An Absent Complement and Intertextuality in John 19:28-29

by Robert L. Brawley
An Absent Complement and Intertextuality in John 19:28-29
Robert L. Brawley
Journal of Biblical Literature
Start Page: 
End Page: 
Select license: 
Select License


Robert L. Brawley

McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL 60637

The significance of John 19:28-29 lies obscure under a veil of brevity. Jesus' saying could hardly be more succinct: 8\46. Clues to guide interpreta- tion are rather meager. Nevertheless, the narrator's observation that the inci- dent completes scripture rules out two standard interpretations. One takes the thirst of Jesus as a sign of agony, the other as a sign of his solidarity with humanity! But what have Jesus' agony and his humanity to do with completing scripture? The narrator's commentary unmasks these interpretations as mis- interpretations2

These misreadings aside, obscurity remains. Scholarship has provided scant relief. Rudolf Bultmann observes correctly that Jesus' thirst fulfills scrip- ture as a sign of the completion of the work to which he was commissioned. Although fulfillment of scripture is a recurrent motif in John, 19:28 is the only case in which the verb rcXei6o expresses the motif. Reduplications of the close cognate reXbo in w.28 and 30 bracket the unique formula. This dense occur- rence of the cognates at the moment of Jesus' death echoes the previous com- mitments of Jesus to complete God's work? Thus, the completion of scripture is also the completion of the work God gave Jelsus to do. Bultmann's brief com- mentary, however, does not adequately catch the significance implied in the narrator's express observation that the incident completes the scripture!

Brevity is hardly the problem of Raymond Brown's commentary. In a thorough discussion he agrees with Bultmann that the fulfillment of scripture is related to the completion of Jesus' workgn addition, he devotes considerable attention to the identity of the scripture implicated. He suggests an allusion to the total voice of scripture. But if the reference is to a specific text, Brown

' SO J. M'ilkinson, "The Seven Words from the Cros:,," SJT 17 (1964) 76-78.

R. Bultmann, The Gospel ofJohn: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971) 674 n. 2. E.g., John 4:34; 5:36; 17:4. Bultmann, John, 673-74, 673 n. 6.

E. Haenchen points out that "to fulfill the scripture" was inserted by the narrator in order to emphasize an important point uohn 2: A Commentary on the Gospel ofJohn Chapters 7-21 [Philadelphia: Fortress, 19841 193).

R. E. Brown, The Gospel According toJohn (xiii-xxi): Introduction, Translation and Notes (AB 12A; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970) 929.

nominates Ps 69:21 (LXX 68:22):6"They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar7 to drink." But because he discusses other candidates and suggests potential symbolic meanings, obscurity persists under the veil of multiple possibilities.

This article attempts to peek under the veil by employing recent advances in theories of intertextuality. What does an understanding of intertextuality have to do with the allusion to scripture in John 19:28-29?

I. Intertextuality

Allusions belong to what Roland Barthes calls the cultural voice of the text? Texts say more than they express because they draw on common knowl- edge, assumed but unstated. The cultural repertoire of antiquity can be the ordinary presuppositions of everyday experience, such as assumptions regard- ing reckoning time? Or it can include literature that is popular enough to generate allusion^!^

Scripture constitutes a notable part of the cultural repertoire for John. In fact, the way John cites scripture is tacitly to view itself as part of the same story!' Thus, readers of John read scripture through John. The immediate con- text of 19:28-29 introduces some allusions by formulas and cites the text. But in 19:28-29, the recovery of the allusion is left to the reader. It is part of the unformulated text.

One conventional way to analyze citations of scripture in the NT has been to assess how faithfully a successor text cites its precursor on the basis of the contextual meaning of the original. According to such a convention, we may judge that some NT citations respect the original context, some are detached from the context, and some violate the contextJ2 To take an example, the claim in John 19:36that the failure of soldiers to break Jesus' legs fulfills Exod 12:46

Brown, John, 929; cf. Bultmann, John, 674 n. 1.

7 "0505is ambiguous. It can mean inferior sour wine or it can refer to the vinegar made from such wine. See BAGD and LSJ. In the Hebrew, Ps 69:21 refers unambiguously to vinegar (BDB, KB). Thus, the likelihood is that 6505 as an allusion to Psalm 69 means vinegar. But in cases such as Luke 23:36 it more likely means sour wine.

8 R. Barthes, S/Z (New York: Hill & Wang, 1974) 17-18, 100. See W Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory oJAesthetic Response (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978) 69. Iser speaks of a similar concept as the "repertoire" of the text.

See R. Alan Culpepper, Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983) 219; cf. n. 30.

On the popular literature in German culture behind the allusions of E. T. A. Hoffmann, see H. Meyer, The Poetics oJQuotation in the European Novel (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univer- sity Press, 1968) 128-29.

See E Kermode, The Genesis of Secrecy: On the lnterpretation oJNarrative (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979) 98-99. These categories are used by R. Mead, "A Dissenting Opinion About Respect for Context in Old Testament Quotations," NTS 10 (1963-64) 279-89.

necessitates construing udroiias masculine and therefore as a reference to Jesus. But in Exod 12:46 (LXX), the antecedent of uhotis rb 7r60xu, and adrot must be neuter. Thus, according to this convention, John 19:36violates the context of Exod 12:46J3Clearly the Gospel of John may cite scripture without imply- ing the literary and historical contextsJ4

There is an alternative way, however, to look at intertextuality. According to Hans-Georg Gadamer, interpretation is a fusion of horizons. Both the text and the interpreter have a horizon that embraces everything that falls within the limits of their own point ofview. But every act of interpretation transforms the horizon of both the text and the interpreterJ5 When one text takes on the task of interpreting by appealing to a precursor, each text expresses something in its own voice even as its voice is also altered by the other. The original and the new text hang on each other. They are interdependent. Moreover, there is a tensive interplay between them that recasts the meaning of the indepen- dent parts.

This intertextual recasting of meaning fits into a larger aspect of literary theory. Every literary work mixes the old and the new, especially when we consider the unformulated text. Thus, intertextuality is characteristic of all texts."j The new is the element that distinguishes creativity. But readers recognize creativity only against the backdrop of the conventional." More particularly, in intertextuality a successor text plays off against a precursor that fills the role of the conventional. Michael Riffaterre dubs the precursor the hypogram, that is, a covert word (or text) that underlies what actually appears in the text and is engaged in an interplay with the text!8 To illustrate, in order to understand a humorous bumper sticker "A fool and his [sic]money are soon partying," readers must reify the hypogram "A fool and his money are soon parted."

Manifestly, then, the successor text transforms or distorts the precursor. Harold Bloom expresses this in a radical way when he claims that every new literary work is a creative correction of a parent work, a correction that he

l3 See S. Edgar, "Respect for Context in Quotations from the Old Testament:' NTS 9 (1962-63) 57-59.

l4 Similarly, midrash may allude to biblical texts without any imperative to reflect the original context. See D. Boyarin, lntmtatuality and the Reading of Midrash (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990) 23.

H.-G. Gadamer, Truth and Method (New York: Continuum, 1975) 269-73. l6 Boyarin, Intertextuality, 14. l7 W. Iser, The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to

Bcckett (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1974) xii-xiii, 34, 183,288; idem, Act of Reading, 18;I? Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967) 19-24; D. Damrosch, The Nawatice Covenant: Transformations of &re in the Growth of Biblical Literature (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987) 2; Boyarin, Intertextuality, 12.

l8 M. Riffaterre, Semiotics of Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978) 12-13, and passim.

calls a mi~interpretation.'~ If in charting connections with previous literary works Bloom accents discontinuity, John Hollander provides something of a corrective in stressing continuity. For Hollander, there is an echo between the new work and its predecessor, a reverberation bouncing back and forth, producing a new figuration. Such a figuration distorts the meaning of the original in order to understand it anew?O Thus, tensive interplay between the two texts recasts the meaning of its independent parts. The new text revises the meaning of its precursor. But the precursor alters the meaning of the new text as well. This is similar to Bloom's concept of a "lie against time." Because an allusive text claims for its meaning a text that is a temporal antecedent possessing meaning apart from its successor, allusions perpetrate a lie against time?' Or to switch to spatial imagery, Paul Ricoeur envisions the incongruity between the otherness of the antecedent text and its efficacy for a later time as a tension between proximity and distance?Z

Allusions may evoke uncanny correspondences at the same time that they conceal other components or even stand in antithesis as a correction of the precursorz3 In this manner the new text may transform the sense of the original text substantially while holding onto it irrevocably. Thus, to claim a revisionary relationship is to retrieve the precursor through the successor, whereas the conventional methodology breaks the two apart by insisting on the historical and literary context of each. By the criteria of intertextuality, therefore, the question is no longer how faithful the repetition is to the original. Rather, a reference to an old text locates the modern interpreter in a tensive ambience of echoes between the two texts, and the question is how the two texts reverberate with each other?

19 H. Bloom, The Anxiety of lnfluence (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973) 94. Bloom goes so far as to claim that reading is defensive warfare where interpretation is a battle to revise. See H. Bloom, Kabbalah and Criticism (New York: Seabury, 1975) 64, 79, 88, 126.

" J, Hollander, The Figure of Echo: A Mode of Allusion in Milton and After (Berkeley Univer- sity of California Press, 1981) ix, 31, 43, U1. See also R. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989) 16-19; Boyarin, Intertextuality, 24-26. A similar view of revision in the transition from oral tradition to written literature is the burden of W. Kelber,

The Oral and the Written Gospel: The Hermeneutics of Speaking and Writing in the Synoptic Tradition, Mark, Paul, and Q (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983). 21 H. Bloom, The Breaking of the Vessels (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982) passim; see also Bloom, Kabbalah and Criticism, ll2.

22 P. Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action and Inter- pretation (Cambridge: Cambridge university Press, 1981) 61; idem, lntqretatwn Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of ,iieaning (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1976) 43-44.

23 Bloom, Anxiety of lnfluencc, 14; M. Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985) 421. 24 See Hays, Echoes of Scripture, 20.

11. Intertextuality and the Metaphorical

The way intertextuality functions bears conspicuous similarity to the way metaphors function. Hollander identifies a figurative echo or dialectic between the two texts: "The dialectic might be called the field of combat between syn- chrony and diachrony."25 Intertextuality alters what two texts mean in their own independent contexts by both conflict and consonance. That is, they stand in tension with and extend each other simultaneously. This dialectical rela- tionship is metaphorical, figurative. In other terms, the play between the texts, like wordplay, produces a meaning that is figurative because it goes beyond the independent meaning of either text.

The nonfigurative referent of a metaphor is what some philosophers of language call the subsidiary subject, whereas the figurative referent is the prin- cipal subject?6 Metaphors may produce an epiphoric effect: they may expand meaning beyond the subsidiary subject. But metaphors may also generate a diaphoric effect: they may create meaning by evoking a new way of constru- ing what we comprehend.27

This double-edged character of metaphor is a part of its suasive effect. One side of the metaphor presents a conventional view in order that the other side may transform the conventional into something novel.28 Metaphor locates readers at a familiar point and leverages them over the fulcrum of the borderline between subsidiary and principal subjects to a new level of meaning. Inter- textuality partakes of such characteristics of metaphor. Intertextuality forms a new figuration that, like metaphor, alters the interpreter's perspective and hence also the range of understanding. Thus, like metaphor, intertexuality can- not be replaced without a loss of effe~t.2~

The complex figure of intertextuality can be viewed from the perspec- tive of either the precursor or the new text. From one viewpoint, the precursor

25 Hollander, Figure of Echo, 62, U3.

26 D. Berggren, "The Use and Abuse of Metaphor," Reoieu: of Metaphysics 16 (1962) 238. M. Black initially uses "principal" to refer to the nonfigurative component and "subsidiary" to the figurative (Models and Metaphors: Studies in Language and Philosophy [Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univer- sity Press, 19621 39-41), but then reverses himself and uses "principal" to mean what the metaphor is really about and "subsidiary" to refer to what the expression would be about if read literally

(p. 47 n. 23). Cf. W. Jeanrod, Tat and lnterprctation as Categories ofTheologica1 Thinking (New York: Crossroad, 1988) 41. J. Soskice shows that metaphors do not invariably have two subjects, primary and subsidiary (Metaphor and Religious Language [Oxford: Clarendon, 19851 20). But the structural understanding of two subjects does fit the phenomenon of a scriptural allusion in John 19:28-29.

$' Berggren, "Use and Abuse," 241-50. In theoretical discussion of metaphor, "epiphoric" and "diaphoric" may have other connotations. See, e.g., P. Wheelwright, The Burning Fountain: A Study in the Language of Symbolism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968) 41-62, U2-17.

Z8 D. Patte, "A Structural Exegesis of 2 Corinthians 2:14-7:4 with Special Attention on 2:14-3:6 and 6:U-7:4:' in Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers (ed. K. Richards; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987) 24.

29 Black, Models and hletaphors, 45-46.

is the subsidiary and the new text the principal subject. The new text has the capacity to extend the meaning of the precursor. John 19:24 expands the original reference to the parting of garments in Ps 22:18 (LXX 21:19) by asso- ciating it with the crucifixion of Jesus. But when the perspective is reversed, the new text is the subsidiary and the precursor the principal subject. The precursor has the capacity to unfold meaning beyond the subsidiary subject of the new text. Psalm 22:18 expands the literal meaning of parting Jesus' garments in John 19:24 to correspond to the suffering of a righteous person. Ultimately the complex metaphor can be viewed from the perspective of an interpreter who reads both texts synchronically. Together they constitute the subsidiary subject, and they point to yet another meaning as the principal subject.30

111. The Echo of Scripture in John 19:28-29

Johannine assumptions of a normalized tradition and strategies of inter- pretation come to light in a wide range of citations and allusions to scripture. For example, John the Baptist identifies himself as the referent of the citation of Isa 40:3 (John 1:23). This implies an interpretive strategy of prediction-fulfill- ment shared by the author and the authorial audience, and a similar inter- pretive strategy is presupposed behind most citations in John?l Do these texts establish prediction-fulfillment as an adequate pattern for apprehending the interplay between John and scripture? Not altogether. For one thing, two par- ticular citations do not fit into the prediction-fulfillment schema. John 10:34 and 12:13 construe Pss 82:6 and 118:26 as declarations of established truth specifically applicable to Jesus. For another, in distinction from all other cita- tions in John, the narrator declares that the incident in 19:28-29 completes (rele~ho)scripture. Thus, although the presumed interpretive strategy behind 19:28-29 shares some similarity with the prediction-fulfillment pattern, it is nevertheless distinct. Further, in common with subsidiary and principal subjects in metaphor, successor texts interact with precursors in creative ways that transcend the schema of prediction-fulfillment or of application of propo- sitional truth. Thus, the interplay between John 19:28-29 and its precursor produces a new figuration that goes beyond the independent meaning of the texts.

Not only does intertextuality infer a figurative meaning, so also do two elements of the text that fit what Riffaterre calls an ungrammati~ality?~


30 Bloom speaks in a similar way about poetic triads (Kabbalah and Criticism, 56-57). The new poem is a sign whose object is the precursor text, and the interpretive reading is a third sign.

31 E.g., John 2:17; 6:31, 45; 7:42; 12:15, 38, 40; 13:18; 15:25.

32 An ungrammaticality is a feature of the text that resists interpretation of a literal level and pushes it to a figurative level. See M. Riffaterre, Tat Production (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983) 51.

the soldiers put a sponge filled with vinegar on hyssop and raise it to Jesus' mouth. The small bushy hyssop, however, is no more capable of supporting a sponge full of vinegar than is an Easter lily. This conflict with normal reality creates an inconsistency that drives interpretation to a metaphorical le~e1.3~ To digress momentarily, this ungrammaticality also corresponds to a case of intertextuality. Though "hyssop is but a single term, it is so unusual and con- spicuous as to recall the Passover ritual in Exod 12:2 and the divine deliverance of the people of Israel from oppressors.

The second ungrammaticality is that the claim of completing the scrip- ture is itself incomplete- the scripture is missing. The notice puzzles readers and therefore prods them to search for the completion that the text claims. In what sense does the incident on the cross complete scripture?

The narrator's commentary in John 19:28-29 implies recognition of a tradition normalized by a community. The narrator shares an assumption with the authorial audience of a delimited body of writing designated 4ypucp4, that is, tradition tested and affirmed by a community of the past and therefore valorized for a community of the present. Further, the narrator assumes an authorial audience that shares normalized strategies for interpreting the tradi- tion valorized by the past.34 The appeal to the scripture privileges it with poten- tial to make sense out of Jesus' thirst. Therefore, John views the crucifixion of Jesus indirectly through scripture?


Simultaneously, however, there is also an implicit critique of the normal- ized tradition as deficient. The potential to be completed (rclct6w) makes the tradition incomplete. The fundamental significance of the tradition comes into question the moment its completion comes under consideration. This implica- tion in John 19:28-29 diverges dramatically from notions that attribute a timeless propositional meaning to tradition. Such notions deny a diachronic hermeneutic by asserting that what the text meant is what it means. Moreover, the view of tradition implied in 19:28-29 stands over against the quest for the holy grail of original meaning. In contrast, the narrator recognizes a temporal differentiation-whatever scripture meant, it can be augmented, supplemented, completed.

Thus, John 19:28-29 violates the boundaries of 4ypucpbt the same time that it values them. It establishes a diachronic continuity with its precursor by breaking with the synchronic sense (thus Bloom's theory of antagonism of successor toward the precursor). For the narrator, the meaning of scripture is not limited to its historical circumstances, although meaning partakes of

33 J. Trever, "Hyssop," IDB 2. 669-70.

34 On authorial audience and normalized strategies for interpretation see P. Rabinowitz, Before Reading: Narrative Conventions and the Politics of Interpretation (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987) 20-29, 212. Rabinowitz defines authorial audience as a hypothetical audience, a sociallinterpretive community, for which writers design their literary productions.

35 See Bloom, Map of Misreading, 18.

historical circumstances such as lexicography, unwritten presumptions in the text, and the original esteem of the text that led to its preservation, continued reading, and val0rization.3~

Moreover, the narrator's claim that the episode completes scripture also incorporates Jesus' thirst in 4 ypacp4. To assert that this event completes a deficiency in scripture is to redraw the boundaries of 4 ypacp4 to include this event. When the narrator extends the meaning of scripture to embrace an incident of a later day, the narrator implicitly claims the latter as essentially 4 ypacp6 In severe tension, the precursor and successor, patently different, are made congruent. In reflecting on what to make of the calamitous death of Jesus by scripture from the past, the Gospel of John also defines anew the scripture of the past in terms of the death of Jesus.

But what is the scripture to which John 19:28 refers? Brown's suggestion that it could be the total witness of the OT to the suffering Messiah is un- likely. John 19:28-29 falls in the middle of a series of formula quotations of scripture. In each of the other cases, the narrator stipulates a specific text (19:24, 36,37). One of the potential texts that Brown lists as a "noteworthy candidate" for the referent of 19:28-29 is Ps 22:15 (LXX 21:16) "My tongue cleaves to my jaws; you have brought me down to the dust of death."37 But the correla- tion between this and John 19:28-29 is farfetched. Jesus' thirst may be associated with the tongue that cleaves to the jaws, but even that is weak.

A crucial clue for determining the allusion is that other citations in the context provide variations on the same matrix?8 and they help to interpret John 19:28-29. The matrix is: senselessness becomes significant. Petty detail repeatedly takes on notable imp~rtance.~~

Jesus' garments and his thirst are mundane details that, aside from verisimilitude, ordinarily would remain trivial. In spite of their vividness, even the blood and water pouring from Jesus' side normally would be insignificant. The crucifixion itself would normally remain as inconsequential as the execution of numerous other insurgents. But the narrator's recourse to completion of scripture shifts the petty detail to a figurative level. The notice that none of Jesus' bones were broken actually con- jures up a nonevent that ordinarily would draw no attention. Scripture gives meaning to something that did not happen.

Not only does the text push details to a figurative level, it also resists a

36 Fishbane also sees appropriation and reinterpretation as a part of making the text authoritative

(Biblical Interpretation, 18). 37 Brown, John, 929. The matrix is a minimal, literal, and hypothetical expression-the basic idea-that is actualized in longer, more complex, and nonliteral variants. See Riffaterre, Semiotics of Poetry, 19.

39 The insignificance of details can be the other side of their importance as symbols. Riffaterre, Semiotics of Poetry, 87; Rabinowitz, Before Reading, 66. Moreover, Culpepper suggests that the reader of John is educated by the misunderstandings of secondary characters to look beyond literal, material, worldly, or general meaning (Anatmy,152-65). Thus, characteristics of the text itself prompt a vigilant close reading.

return to the ordinary. The Jews want to prevent the crucifixion from overlap- ping the sabbath. Their solution is to hasten death by breaking the legs of the three victims on crosses. To get on with the sabbath is to return to the normal world. But the text resists the return to the ordinary and keeps the focus on the figurative significance of the preservation of Jesus' bones and the piercing of his side.

Further, the context is marked by methexisPo On either side of the offer of vinegar, strong visual images duplicate some aspects of the crucifixion. Before we hear of vinegar, the soldiers who crucify Jesus rip his outer garment into four parts but fortuitously preserve the inner garment intact. After the offer of vinegar, the soldiers pierce Jesus' side with a spear, producing a gruesome scene of blood and water, but fortuitously preserve his bones intact. Both of these visual images are interpreted as fulfillment of scripture, which is to say that the fortuitous is also providential. The visual methexes reiterate the matrix, which is the ambiguity between the senselessness of the crucifixion and its significance, or divine care in the confrontation between opponents and God. Opposition corresponds to senselessness, divine care to significance. Thus, the visual methexes help to determine the meaning of the incident. The vinegar falls in between the visual images as a mouth-opening palatal methexis. It smuggles acrid bitterness into the crucifixion, a bitterness heightened all the more by the sentimental scene of Jesus and his mother (John 19:25-27)P1 But the bitterness is simultaneously tempered by the notation that something about the vinegar also completes scripture.

More significantly, beyond the methexes, parallels with the context sug- gest a resonance with scripture that focuses not only on what Jesus says but also on what the soldiers who crucify him do. When the soldiers divide Jesus' garments and cast lots for his tunic (John 19:24), the narrator relates this incident to Ps 22:18 (LXX 2149). Similarly, w. 36 and 37 link scripture to an incident. The soldiers intend to break the legs of Jesus to hasten his death but discover him already dead. One of them, however, pierces his side with a spear. The narrator correlates this incident with Exod 12:46 and Zech 12:lO (LXX different).

This is to say that the context indicates that the saying of Jesus as such is not the completion of scripture. Rather, as in the formula quotations in the context, the incident as a whole corresponds to scripture. The issue is not merely that Jesus said, "I thirst," but that Jesus said, "I thirst," and for his thirst the soldiers gave him vinegar to drinkP2

" Methexis is mutual participation between subsidiary and primary meanings of metaphors. See Wheelwright, The Burning Fountain, 76-77.

41 Riffaterre (Semiotics of Poetry, 109) points out that repetition of words with emotional poten- tialities activates those potentialities. The word "mother" appears five times in John 19:25-27.

42 R. Fortna, The Fourth Gospel and Its Predecessor: From Narrative Source to Present Gospel (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988) 269-70 n. 82.

What kind of act is it to give someone who is dying ijto~ to drink?43 In antiquity vinegar was used as a tangy spice, and diluted vinegar was regarded as a stimulating beverageP4 But it could also be associated with what is harm- ful (Prov 25:20 LXX). What motives drive those who give the dying Jesus ijto~ to drink?

This depends largely on point of view. All of the Gospels relate something about 6tos in connection with the crucifixion of Jesus. But each sees it somewhat differently. In Mark Jesus utters the cry of dereliction (Ps 22:l) in Aramaic. Some of the bystanders think that he is calling on Elijah. So one of them offers him ijto<-presumably a stimulant to revive him long enough for Elijah to rescue him (Mark 15:33-36)P5

Things are slightly different in Matthew. Matthew and Mark agree essen- tially that the purpose of the ijto~ is to revive Jesus. But in Matthew bystanders forbid that $tog be given to Jesus in order to provide opportunity instead for Elijah to come to the rescue (Matt 27:48-49)P6 In Luke, however, the offer is part of the soldiers' cruel mockery. They offer Jesus ijtoq instead of the premium libation fit for a kingP7 In Mark and Matthew dialogue guides the reader's understanding of the ;to<. In Luke a reliable narrator's evaluation determines its function. But in John the clue to the role of the ijtoq is its intertextuality-in order that the scripture might be completed.

Richard Hays proposes seven criteria for identifying and interpreting intertextual echoes: availability, volume, recurrence, thematic coherence, his- torical ~lausibility, history of interpretation, and satisfactionP8 Of these, Ijudge only volume to be crucial. The others provide confirmation on a secondary level. For Hays, volume has to do with how precisely the new text cites the

43 Bultmann argues that this question should not even be raised (john, 674 n. 2). But the very failure of the text to specify the purpose of the 6Sog is an invitation to probe its function. Gaps demand interpretation for a coherent understanding of a text. See, e.g., Boyarin, Intertextuality, 39-41. Allusions likewise call for the reader to complete the text as it plays against the precursor. See, e.g., Riffaterre, Semiotics of Poety, 5.

44 J. ROSS, "Vinegar," IDB 4. 786.

45 H. Heiland, "6toc:' TDNT 5. 288. E. Schweizer thinks, to the contrary, that the offering of 6Sog is likely mockery (The Good News According to Mark [Atlanta: John Knox, 19701 353-54). But here he depends too heavily on the Lucan parallel. In any case irony is at work in Mark because the reader knows that Jesus is not calling on Elijah, and thus the one who offers Jesus 6Sog is operating out of inferior knowledge. See M. Tolbert, Sowing the Gospel: Mark's World in Literary-Historical Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989) 282-83.

46 Heiland, TDNT 5. 289. E. Schweizer sees the offer of 6toc as originally an act of mercy now turned into mockery in Matthew (The Good News According to Matthew [Atlanta: John Knox,

19751 514).

4' F. Danker, Jesus and the New Age: A Cmmentay on St. Luke's Gospel (Philadelphia: Fortress,

1988) 376.

48 Hays, Echoes of Scripture, 29-32. To use these criteria is basically to reconstruct a probable history of composition behind the text, that is, to use the text as the proverbial window. But intertextuality is a historical process involving the relationship of texts to their contexts of generation and perception. D. LaCapra, Histury and Criticin (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985) 106.

old. By his criterion of verbatim repetition the volume of the echo of Ps 69:21 (LXX 68:22) in John 19:28-29 is quite low. The verb 6\46in John 19:28 shares a common root with the noun 8i+u in Ps 69:21, and the word 6505 appears in both texts (twice in John). It is possible to make a relatively weak case that 6\48and 650~are nuclear words that encompass enough for readers to form an association with Psalm 69r9

But Hays's criterion of volume measures repetition only on the phrase- ological plane and overlooks redundancies on other levels. Allusions may also replicate the form, genre, and story line of their precursor. On the level of the plot, a character in the successor text may repeat the experience of a character in the precursor?O In John 19:28-29, aside from precise citation, there is a conspicuously high volume in pattern when the Johannine allusion is taken as an incident: Jesus thirsts, and for his thirst the soldiers give him vinegar to drink. Jesus repeats rather precisely the experience of the poet in Psalm 69. For the saying "I thirst," there is no decisive candidate for a scrip- tural allusion. But the incident as a whole resonates profoundly with Ps 69:21 (LXX 68:22)3l

Some of Hays's additional criteria strengthen the probability of an allu- sion to Psalm 69. (1)Availability. Was Psalm 69 available to the author of John and the original readers? The answer here is a resounding yes. Psalm 69 is the second most frequently cited psalm in the NT.?"2) Recurrence. Does John elsewhere allude to Psalm 69? Yes, John 2:17 interprets the cleansing of the Temple with an explicit citation of Ps 69:9. In another case there is a likely allusion to Ps 69:4 when Jesus says in John 15:25, "They hated me without a cause."53 (3) Thematic coherence. Does the avowed reverberation fit into the thematic development of the text? In John the soldiers are the agents of the crucifixion. As an entire incident, John 19:28-29 forms the pivot in the middle of three incidents where the soldiers act with respect to Jesus, and the narrator links their actions to texts of scripture. Fulfillment of scripture gives figurative meaning to each of the incidents generated by the garments,

49 See Riffaterre, Text Production, 39. Nuclear words create possibilities for the reader to envi- sion associative networks. Fishbane establishes dense recurrence of terms as an essential heuristic, but not absolute, criterion of implicit citation (Biblical Interpretation, 291). R. Dillon makes a stronger case for nuclear words when there is also a recognizable analogy with the setting ("The Psalms of the Suffering Just in the Accounts of Jesus' Passion," Worship 61 [I987 431 n. 3).

50 See S. Suleiman, "Redundancy and the 'Readable' Text," Poetics Today 13 (1980) 126. Suleiman deals with repetition within the same text rather than intertextual repetition.

5' Haenchen claims dogmatically that Ps 69:21 does not fit the Johannine context Uohn 2, 193). But B. Lindars shows correctly that when John 19:28 is taken with the following verse the allusion is certainly to Ps 69:21 (The Gospel ofJohn [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 19721 580-81).

52 F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1877) 277; A. Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962) 493. Moreover, H. Gunkel labels psalms of lament the ground floor of the Psalter (Einleitung in die Psalmen: Die Gattung der religiosen Lyrik lsraels [Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 19661 173).

53 Similar phrases occur in both Ps 35:19 and Ps 69:4.

the thirst, and the piercing of Jesus' side? The first of these alludes to Ps 22:18 "They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots" (John 19:24). Like Psalm 69, Psalm 22 is also a lament, which is to say that the allusion may recall genre as well as theme. In Psalm 22, because of suffer- ing, the poet mourns the absence of God only to revert to affirmation of God's care for the afflicted? In addition, immediately before the portion that John

19:24 quotes, Psalm 22 gives some notable parallels to the scene of the cruci- fixion "Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet" (Ps 22:16)?6 Thus an allusion to Psalm 69 as a part of an attempt to understand how God vindicates Jesus over against adversaries fits into the thematic development. According to these criteria, Ps 69:21 scores as the quite probable precursor of John 19:28-29.

Nevertheless, recurrence and thematic coherence indicate that the route to Psalm 69 is circuitous. Allusions to Psalm 69 elsewhere in John and previous appearances of the theme of thirst make intertexual references complex. In a way that surpasses a Samaritan woman's understanding, Jesus promises to give living water that will overcome all thirst (John 4:10, 14). Similar imagery crops up in 737-39 where Jesus offers living water for the thirsty, and the narrator links the living water to the Spirit that believers will receive after the glorification of Jesus. Further, both texts invite complex recollections of living water in scripture including such passages as Jer 2:13, Ezek 47:l-12, and Zech 14:8?7 Thus, the way from John 19:28-29 to Psalm 69 visits John 4 and 737-39, and other allusions keep intersecting with and diverging from the route to form a rich intertextual complex.

But within this complex, John 19:28-29 splices the incident on the cross into Psalm 69 at the point where foes offer vinegar for thirst. If Ps 69:21 is the branch into which John grafts the crucifixion, how far out do the roots extend? Psalm 69 witnesses acutely to the irony of suffering for God's sake? "The insults of those who insult [God] have fallen upon me" (Ps 69:9). It also appeals for deliverance from enemies and death (vv. 13-18). Against insulting enemies who break his heart, the poet laments, "I looked for pity, but there

54 See Riffaterre, Semiotics of Poetry, 63.

55 Weiser, Psalms, 219-20. It is thematic in the psalms of lament that trust in God is the ground for supplication. Gunkel, Einleitung, 232.

56 In the crucifixion scene itself John mentions nothing of the piercing of Jesus' hands and feet. But the appearance of the risen Jesus to Thomas presupposes that nails pierced Jesus' hands (John 20:25, 27). Such a presupposition speaks against Dillon's argument ("Psalms," 436) that Psalm 22 entered the passion tradition in an early Aramaic stage so that there is no reference to the piercing of hands and feet, features peculiar to the LXX version of Psalm 22.

5' For much of this paragraph I am indebted to S. Moore (Literary Criticism and the Gospels: The Theoretical Challenge [New Haven: Yale University Press, 19891 160-63) and to R. Alan Culpepper ("A Response to Robert L. Brawle~, 'Intertextuality in John 19:28-29,"' paper for the Literary Aspects of the Gospels and Acts Group of SBL, Kansas City, Missouri, 1991).

58 Weiser, Psalms, 493; H.-J. Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989) 62.

was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison (LXX "gall") for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (vv. 21b-22). Moreover, Psalm 69 turns into a doxology for God's attention to the needy and for the restoration of God's servants in Zion (vv. 30-36).

Because John 19:28-29 makes an allusion without a specific citation, the text leaves it up to the reader to recall the psalm. But the text induces the reader to recall more than simply thirst and vinegar. A part of the larger dimen- sion of the allusion is the citation of the psalm in John 2:17. Even though the cleansing of the Temple occurs at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the nar- rator's commentary connects it and the citation of Psalm 69 with Jesus' death. Jesus confronts his opponents in the Temple with a saying that the narrator links to the death and resurrection of Jesus. After the resurrection-after a divine salvific act echoing the restoration of God's servants in Zion (Ps 69:35) the disciples recalled Ps 69:9: "Zeal for thy house will consume me." Similarly, in the last discourse Jesus himself likely alludes to Ps 69:4 to explain his innocence in spite of opposition (John 15:24). Thus, the larger context of John proleptically correlates Psalm 69 with the death of Jesus at the hands of opponents, and the appeal to the wider aspects of the psalm elsewhere in John imply reminiscence of the psalm as a whole. Vinegar for a thirsty Jesus, then, is a synecdochical allusion to the suffering for God's sake that Psalm 69 reflects.

The recall in the context of two laments (Psalms 69 and 22) may warrant the conclusion that there are echoes of a cluster of psalms of lament. Such a case, however, scores extremely low according to the criteria above? Nevertheless, these psalms of lament are dominated by the figure of a just person who suffers for being faithful to God and whom God rescues from deathfO In the context of John 19, Psalms 22 and 69 together recall a tradition about righteous people suffering specifically for fidelity to God.

Psalm 69, however, does more than lament. It also moves through reversals-from a cry for help (vv. 1, 13-14) to praise (v. 30), from a complaint about the menace of elements of creation (v. 2) to recognition that elements of creation participate in the praise of God (v. 34), and from a protest against exclusion and injustice (w. 4, 8, 9, 12, 19-21) to a claim of restoration in the community (v. 35)f1 Such inversion corresponds strikingly to the irony in John that God's Messiah is concealed under the cross.

Psalm 69 ties the destiny of the suffering righteous one to the destiny of a community. First, the psalmist identifies with the oppressed and needy who seek God. The psalm thus moves from an individual lament toward a more universal significance (vv. 32-33). Second, w. 35-36 connect the destiny of the suffering righteous one with the destiny of Jerusalem. In this fashion, the

59 Note the warning of I. Richards against oversensitivity to allusions (The Principles ofLiteray Criticism [New York: Harvest-Harcourt, 19251 215-19). 60 L. Ruppert, Jesus als der leidende Gerechte? (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1972) 43. E Cassou, "En quete de Dieu -Psaume 69: proposition de structurC Foi et Vie 8715 (1988) 49.

rescue of individual and people signals the cosmic scope of divine salvation.62 In the divine rescue of Jesus from death, the Gospel of John affirms such a cosmic dimension of God's salvation, a salvation that can extend particularly to the readers.

The interplay between John 19:28-29 and Psalm 69 is a kind of repeti- tion that exhibits what Riffaterre calls overdetermination. Overdetermination is an overlapping of synonymous systems that helps to control a "correct" reading. Allusions are a particular case in which one text is superimposed on another, and the text that alludes to another is a variant on the allu~ion.6~

In the interplay of Psalm 69 with John 19:28-29, the suffering of a righteous per- son for God's sake is concretized in the offer of vinegar to a thirsty Jesus. In the interplay of John 19 with Psalm 69, the vinegar for a thirsty Jesus places him in continuity with a tradition dominated by the figure of a just person who suffers for being faithful to God and who depends upon God for deliver- ance. Further, even in the actions of the opponents of Jesus, the reader may overhear an appeal to the God who delivers the righteous one from enemies, who rescues the one in peril from death, and who restores the rejected one to the community of God's people.

Against the assumption that John uses a christocentric hermeneutic, the appeal to the God who rescues indicates that the hermeneutical stance toward Psalm 69 is theocentric. Granted, the allusion takes Psalm 69 as a reference to Jesus, but it refers equally to opponents. More decisively, the intertextual- ity frames the confrontation between Jesus and opponents within God's power. The theocentric hermeneutic appropriates Psalm 69 to vindicate the sense- lessness of the crucifixion and to reverse tragedy into divine triumph. Such a reversal is to reintegrate God into a world where the Messiah is crucified, and thereby to reintegrate the Messiah and messianist readers into a world where the power of God triumphs in ironic ~ays.6~

Utilizing Freudian psychology, Bloom delineates a defensive posture whereby texts suppress a painful reality but allow it to surface by projecting it onto anotherf5 There is such a disclosure in John 19:28-29. John 19:28-29 exposes the perplexing limits of meaning of the incident on the cross by repress- ing its incomprehensibility. By implying that the scripture is incomplete, John

19:28 projects unintelligibility onto the tradition in order to read it in a new way-completed by the incident on the cross. Both Psalm 69 and vinegar for a thirsty Jesus then transcend a deficiency in meaning.

Because the interpretation of Psalm 69 overshoots its synchronic sense, John 19:28-29 tropes Psalm 69. The incident on the cross is not the meaning of Psalm 69 in its literary and historical context. It is the meaning of Psalm

62 Kraus, Psalms, 64.
63 Riffaterre, Semiotics of Poetry, 74; idem, Text Production, 44-46.
64 CISSOU,"En quete de Dieu:' 52.
65 Bloom, Map of Misreading, 88; idem, Breaking of the Vessels, 88-89; idem, Agon, 119-44.

69 figuratively, metaphorically. In fact, it is a figure of a figure. In Psalm 69 the offer of vinegar for thirst is a metonymy for suffering for God's sake. John 19 refigures the figure so that it gives meaning to opposition to the Messiah.

But what kind of figure is the refiguration? Allegory is a candidate because the significance is resolved by making Psalm 69 represent a different reality. The crucifixion of Jesus is an external schema that is made to correspond to a document from which it is disconnected temporally and textually. To this extent the refiguration exhibits characteristics of allegory. Under further scrutiny, however, the criterion of thematic coherence in John disqualifies allegory. The Johannine Christ who manifests glory in his earthly enterprise can hardly be identified with the suffering righteous one of the Psalm who is stuck in deep mire. In spite of similarities between the incident on the cross and Psalm 69, there are dissimilarities that undermine an allegorical correspondence.

Further, the figuration is distinct from allegory because the incident on the cross completes scripture. Although there is a lie against time, the time of the scripture is not equated with the time of the crucifixion. Rather, the time of the scripture reaches its completion in the time of the crucifixion. Completion means both continuity and discontinuity. John 19 does not over- throw Psalm 69. Rather it depends on it; it includes it. Nevertheless, as a com- pletion John 19 gives Psalm 69 a new twist. Thus, like the suffering righteous one of Psalm 69, Jesus bears reproach for God's sake. Unlike the suffering righteous one of Psalm 69, Jesus bears reproach for God's sake as the Messiah who already reveals his glory.

Bloom labels the revisionary relationship of completion "te~sera:'~~ Completion is not merely like the tesserae of a mosaic, distinct and yet to be viewed together to form the whole. Rather, it is more like the broken fragments of an urn pieced back together to make it whole again.'j7 By themselves both the precursor and the successor are shards. Without Psalm 69, the incident centered on Jesus' thirst is part of an execution that shatters the world of mes- sianic hopes senseless. Without John 19, Psalm 69 is an archaeological artifact.

Mere completion, however, does not do justice to the revisionary rela- tionship between John 19 and Psalm 69 as if an arc continues until it traces a circle. Completion comes about when the similarity rises to a new level of intensified discernment, a gain in meaning, like a helix turning back on itself at a higher level-in Bloom's terms, "daemonization" or hyperbole. But the gain in meaning occurs at the expense of a loss of meaning of the precursor, a "ken~sis."~*

John 19 restricts the meaning of Psalm 69 and then elevates it

6"loom, Anxiety of Influence, 14, 66-91; idem, Map of Misreading, 71-72, 84, 95-96. 67 H. Bloom, Poetry and Repression: Revisionism from Blake to Stevens (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976) 17-18. " Bloom, Anxiety of Influence, 87-91, 96-ll4; idem, Map ofMisreading, 72, 84, 95-96; idem, Agon, 238-39: idem, Breaking of the Vessels, 17, 24.

to a new level. Viewed through John 19, Psalm 69 no longer expresses the common lot of righteous people who suffer for God's sake but exclusively the lot of the messianic righteous one who suffers for God's sake.

There is no intrinsic relationship between the incident on the cross and the Johannine allusion to Psalm 69. The fact that in Mark and Matthew the 650s reflects misguided but not evil intent confirms the lack of an intrinsic relationship. Following Franz Rosenzweig's hint that "as it is written" introduces a commentary on lifef9 I intuit that the relationship between the incident on the cross and Psalm 69 sprouts out of the life situation of the authorial a~dience.~O

Consequently, I venture one step gingerly into source criticism. The appearance of 6[o< in Marcan, Johannine, and special Matthean tradi- tions supports the conjecture that reference to an offer of 6[o< precedes the Johannine passion account. But as a factum brutum it is without significance. Mere association of the offer of 650; with the crucifixion constitutes a gap to be filled for the disclosure of meaning in the life situation of the authorial audience. The narrator offers the clue of the completion of scripture to fill in the gap and thus supplies motive to an otherwise unmotivated detail of the cr~cifixion.7~

The offer of vinegar is motivated by the malevolence of people who oppose God.

To return to Bloom and Freudian psychology, there is suppression and projection on yet another level. By using scripture to allude to opposition to Jesus, John 19:28-29 disavows the unmessianic nature of a crucified victim and projects the problem of disbelief onto opponents. This is part of a thematic development that allows the enigma of the rejection of Jesus to surface by projecting it onto adversaries. Jesus is God's agent ofjudgment in John (5:22, 27; 8:16). But his function as judge depends solely on opponents who refuse to believe (3:18-19; 5:24). The intertextuality in 19:28-29 fits into this apologetic pattern that confronts the unmessianic nature of a crucified one in terms ofthe problems of the opponents. Thus, from one side the Gospel of John counts on not being believed in order to provide proof from another that it is to be believed.

The vinegar is not merely a metonymy for the opposition to Jesus at his

69 E Rosenzweig as cited by M. Fishbane, The Garmentsof Torah:Essays in Biblical Hermeneutics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989) 107.

70 Here I enter notoriously disputed territory-whether literary discourse is accountable to historical life or not. See LaCapra, History and Criticism, 126-28. One warrant for interpreting from the viewpoint of the authorial audience is the multiple vantage points available to the actual reader. In spite of helpful attempts to distinguish an authorial audience or implied reader from a real reader, there is in actuality only one reader. But the real reader may adopt different perspec- tives and read more or less informed. The im~lied reader is the real reader who reads from the perspective of a reader anticipated by the text. Rabinowitz points out that to attempt to read from the perspective of the authorial audience is to attempt to accept the socially constituted interpretive conventions that the author and expected audience shared (Before Reading, 20-29). Varieties of perspectives possess their own perspectival warrant for reading from their point of view.

'' On allusions supplying motivation, see Meyer, Poetics of Quotation, 178-79.

crucifixion. It is also a metonymy for opposition to Jesus in the sociological setting of the authorial audience. Innocent suffering for God's sake vindicates the suffering of Jesus and transforms his crucifixion from an embarrassing con- flict with messianism into a confirmation of itT2 If John 19:28-29 tropes Psalm 69 to interpret the opposition to Jesus in his crucifixion, then the trope also interprets opposition to Jesus contemporaneous with the authorial audience. From this point of view, Psalm 69 becomes a proleptic anticipation far beyond the limits of the life of the psalmist. But the transumption of it in John 19 is also a prolepsis of a divine triumph over enemies. Thus, the trope takes on the capacity to interpret resistance to Jesus for readers of a future beyond Jesus and to place that resistance in the context of the universal salvific reality of God (Ps 69:32-33).

The final word is against final words. For all the appeal to Psalm 69, a degree of uncertainty undercuts any vigilantly nuanced interpretation of John 19:28-29. An ironic inversion emerges in that the claim of the completion of scripture is incomplete, and the ironic inversion resists closure. This is to say that although John 19:28-29 induces readers to recall Psalm 69, it also teases them with the paradox of an absent complement- the scripture is miss- ing. This paradox is part of a larger complex of contradictions that emerge under a close reading. The one who claims to be able to satisfy with living water thirsts; hyssop incapable of supporting a sponge filled with vinegar sup- ports a sponge filled with vinegar; a gift in response to thirst is pernicious; drinking the gift in response to thirst provokes thirst; God's Messiah is crucifiedT3 And so the paradox of an absent complement perpetually withholds a complete meaning. The divine power that embraces the death of Jesus remains a mystery beyond understanding74

72 C. Talbert documents the topos in the Hellenistic world of the validation of the claims of an innocent victim of martyrdom (Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel [New York: Crossroad, 19821 221-24).

73 Culpepper, "Response," 7; cf. Moore, Literary Criticism, 161-63.

74 An earlier version of this article was presented to the Literary Aspects of the Gospels and Acts Group of the Society of Biblical Literature, Kansas City, klissouri, November 1991. Some of the suggestions of the group have been incorporated into this version. I am especially indebted to responses from R. Alan Culpepper and James Voelz.

  • Recommend Us