On March 9, 2020 I defended my doctoral dissertation at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem, entitled “One Sows, and Another Reaps”: Interrelating Narratives in the Pentateuch and John 4.
It was elaborated under the direction of Fr. Alessandro Cavicchia, OFM, with valuable feedback from our confrere, Fr. Francis Moloney, SDB, and Dr. Edward L. Greenstein of Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv.
My dissertation proposes a new approach to an ongoing scholarly discussion. How can the relationship between the encounters at wells narrated in the Pentateuch (Gen 24:1-67; 29:1-14; Exod 2:15-22) and the encounter at Jacob’s well (John 4:1-42) be defined? What bearing does this relationship have on the exegesis of the Gospel pericope, and what clues does it offer about the underlying interpretation of the pentateuchal passages? Previous studies have depicted these texts as essentially identical, entirely unrelated, and a wide range of possibilities in between, explaining the relationship as midrash, typology, adaptation, allusion, allegory, parody, or a coincidence of historical events.
The analysis I have undertaken, instead, brings to light an interrelation which does not fall neatly into a single category. According to the terminology of literary theorist Gérard Genette, it is simultaneously inter-, hyper-, and architextual, and in this sense “three-dimensional.” All four texts are linked by an intricate series of parallels which include similarities as well as contrasts. In John 4, the parallels with Scripture are intertwined with words and actions of Jesus and articulated according to the Fourth Gospel’s literary and theological priorities, suggesting an origin in the process of postresurrection reflection mentioned elsewhere in the Gospel (e.g., 2:17, 22; 12:16; 13:7). All four texts reprise the same constellation of ten literary motifs, but in John 4:1-42, each motif is reconfigured in some way. Two are accentuated (socioethnic barriers, worship); three emerge as metaphors (water, food, work); four carry additional connotations (journey, recognition, announcement, welcome); and one is left ambiguous, leaving interpretation to the individual reader (matrimony and progeny). The resultant dynamic resists interpretation according to any single motif or trope, inviting the Gospel pericope’s readers to “reap” levels of meaning “sown” by the Torah episodes, as the dissertation’s title suggests.
I am very grateful to Fr. Ivo Coelho, Fr. Tim Zak (my provincial), and Fr. Stanislaus Swamikannu (my director) for the opportunity to obtain a Doctorate in Sacred Scripture after these years of teaching at our theologates in Tlaquepaque (1999-2003, 2009-12) and Jerusalem (2012-18).
Eric John Wyckoff, SDB
Jerusalem, April 2020 Download