Jesus' Thirst in John 19:28-30: Literal or Figurative?

by L. Th. Witkamp
Jesus' Thirst in John 19:28-30: Literal or Figurative?
L. Th. Witkamp
Journal of Biblical Literature
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Beethovensingel94,1817HL Alkmaar, The Netherlands

In his book Literay Criticism and the Gospels: The Theoretical Challenge (1989),Stephen D. Moore concludes his last substantial chapter with an exege- sis of the way the Johannine water metaphor is used in the Gospel's text. His intention is to give a deconstructive analysis that pays attention not only to "the forces of difference within the text" but especially to "the possibility that the text might also differ from itself."' He uses his reading of John to give exegetical substance to his theoretical discussions about the role of the reader. In this way the exegesis of John receives a prominent place. His conclusion is that, indeed, John's text differs from itself since its figurality is inconsistent. According to Moore, Johannine irony fails in the end because it collapses into paradox (Criticism, 163, 168). This conclusion hinges substantially on his exegesis of John 19:28,where Jesus at the cross does not satisfy the desire for living water, as we would have expected, but he himself is thirsting for the literal earthly water, just as he was first depicted at the Samaritan well. Moore thinks it very strange that Jesus, the source of the figural water, is now thrust into the very condition of the literal thirst that his discourse has led the audience to transcend. Moreover, the satiation of Jesus' physical thirst in 19:30 is an arrestingly strange precondi- tion for the symbolic yielding up of that which is designed to satiate the supra- physical thirst of the believer, that is, the Spirit (Criticism, 161). This means that two levels of meaning that should have been kept apart-viz., the literal and the figural-are collapsed. The result is a kind of cognitive paralysis that makes the Gospel's irony become paradox (Criticism, 163). So we could say that

1 Stephen D. Moore, Literary Criticism and the Gospels: The Theoretical Challenge (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989) 159-70, esp. 166.

the reader of the Gospel is fooled by the narrator. The reader becomes the ulti- mate victim of the Gospel's irony. Gospel characters such as Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and others who had reacted on the literal, down-to-earth level rather than on the figural are thoroughly vindicated at last.

Many readers might feel surprised at Moore's conclusions, but he had warned them in advance that he would treat the Gospel "recklessly, no doubt, for I am not a licensed Johannine scholar, much less a licensed deconstructor" (Criticism, 159). In a recent article, however, entitled "Are there Impurities in the Living Water That the Johannine Jesus Dispenses?" Moore is less re- strained. Had he been content with the book, students of John might have passed over his conclusions with a smile and a shrug of the shoulder thinking, "How nice and reckless." But it appears that Moore has already influenced other scholars, for example, R. L. Brawley in his recent article on John 19:28-29,2 and that he is also willing to repeat his exegesis and defend it at different meetings of biblical scholars, as well as in the first volume of the journal Bzblical Interpreta- tion 3 Since he cannot expect that all his readers like to drink impure water, even if it is new and deconstructed, that last article became the impetus to subject his exegesis to a purifying process.

Moore's article from 1993 is a revision and an extension of pp. 160-63 of Criticism. The article focuses on the story of the Samaritan woman. But here too John 19:28 plays a crucial role. Once again Moore draws our attention to the peculiar fact that the "satiation of Jesus' physical thirst is the necessary pre- condition for the proleptic yielding up of that which is intended to satiate the spiritual thirst of the believer, namely, the Holy Spirit" ("Impurities," 219). He concludes that, contrary to everything that the Gospel has led us to expect, the material order has reasserted itself as the necessary precondition that enables the Spirit to come into being for the believers: the living water is shown to depend for its effective existence on the literal water ("Impurities," 220). The Samaritan woman is more perceptive than Jesus in this case. She knew this, as is shown by her apt answer in 4:ll-12. It made Jesus even become "out- stripped" by his female student. At the end he himself becomes "the main ironic casualty" ("Impurities," 225). In this article Moore repeats his earlier contention that the irony of the Gospel "now collapses in paradox," since the lit- eral and figurative levels of speech are not clearly separated but are collapsed at the events of the death scene ("Impurities," 225).

R. L. Brawley, "An Absent Co~nplernent and Interte~tualit~

in John 1928-29," IBL 112 (1993) 42743, which, informed by Moore's book, concludes that the absence of a direct quotation of scripture in our pericope is one of the paradoxes that can be found in it.

Stephen D. Moore, "Are There Impurities in the Liling Water That the Johannine Jesus Dispenses? Deconstruction, Ferninism, and the Sarnaritan Wornan," Biblical Interpretation 1 (1993) 207-27.

We can conclude that Moore's views have not changed between the book of 1989 and the article of 1993. His assessment of John's irony hinges on his exegesis of John 19:28. This means that if his exegesis of this verse would not hold, his whole interpretation of Johannine irony will collapse and, if he will not be saved, Moore himself will drown in the water he draws from the Johannine well. The purpose of this article is to show that, in spite of all his deconstructive shrewdness, Moore himself has become the victim of Johannine irony, because he eagerly falls into the same trap as so many characters in John's story-that is, he interprets a spiritual fact as if it were a literal, down-to-earth thing. In fact, Moore never gives a detailed exegesis of his most crucial verse, which is a real shortcoming since he draws such far-reaching conclusions from it. It is amazing that he never considers the possibility that Jesus' thirst in 19:28 might have a more profound meaning than the literal one.4 This is even stranger since he immediately assumes that the words "gave up his spirit" in 19:30 do have that more profound meaning: they say not only that Jesus expired but also that in a proleptic way he gave up the Holy Spirit. If he takes Jesus' thirst in a literal way, one could ask why he did not also take these words as they stand, meaning "Jesus died"? That is what Rudolf Bultmann did, arguing that the whole pas- sage hinges on the motif of the fulfillment of scripture, which indeed is a defen- sible and consistent interpretation.5 But it would not at all suit Moore's thesis! We would also expect a more considered discussion of the statement that in the end Jesus becomes the main ironic casualty, since it is common knowledge that "Jesus is the only character in the Fourth Gospel who utters irony without being the victim of it."6

Moore himself acknowledges that his primary reading of John, which laid the basis for his more advanced deconstructive hermeneutics, held fast to the traditional way of exegesis.' Therefore, it is not necessary here to give a com- plete appraisal of his thought-provoking hermeneutical exercises. It is enough to show that his project of "a more thorough reading of Johannine figurality" (Criticism, 167) that is "sensitive to inconsistencies" (Criticism, 165) fails, because his reading is not thorough enough. He cannot be blamed too much for this, however. In assuming that Jesus' thirst in John 19:28-30 must be taken literally, he is simply following the standard commentaries. This means that in

4 On p. 218 of his article, Moore nevertheless writes, "the context also suggests a more con- suming thirst," but this insight does not really function in his exegesis of 19:28, nor does one of his concluding remarks that "[tlhe Father is the ultimate object of Jesus' desire." We shall see that had he followed that trajectoty, his exegesis would have becorne much more satisfying.

R. Bultmann, Dm Ecangelittm des Johnnnes (MeyerK; 20th ed.; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978) 522-23. As a matter of fact, Bultmann's exegesis of the passage is basically the only viable one if one does not agree with a spiritual interpretation of Jesus' thirst.

6 P. D. Duke, Irony in the Fourth Gospel (Atlanta: John Knox, 1985) 45.
Moore, Criticism, 167.

testing Moore's assumptions we will automatically also test the major exegetical opinion on the passage. After reading Moore, we are fully aware, of course, that the correction of one exegesis of his does not do away with the legitimacy of the thrust of his book and that our own exegesis is part of the hermeneutical circle


also. Nevertheless, scientific discourse means correcting each other by means of dialogue that, in biblical studies, necessarily centers on the texts we are talk- ing about. This holds true also if one is aware of the creative role of the reader.

In this article we shall argue that Jesus' thirst contains a double entendre. This implies that if readers do not see this but stick to the soldiers' assumption that, after all, it is Jesus' literal thirst that has to be quenched, they will be trapped in a Johannine misunderstanding. The corollary of this exegesis is that Moore's conclusions that eventually Johannine irony collapses in paradox and the reader and even Jesus are fooled no longer have any real basis. The only one who will be fooled is the unperceptive reader.

In order to argue our case we shall make a narrative and grammatical anal- ysis first (11), go on with a contextual analysis (111), and finish with an intertex- tual and tradition-historical investigation (IV). This means that the methods we will use can be called traditional in a broad sense (as were Moore's).

John 19:28-30 narrates that Jesus was thirsty on the cross, the manner in which his thirst was quenched, and that he died only a moment after receiving the drink. That is the narrative plot of this small passage. There is only one main character, Jesus. The "they" mentioned in v. 29 are most probably the soldiers, but these subsidiary characters remain dim and are necessary only to give Jesus the "vinegar." We can conclude that with regard to its plot structure this is a simple pericope. There are, however, important remarks and qualifications from the narrator that deserve close inspection since they give clues to the proper meaning of the events.

Verse 28 contains several remarks that are phrased before the events themselves take place. It even looks as though the narrator wants to say too much at the same time, because the sentence is overburdened: "After that, Jesus, knowing that all was now completed, so that the scripture would be ful- filled, said, 'I thirst."' The main clause mentions the plot. It starts only when Jesus says, "I thirst." But the narrator takes pains to condition our understand- ing by stating beforehand that we should realize (1)that Jesus was conscious (2)that all was now completed, and (3) that he spoke in order to fulfill the scrip- ture. This means that from the very beginning Jesus' thirst has been framed by this triangle of full consciousness, completion, and fulfillment.

The element of Jesus' consciousness will be discussed more fully in the next section, because to understand its importance one should study the Gospel's context. Here we can say only that from the outset it is made clear that 493

Jesus is in control of the situation. Because he knows that the "appointed end (NEB) has come, he asks for a drink and takes what they offer him. Because he is aware of the end, he says, "It is accomplished" (NEB), bows his head, and gives up his spirit. Maybe it is too clever to say that Jesus bows his head just as someone who is freely going to sleep at the end of the day,8 but it is true, of course, that his dying is a "voluntary act" and that "Jesus maintains control right up to the last breath," as has been said by, among others, B. Lindars."

The second element that is stressed is the element of completion. Jesus says, "I am thirsty," only after we have been told that he does so knowing that everything has been accomplished already. Immediately after he received the drink in v. 30, he himself says, "It is accomplished." This means that Jesus' thirst is surrounded by the word TET~~OT~I,

which is used twice, once in a remark by the narrator (v. 28) and once spoken by Jesus himself (v. 30). This undoubtedly makes clear that what is happening has to be interpreted in the context of com- pletion. In the next section we shall argue that this completion means not only that "it is finished" but also that everything Jesus had to do as his life's task (nav~a)has finally been realized and fulfilled-which has generally been rec- ognized by commentators, of course.

The element of fulfillment is stressed once more in the words 'iva z~ktw- 8fi fi ypaqt. At first sight it seems illogical that right after the words that every- thing has been completed we find a proof from scripture that still has to be fulfilled, as if the "everything" that had been completed did not imply the com- pletion/fulfillment of scripture as well. This apparent lack of logic made E. Haenchen decide that everything that has a connection with the proof from scripture (w.28b-30a) was not part of the original text but an insertion of the post-Johannine redactor.10 Not a very satisfying solution, of course, certainly not from a narrative point of view. We had better say that the coinpletion of Jesus' work and the fulfillment of scripture are closely intertwined, that there can be no completion of the one without fulfillment of the other." The verbs ~ehe~oijv are "virtually equivalent," in fact, binding both types of

and TE~E~V completion closely together.'"

Cf. Matt 8:20/Luke 9:58; also Luke 9:12; 2499; and W. Bauer, Das]ohannesecangelium (HNT 6; 3d ed.; Tiibingen: Mohr, 1933) 224. But Bultmann objects (Iohannes,523 n. 1).

B. Lindars, The Gospel ofjohn (NCB; London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972) 582. lo E. Haenchen, Dm]ohanneseoangelium: Ein Kommentar (ed. U. Busse; Tiibingen: Mohr, 1980) 553. l1 Cf., e.g., D. A. Carson, The Gospel according tolohn (Leicester: Intervarsity Press; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991) 620.

lTC.H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963) 124. Cf. John 4:34; 5:36; 17:4. Luke is the only NT writer who uses the verb rekiv sometimes in connection with scripture (Luke 18:31; 22:37; cf. 2:39; Acts 13:29). The change from John's usual nhllpoSv into rektoiiv when it comes to OT quotations will be discussed in section IV.

From a narrative and grammatical point of view we should mention also the place of the clause "so that the scripture would be fulfilled." Theoretically, this clause could be connected with what precedes or with what follows. Very few commentators do it the first way;l3 almost everyone takes the clause with the following, "Jesus said, 'I thirst."'l4 We agree. Just as in 1:31; 14:31; and 19:31, the 'iva clause precedes the main verb. "The thought of the 'iva clause is underlined by putting it first," says G. Delling correctly.'Vhis means that the narrator stresses the fact that Jesus speaks his word "I thirst" with the intention of fulfilling the scripture. Jesus' thirst is underlined not because it is a token of his grave sufferings but because it is already indicated in scripture. In this instance, too, Jesus keeps in charge. He voluntarily says, "I am thirsty," with the purpose of bringing the scripture to fulfillment.

In the story it is not immediately clear if v. 29 also has to be connected with the fulfillment of scripture, and we will postpone our discussion of that prob- lem. What is clear, though, is that this verse is a reaction to Jesus' word in v. 28. The soldiers hear that he is thirsty and give him something to drink. What they give him is called oco<. Usually this noun is translated as "vinegar" (KJC: RSV), "wine vinegar" (NIV), or "sour wine" (NEB), but, as a matter of fact, the vine- gar mentioned in John 1929 is not vinegar in today's usage. It is water to which vinegar had been added to keep it more fresh and tenable in the hot climate of the Middle East. It was the popular, refreshing drink for the soldiers who had to stay there all day. The translation "water" might be more to the point than the word "vinegar," which is used so often. From a narrative point of view one should say, therefore, that when this water is given to Jesus, it does not mean an aggravation of his sufferings,l6 but it is more of a humane gesture toward some-

13 H. A. W. Meyer, Kritisches exegetisches Handbuch iiber das Eoatrgelium deslohannes (MeyerK 2; 2d ed.; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1852) 428. Also, but more restrained, R.

H. Lightfoot, St. ]ohnSs Gospel (2d ed.; ed. C. F. Evans; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957) 317-18; R. E. Brown, The Gospel according to John (AB 29, 29A; New York: Doubleday, 1966, 1970) 2.908; idem, The Death of the Messiah: From Guthsenwne to the Grace (New York: Double- day, 1994) 2.1072.

'"g, B. F. Westcott, The Gospel according to St, ]ohn (1880; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975) 277; J. H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Cotnmenta y on the Gospel according to St. john (ICC; 6th ed.; Edinburgh: Clark, 1962) 638; W. Bauer,]ohanneseoangehm, 224; R. Schnack- enburg, Das]ohanneseoangelium (HTKNT 43; Freiburg, Basel, Vienna: Herder, 1975) 3.330; F. Blass, A. Debrunner, F. Rehkopf, Grammatik rles neutestarnentlichen Griechisch (14th ed.; Gottin- gen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1975) #478; including also Moore, "Impurities," 218.

l5 G. Delling, "rtho5 rrh.," TDNT 8.82 11.16. l6 As is said, e.g., by H. W. Heidland, "oco5," TDNT 5.289. According to him, John "stresses the fact that the drink was sour and bitter." In fact, John does not do that at all. In the same sense

G. H. Beasley-Murray thinks that the ocoq "underscores the realiv of the desolation" (]ohn [WBC 36; Waco: Word, 19871 351). This conclusion can be reached only if one thinks that this must be what John intended because he quoted from Psalm 69. How strangely a negative interpretation of the 0505 would fit into the Johannine context is shown by Beasley-Murray himself, when he

one who is in a desperate situation.'; In v. 30 it is expressly stated that Jesus took the drink. Only then does he say his last word and expire.

We conclude that the plot of this pericope is as follows: Jesus expresses his thirst; he is given a drink, which he accepts; he utters his last word, "it is accom- plished," and dies. By his lengthy introduction in v. 28, the narrator has, first, stressed that Jesus is not an unconscious victim but is consciously in control of everything; second, the narrator has set the whole episode in the frame of the theme of fulfillment/accomplishment.

In this section we shall study the passage as part of John's passion story and of the Gospel as a whole. If in 19:28 we read, "knowing that all was now com- leted," or, if we use the NIV translation of the word zez~komt(see v. 30), "all was finished," what is said first is that Jesus knew that the passion was over. This is clear because of 18:4, where just before Jesus comes out of the garden to be arrested, the narrator says, "Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him." Both in 18:4 and in 19:28 we find the words &i6k and nav~a.At these important points we, as readers, must be informed that Jesus is not a victim who is involuntarily caught in a situation he could not handle anymore, as so often happens in ordinary human experience, but that he knew everything in advance. At the beginning of the passion in 13:l and 13:3, the narrator had stressed this already, saying that Jesus knew (~i6h~)

that his passion would be the means by which he would go back to his Father. As a matter of fact, the nar- rator has taken pains in his Gospel to show that Jesus knows everything and is never a fateful victim but has been in charge all along. Especially with regard to the passion and to Jesus' death, this point is stressed over and over again (cf., e.g., 6:64, 70-71; 10:17-18; 13:11, 18-19, 21-30; 16:30; 18:2-10, 34-37; 19:9, 11, 26-27). A reader cannot easily miss it. Now, at the very moment Jesus is going to die, this superhuman knowledge must be mentioned once more. It is of supreme importance that we understand that Jesus' death is not some hap-

explains in a positive way the action of the soldier who gives Jesus a drink as "simply a spontaneous response" on the next page. If he was right, this would mean that the narrator used a double stan- dard: on the narrative level the gift of ocoq would be a positive gesture; on the theological level it would be just the opposite. But that is impossible, because in John's Gospel the theological inter- pretation does not annihilate the narrative level but expands it by showing a deeper meaning, as we shall see later.

l7 In this sense, many commentators (e.g., Westcott, Barrett, Brown, Lindars, etc.). Moore is strangely wavering between a positive and a negative interpretation ("Impurities," 218).According to Bultmann (Iohannes, 522 n. 4) and A. T.Hanson (The Prophetic Goqnel: -4 Sttidy ofjohn and the Old Testamnt [Edinburgh: Clark, 199112123, one should not ask if the "vinegar" is regarded as something cruel or not by John, however, because the whole scene depends only on the motif of fulfillment of the scripture. We shall discuss this point later.

hazard ill fortune but that Jesus is in full control of the situation and that he gives himself up in a free act, as he had said before (10:17-18; 14:30-31).

Superficially seen, Jesus dies because the Sanhedrin's plot to kill him (11:47-53) has been successful and because Pilate in his guilty weakness sen- tenced Jesus to the cross (19:16). Behind that visible reality, however, there has been another power at work. Jesus' enemies are inspired by the enmity of "the prince of this world," the devil (14:30; cf., e.g., 13:2,27). But even more impor- tant is that in the last instance everything happened according to the will of the Father (14:31; 10:18). We could also say that everything happened according to the will of Jesus himself, because he always does what pleases the Father (5:30; 8:29), who never leaves him alone (16:32), and because he has been given the authority to lay down his own life and to take it up again (10:18). We can see this happen in the story of his arrest. Jesus is not arrested in the ordinary sense of the word, but he gives himself voluntarily to be arrested. He is, so to speak, the stage manager of his own arrest (18:4-11). The same freedom and superiority are demonstrated at the moment he is going to die, as we have already seen. Jesus himself keeps the initiative. He knows that the end has come. This knowl- edge makes him speak and ask for water. If once we have seen that stressing Jesus' initiative is one of John's all-pervading literary techniques, it strikes the eye that, differing from the Synoptic Gospels, where someone else decides to give him the oco~, here people only do so after Jesus has asked for it. At last, Jesus voluntarily bows his head and gives up his spirit. He dies not as the victim but as the king in disguise (19:19), as the messenger who has brought his mes- sage to completion and can go back to his sender now-something that had been said very often already (6:62; 7:33; 8:14; 13:1,3; 14:2-4,28; 16:5,7, 17,28; 17:11, 13). His voluntary death is his voluntary departure, the cross a stage on the way back to his Father. Jesus knows this, and now he knows that finally the moment has come to leave the world.18

There is also a second level of meaning to ze.r&kozat. The content of this word cannot be limited to the insight that the passion has come to an end. Jesus acts accorhng to the will of the Father, and it is this will, his task, that has been completed. W. Thusing is certainly right when he says that navza r~~~korat has "umfassende Bedeutung" ("comprehensive meaning").lg The "work," TO

l8 See G. C. Nicholson, Death as Departure: Thelohannine Descent-Ascent Schenu (SBLDS 63; Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1983). It is the strength of Nicholson's book that he clearly sees that Jesus' death is his departure, but its weakness is that he thinks that it is only a departure: In fact, it is also the revelation of Jesus' love. See the next paragraph.

l9 W. Thiising, Die Erhohung und Verherrlichung ]esu im ]ohannesetiangelium (NTAbh 21/1,2; 2d ed.; Miinster: Aschendorff, 1970) 65. See also J. T. Forestell, The LVord of the Cross: Sal- vation as Revelation in the Fourth Gospel (AnBib 57; Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1974), e.g., 88, 101, 191-92; and D. Senior, The Passion ofjesus in the Gospel of]ohn (College\<lle, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991) 114-20.

iipyov, is finished, completed, and fulfilled. The completion of this work had been mentioned regularly already (4:34; 5:36; 17:4; cf. 9:4). Here, at last, at the very moment Jesus is crucified and going to die, its completion is finally real- ized. Here he lays down his life for his friends (15:13). Here he shows the full extent of his love toward his own (13:l).At last his work of revelation (17:26), his obedience to, his oneness with, and his love toward the Father have been realized to the full (10:30, 38; 14:31). All of it has been completed and fulfilled now. The Johannine Jesus is very conscious about this fulfillment and about the moment it has finally come. Exactly at this moment he says, "I am thirsty." Therefore we should ask, of course, what is the intrinsic relationship between Jesus' thirst and his laying down his life and going back to the Father's house? How can his thirst be interpreted in the context of completing the Father's will?

How can Jesus' thirst be related to his death?

We suggest that the only way to achieve a truly Johannine understanding of Jesus' thirst at the cross is to interpret this thirst in the context of the texts that use terms such as "food," "hunger," "thirst," "eat," and "drink in a syrn- bolic-that is, a spiritual-way (4:7-15, 34; 6:35; 7:37; 18:11).20 It was Jesus' "food" to do the will of his sender and "to accomplish his work (4:34, using the same verb ~ek~oGv,

which is also used with regard to the fulfillment of scrip- ture in 19:28; see also 5:36 and 17:4). Especially worth quoting is 18:ll: "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" (RSV). Senior calls this last verse "the key" to the right understanding of Jesus' thirst in 1928:

Completing the work of the Father-giving his life out of love for the world

and thus returning in exaltation to God-this was "food" Jesus would eat

(434)and the "cup" he would drink (18:ll).This, in john's portrayal, was the

driving force of Jesus' mission. Therefore the cry of thirst that echoes over

Golgotha is no longer a cry of torment-as the onlookers wrongly suppose-

but a final act of commitment. Jesus thirsts for God and he thirsts out of love

for "his own in this world.""

In our eyes, Senior is certainly right in interpreting 1928 in the light of 18:ll and 434. We should not easily dismiss this relationship between 434; 18:ll; and 19:28 in the symbolic world of John's Gospel. Jesus' thirst is his desire to complete the task the Father has committed to him. We can even go one little step further. Jesus says that he is thirsty because he knows that all has been completed already. If that is so, what is left that can still be fulfilled in

20 HOW closely the two metaphors of food and drink are intertwined can readily be seen in 6:35, where the bread of life not only causes people never to be hungry anymore but also causes their thirst to cease-which does not make sense as a logical statement but only as a metaphorical statement.

21 Senior, Passion, 116-17. Cf. Brown, Deatli of the Messiah, 2.1074: "'I thirst' in 19:28b shows that same determination to drink the cup" as in 18:ll.

Jesus' thirst? What is left of the task the Father has given him? There seems to be only one answer: it is the last phase of the task that has not yet been real- ized-that is, he must die.22 To lay down his life of his own accord is the author- ity (Ekouoia) and the command (Ev~ohfi) that Jesus had received from his Father (10:18). This means that Jesus' thirst in completing the command of the Father will be his desire to lay down his life out of his love for his own and to return to his sender (13:1, 3; 15:13). In 17:11, 13Jesus had prayed already, "I am coming to you." Here he "longs for his return to the Father," as Hoskyns wrote perceptively.23 In ordinary language we could say that he expresses his desire to die-but his death is a transition to his heavenly glory, which had been hls own from the beginning (17:24). In this desire of Jesus, scripture is fulfilled, says the narrator, stressing again with these words that Jesus' desire is according to his Father's stated will.

It is no surprise that the soldiers under the cross do not understand the spiritual meaning of Jesus' word. They naturally interpret his thirst in a literal way. But, as so often in this Gospel, their down-to-earth understanding is only a misunderstanding.24 They think he is talking about earthly, literal things, just as the Jews thought in 220; 7:35-36; 822, Nicodemus in 3:4, the Samaritan woman in 4:ll-12, the disciples in 4:33; 13%-10, 28-29; 14:5; 21:23, the dis- abled man in Bethesda in 5:7,25 Philip in 6:7, and so on. Sometimes the mis- understanding (or lack of understanding) is crude and even sarcastic (e.g., 6:42, 52; 8:22); sometimes it is more refined (e.g., 4:ll-12). Of course, creating mis- understanding is such a well-known literary (and theological) tool of the narra- tor that it does not need further proof now. It would also be perfectly in line with the Gospel's literary methods and its theology if this tool would be used once more without stating explicitly, "this was a misunderstanding," as the writer had done at the beginning of his work (221). After having exhibited this technique so repeatedly in his Gospel, the author could assume, as he so often did, that the perceptive readers of his work would be able once more to figure out for themselves what was intended.

Cf. T. Zahn, Das Eoangelium desJohannes (Kommentar zum Neuen Testament 4; 2d ed.; kipzig: Deichert, 1912) 659: "Das Eine, was noch fehlt kann nur das Sterben sein."

"E. C. Hoskyms, The Fourth Gospel (ed. F. N. Davey; 2d ed.; London: Faber & Faber, 1947) 531. In our opinion it goes too far to say that Jesus is "thirsting" to give the Spirit to his own. Our passage has a christological thrust (cf. Schnackenburg, Johanneseoangeliurn, 3.333). It is important that Jesus' own thirst be assuaged first before he can give living water (cf 7:39; 4:10, 14).

2* Cf. Hoskyns, Fourth Gospel, 531: "The soldiers, misunderstanding the meaning of the word. . ."; Senior, Passion, 117 (quoted above).

"The man understands Jesus' question in v. 6 as an offer to help him to take him to the pool at the right moment, so he could be miraculously healed. But that was not the intention of the ques- tion. He should have answered, "You, Lord, can give me new life." See my exegesis of the passage in L. Th. Witkamp, "The Use of Traditions in John 5.1-18,"JSNT 25 (1985) 19-47, esp. 23-25.

If this exegesis is correct, then why does Jesus accept the water offered by the soldiers? Does it mean that he also accepts their interpretation of his words as the proper one? Our answer will consist of two parts and give us the opportu- nity to respond to certain objections that can be raised against a figurative inter- pretation of Jesus' thirst.

To begin with, if we speak about a deeper and truer level of understanding of Jesus' words, this does not mean that the first, or earthly, level is annihilated. Defending a spiritual explanation of Jesus' thirst is not tantamount to denying that he was thirsty in any real, literal sense. It is certainly not John's intention to suggest that Jesus was only "pretending" to be thirsty and "acting a charade" in order to fulfill scripture,'6 but he wants us to see the spiritual meaning of this thirst. The figurative meaning does not contradict the literal meaning in John's Gospel, but discloses its spiritual dimension, which is more profound and more real. Surface meanings are too shallow for John. Nevertheless, the surface should not be negated.

We can see this also in John 4. When Jesus asks a drink from the Samaritan woman (4:7), we are supposed to think that he is really thirsty. Only later will we understand that in a more profound sense his thirst is to give living water to the woman. It is appropriate to quote what T. Okure wrote about 47:

From the perspective of the woman and in the light of her immediate con- cerns (she has come to draw water, v 7a), the request could only refer to physical thirst and drink. Jesus' physical condition (v 6) justifies her under- standing the request in this sense. And so the oft-cited Johannine technique of double-entendre arises from the fact that both Jesus and the woman share in common the human experience of thirsting and drinking. The difference lies in that for Tesus this human experience also serves as a medium for con- veying a reality of the spiritual order.

At any event, the explanation given in w 10,13-14 indicates that more than physical thirst is involved. In this explanation, the "drink which Iesus is requesting from the woman is receptivi$on her part to "the gift of ~od," the


"living water," which he thirsts to offer. The significance of this gift will be discussed presently. Ironically, however, the woman is the one who needs to drink. Jesus' thirst and her as yet unrecognized thirst are thus inseparably linked.27

26 These are Hanson's words (Prophetic Gospel, 212); he rejects this kind of interpretation. Cf. Carson, who thinks that Jesus' thirst cannot be taken in a symbolic fashion, "since Jesus thirsts for water, not for God (John,619). In this way he creates a most un-Johannine contradiction: Jesus' thirst for God does not contradict his thirst for water, but his thirst for water means his thirst for God.

2' T. Okure, The Johannine Approach to Mission: A Contextual Study of John 4:l-42 (WUNT 2/31; Tiibingen: Mohr, 1988) 95. As the sequence of chap. 6 makes clear once more (Jesus feeds the five thousand. but ultimatelv this shows that he himself is the bread of life). the meta~hor of bread does not lose its normal, literal meaning but receives a supraliteral, spiritual dimension, which in the Gospel's plot is more important than the literal one.

This long quotation is relevant to our purpose in this article. Just as in 4:7 Jesus' thirst is both a literal one and the conveyor of a spiritual meaning, so is his thirst in 19:28 both a real event and an indication of his longing for God. The Johannine spirituality does not do away with the real life but tries to see the deeper sense of the events of life. When in 4:31-34 the metaphor of water is changed into that of food, the intention is not that Jesus never will have to eat like a normal human being but that his basic desire is "to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work (434). It is true that in this context Jesus does not accept the food of his disciples, while in 19:30 he accepts the drink. But in 434 Jesus refuses the food as a didactic means in order to teach his disciples about his real food, that is, to do the will of his sender.28 On the other hand, in

19:30 he accepts the drink as a token of his acceptance of the Father's cup. Here it is not a didactic means for his disciples; now the drink is for Jesus him- self. (We shall come back to this later.) In both cases, however, the will of his sender is paramount.

This means that the narrator does not want to deny that Jesus had been thirsty in any real, human sense. But he realized that this thirst was not only something of a physical order, but first and foremost something of a spiritual order. That is why the scripture is quoted in 19:28-29: not to provide scriptural proof for the surface meaning (that would not need any special proof) but in order to disclose its depth dimension, just as, for example, in 2:17 + 22; 12:16. This implies also that John did not recount Jesus' thirst in order to show "the human weakness of Jesus" as an antidocetical reminder,'g nor did he adopt the superficial, rationalistic viewpoint that Jesus' throat was too dry for him to be able to say the single word ~e~&ka.ra~

without having a drink first.30 The real meaning was the hidden, symbolic one. The real meaning, like Jesus himself, was elusive and only accessible to the perceptive, spiritual interpreter (3:5; 6:63; 14:26).31

Second, the fact that Jesus receives the water does not imply that he accepts the soldiers' interpretation of his words. He accepts the water on his own terms, with the interpretation that he wants to give to it. To him the water

See also my "Some Specific Johannine Features in John 6:l-21,"lSNT 40 (1990) 43-59, where I showed that there is a didactic motive at work in that passage. In fact, it pervades the whole Gospel; see E. Frank, Revelation Taught: The Paraclete in the Gospel oflohn (Lund: Gleerup, 1985).

"J. N. Sanders and B. A. Mastin, A Commentary on the Gospel according to St. ]ohn (BNTC; London: Black, 1968) 409; Dodd, Historb1 Tradition, 42. 30 E.g., Bernard,]ohn, 638-39; L. Morris, The Gospel according tolohn (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) 814. 31 See already the title of M. de Jonge's booklesus: Stranger from Hcaoen and Son of Cod (SBLSBS 11; Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1977); further Frank, Re~elation Taught; also hl. \V.

G. Stibbe, "The Elusive Christ: A New Reading of the Fourth Gospel,"]SNT44 (1991) 1937.

is not just an ordinary drink. To hiin it is something inore than to the soldiers. To him it is also the sign that his more profound thirst is assuaged.

This resembles the story of the triumphal entry. In that story the crowd hails Jesus because they are impressed by the great miracle of the raising of Lazarus (12:9-11, 18). Had Jesus in 2:23-25 and 6:15 withdrawn himself from the crowd's miracle belief, now, in 12:12-15, he seems to accept their enthusi- asm. On closer inspection, though, we can see that, while accepting their wel- come, he also distances himself. John recounts only one reaction of Jesus ("Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it") and he introduces this action with an adversative 68, which should be translated "but." This must be so, since

v. 16 gives us the clue to the incident. The quotation from scripture explains what had really been the case, on the spiritual level, so to speak: Jesus had not simply received the crowd's welcome, but had found a donkey to ride on in order to leave a message by this action: he did not enter Jerusalem as a remark- able or famous miracle-working king, as the crowd assumed; but in a hidden, symbolic way they had experienced a theophany ("do not be afraid"; ["your king is coming"]) of the universal and heavenly king, whose kingship is not of this world ("your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt") because it is not based on power and the sword (18:36). He is the shepherd-king, the one who gives his life for his own (10:11), the one who will be crucified (19:19). The crowd hails him as a miracle-working king, but they do not understand what kind of king they are a~claiming.~~

That is why Jesus both accepts and reinterprets their wel- come at the same time.

The same dialectic of accepting and correcting we meet also in 19:30. In a literal sense Jesus accepts their water. But they do not realize that their sponge contains more than ordinary water, just as they also do not realize that the hys- sop they use might convey more than a literal meaning, as has been advocated by many commentators, pointing to Exod 12:22.33 In this they resemble Caiaphas, who ironically did not realize the profound meaning of his own words (11:4952), and Mary, who also did not realize that her anointing of Jesus was

3"ohn 12:15contains a conflated quotation. The first line, "Do not be afraid, (0Daughter of Zion)," takes us to Zeph 3:13, 16; Isa 35:4; 40:9; 44:2, the next lines, "(0Daughter of Zion,) see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt," to Zech 9:9.The words "Do not be afraid occur in theophanic contexts in the OT. They are necessaly because of the holiness of God, which consumes a human being (cf. also, e.g., Luke 1:13,30).So the mixed quotation shows not only that riding on a donkey has messianic overtones but also that a hidden theophany takes place. See Brown, ]ohn, 1.46243;Schnackenburg,]ohanneseoangelium, 2.472-73.

33 For our purpose it is not necessaly to discuss the possibility that there are paschal over- tones in the remarkable use of "hyssop" by the soldiers. It does not have a bearing on our conclu- sions. For recent treatments, apart from commentaries, see Hanson, Prophetic Gospel, 212-13 (positive) and F. 6.Beetham and P. A. Beetham, "A Note on John 19:29,"]TS 44 (1993) 16349 (positive).

the concrete symbol of a profounder reality, that is, Jesus' death (12:1-8). The soldiers themselves, too, did not know that their casting lots for Jesus' tunic and the piercing of Jesus' side had more than superficial significance (19:23-24, 33-37). When Jesus accepts the sponge in 19:30, he accepts not only the water but also its meaning. That is why, differing from the Synoptic accounts, it is explicitly narrated that Jesus received the otoq We should understand that he does not only or primarily receive it as a soldier's gift, but most of all as his Father's gift. This means that the oE,o< is part of the cup the Father has given him to drink (18:ll) in order to complete his work and to fulfill the scripture (19:28). It shows that Jesus is ready to do the will of the Father to the end, as he has always done (5:30; 8:29).34

Our contextual analysis has shown that a figurative interpretation of Jesus' thirst can explain all the components and the interaction between the compo- nents of the narrative unit 19:28-30 very well and that it fits the linguistic and conceptual world of the Gospel better than a merely literal interpretation. In fact, especially after 18:ll it is hard to resist the thought that the narrator chal- lenges us to recognize that Jesus' thirst is not just an ordinary thirst but is of a much profounder nature. So there seems to be nothing that compels us to say that John would be inconsistent in his use of the water metaphor here, as was Moore's opinion. Or does the quotation from the ypa4i automatically demand a literal interpretation after all? This question brings us to our next topic.

In this section we will discuss the relevant intertextual and tradition- historical problems. There has always been some uncertainty which OT pas- sage the narrator intended to be fulfilled, because he seems not to quote it directly as he usually does but only to make an allusion.35 Nevertheless, most commentators mention Ps 69:21 (LXX 68:22), "In my thirst they gave me vin- egar," as the intended text. The reasons for this seem obvious. Not only do the Synoptic parallels direct us to this spot (Mark 15:36; Matt 27:48),36 but the verb 6tv6in John recalls the noun 6114~6~

of the psalm, and both the psalm and John use the word okoq Its effect has been most eloquently phrased by Dodd, "John, it appears, has found a double fulfilment of prophecy: not only the offer of

34 Cf. Brown, Death of the Messiah, 2.1077: "In 18:ll Jesus said that he wanted to drink the cup the Father had given him; when Jesus drinks the offered wine, he has finished this commit- ment made at the beginning of the P[assion] N[arrative]."

35 The NT editions of Nestle-Alan&% and UBSGNT3 do not use cursive or bold print in John 19:2%29, as they customarily do with OT quotations, which shows uncertainty in this case.

36 PS 69[68]:22, hnoncrav p~ 060~;Mark 15:36/Matt 27:48, o(oug . . . hno.r~<evairrov. Luke 2334-38 recounts the giving of the 060~ in a context of mockery that seems to reflect the influence of Psalm 22 (esp. w. 12-19), rather than Psalm 69; but cf. v. 34 with the quotation from Ps 22:19;

v. 35, ~?c~pu~Ti]p~~ov, PE.

with PS 22[21]:8 h~~puwqp~uav

0506but the thirst which it was assigned to assuage, is a trait proper to the pic- ture of Jesus as the Righteous Sufferer."37

The thesis that will be defended here is that Ps 69:21 indeed is the target text but that John did not read this psalm in a literal way (as modern inter- preters do), finding in it a picture of the sufeering of Jesus; rather, he read the psalm in a "Johannine" way as a witness to the death of Jesus, giving it a spiritual interpretation in the course of his modification of his passion source.

Besides the phrasing of the passage, the context also makes clear that John has Psalm 69 in mind here. John 19:28-30 is the second of three scenes where the soldiers act with respect to Jesus. In each of these scenes their actions are explained by one (19:24) or two (19:36-37) quotations from scripture. In each of these incidents the scheme is the same: (1)an action of the soldiers (2)brings-without their knowing it-(3) scripture to fulfillment. This already suggests that also in the incident of giving the 050~it is not only the word of Jesus that is meant as the scriptural reference but also the action of the soldiers. So we can say that it is both Jesus' thirst and the gift of 050~that must corre- spond to the scripture.38 The structural difference between 19:24, 36-37 and 19:2W0 would be that in the first instance scripture is quoted whereas in the second instance it is more an explicit allusion, because Jesus' own word is part of the quotation here. The only text that fits this situation is Psalm 69.

That is why two other good candidates are not really satisfactory in the end, namely, Ps 42:2-3 ("My soul thirsts for God . . . when can I go and meet with God?'NIV) and 63:2 ("My soul thirsts for you," NIV). To be sure, these psalms have some advantages over Ps 69:21.39 First of all thirst is used as a metaphor in both Psalm 42 and Psalm 63. It is a symbol for the longing for God. This would in itself admirably fit the exegesis of John 19:28 advocated above. As a matter of fact, these are the only places in the OT where the verb "to thirst" (KOY) is used in such a clearly figurative way.40 This would make its transposition to the Johannine context easier to understand. Second, one could argue that only the word 6~~6

itself is meant to be the quotation from the OT. In all the other instances where John uses the 'iva xhqpwefj formula in his passion narra-

37 Dodd, Historical Tradition, 41; see also pp. 123-24
38 Cf. Schnackenburg, ~ohannesenan~eliun,

3.332 n. 67; Brawley, "Absent Complement,"

435. 39 Not many exegetes mention them, however, but see Hoskyns, Fourth Gospel, 531; further

E. D. Freed, Old Testament Quotations in the Gospel ofJohn (NovTSup 11; Leiden: Brill, 1965) 104-7; J. Beutler, "Psalm 42'43 im Johannesevangelium," NTS 25 (197E-79) 33-57, esp. 56; E. D. Freed, "Psalm 42'43 in John's Gospel," NTS 29 (1983) 62-73, esp. 71; T. Boman, "Das letzte Wort Jesu," ST 17 (1963) 103-19, esp. 113-16; also Dodd, Historical Trdition, 42 n.1.

40 Cf. also Jer 38:25 LXX.Of course, a figurative meaning of thirst is very common in the OT (Amos 8:ll; Ezek 19:13; Isa 55:1), the literal and the metaphorical easily shading into each other (Isa 48:21; 49:lO; 65:13).

tive,41 the scripture passage intended is quoted expressis verbis immediately afterwards (12:38; 13:18; 15:25; 19:24,36-37).4' So one could say that in 19:28 only the word 61~6is intended to be the quotation.43 If that would be the case, both Psalm 42 and 63 would be good choices. Although John would not have quoted them literally from either the Hebrew or the Septuagint version, his rendering of the Hebrew periphrasis '&I ;i& by the short verb 6~~6

could be called appropriate. It is also interesting that here we can find two OT texts that have the verb 6~yr6/~nS,

and not the noun 6iy1a,which was used in Ps 68:22

LXX. The fundamental weakness of Psalms 42 and 63, however, is that they do not mention the oko<.Nevertheless, we should be aware that within the psalter itself the concept of thirst could be used in a figurative way already and that John probably would have known this.44

John had already quoted Psalm 69 earlier, in 2: 17, "Zeal for your house will consume me" (NIV). Here this psalm was used in order to show that Jesus' clearing of the Temple was caused by his zeal for God. But the quotation already ~howed'somethin~ what the consequences of this

else, too-namely, zeal would be for Jesus himself. In changing the original perfect ~aze$ayeza~ into a future ~aza@ayeza~,

John makes clear that Jesus will be consumed.45 This, of course, points to his death (just as the next verses will talk about his res- urrection).46 This means that, according to John, Psalm 69 was not first of all a witness to the fact that Jesus lived as a righteous man who had to suffer; the psalm was primarily a witness to Jesus' death! This is a major point for a con- vincing exegesis of this passage and must be stressed. Of course, this is not the original thrust of the word itself. But, as has been said so often about the scrip- tural quotations in the Fourth Gospel, "John has forcibly accommodated every- thing to his own purposes."47 Why would he not also be able to alter the original meaning of another verse of this psalm and hide its original context in order to have it speak of Jesus' death in 19:28? It is easily conceivable that John could

41 The change intoBva TEXELW~~)in John 19:28 does not affect this point; see below.

" The only exception is 17:12, where he does not mention a specific OT text. But he probably wants to remind us here of 13:18, where Ps 41:10 was quoted. Cf. Schnackenburg,]ohannesevangelium, 3.207; Hanson, Prq~hetic Gospel, 172-76, 197-98; Carson,]ohn, 564.

" TheJerusalem Bible prints that word as if it were a direct OT quotation, but mentions Ps

22:15 as its source-which does not seem vely likely, however, even though this psalm is suggested again by Brown, Death of the Messiah, 2.1073-74. (But he admits that it remains "speculative.")

Cf. the articles of Beutler and Freed mentioned in n. 39. " Rahlfs's edition of the LXX is probably correct in suggesting that the future reading in Ps

68:10 LXX of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus is due to the influence of John 2:17; cf. Freed, Old Testa- runt Quotations, 9-10.

46 Cf. Schnackenburg,]ohannesecangeliuin, 1.362; Bro~n,]ohn, 1.124. Note that the context of 15:25, where Psalm 69 is (probably) also quoted, is one of hatred, persecution, and, again, death (16:2).

47 C. Goodwin, "How Did John Treat His Sources?'JBL 73 (1954) 73.

have interpreted the word "thirst" from Ps 69:21 in such a way that it would suit his own purposes and speak of a spiritual thirst, which we have suggested is the proper interpretation of 19:28.

This interpretation solves a problem that Thiising and S. Pancaro rightly felt to be a pressing question (as long as one interprets John from the viewpoint of the psalm instead of the other way around).48 That is, what is the intrinsic relationship between Ps 69:21, which is about the fate of a righteous sufferer but does not mention death, and the death of Jesus in John 19:28-30? In this context it is startlingly strange, they said, that John quotes a verse from Psalm 69 that has no connection with the death of Jesus. They did not consider the possi- bility of a figurative meaning of Jesus' thirst, so they had to look for another solu- tion to this anomaly. They proposed that the ypa@fi should be taken here in a broad sense as the totality of scripture. The fulfillment of Ps 69:21 should be regarded as a pars pro toto of the fulfillment of the whole scripture in the suf- fering and death of Jesus. Is there an indication in the text that would support that solution? There is, they said. John always uses the formula Yva rchqpoeij (12:38; 13:18; 17:12; 19:24, 36; cf. 18:9, 32) when he mentions a fulfillment of scripture in the passion narrative; here only he uses another expression-'iva ~ehe~wQij

+ ypa@G. The same verb zehe~o6v is used also in 4:34 and 174. Thiising and Pancaro thought that these two verses show that this verb receives a meaning more profound than the usual rchqpo6v. Pancaro, inspired by both Thiising and Dodd, added that v. 29, the nucleus of the passage, was based on a testimnium that interpreted the death of Jesus as the fate of the righteous suf- ferer from Psalm 69.49 John based his narrative on this testiinoniuin but was at the same time constrained by it. The result is that "a certain tension remains" in the intention of the author to describe Jesus' death as the fulfillment of the scripture, but to do this by having him drink the oE,oq-which does not say any- thing about death at all.

Thiising and Pancaro stand for many who are inclined to interpret John from the viewpoint of the psalm instead of the other way around. They rightly saw that their road leads to the conclusion that there is no real connection between the quotation from the psalm and the death of Jesus. They deserve the credit for acknowledging this strange contextual anomaly, which is usually passed over in silence by commentators. But we must say also that we should not be satisfied with their solution. Their interpretation of the word ~eheto6v is not very attractive. If they are correct that it indicates a fuller fulfillment than nhqpoijv, one wonders what this means: In what sense can ~ehe~o6v

give a fuller fulfillment than rchqpoijv? It would be quite inexplicable that the word nhqpoijv could be used once again in 19:36 ("so that the scripture would be ful-

48 Thusing, Erhohung und Verherrlichung, 65-67; S. Pancaro, The Lntc in the Fourth Gospel (NovTSup 42: Leiden: Brill, 1975) 355-56.

49 See Dodd, Historical Tradition, 4142, 123-24.

filled") if the fulfillment had already reached its insurmountable summit in zehEto5v in 19:28. That is why it seems wisest still to agree with (among others) Bultmann and C. K. Barrett that the verb z~kto5v is used as an equivalent of nXqpo5v and to assume that John used this term in 19:28 because in this verse and in 19:30 he twice used the word ze~&kozat.~O

As there is no difference between the verb zekiv and zehEt05v in this passage, this would make good theological sense. By choosing verbs that are almost the same, which means by substituting zektoGv for his usual nXqpo5v in reference to the scripture, the narrator makes it very clear that the fulfillment of Jesus' task and the fulfillment of the scripture are strongly intertwined. Since both are expressions of the Father's will, this should not surprise us too much. This means that when zektoGv can be regarded as an equivalent of nhqpoijv, there is no longer any reason to surmise that the quotation of Ps 69:21 would be a pars pro toto of the fulfillment of the whole scripture.

Our proposal also solves another problem that must be tackled by com- mentators. Many who think that Ps 69:21 is John's source automatically assume that the giving of the 0505 to Jesus must be an aggravation of his sufferings. But this simply is not true, as we have seen in section 11. Haenchen clearly saw this and drew the conclusion that Ps 69:21 does not fit the Johannine context.51 There are, however, better ways out. The first one has been proposed by Bult- mann, Lindars, and Hanson. They say that John was interested only in the motif of fulfillment of the scripture, so that we should not ask if the 0505 was meant to be a refreshment or something cruel.5"his is a better interpretation, but rather pale, and still takes the psalm itself as its starting point. The other alter- native and the one that we favor says that John read Ps 69:21 in such a way that it would suit his own theology. In his eyes the giving of the 050~ had been fore- told in Psalm 69: it was the concrete symbol of the Father's cup that Jesus had to drink and that he accepted (see above, section 111). In other words, he already held a "Johannine" interpretation of this verse before using it in his Gospel. Ps 69:21 mentions two things that are important for John: thirst and 0505. Since Holy Scripture is spiritual, just as Jesus' own words are spiritual, and since they both are from God and testify to Jesus' mission and heavenly identity53 it is not too farfetched to say that John understood the thirst of the psalm as a spiritual thirst, which in an ironic way was quenched with vinegar.

50 Bultmann,]ohannes, 522 n. 3; Barrett,]ohn, 553; Carson,]ohn, 620; Lindars,]ohn, 580: "This can hardly mean to bring the OT to an end, but rather to bring to completion what is appointed in Scripture for Jesus as the agent of God's will." \lie should remember also that John is fond of varying his \~ocabulary without theological change of meaning; see E. D. Freed, "Variations in the Language and Thought of John," ZNW 55 (1964) 167-97.

5' Haenchen,]ohannesecangelium, 55253.

52 Bultmann and Hanson. as mentioned in n. 17; Lindars,]ohn, 581.

5Wf. 4:24; 5:39,46-47; 6:63; 12:41.

As long as we read John 19:28-29 in the light of Ps 69:21 and think that Jesus is depicted as the righteous sufferer, we will not be able to overcome the exegetical difficulties mentioned above. But as soon as we read Ps 69:21 in the light of John 19:28-29 things will look different. The way Psalms 42 and 63 interpret "thirst" could be seen as a help on the trajectory toward a Johannine understanding. Of course, it is not the original thrust of Psalm 69 according to modem historical-critical exegesis that is decisive for an interpretation of John 19:28-30, but the way the narrator in John's Gospel understood and used the psalm in its new context as a witness to the death of Jesus.

As a matter of fact, John could find some important starting points for this reading of the psalm and of the whole incident in the passion tradition he received. We mentioned Pancaro's opinion that John was constrained by the testimonium he used. It would probably be better to say that John was con- strained by the tradition he used. In that tradition it was narrated that Jesus had been offered 0605 in the moment before he died. John's source for his passion story was probably not Mark or any other of the Synoptics;54 nevertheless, at some stage during its tradition, John's passion story experienced some influence from the Synoptic passion tradition.55 If we compare John and Mark for a moment, we find that in John there is no mockery of Jesus on the cross nor darkness as the visible sign of the absence and judgment of God, as we find it in Mark. But as soon as we reach the scene where Jesus dies, there is a remarkable structural homogeneity, although each story is told in a completely different

This little comparison immediately brings a couple of interesting things to the foreground. First, the place of the giving of the 0505 immediately before Jesus

"See, e.g., Dodd, Historical Tradition, 21-151.

55 See A. Dauer, Die Passionsgeschichte in Johannesevangelium: Eine traditionsgeschichtliche und theologische Untersuchung zu Jo 18:l-1930 (SANT 30; Munich: Kosel, 1970); R.Baum-Bodenbender, Hoheit in Niedrigkeit:]ohanneische Christologie im ProzessJesu uor Pila- tus (]oh 18:28-19:16a) (FB 49; Wiirzburg: Echter Verlag, 1984); T. A. Mohr, Markus- und Johannespassion: Reduktions- und traditionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung der Markinischen und Johanneischen Passionstradition (ATANT 70; Zurich: Theologischer Verlag, 1982); Brown, Death of the Messiah.

died was part of the passion tradition and cannot be accredited to John's cre- ative writing.

Second, Mark recounts two utterances of Jesus on the cross: the first one the dogmatically notorious "Ehwt ~hwt kpa oaPa~0av1"; the second one an inarticulate loud cry. The oco~ is inserted between these two utterances. It is remarkable that the same holds true for John: the 0505 is given between the two words Jesus speaks.

Third, in Mark the offer of the oco~ was not the proper response to Jesus' cry. The bystanders mistake or mock Jesus' call for God, "Ehwt, Eho~," as a cry for Elijah and give him the "sour wine." In John, too, the gift of the 0505 is not the proper response to Jesus' word, "I thirst." They thought that he was only thirsty for water, while in reality Jesus had a more consuming and profound thirst.

Fourth, where the Markan Jesus says, "Ehwt ~hwt kpa oapax0av1," the Johannine Jesus says, "I thirst."56 It would be impossible for the Johannine Jesus, of course, to cry out that God had forsaken him, because his Father is always with him (8:29; 16:33). It would be perfectly in line with John's methods if he had changed his tradtion here so as to have Jesus say, "I thirst." On closer inspection it is striking, however, that this change could have been elicited by two features of his source. If we may surmise that he knew Jesus' cry on the cross in some form as it has been recorded by Mark and that he also knew its sequel in that someone gave him 0505 in reply (which might already have been understood as a reference to Psalm 69), the change into "I thirst" can be inter- preted as a very apt, interpretative liberty, not as a complete change of his source's intentions. Jesus' cry, "Eho~ Ehwt," is a prayer to Gocl. On the other hand, the 0505 presupposes that Jesus was thirsty; Ps 69:21 even mentions the thirst explicitly. With changing Jesus' word "Ehwt Ehot" into "I thirst" and chal- lenging us to interpret this thirst in a supraliteral way as a thirst for God, John was able to avoid the wrong impression that the words of Ps 22:l on Jesus' lips could make on his readers, while retaining its orientation toward God, and to make the reference to Psalm 69 more explicit.57 In this way he also managed to glue Jesus' word and the giving of the 050~ together in a more satisfying way than in the Gospel of Mark, where it is not clear why the bystanders offer him the 050~.John also saw that their gift was not the proper reaction to Jesus'

5"ccording to Schnackenburg, Jesus' word, "It is completed," replaces the Markan "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" but that does not seem to he true (]ohannesevangelium, 3.33132).The word "It is completed replaces the loud cry of Mark 15:37;cf. Lindars,John, 582.

57 It is much more difficult to imagine that John would have altered the profound "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" into a simple expression of literal thirst, which in itself has no connection with Jesus' death, than that he would have altered it into aprofound expression of Jesus' desire for God and for finishing his work.

words, so he interpreted it as a misunderstanding. In this vein he retained this source's feature in his own story.

Fifth, in conformity with the theological thrust of this passage, John seems to have changed the last inarticulate cry of Jesus into the solemn "It is accom- plished." Structurally this word has the same position as the wordless cry in Mark, just a moment before Jesus expires. Theologically they fit the death scene into the Johannine theology as a whole: Jesus has completed the work the Father had given him to do and he can go home now.

Thus, we come to the conclusion that "the absence of a complement" to the words "so that the scripture would be fulfilled (in that there is no explicit OT quotation) is not one of the "paradoxes" that can be found in this passage, which "perpetually withholds a complete meaningn58 This passage is not para- doxical but symbolic in nature in that it contains hidden meanings for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. John handled his sources with care in order to convey the spiritual message he found in them. Jesus' thirst on the cross had a profound meaning, and this had already been foretold in the Bible. If we read Ps 69:21 in the light of Ps 42:2-3 and Ps 63:2, we are close to a Johan- nine "feeling" already. If we read the words of the psalm in the context of John's own use of the metaphors of eating food and drinking water, we seem to have no option left except to interpret the word 61~6not in a literal sense as the con- text of Psalm 69 itself would suggest but in a spiritual sense as Jesus' thirst to drink the cup the Father has given to him-that is, to complete the Father's work in laying down his life and to return to his sender. The reaction of the bystanders is a misunderstanding, but in it they unintentionally help to bring the scripture to fulfillment.

We have come to the end of our investigation. The transliteral, spiritual exegesis of John 19:28-30 that we advocate has certain advantages. As soon as we understand Jesus' thirst as his desire to do the will of God in finishing the work the Father had given him to complete and in laying down his life out of love for his own, the passage in John proves to be logically and theologically consistent, profound in meaning, and in harmony with the theology and the fig- urality of the Gospel as a whole (see section 111). It appears that the often- repeated assumption that Jesus' thirst must be understood in a literal way because of the quotation from (or allusion to) Ps 69:21 does not hold true when it is more thoroughly investigated. Even within the psalter itself "thirst" can be used in a transliteral way. It is important to notice that according to John the central thrust of Psalm 69 is not suffering but death. We have mentioned also a

5R Brawley, "Absent Complement," 443.

couple of tradition-historical indications in favor of a transliteral interpretation of Psalm 69 in the context of John 19. We acknowledge that this interpretation does not harmonize with a modem historical-critical way of reading Psalm 69, but it does not seem wise to force John into the straitjacket of modern hermeneutics. We had better become more sensitive to his ("Johannine") way of reading. Only now we can see that in fact the quotation from Psalm 69 does serve an important goal in this context and is not just a haphazard leftover from the tradition John came across. In thirsting, Jesus is not simply giving expres- sion to his feelings of torment at the moment he dies; he consciously fulfills the scripture, which had already spoken of his thirst for death as the way to com- plete the work of the Father and to go back to his sender (see section IV).

This means that the problems that made Moore reach the conclusion that the Johannine irony has collapsed, making even Jesus himself become its vic- tim, have faded and so have his conclusions. Jesus' last words fit admirably into the whole fabric of John's text and theology: this passage with its basic theme of fulfillment/completion is full of spiritual depth in the Johannine sense of the word; Jesus' orientation toward his Father comes to the fore; the fact that he is in control of the situation and his initiative are stressed. Finally, we could say, this passage reveals Jesus' glory in that it shows him on his way back to his Father, freely laying down his life for his own and bringing his earthly task to completion. This way of John's handling the passion tradition reflects the pro- found work of the Spirit-Paraclete, who as the divine interpreter, glorifies Jesus (16:14).

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