Slips of the Tongue, Slips of the Word: A Poststructuralist Psychoanalytic Reading of John 8:37-47

In: Biblical Interpretation
Sarah Emanuel Oberlin College, USA

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John 8:37-47 is arguably the most dangerous passage for Jews within the entire New Testament. Repeatedly used to fuel anti-Semitism, it remains haunted by the events of the Holocaust. Its statements about “the Jews” are delivered with all the incomparable authority and divine assurance that the implied author has worked unremittingly to establish for Jesus. However, examining the passage with a poststructuralist psychoanalytic lens, I propose that the reader may not only confront the text’s apparent anti-Jewishness, but may also find that this narrative is far less coherent than it seems. Reading with theorists such as Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva, I argue that this textualized Jesus subtly contradicts himself, suggesting a textual unconscious filled with conflict and ambivalence. In fact, by using Genesis 22 as a possible intertext, I demonstrate that it is not necessarily the Jews who resemble “their father the devil” so much as the Johannine Jesus himself.

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