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HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies

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Ancient art, rhetoric and the Lamb of God metaphor in John 1:29 and 1:36

Lilly Nortjé-Meyer

Abstract


Biblical scholars have given diverse explanations for the Lamb of God metaphor in John 1:29 and 1:36. Most scholars are of the opinion that ‘amnos’ refers to the Passover lamb. This explanation is not obvious from the context of the Fourth Gospel. To understand the metaphor ‘lamb’ or ‘amnos’ of God, one should understand the transferable meaning of the figure or image. In this comparison, only the vehicle, namely the lamb, is given. What and who the lamb is stays open. It can be anything within the limits of the other story elements that have the same qualities as a lamb. To uncover the communicative dynamics of the metaphor, the exegete must have insight into the meaning and function of the original metaphor. Rhetoric provides a clue for the interpretation of the metaphor, namely that it is a Lamb of God. Within the pericope other rhetorical clues like antithesis and varietas are also provided. These clues are important but do not explain the image of the lamb. In this study, these problems will be considered via another medium, namely Hellenistic art and images and their penetration into Judaism and Christianity during the 1st century CE. Hellenistic and biblical images will be used to give an alternative interpretation of the metaphor of the Lamb of God.




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