John 20:17

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sat Aug 11 05:36:58 EDT 2001

At 6:30 PM +1000 8/11/01, George Athas wrote:
>The sense of hAPTW is to grab and cling. I think Jesus is simply being
>light hearted at
>this point. Mary has been convinced that he's dead and now his corpse has
>gone missing.
>Suddenly, he's right there next to her, alive. She grabs him and doesn't
>let go, I presume
>out of ecstacy and the desire not to "lose" him. Jesus then simply says
>she needs to let
>go of him so that he can ascend to his Father. In other words, "The way
>you're holding
>onto me, I'll never get to my father in heaven!"

This is an interesting alternative approach to this text, and if the
evangelist really is interested in humor here, I guess we have a master

touch of slapstick: poor Mary Magdalene discovered the tomb empty and,
greatly disturbed, reported the fact to Peter (20:1-2) and the BD who
immediately come and enter the tomb; at least the BD attains faith in the
resurrection (3-9), but they evidently leave poor Mary Magdalene standing
outside the tomb despondent (10-11). We're not told anything about their
reaction to her plight, if there is any (I personally suspect stitching
together of alternative narrative traditions here in a manner making for an
awkward transition). Are we supposed to laugh at the contrast between
Mary's despair and the newfound faith of the men?

I rather think that what the evangelist has chosen to offer us in chapter
20 is stories that present different aspects of faith in the risen Jesus
occasioned by different attitudes on the part of those who come to that
faith. Mary's problem is preoccupation with the corpse--with Jesus' earthly
body; she must overcome that preoccupation if she too is to appreciate the
dimensions of the Easter event, but in order to do so she must be
admonished to stop clinging to Jesus-in-the-flesh: she cannot HOLD him as
the risen Christ until he has ascended. So, rather than the command MH MOU
hAPTOU being a bit of whimsical humor inserted by the evangelist, I think
it is an essential element in his narrative of how Jesus helps her to come
to faith in his resurrection.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

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