29 juillet 2012

Jn 6:22-40. Daily Bread and Everlasting Bread




 By
July 29, 2012

Contents

I. Introduction
II. Text and structure of Jn 6:22-40
   1. Text of Jn 6:22-40
   2. Structure of Jn 6:22-40
III. Daily bread and everlasting bread
   1. Daily bread
   2. Misunderstanding of hearers
   3. Everlasting bread
       a) The bread comes down from heaven
       b) The true bread
       c) The bread gives life to the world
       d) The bread of life is Jesus himself
       e) The bread satisfies all hunger and thirst
IV. Conclusion
   Bibliography


I. Introduction

In his commentary on Gospel of John, Raymond E. BROWN points out many problems relating to the composition of Jn 6. He also remarks upon the difficulty of coherence among the two signs (6:1-21) and the discourse (6:25-59) from a historical point of view (cf. BROWN, The Gospel, vol. I, p. 258-259. The details of references are presented at the end of this article). However, from a literary and a theological point of view, we can consider the entire chapter 6 as a coherent text. Rudolf SCHNACKENBURG wrote: “Jn 6 is a self-contained unit which shows evidence of careful composition. Its function within the gospel is to portray a segment of Jesus’ Galilean activity, in fact the climax and turning-point. Thematically it presents us with Jesus’ revelation of himself as the bread of life” (SCHNACKENBURG, The Gospel, vol. II, p. 10).

In this literary and theological perspective, Jn 6 is a unity of literature, this chapter related to Jesus’ mission in Galilee, while chapter 5 and 7 told us about Jesus’ activity in Jerusalem (5:1; 7:10). In Jn 6, Jesus reveals his origin and his mission through the theme of “bread”. Jn 6 is the longest chapter of the Fourth Gospel (71 verses), it can be structured in three large parts: Signs – Discourse – Effect:

   I. Two signs (6:1-21).
1) 6:1-15, Sign 1: Multiplication of five loaves and two fishes
2) 6:16-21, Sign 2: Walking on the sea of Galilee

   II. Discourse (6:22-59)
1) 6:22-24: Transition - The crowd finds Jesus
2) 6:25-59: The discourse on the bread of life
a) 6:25-40: Bread from heaven, bread of life
b) 6:41-51: Discuss on origin of Jesus
c) 6:52-59: Eating the flesh and drinking the blood

   III. Effect (6:60-71)
1) 6:60-66: Many of Jesus’ disciples went away
2) 6:67-71: Peter professes his faith in Jesus

(See details of the structure and analysis on Jn 6 in Giuse LÊ MINH THÔNG, “Ga 6,22-71: “Thánh Thể, lý trí và đức tin”, in Phântích thuật chuyện và cấu trúc áp dụng vào Tin Mừng thứ tư, Nxb. Phương Đông, 2010, p. 120-121).

In this article, we talk about the topic: From “bread for daily life” to “bread for everlasting life” in Jn 6:22-40. First, we present the text and structure of Jn 6:22-40, then we treat this theme in three points: (1) Daily bread, (2) Misunderstanding of hearers and (3) Everlasting bread.

II. Text and structure of Jn 6:22-40

   1. Text of Jn 6:22-40 (New Jerusalem Bible, 1985)

[6:22-24: Transition: seeking Jesus]

22 Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. 23 Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. 24 When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus.

[6:25-29: God’s Work and to believe]

25 When they found him on the other side, they said to him, 'Rabbi, when did you come here?' 26 Jesus answered: In all truth I tell you, you are looking for me not because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat. 27 Do not work for food that goes bad, but work for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of man will give you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal. 28 Then they said to him, 'What must we do if we are to carry out God's work?' 29 Jesus gave them this answer, 'This is carrying out God's work: you must believe in the one he has sent.'

[6:30-36: Bread from heaven, bread of life]

30 So they said, 'What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you? What work will you do? 31 Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' 32 Jesus answered them: In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; 33 for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. 34 'Sir,' they said, 'give us that bread always.' 35 Jesus answered them: I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst. 36 But, as I have told you, you can see me and still you do not believe.

[6:37-40: Jesus come from heaven to offer eternal life]

37 Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me; I will certainly not reject anyone who comes to me, 38 because I have come from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 Now the will of him who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me, but that I should raise it up on the last day. 40 It is my Father's will that whoever sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and that I should raise that person up on the last day.

Note: In general, we cite the biblical text from “New Jerusalem Bible, 1985” version (NJB), when we use “New American Bible, 1991” version (NAB), this abbreviation will be provided at the end of citation.

   2. Structure of Jn 6:22-40

Jn 6,22-40 belongs to the first part of the Discourse in Jn 6. This literature’s unity relates to two stories: (1) The crowd seeks Jesus and sees him (6,22-24), (2) Then they hold a dialogue with Jesus. This dialogue (Jn 6,25-40) can  be divided into three sections:

Transition: Jn 6,22-24, the crowd finds Jesus at Capernaum

Section 1: 6:25-29, God’s work and believing
Crowd’s question (6:25), Jesus’ answer (6:26-27)
Crowd’s question (6:28), Jesus’ answer (6:29)

Section 2: 6:30-36, bread from heaven, bread of life
Crowd’s questions (6:30-31), Jesus’ answer (6:32-33)
Crowd’s request (6:34), Jesus’ answer (6:35-36)

Section 3: 6:37-40, Jesus reveals his Father and himself

The opening of section 1 (6:25-29) relates to the misunderstanding of the crowd about bread. Jesus talks to them: “You are looking for me not because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat” (6:26). Then Jesus asks them “Do not work for food that goes bad, but work for food that endures for eternal life” (6:27). The conclusion of the first section (6:28-29) defines the work of God. God’s work means to believe in Jesus, the one the Father has sent (6:29).

The second section (6:30-36) reports another theme: The crowd asks Jesus for a sign, and then they introduce a new topic: “manna in the desert” (in the past) as the bread from heaven. Based on this topic, Jesus reveals the “true bread” from heaven is the one his Father gives them for now (in the present). Then the crowd requests of Jesus: “Give us that bread always” (6:34). Jesus’ answer in 6:35-36 shows to readers three ideas: (1) The identity of Jesus: “I am the bread of life” (6:35a); (2) His gift for everyone: “No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst” (6:35b); (3) The misunderstanding of the crowd. In fact, the crowd still does not believe (6:36), it means they misunderstand the sign of the multiplication of loaves (6:1-15) and misunderstand Jesus’ teaching until now (6:25-35).

In the third section (6:37-40), Jesus continues to reveal (1) the relationship between him and his Father, (2) his origin and his mission in the world, and (3) his gift of true life for whomever “sees the Son and believes in him” (6:40). The affirmation of Jesus: “I should raise that person up on the last day” is emphasized twice in 6:39 and 6:40. In the Gospel of John, “rising on the last day” connects to “future eschatology” (traditional eschatology) and it is in parallel to “Johannine realized eschatology”. It means that the believer already has eternal life right now, in the present. Because Jesus solemnly affirms to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life” (6:47 NAB).

III. Daily bread and everlasting bread

In this article, we focus on the theme “bread” in the second section (6:30-36). How does the narrator use the sign of the multiplication of loaves in 6:1-15 and the teaching of Jesus in 6:25-40 to transmit to readers the sense of “everlasting bread”, “the food that endures for eternal life” (6:27)? By using the technique of misunderstanding, the narrator makes known to readers Jesus’ revelation about “the bread of life”. We analyze the theme of bread in three different points: Daily bread, misunderstanding, and everlasting bread.

   1. Daily bread

There are two elements which relate to “daily bread” in Jn 6. The first one is the sign of multiplication of the five loaves and two fishes in 6:5-13. Jesus nourished “about five thousand in number” (6:10) and they had eaten enough (6:12). Seeing the sign that Jesus had done, the crowd said: “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world” (6:14). Then they intend to come and take Jesus by force and make him king (6:15). Jesus had known their intention, so he “fled back to the hills alone” (6:15). In fact, Jesus disagrees with the crowd, which wants to make him king, because they don’t understand the significance of the sign of multiplication. The truth is that the crowd misunderstands about the sign and about Jesus himself.

The second element connected to daily bread is “manna”. The crowd questions Jesus: “What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you? What work will you do?” (6:30), then they recalled the event of manna in the desert by these words: “Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat” (6:31). In the book of Exodus (Ex), the Israelites complained to Moses (Ex 16:2), because in the desert, they didn’t have enough food and water. Therefore, the LORD said to Moses: “Look, I shall rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people must go out and collect their ration for the day; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not” (Ex 16:4). Then “morning by morning they collected it, each man as much as he needed to eat, and once the sun grew hot, it melted away” (Ex 16:21). The Israelites named this food “manna”.

This was a great sign in the desert for Israelites. However, manna is still a type of daily bread; the Israelites eat manna every day for survival in the desert. In the Gospel of John, Jesus affirms to the Jews: “Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead” (Jn 6:49), then he reveals the true bread: “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die” (6:50). The true bread from heaven is Jesus himself (6:35).

When the crowd asks Jesus to do a sign (6:30) and recalls the manna in the desert as the bread from heaven, they want to compare Jesus with Moses. But Jesus doesn’t compare himself with Moses. Verily, Jesus surpasses Moses, Jesus calls God “My Father”, and he identifies Him with “true bread” (6:32). In the dialogue with the form of “question – answer” (6:30-33), the crowd misunderstood about Jesus’ identity.

For readers, the theme of audience’s misunderstanding is frequent in Jn 6. How can the narrator guide readers to understand the significance of the sign of multiplication? Where is the connection between “daily bread” and “everlasting bread” in Jn 6? We can respond to these questions by analyzing “hearer’s misunderstanding” in Jn 6. 
   2. Misunderstanding of hearers

“Misunderstanding” is a technical literature of the Gospel of John. The narrator uses the technique of misunderstanding to explain to readers many important theological subjects. We can compare the crowd’s misunderstanding in Jn 6:25-34 and misunderstanding of the woman of Samaritan in Jn 4:9-15. These two passages are in parallelism (6:25-34 // 4:9-15). The question (Q) and answer (A) form are taken part of the technique of Johannine misunderstanding.


The parallelism in 6:25-34 and 4:9-15 shows us the technique of misunderstanding in the Gospel of John (cf. BROWN, The Gospel, vol. I, p. 267). There are many other stories which convey misunderstanding to hearers, for example, the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus (3:1-12), the discussion Jesus has with the Jews and Pharisees in Jn 7–8. The misunderstanding of his audience allows Jesus to reveal insights about God Father and about himself, about his origin, his identity, his mission and his gift to the world. In Jn 6, we can note misunderstanding by many in the crowd.

(1) After seeing the sign of multiplication of loaves, the crowd wants to make Jesus king (6:15), this enthusiasm was based on the physical seeing of the marvelous aspect of the sign. Their concept of Jesus as a Davidic king was political. They don’t understand the real meaning of the sign of multiplication taught by Jesus.

(2) After finding Jesus, the crowd asks him: “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (6:25) Jesus answers them: “You are looking for me not because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat” (6:26). People don’t understand the sense of the sign; they are looking to Jesus only for “daily bread”. They want more bread to eat like in the multiplication of loaves (6:1-15).

(3) In 6:34, the crowd asks Jesus: “Sir, give us that bread always”. They have only understood that Jesus talked about unusual bread offered by God in 6:33, but they misunderstood in their thinking that he spoke of a miraculous earthly food. Thereby, they ask Jesus to give them “always” (pantote) that bread. It means they would like to receive repeatedly. The truth is on the contrary; Jesus talks about the eternal bread. He said: “No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever (pôpote) thirst” (6:35).

(4) In 6:30, the crowd questions Jesus: “What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you? What work will you do?” They already saw the sign of multiplication of loaves (6:1-15), but this sign was not enough for them. In fact, they only see this sign as an earthly gift from merely an earthly messiah. From a theological point of view, the crowd doesn’t really “see” the sign.

With misunderstanding as a theme, the narrator communicates to readers the real meaning of the sign through Jesus’ discourse about “the bread of life”, “the everlasting bread”.

   3. Everlasting bread

Basing on the misunderstanding of the audience, Jesus reveals what is the “true bread”. There are many ways to qualify this gift: “the Bread of life”, “the true bread”, “the living bread” or “the everlasting bread”. We can enlighten the bread “which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (6:33) through some of its characteristics: (a) The bread comes down from heaven, (b) The true bread, (c) The bread gives life to the world, (d) The bread of life is Jesus himself, and (e) The bread satisfies all hunger and thirst of mankind.

a) The bread comes down from heaven

The expression “bread from heaven” appears in 6:31-33. The crowd says to Jesus: “Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat” (6:31). Jesus answers them: “In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (6:32-33). The crowd talks about the manna in desert, which is the bread from heaven that their fathers ate in the past. But Jesus talks about the bread from heaven that his Father gives them today, in the present. Another characteristic of the new bread from heaven is “the true bread”.

b) The true bread

The use of the word “true” (alêthinos) to define the bread from heaven sets this bread over all other breads, even the one which was given to the fathers of the Jews in the desert. Craig S. KEENER points out: “The bread Jesus announces is more essential than manna given in Moses’ day, for it is the “true bread” (6:32)” (KEENER, The Gospel, vol. I, p. 682). The position of “true” or “genuine” is emphatic in saying of Jesus to the crowd: “It is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread” (6:32).

The “true” qualification is a characteristic of metaphors in the Gospel of John. Indeed, Jesus is “the true light” (1:9), “the true vine” (15:1). In the same way, Jesus’ judgment is true (8:16) and the witness of the disciple, whom Jesus loved, is true (19:35). Particularly, Jesus says that his Father who sent him is true (7:28) and the Father is “the only true God” (17:3). The true bread is the authentic bread “which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (6:33).

c) The bread gives life to the world

Jesus reveals that the true bread can give life to the world. This affirmation shows the contrast to the manna in the desert. Francis J. MOLONEY notes the parallelism between the manna and the true bread by these words: “In the past, it was God who gave the bread, not Moses (cf. v. 32). Now this same God, the Father of Jesus, gives the true bread from heaven. The Mosaic manna provided nourishment for Israel; the true bread from heaven gives life to the whole world” (MOLONEY, The Gospel, p. 212).

The idea the true bread comes down from heaven and “gives life to the world” (6:33) is familiar in Johannine vocabulary of the object of God’s salvation. When John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him, John introduces Jesus by these words: “Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (1:29). In 3:16, Jesus says about God’s love to the world: “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (3:16). For the Samaritans, they say to the woman about Jesus in 4:42: “Now we believe no longer because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he is indeed the Saviour of the world.”

Truly, God loves the world, He sent Jesus to save the world (3:16), to take away the sin of the world (1:29), to give life to the world (6:33). “The world” is the object of Jesus’ mission. However Jesus is not only the giver of true bread, but he himself is the bread of life.     

d) The bread of life is Jesus himself

When the crowd requests Jesus: “Sir, give us that bread always” (6:34), Jesus answers them: “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst” (6:35). By the affirmation “I am the bread of life”, Jesus identifies with the true bread which comes down from heaven. Later on, Jesus said: “I have come from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me” (6:38). The bread of God which comes down from heaven (6:33) is Jesus himself, who comes down from heaven to do the will of his Father (6:38).

The saying “I AM” in the sentence “I am the bread of life” is a specific Johannine theology. In the Gospel of John, there are some sayings “I AM” without predicate which reveals Jesus’ essence. For example, Jesus said to the Jews in 8:24: “If you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins” (8:24 NAB). This “I AM” alludes to the revelation of God to Moses about His name in Ex 3:14. When Moses asks God for his name, “God replied, ‘I am who I am.’ Then he added, ‘This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you’” (Ex 3:14 NAB). “I AM” is the “name” of God, it means God doesn’t reveal his name to Moses. Following the conception of the Israelites, having the name of someone, it means to know him, to have a possibility to govern him. Human beings cannot know God and govern him. Therefore, Moses hasn’t the name of God. However, the “I AM” as a name invites people to pay attention to recognize God’s intervention in the world. The God “I AM” is the God who operates the world. Thereby, mankind can recognize God through God’s works. When Jesus uses the title “I AM” without predicate, he identifies himself with God of Israelites.

When Jesus uses the saying “I AM” with a predicate, he doesn’t reveal his identity (who he is) but reveals his mission (what he does) in the world. On numerous occasions in the Gospel of John, Jesus declares “I am” with predicate, he expresses his works, his gift for man. For example, Jesus is the light of the world (8:12; 9:5). He says: “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life” (8:12). In the same way, Jesus declares that he is the door (10:7,9); the shepherd (10:11,14); the resurrection and the life (11:25); the way, the truth and the life (14:6); and he is the vine (15:1,5). When Jesus affirms that “I am the bread of life”, it means he nourishes people with bread that produces life.            

e) The bread satisfies all hunger and thirst

The bread of life, that is Jesus himself, can satisfy all hunger and thirst of mankind. How can this wonderful reality be realized? Jesus’ response is clear: “No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst” (6:35). Another way to translate this verse is: “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (6:35 NAB). This saying is constructed in parallelism. The first expression, “Whoever comes to me” interpreted by the second, “whoever believes in me”. The expression “will never hunger” is parallel with “will never thirst”. In this sentence, “coming to Jesus” means “believing in him”. We also see the same construction of “to come to”, “to believe in” and other themes of water and thirst in 7:37-38: “On the last day, the great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried out: ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! As scripture says, ‘From his heart shall flow streams of living water’.”

The proclamation of Jesus in 6:35 has Old Testament background. Jesus makes his saying intelligible to the audience. The link of Jesus’ saying with the Old Testament occurs in Sir 24:21: “They who eat me [Wisdom] will hunger for more, they who drink me will thirst for more” and in Is 49:10, the departing captives are promised: “They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water” (Is 49:10). Jesus realized the promise in the Old Testament. He is the bread of life (6:35a), and he has the power to satisfy the deepest needs of humankind, all hunger and all thirst (6:35b).

IV. Conclusion

There are many difficulties and much complexity in Jn 6 from a compositional point of view. However, from a literary and a theological point of view, we can consider the entire chapter 6 as a coherent text. The structure of Jn 6 indicates that the two signs (multiplication of loaves and walking on the sea) prepare the discourse about the bread of life (6:25-59). In other words, the discourse explains the sense of the sign of multiplication, and this sign helps readers to understand Jesus’ teaching in his discourse.

The narrator uses the technique of misunderstanding to communicate with readers. Basing his approach around the misunderstanding of the crowd, Jesus explains and reveals the significance of the bread of life. We can recapitulate five characteristics of everlasting bread: (1) Coming down from heaven, (2) The true bread, (3) Giving life to the world, (4) This bread is Jesus himself, (5) Satisfying all hunger and thirst of mankind.

Through the story of Jn 6:22-40, the narrator invites readers “to see the sign” (6:25), “to see Jesus” (6:40), “to come to him” and “to believe in him” (6:35). However, in Jn 6, the crowd saw the sign of multiplication (6,14), they saw Jesus (6:36) and they also came to Jesus (6:24), but they don’t believe in him (6:36). What must we do to attain “true seeing”, “true coming” and “true belief in” Jesus? These questions can be broached in another article.

Bibliography

[1966] Raymond E. BROWN, The Gospel According to John, I–XII, vol. I, (Anchor Bible 29), New York (NY), Doubleday, 1966, 538 p.

[1971] Rudolf schnaCkenburg, The Gospel According to St. John, vol. II: Commentary on Chapter 5–12, (Herder’s Theological Commentary on the New Testament), London, Burns & Oates, (1971), 1980, 556 p. (Orig. Das Johannesevangelium).

[1998] Francis J. MOLONEY, The Gospel of John, (Sacra Pagina Series 4), Collegeville (MN), The Liturgical Press, 1998, xxii-594 p.

[2003] Craig S. KEENER, The Gospel of John. A Commentary, vol. I, Peabody (MA), Hendrickson Publishers, 2003, 831 p.

[2010] Giuse LÊ MINH THÔNG, “Ga 6,22-71: Thánh Thể, lý trí và đức tin”, in Phân tích thuật chuyện và cấu trúc áp dụng vào Tin Mừng thứ tư, Nxb. Phương Đông, 2010, p. 110-146.


July 29, 2012


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