Johannine insights #3 — a device?

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.


3 thoughts on “Johannine insights #3 — a device?

  1. godschildrenorg 06/28/2014 / 11:55 am

    This touched something deep within me, Brian, setting me free once again from questioning, “Am I doing what I ‘should’ be doing???” This month of June, the 5th anniversary of saying to Dan, “Goodbye…go with God,” has been one of struggle. I thought I could not “do the work here” without Dan. Yet, Dan asked me to return and carry on “our work.” After Dan’s passing, I talked with our Missions Minister about the fact that I do not have the teaching skills of one on one Bible study that Dan was gifted with.

    He responded with, “You don’t have to be Dan. Go and love the people.” I do love the people here…do my best to help them find a better way…bringing light into this Dark Land. But…knowing what I say and write is monitored…I leave it at – weather conditions have caused the harvest to be small. However, my food is to do the will of Him who sent me. He sent me to love the people. Your message today encourages me. My focus is back on The Food He gives me. ~~ Anne


    • Brian Casey 06/29/2014 / 4:17 pm

      Anne, you can testify to the truth of what I’m about to say more than I, having lived a few more years: *There is no end to the ability of God to move us through scripture messages* (in other ways, too, but the immediate context is scripture). That you are living within His will and doing more of what He would do than most is very clear to me. Of course it is more than the memory of your Dad that keeps you going, but that very poignant request he made is doubtless one of the ways God used to speak to your soul and work in and for others as a result.

      On Sat, Jun 28, 2014 at 11:55 AM, NT Christianity wrote:



  2. godschildrenorg 06/29/2014 / 5:00 pm

    Thank you, Brian. Your words help comfort me. Today was a sunny, glorious day…I rested a good bit…but by bedtime, I was very tired…a dark mood swept over me…negative thoughts of my shortcomings flooded my mind. I sought solace, guidance in Scripture, but found none at that moment. Finally, I got in bed, but felt led to check e-mail one last time before turning out the light…and there was your message.

    My Food is to do the will of My Father whatever that is, and wherever He leads me –“whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Phil. 4:8. I can, and, will, do that now, and again and again.
    ~~ Anne in Transylvania


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