Χειμων in John 10.22

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David Loving
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Χειμων in John 10.22

Post by David Loving » July 21st, 2014, 5:57 pm

Good afternoon,

I have a question about the translation of the word χειμων in John 10.22. NRSV, AB, and virtually all of the others I've consulted give it as "winter," and my Bauer lexicon concurs as "season of bad weather, i.e. winter," which is his second definition. The first is "stormy, bad weather." (This is paraphrase, I don't have the book right here to hand.)

It seems to me that the first definition actually makes more sense. John has already told us that it is the Feast of Dedication (i.e. Hanukkah) which his readers would surely know falls in the wintertime. He notes in the following verse that Jesus and his disciples are walking in the portico of Solomon -- where one might possibly be covered from a rainstorm. To my uneducated eyes, "stormy" makes more sense.

So, my question is, what am I missing? Is there something in the text that I'm not seeing that makes winter the preferable translation. Is it just a sense of how this word is commonly used elsewhere, or is there more?

Thanks for any and all insights,

David
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Χειμων in John 10.22

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 22nd, 2014, 2:36 am

David Loving wrote:John has already told us that it is the Feast of Dedication (i.e. Hanukkah) which his readers would surely know falls in the wintertime.
Is this assumption true in the Diaspora? It could be some obscure celebration (and even more obscure to Gentiles). What do we really know about Hanukkah observance in the first century?
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Χειμων in John 10.22

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 22nd, 2014, 6:05 am

Several times in his gospel John explains Jewish customs. This has led many interpreters to believe that he is writing to a primarily Gentile audience who would not necessarily know when the celebration took place.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Χειμων in John 10.22

Post by Jonathan Robie » July 22nd, 2014, 8:17 am

Both meanings occur in the New Testament. Here's Abbott-Smith:
Abbott-Smith wrote:χειμών, -ῶνος, ὁ [in LXX for גֶּשֶׁם, סְתָו ;]

1. winter: Jo 10:22, II Ti 4:21; gen., χειμῶνος, in winter, Mt 24:20, Mk 13:18.
2. Prop., a winter storm, hence, generally, a storm, tempest: Mt 16:3 (T, WH, R, mg., om.), Ac 27:20.†
So we're down to context. I think most translators have decided that the context favors "winter" here. Meyer says so, without explaining why, listing a bunch of other people who agree with him:
Meyer wrote:κ. χειμὼν ἦν] a remark added for the sake of John's Gentile Christian readers, for whom the statement that it was winter when the festival occurred, would be sufficient to explain why Jesus walked about in Solomon's porch and not in the open air; hence the explanation, stormy weather (Matt. xvi. 3, so Er. Schmid, Clericus, Lampe, Semler, Kuinoel, Lange), is not in harmony with the context.
I don't really understand why it's not in harmony with the context, though.

But I also think the meanings are less distinct than they may seem to us. Winter was the stormy, rainy season. It was winter. Maybe it was stormy - or maybe winter was cold enough to make a little shelter desirable even when it wasn't stormy.

Do we have good information on what winter weather was like in Jerusalem back then?
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Tony Pope
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Re: Χειμων in John 10.22

Post by Tony Pope » July 22nd, 2014, 3:27 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:Several times in his gospel John explains Jewish customs. This has led many interpreters to believe that he is writing to a primarily Gentile audience who would not necessarily know when the celebration took place.
Personally I don't find this explanation convincing. John mentions another Jewish feast in 5.1, which scholars have spent considerable effort in trying to identify. It seems doubtful that John was interested in giving his readers the precise chronological data without which many of us today feel rather uncomfortable.
Jonathan Robie wrote: But I also think the meanings are less distinct than they may seem to us. Winter was the stormy, rainy season. It was winter. Maybe it was stormy - or maybe winter was cold enough to make a little shelter desirable even when it wasn't stormy.

Do we have good information on what winter weather was like in Jerusalem back then?
Spicq has a short article that includes χειμών in his Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, vol. 2 pp. 97-98. (Original French: Lexique Théologique du Nouveau Testament, p. 608 if Google is kind to you.) Two of his data caught my eye:
P. Tebt. 278,46 χιμων γαρ εστι, ψυχος πολυ [it is winter, very cold]

LXX 1 Esdras 9.6 καὶ συνεκάθισαν πᾶν τὸ πλῆθος ἐν τῷ εὐρυχώρῳ τοῦ ἱεροῦ τρέμοντες διὰ τὸν ἐνεστῶτα χειμῶνα.
[Brenton: And all the multitude sat trembling in the broad court of the temple because of the present foul weather.]
[NETS: And the entire multitude sat together in the large open area before the temple, shivering because of present winter.]

(Verse 5 mentions that they gathered on the 20th day of the ninth month, which I believe corresponds to December.)

Surely this clause at the end of John 10.22 is to be taken with the following verse. It seems that John uses the word χειμών not to give the time of year but to set the scene of Jesus walking up and down in the shelter of the colonnade. The weather was at least cold and unpleasant, possibly raining. If it had been a bright, crisp winter's day there would have been no need to mention it.
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