Monday, January 23, 2012


"John" Carson & Moo pp. 225-284

John's Gospel may be variously separated into parts, but generally consists of a prologue (1:1-18), main body (1:19-chapter 20), and an epilogue (chapter 21).

p. 229 "As far as we can prove, the title "According to John" was attached to it as soon as the four canonical gospels began to circulate together as 'the fourfold gospel.'" The author is not mentioned in the gospel itself but the title may have been recognized from the start.

External Evidence
p. 229 "the first writer to quote unambiguously from the fourth gospel and to ascribe the work to John was Theophilus of Antioch (c. A.D. 181)." However we do find quotes from other authors including Tatian, Claudius Apollinaris, and Athenagoras who do not specify the author but consider it an authoritative text.

p. 230 Irenaeus wote, "'John the disciple of the Lord, who leaned back on his breast, published the gospel while he was resident at Ephesus in Asia; (Adv. Haer. 3.1.1). In other words, the name of the fourth evangelist is John and is to be identified with the beloved disciple of John 13:23."

Authorship has been questioned in recent time. p. 233 "The fact remains that, despite support for Johannine authoriship by a few front-rank scholars in this century and by many popular writers, a large majority of contemporary scholars reject this view. As we shall see, much of their argumentation turns on their reading of the internal evidence. Nevertheless, it requires their virtual dismissal of the external evidence. This is particularly regrettable. Most historians of antiquity, other than New Testament scholars, could not so easily set aside evidence as plentiful and as uniform."

Among the external evidence the testimony that causes most doubt is that of Papias, who, as reported by Eusebius, suggests that there were two individuals named John, one of whom was an apostle and the other of whom was an elder, and that the elder, not the apostle, was responsible for the gospel. Recent scholarship has pointed to four reasons an appeal to Papias in this might not be appropriate.

p. 233 "In the terms of Papias, 'the discourses of the elders' means the teaching of Andrew, Peter, and the other apostles." Thus John the elder might well be an apostle.

p. 234 "It is worth noting that "apostle" and "elder" come together with a common referent in 1 Peter 5:1. Indeed, the Greek syntax Papias employs favors the view that 'Aristion and John the elder' means something like "Aristion and the aforementioned elder John.' Not only here but in H.E. 3.39.14 it is John and not Aristion who is designated 'the elder.' In choosing to refer to the apostles as elders, Papias may well be echoing the language of 3 John (on the assumption that Papias thought that epistle was written by the apostle John)."

p. 234 "It appears that the distinction Papias is making in his two lists is not between apostles and elders of the next generation but between first-generation witnesses who have died (what they said) and first-generation witnesses who are still alive (what they say).

Finally, we consider that Euesebius may have had an agenda himself. In his dislike for the apocalyptic teaching of Revelation he may have been wishing to suggest that Papias identified a non-apostolic author for revelation and possibly other writings which seem to be by the same person.

Internal Evidence (for authorship)
p. 237 "The traditional reason seems most plausible: the beloved disciple is non oether than John, and he deliberately avoids using his personal name. This becomes more likely when we remember that the beloved disciple is constantly in the company of Peter, while the Synoptics and Acts not to mention Paul link Peter and John in friendship and shared experience."

Carson and Moo detail several of the objections posed to authorship by John the apostle, most convincingly the objection that John was uneducated and therefore would not be capable of executing a literary work like the gospel. They observe that if he lived to a great age, as tradition seems to indicate, he would have had adequate time to build his skills in any way which would be necessary.

Stylistic Unity and the Johanine "Community"
Some scholars have suggested extensive redaction and source-gathering work prior to the release of John's gospel. The community would have identified the narratives which would be drawn into the gospel and would have modeled the narrative appropriately. Yet there do not seem to be the signs of such work in the gospel itself. There are some specific idiomatic ways of phrasing different concepts, but this is not unheard of within the work of a skilled author.

Geographically, we see suggestions that the gospel came from Alexandria, Antioch, Palestine, or Ephesus. Ephesus is the one location which has ancient testimony supporting it.

Conceptual Provenance
John's Religious World
Consider the conceptual world of Philo, the hermetic writings, Gnosticism, and Mandaism, all of which used a good deal of symbolism and allegory. There are many different movements available which could have influenced the thought life of John. p. 256 "Moreover, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 and their subsequent publication have shown that the closest religious movement to the fourth gospel in terms of vocabulary at least, was an extremely conservative hermetic Jewish community. This is not to say that John springs from the Essenes, thought to be represented by the Dead Sea Scrolls, but tha the appeal to strongly Hellenistic sources is now much less convincing than it was six decades ago."

John's Relation to the Synoptics
John is quite different in some respects from the synoptic gospels. He has more of a focus on Jesus' ministry in the sough than in the north. In John Jesus is very specifically identified as God, while the comparison is a little more oblique in the synoptics. However we find that the content and ideas of the gospels all are remarkably in unity. p. 258 "More impressive yet are the many places where John and the Synoptics represent an interlocking tradition, that is, where they mutually reinforce or explain each other, without betraying overt literary dependence." It appears quite clear that the four evangelists are writing about the very same events, but that they write about them differently. p. 259 "Conversely, numerous features in John are explained by details reported only by the synoptists."

Considering the relationship of John to Mark's gospel, on p. 260 Carson and Moo point out, "Granted the close friendship that Peter and John enjoyed, would it be very likely that either of them would long remain ignorant of a publication for which the other was responsible? Considerations of date then become important. For instance, if Mark was written about A.D. 64, and John within a year or two of that date, then the likelihood of mutual independence is enhanced. But if Mark was written sometime between 50 and 64, and the fourth gospel not until about 80, it is very difficult to believe that John would not have read it. The idea of hermetically sealed communities is implausible in the Roman Empire anyway, where communications were as good as at any time in the history of the world until the nineteenth century."

Do we need to assume an inter-relationship among the different gospels? p. 261 "On its own, John's account makes good historical sense. . . it is John who most persistently catalogues how much the early disciples did not understand, how much they actively misunderstood."

People have suggested a wide variety of dates, from before 70 to the last quarter of the second century. It does make sense that based on chapter 21 we can assume that Peter's death in 64 or 65 was before the composition. There are people who suggest composition very late in the first century, suggestion various reasons why the historical events in Domitian's reign (81-96) would fit well. Tradition says that John lived a very long time. Yet this does not require that the composition bet at the end of his life. Carson and Moo suggest (p. 267) a date between 80 and 85, though they are quite tentative about the dating.

There is no clear destination for this gospel.

While many scholars have suggested many purposes for the gospel of John, the purpose seems to be stated in chapter 20, "that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah."

The text of John, except in a few places, seems quite solid and well documented. The narrative of the woman caught in adultery does not seem to be original, at least not original in its location. Aside from that there are very few passages with significant disputes, none of which cause any overall theological difficulty.

All four canonical gospels were accepted quite solidly by the end of the second century.

John has been subject to many studies of different themes over the generations. In recent years scholars have sought to do literary, social-scientific, and postmodern philosophical studies on the text, or rather on the community which created the text.

John adds a great deal of depth to the picture of Jesus which we receive from the synoptists. The overall picture of Jesus as a fully-functioning person who lives in perfect obedience to the Father so as to die as a substitutionary atonement gives us a more three-dimensional picture of Jesus than we find elsewhere. John is also always concerned with eschatology as well as the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ's people.

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