Why Thomas is not blessed with an apocalyptic kind of vision: After Tuckett’s, Frey’s, and Van Belle’s responses to Bultmann’s reading of John’s resurrection appearances
September 30, 2021 04:00 PM - 04:30 PM On Demand Save the Date
At John 20,29 we tend to translate ὅτι ἑώρακάς με πεπίστευκας as a question (“have you believed because you have seen me?”) and μακάριοι οἱ μὴ ἰδόντες καὶ πιστεύσαντες as a type of response (“blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”). But without this punctuation a latent contrast between two statements emerges: “you trust because you see me; blessed ones trust and do not see”. To consider the temporal dimension of the contrast, it is crucial to investigate how time is conceptualised and at work in John’s literary world.
The paper begins by contextualising Jesus’ ambiguous response to Thomas’ grand confession, both with the subsequent emphasis on written signs that inspire trust (v. 31), and with John’s only other macarism (13,17 – which, read with v. 8, seems to criticise Peter). The paper then turns to Rudolf Bultmann’s famous proposal that John’s resurrection appearances are there only to show that they add nothing to what the crucifixion has already revealed of Jesus’ exaltation and glorification. Recent responses from Christopher Tuckett, Jörg Frey, and Gilbert Van Belle mostly accept Bultmann’s position, if with limited attention to Thomas.
But without this punctuation a latent contrast between two statements emerges: “you trust because you see me; blessed ones trust and do not see”.
The paper redresses the lacuna by applying a new apocalyptic perspective on the narrative to a key difference between John’s Thomas scene and two macarisms in the synoptics: “blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear” (Matt 13,16), and “blessed are the eyes that see what you see” (Luke 10,23).
So the paper’s argument is that John reverses and undermines the synoptics on a key temporal matter: unlike eye-witnessing disciples inside the gospel story, readers of this specific Johannine book – who look at the doxa of the logos and who have life in its name – are blessed.