Contemporary implications of the first-century counter-ethos of Jesus to the scripted universe of gender and health in John 4 & 9 : a narrative-critical analysis

De Milander, Cornelia (2015-03)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South Africans are confronted on a daily basis with the social inequality among individuals which greatly inspires violence, victimisation, discrimination and life-denying ethos. These acts of injustice are not simply inspired by formal laws and policies, but spurred on by various ideological and symbolic categories and power structures. In a way, social behaviour can be said to be ‘scripted’ by the ideologies, perceptions and language internalised, normalised and passed on within society at large. One does not have to look very far to see the way in which this ‘script’ functions in South Africa and what impact the pre-determined and ‘scripted’ identity markers of gender and health have on individuals and groups, as categories like man, woman, HIV positive, and disabled already trigger a set of preconceived ideas and expectations regarding these individuals. The normalisation of this ‘script’ and its social hierarchies is extremely counter-productive as it often pre-determines the value, abilities, potential, limitations and ‘appropriate’ ethos of individuals and groups on the basis of the categories they fall into. The scripted nature of society is however not a twenty-first century phenomenon, but something deeply integral also to life in first century Palestine. This script interpreted, determined and reinforced the prescribed status, agency and ethos of different individuals and identity markers of health and gender were paramount in this process of scripting. Part of this ‘scripted’ world was Jesus of Nazareth. However, upon reading the narratives of John 4:1-42 and 9:1-41, it would appear that the relationship between the societal script and the actual ethos of Jesus was anything but simplistic. Upon reading these two episodes against the grain of the first century societal script, Jesus’ ethos as a Jewish man in relation to a somewhat questionable Samaritan female and blind and impure beggar brings forth some inconsistencies toward the script. It would seem as if Jesus was reluctant to read his context one dimensionally and simply comply with popular custom and ideology. The aim of this study would therefore be to explore whether these inconsistencies between the societal script and the ethos of Jesus could be of any significance in an analogously scripted twenty-first century South Africa, a society pleading for critical reflection upon the societal script. When the possible ‘counter-ethos’ of Jesus is considered, faith communities might be challenged to embrace the fragility of social categories and hierarchies and perhaps embody a similar critical attitude and ethos toward the life-denying societal script and its taken-for-granted assumptions.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Suid-Afrikaners word daagliks gekonfronteer met die sosiaal ongelyke stand van ons samelewing. Hierdie ongelykhede is grootliks verantwoordelik vir geweld, viktimisasie, diskriminasie en nie-lewensgewende etos. Die bogenoemde word egter nie bloot deur formele wette geïnspireer nie, maar aangevuur deur verskeie ideologiese en simboliese kategorieë en magstrukture. Sosiale gedrag kan as’t ware gesien word as ʼn voorafbepaalde teks, ondersteun deur die ideologieë, persepsies en taal wat ons internaliseer, normaliseer en aan ander oordra. Hierdie voorafbepaalde ‘samelewingsteks’ is uiters prominent in Suid-Afrika, waar ʼn bepaalde status, etos en grense dikwels aan individue gegee word op die basis van identiteits-merkers van onder andere gender en gesondheid. Die identifisering van iemand as man, vrou, MIV positief, gestremd, ensovoorts spreek ideologiese boekdele van hul plek, doel en perke in die samelewing. In hierdie sin dien die vooropgestelde ‘samelewingsteks’ ʼn uiters teenproduktiewe rol, aangesien dit die waarde, vermoëns, potensiaal, en ‘korrekte’ etos van individue vooraf bepaal op grond van die simboliese kategorieë waarin hul val. Die voorafbepaalde ‘samelewingsteks’ herbevestig dikwels sosiale hiërargieë, wat ongeregtigheid normaliseer en bevorder. Hierdie is egter nie net ʼn een-en-twintigste eeu se verskynsel nie, maar iets wat al reeds prominent voorgekom het in eerste eeu se Palestina. Hierdie ‘samelewingsteks’ het die gepaste status en etos van verskillende individue bepaal op die grond van identiteits-merkers, soos die van gender en gesondheid. Dit is ook die samelewing waarin Jesus van Nasaret homself bevind het. Wanneer die narratiewe van Johannes 4:1-42 en 9:1-41 gelees word, kom dit egter voor asof die verhouding tussen hierdie ‘samelewingsteks’ en die etos beliggaam deur Jesus kompleks was. Wanneer die twee episodes in lig van die voorafbepaalde ‘samelewingsteks’ gelees word, blyk Jesus, ʼn Joodse man, se etos teenoor ʼn redelike verdagte Samaritaanse vrou en blinde en onreine bedelaar in spanning te wees met die etos aan hom voorgeskryf. Dit sou voorkom asof Jesus gewaak het teen die eenvoudige beliggaming van wat deur die ‘samelewingsteks’ as gehoord voorgeskryf en verwag is. Die doel van hierdie studie sou daarom wees om te ondersoek of die spanning tussen die eerste eeu se ‘samelewingsteks’ en die ware beliggaamde etos van Jesus enigsins betekenisvol kan wees in lyn van die een-en-twintigste eeu se voorafbepaalde ‘samelewingsteks’ in ʼn land wat ryp is vir kritiese refleksie op dit wat as ‘normaal’ en ‘korrek’ beskou word. Die moontlike ‘kontra-etos' van Jesus kan geloofsgemeenskappe uitdaag om die broosheid van sosiale en simboliese kategorieë en hiërargieë aan te gryp en ʼn soortgelyke kritiese houding en etos teenoor die nie-lewegewende ‘samelewingsteks’ en sy voorveronderstellings te beliggaam.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96942
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