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Grumbling Jews in John 6 Part 2

Loaves Fishes

This is Part 2 of looking at the “grumbling Jews” in John 6.
Please read Part 1, where I argue that “Jews” is a mistranslation.

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ John 6:41

Ἐγόγγυζον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι περὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι εἶπεν Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος ὁ καταβὰς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ

γογγύζω is to murmur, mutter, grumble, confer secretly…
Here it is the Imperfect Active Indicative of the verb. Far from beginning to murmur, this is an ongoing past action – these are people who complained before and are going to complain again. The word “began” does not occur in the text.

There is also, pretty obviously, in a passage that repeatedly looks back to Moses and the time in the wilderness, allusion to the complaining in that Exodus story:

And the people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ Exodus 15:24
καὶ διεγόγγυζεν ὁ λαὸς ἐπὶ Μωυσῆν λέγοντες τί πιόμεθα (LXX)

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. Exodus 16:2
διεγόγγυζεν πᾶσα συναγωγὴ υἱῶν Ισραηλ ἐπὶ Μωυσῆν καὶ Ααρων (LXX)

I essentially prepared the above (as part of my lectio) prior to a comment by Kelvin Wright pointing to David Bentley Hart’s translation. So now, here, having prepared this post, is David Bentley Hart’s translation of John 6:41

So the Judaeans murmured about him because he had said, “I am the bread having descended out of heaven”

NB. no sign of “began”. Oh – and no sign of “Jews”.

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6 thoughts on “Grumbling Jews in John 6 Part 2”

  1. I take your point Bosco about the proper translation of Ἰουδαῖοι. But in this case Jews may be a fair translation, given the disputes of Johns community with the synagogue communities, who had expelled them.

    Many blessings

    1. Thanks, Chris. Might we be better (in a post-Shoah world) to translate Ἰουδαῖοι as “Judeans” and be left to expand the nuance of the relationship of John’s community to the synagogue in preaching and teaching, than to translate Ἰουδαῖοι as “Jews” and have many misunderstand that translation when they have little access to that context? Blessings.

  2. Part 1 was very sound in insisting that “Jews,” besides courting disastrous misunderstandings in our world, misses completely the very interesting northern/Galilean vs. southern/Judean tensions and travels in the Gospels.

    Part 2, unfortunately, errs in suggesting that “began to…” is an illegitimate rendering of the imperfect or somehow “not in the Greek.” It’s called the inchoative imperfect (among other names) and is definitely a feature of NT Greek. See eg https://bible.org/article/validity-ingressive-imperfects-greek-new-testament

    So for Part 2 to work you need a clearer argument that this frequent usage should be ruled out here. But, while other views are possible, I don’t think that an ingressive impf. here can or should be ruled out.

    1. Totally agree. As I indicated – I was simply putting online my reflection. It might have been a single post, but, especially with a busier week than usual, I thought it was worth putting it out across two days rather than one long post. In my lectio, I was seeing that these were grumblers rather than that they had not been grumblers before and now switched to starting to be so. If that makes sense? It was more an application to me, to us, to others – are we grumblers as a regular response. I would not want to argue that “began to…” has the same strength as I argue about “Jews”. And I don’t think the issue is anything like as big. Blessings.

  3. Thank goodness for the internet. I’m typing away to find the definitions. You’re a good teacher — you present enough in an interesting way to make me want to learn more. More lunch time pondering. Loving this vein.

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