Wednesday, January 15, 2014

When Did Andrew Get Simon?

Here's a bonus post for the day, which focuses on the gospel lesson for Sunday. (Coincidentally, it's also the gospel lesson for today's Daily Office, so I'm considering this a two-fer.)

When did Andrew go get his brother Simon? Here's the NRSV translation of John 1:39b-41:
They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed).
 To me, the word "first" makes it unclear when Andrew went and found Simon. Was it before he spent the day/night with Jesus? Or is the author trying to tell us that Andrew spent the day/night with Jesus and then went to get his brother Simon first...before he decided to follow Jesus. Anyone have an idea?

Here are some other translations of the same:
It was already about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him and saw where he lived. So they stayed on for the rest of the day. One of the two men who had heard John and had gone with Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother and tell him, “We have found the Messiah!” The Hebrew word “Messiah” means the same as the Greek word “Christ.” (Contemporary English Version)
 So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). (New International Version)
They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him for the day. It was late afternoon when this happened. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus. (The Message)
Of those, the only one that supplies the clarifying interpretation is The Message, but, of course, that version (a paraphrase) incorporates lots and lots of interpretation--supplying missing words or phrases when helpful.

The Greek (yes, Steve Pankey, I went to the Greek) uses the word πρωτος, which means "before." And I take that to mean before following. The other problem, which becomes evident in a comparison of the CEV and NIV, is what the "before" is before. The Greek word in the preceding verse is ακολουθησανθων, which is an aorist active genitive plural, that basically means "of-following." I think that's what the "before" is before--the following--but the CEV seems to disagree by supplying "had gone with Jesus" instead of the "who had followed him." Maybe there's an intentional double-meaning of the word "following," but I think the "before" came after the visit with Jesus and before they chose to follow him (as disciples).

Why is this important? Because it changes the timing of the conversion experience. Did Andrew go and find his brother Peter and say, "We've found the Messiah!" before he had even spent any time with him? Was his belief in Jesus' messiahship purely based on John the Baptist's testimony? Or did Andrew have the experience of spending some time with Jesus before going to his brother in convicted excitement?

Things to think about before Sunday's sermon. Any other thoughts would be much appreciated.


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