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THE VINE AND BRANCHES DISCOURSE: THE GOSPEL'S PSYCHOLOGICAL APOCALYPSE Gil Bailie Florilegio Institute Man is after something that cannot be possessed. . .. Man cannot "have" being, though he absolutely needs it for living. (Roel Kaptein) The anthropological reading of biblical literature which Girard's mimetic theory makes possible sheds new light on many otherwise inscrutable texts. Prominent among these, due to its centrality as well as its elusiveness, is the prologue to the Gospel ofJohn. For the author of this gospel, the "Word" who was "in the beginning," was "the light" without which humanity remained in darkness—whether it be the darkness ofpre-human existence or the moral and mythic darkness of the sacred violence that accompanied hominization. Girard's work helps us realize that humanity generated its own crude forms of illumination precisely by periodically expelling this light. (A vivid symbolic expression ofthis is the reference to the "lanterns, torches, and weapons" with which the Roman cohort arrested Jesus later in John's Gospel.) The Johannine Prologue conveys its message in an elusively universal yet specifiable idiom: The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what Gil Bailie121 was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who did accept him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or ofthe will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. (1 : 9-13) The ontological theme of these verses deserves attention. If, as Raymond Brown has observed, these verses constitute a "description of the history of salvation in hymnic form," they also contain an anthropological summary of the two, and only two, ontologizing circumstances: the identification, respectively, with the victimizing crowd and with the victim. However occluded the illuminating Logos might have been prior to revelation ofthe Cross, the Johannine prologue tells us that it was present from the beginning. How? The most pertinent scriptural clue seems to be the reference to Christ in the Book of Revelation as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," the innocent One whose victimization finally broke open the seals on the scroll of human iniquity and, in the process, unfettered that iniquity from its ancient restraints. One of the great values of Girard's work is that it makes anthropologically explicit what is poetically implicit in these scriptural innuendoes, namely, the link between the Crucified One and all victims slain "from the foundation of the world." Inasmuch as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" was what made the old humanity possible and, in Christ, what brought the new humanity into being, the third verse of the prologue of John's Gospel becomes anthropologically intelligible: All things came into being through him, not one thing had its being except through him. (1:3) Here the explicit claim that all things came to be through him needs to be read in light of the verses that follow in the prologue, but which I have quoted above. Doing so, we are led to consider the radical difference between the crude and fallacious ontology the ancient sacrificial system was able to underwrite by causing its beneficiaries to identify with the victimizing crowd and the ontological renewal born of an identification with the innocent victim—referred to in the New Testament as a dying with Christ and ritualized in baptism. With equal subtlety, this verse alludes as well to the ineradicable homology between these two forms of 122Vine andBranches ontological sustenance. "All culture is sacrificial," writes Eric Gans, adding: Culture covers a lot of ground, from bear-baiting to attending a performance of Saint Matthew's Passion, but whether we savagely revel in the victim's sufferings or identify with them in the depths of our soul, culture is the founded on them. And so is the being of those involved in these two fundamental forms of identification. Corresponding to the moral difference between the ritual experiences to which Gans refers is an ontological difference...


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pp. 120-145
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