancaro's analysis can be questioned. He does not relate
the general polemic of Jn 6:46 to the supposed Sitz im Leben
of the Gospel. This text as well as similar Statements in Jn
1:18 and 3:13 against visio dei and heavenly ascent suggests
that G. D. Scholem's works on early Jewish mysticism can
throw light upon the kind of Judaism reflected in Jn. And
the general form of these polemic Statements even raises
the question whether they are addressed only to the Jews of
the Synagogue as opponents or also to opponents within the
Johannine Church.