The Greek Other: An Investigation of the Social and Ethnic Identity of the Hellēnes in the Fourth Gospel and Its Implications to the Present Migration Crisis
Rex Fullente Fortes
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The term Hellēnes appears in the Gospel of John on two occasions, twice in 7:35 as a reference to those in the dispersion and once in 12:20 as descriptive of those who went up to Jerusalem for the feast. Common among scholarly interpretations is the understanding that its ethnic identity is marked either by genealogical origin/upbringing (either Jewish or non- Jewish) or geographical location (either inhabitants of Palestine or any Greek/Gentile territory). However, analyzing solely the lexeme Hellēnes and its history statically has not satisfactorily explained the use of this term in the Fourth Gospel. What is lacking in order to comprehend better the formation of their group identity as conceived by the evangelist is an investigation of the social dynamics of ethnicity. Accordingly, the Social Identity Approaches (SIA; Henri Tajfel, 1970, and John Turner, 1974) take into consideration the psychology of group formation and the dynamics of an ingroup’s relationship to outgroups, which have already been adopted into biblical analysis beginning with the work of Philip Esler (1994). Along these lines, this paper will adopt the SIA in its inquiry of the socio-ethnic identity of the Hellēnes in the Fourth Gospel. It will first situate them within the context of the first-century Christianity before proposing to identify them as a Jewish outgroup in 7:35 that gradually deviates from their own group toward a possible inclusion to the Johannine ingroup in 12:20. Meanwhile, this biblical interpretation can also be adopted in recovering a normative framework in the present migration crisis where many migrant-refugees are marginalized and dying on a regular basis. Particularly, this paper will propose to address the migration problem within the inclusivist outlook of the Johannine Jesus and ingroup, and will strongly oppose the politicized polarization of the society between the insider-citizens and the outsider-refugees, recognizing that it is one of the serious causes of the worsening of this global crisis.

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