Friday, November 27, 2009

I Am Not Elijah, Part 2 (John 2:3-4, 2 Kings 3:9-22)

The following is part 2 of a paper I presented at the Evangelical Theological Society in Nov 2009. For all sections of the paper, see here.

2. “What to you and me?” (Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, ti emoi kai soi)

2 Kings 3:9-22 (LXX)
The king of Israel and the king of Judah and the king of Edom went… and there was no water (οὐκ ἦν ὕδωρ) for the army or for the cattle… So the king of Israel and the king of Judah and the king of Edom went down to [Elisha]. Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What do I have to do with you? (Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί)…

John 2:3-4 And Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. And when the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine (οἶνον οὐκ ἔχουσιν ).” Jesus said to her, “What do I have to do with you? (Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί)

It is common for commentaries on John to refer to 2 Kings 3:22 (along with Jdg 11:18, 2 Chr 35:21, 1 Kgs 17:18, and Hos 14:8) as an example of the idiom Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί in John 2:4. However, John 2:4 has never been seen as an allusion to 2 Kgs 3:22 until recently. Mickey Klink’s recent article ably demonstrated that Jesus’ miracle in John 2 is told in a manner designed to recall Elisha’s water miracle.[1]

Although the exact verbal parallel extends only to the phrase Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, there is significant resonance between the two passages. In 2 Kings 3, water for the army runs out, the king asks Elisha for help, and the man of God responds with Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί. Despite his initial reluctance, Elisha helps. He gives some rather strange commands; once the commands are obeyed, the water miraculously arrives, filling the trenches. In John 2, wine for the wedding runs out, Mary asks Jesus for help, and Jesus responds with Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί. Despite his initial reluctance, Jesus helps. He gives some rather strange commands; once the commands are obeyed, the water miraculously turns to wine, filling the water jars.[2]

If this is a genuine allusion, as seems possible, then it clears up the mystery of why Jesus at first appears to refuse, then helps anyway. The conversation between Jesus and his mother is designed to point to Jesus’ similarity to Elisha. His initial refusal does not really make sense in John’s story, but it does make sense in its original context in 2 Kings 3. This is the nature of many quotations and allusions to the OT: when they are removed from their original context and placed in the NT, slight irregularities are introduced. In some cases, minor grammatical irregularities occur, as when the tense of verbs do not match the new context or the pronouns are not quite appropriate for the new context. In other cases, the meaning of the original text goes through small distortions as it is placed in a new context.

[1] Edward Klink III, “What Concern is that to You and to Me? John 2:1-11and the Elisha Narratives,” Neotestamentica 39.2 (2005) 213 -287. Klink pointed out that Raymond Brown had twice hinted at the connection between this passage and the Elisha story. Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John (AB, 29-29A; 2 vols; Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1966, 1970), 1:110; Brown, “Jesus and Elisha,” Per 12 (1971) 85-104.
[2] Another, more coincidental connection between the passages can be found in 2 Kings 3:22. The Moabites see the water in the trenches “red like blood” (אדמים כדם); both terms are sometimes used to describe wine (Gen 49:11, Isa 63:2).

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