Monday, May 15, 2006

The FG’s Paraphrase of Isaiah 6:10 - Part 1

John 12:40

Another candidate for repentance in the FG occurs in John 12:40 with the Evangelist’s use of strefo. The FG paraphrases Isaiah saying, “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted (or turn back) and I heal them.” This text (which is closer to the Hebrew than the LXX) from Isa 6:10 (also quoted in Matt 13:13–15; Mark 4:11–12; 8:17–18; Luke 8:10; 19:42; Acts 28:26–27), while it could be understood as referring back to the rejection described in 1:11, is better understood in the immediate context of 12:36–39, 41–42. Craig Evans rightly concludes that John 12 functions “to explain how a messianic claimant who performs one messianic sign after another finds himself rejected and crucified.” The context in Isaiah 6 is that after Isaiah had a vision which resulted in his “repentance and cleansing” (Carson, John, 448), he offers to serve the Lord saying, “Here I am.” God informs Isaiah of the response he will receive from the people. What is God saying to Isaiah? Keener notes that “Later rabbis emphasized the note of repentance” in this text. Most all scholarly research on repentance has connected the underlying Hebrew word used in Isa 6:10 (shub) with the concept of the definition of repentance presented in this research: that of turning away from sin. The Greek word used here, strefo, means to turn.[1] It is the word the LXX used for repentance.

The paraphrase in 12:40 is connected to the quote in 12:38. The main theme connecting them is the question of why the Jews did not believe; but they also contain themes of being lifted up, glory, and sin. The aspect of their unbelief addressed is that of hardening (obduracy), which is essentially the opposite of repenting.

The author of the FG has taken some liberties in his citation of Isa 6:10: he emphasizes the blinding of eyes and hardening of hearts, and changes (from the LXX) the passive (“has become hardened”) to the active (“He blinded”). This change presents the peoples hardness as regrettable. The Hebrew uses an imperative: “Make the heart of this people.” He has not included the “deafness” mentioned in Isa 6:10. Goodwin concludes that the text that the Evangelist was using was, nonetheless, the LXX.

Part 2 will discuss two major ways of viewing this passage and the implications for repentance in the FG.

[1] In the LXX, the word used is epistrefo; the Hebrew word is shub. For shub meaning “repent,” see 1 Kgs 8:47; 2 Chron 6:37; Psa 7:12; Jer 5:3; 8:4; 15:7, 19; 18:8; 31:19; 34:15; Ezek 14:6; 18:30, 32; Hos 11:5; Zec 1:6; Job 36:10; Isa 30:15; 59:20. Regarding strefo, Brown (John, 1: 484) says that it “really has the sense of a middle voice: ‘turn themselves.’” Anderson, “Repentance,” 19, concludes that in Isa 6:10 it must refer to an external turning, not an internal. Therefore, turning from sins would then be the fruit of repentance and believing. His definition: “an internal resolve to turn from one’s sins.”

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