John’s gospel says a few things about food. In at least five specific contexts in the document, “food” or “bread” shows up.
John’s gospel also says a few things about “works.” In 25 verses in John (found in chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 17) the root εργον (ergon — think ergonomic — work-laws) shows up. The reader should understand that, in John, “works” are presented¹ pretty much exclusively positively, despite how they are painted in some Christian circles these days.
Hear Jesus as John has quoted Him:
4:32 But He said to them, “I have afood to eat that you do not know about.”
4:33 So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?”
4:34 Jesus *said to them, “My bfood is to do the cwill of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.
a. In the first instance of “food” above, the Greek word is “brosin.” This word appears again in John — twice in chapter 6.
b. In the second instance, the Greek word is “broma.” This word is not used anywhere else in John.
c. The Greek word translated “will” is “thelema.” Its final two letters are the same as in the word “broma.”
I suspect that John changed from “brosin” to “broma” (both meaning “food”) in v. 34 for a reason.
Below is the text of 4:34 a) in Greek, b) in transliterated English, and c) followed by an awkward translation in the same word order.
4:34 Ἐμὸν βρῶμά ἐστιν ἵνα ποιήσω τὸ θέλημα τοῦ emon broma estin hina poieso to thelema tou My food is that I do the will of the one πέμψαντός με καὶ τελειώσω αὐτοῦ τὸ ἔργον pemphantos me kai teleioso autou to ergon who sent me and complete His (the) work
With thanks to Raymond Brown and others, I suggest that the word choice “broma” (food) may be intentional, and that the intentionality may be related to the word “thelema” (will). Although the expression “my food is that I do the will” is fairly clear, the expression is also symbolic. Food isn’t actually will, but Jesus is linking the two figuratively.
The emphasis lent by assonance in the -ma syllable — broma … thelema — may be seen as clarifying and stressing Jesus’ words, as recorded by John.
For additional posts on the gospel of John, click here.
¹ I started to write “the concept of ‘works’ is presented positively,” but I suspect that would have been eisegesis, to some degree — reading current-day concerns into an ancient text. I don’t know that there was a “concept” of works per se in the 1st century.