The Oxford Handbook of Johannine Studies (Oxford Handbooks) 9780198739982, 0198739982

The contribution of the Johannine literature to the development of Christian theology, and particularly to Christology,

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The Oxford Handbook of Johannine Studies (Oxford Handbooks)
 9780198739982, 0198739982

Table of contents :
The Oxford Handbook of Johannine Studies
1. Introduction
2. The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John
3. Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John
4. John and Other Gospels
5. The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature
6. The Beloved Disciple, the Fourth Evangelist, and the Authorship of the Fourth Gospel
7. The Gospel of John and Archaeology
8. The Jews of the Fourth Gospel
9. The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context
10. The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature
11. The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics
12. The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama
13. Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel
14. Gender and the Fourth Gospel
15. Social-​Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John
16. Symbolism and ‘Signs’ in the Fourth Gospel
17. Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John
18. Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John
19. The Person of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John
20. The Purpose of the Ministry and Death of Jesus in the Gospel of John
21. Faith, Eternal Life, and the Spirit in the Gospel of John
22. Ethics in Community in the Gospel and Letters of John
23. Temple, Festivals, and Scripture in the Gospel of John
24. The Johannine Literature and the Canon
25. Johannine Commentaries in the Early Church
Index Locorum
General Index

Citation preview

T h e Ox f o r d H a n d b o o k o f


The Oxford Handbook of





3 Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, United Kingdom Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries © Oxford University Press 2018 The moral rights of the authors‌have been asserted First Edition published in 2018 Impression: 1 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Control Number: 2018947872 ISBN 978–​0–​19–​873998–​2 Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials contained in any third party website referenced in this work.


The idea of a volume on ‘Johannine Studies’ in the prestigious series of Oxford Handbooks was first suggested to Judith Lieu by Tom Perridge in 2011. That such a volume would be valuable for general interested readers, for students, and for more advanced scholars seemed obvious, especially given the rapid changes in the field in recent decades. Inevitably, other commitments delayed any active response, and thanks are due to Tom for his long patience and support. Martinus de Boer soon agreed to co-​ edit the volume, encouraged by impending retirement, and it is unlikely that the project would have reached completion without the collaboration of two editors. Nearly all of the scholars initially approached swiftly agreed to contribute, and thanks are due to all contributors for their ready responsiveness to the editorial process. We are grateful to the production team at Oxford University Press for their helpfulness throughout the process. Judith M. Lieu and Martinus C. de Boer, October 2017


Abbreviations  Contributors 

ix xiii

1. Introduction  Judith M. Lieu and Martinus C. de Boer


2. The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John  H. A. G. Houghton


3. Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John  Michael Labahn


4. John and Other Gospels  Harold W. Attridge


5. The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature  Martinus C. de Boer


6. The Beloved Disciple, the Fourth Evangelist, and the Authorship of the Fourth Gospel  Tom Thatcher


7. The Gospel of John and Archaeology  Urban C. von Wahlde


8. The Jews of the Fourth Gospel  Adele Reinhartz


9. The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context  Gitte Buch-Hansen


10. The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature  Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer


11. The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics  Alastair H. B. Logan


viii   Contents

12. The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama  Jo-​Ann A. Brant


13. Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel  Warren Carter


14. Gender and the Fourth Gospel  Colleen M. Conway


15. Social-​Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John  Philip F. Esler


16. Symbolism and ‘Signs’ in the Fourth Gospel  Dorothy A. Lee


17. Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John  Jörg Frey


18. Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John  Ruben Zimmermann


19. The Person of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John  Udo Schnelle


20. The Purpose of the Ministry and Death of Jesus in the Gospel of John  331 Jean Zumstein 21. Faith, Eternal Life, and the Spirit in the Gospel of John  Catrin H. Williams


22. Ethics in Community in the Gospel and Letters of John  Jan Van Der Watt


23. Temple, Festivals, and Scripture in the Gospel of John  Bruce G. Schuchard


24. The Johannine Literature and the Canon  Judith M. Lieu


25. Johannine Commentaries in the Early Church  William Lamb


Index Locorum  General Index 

437 459


AB Anchor Bible ABD

Anchor Bible Dictionary


Australian Biblical Review


Anchor Bible Reference Library


Arbeiten zur Geschichte des Antiken Judentums und des Urchristentums


Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt


Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments


Anglican Theological review


Biblical Archaeology Bulletin


Bulletin for Biblical Research


Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensum


Beiträge zur historischen Theologie




Biblical Interpretation


Biblical Interpretation Series


Bulletin of the John Rylands Library


Bibel und Kirche


Biblical Theology Bulletin


Biblical Theology of the New Testament


Bible et terre sainte


Biblische Untersuchungen


Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft


Cahiers de la Revue biblique


Contributions to Biblical Exegesis & Theology


Catholic Biblical Quarterly


Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series


Concordia Commentary


Études bibliques

x   Abbreviations EC

Early Christianity


Eerdmans Critical Commentary


Erträge der Forschung


English translation


Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses


European Journal of Theology


Exegetisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament


Expository Times


Forschung zur Bibel

FRLANT Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neues Testaments HBS

Herders biblische Studien


Handbuch zum Neuen Testament


Harvard Theological Review


Hervormde teologiese studies


Irish Theological Quarterly


Journal of Biblical Literature


Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Journal of Roman Archaeology


Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus


Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period


Journal for the Study of the New Testament


Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series


Jewish Studies Quarterly


Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supplement Series


Journal of Theological Studies


Kritisch-​exegetischer Kommentar über das Neuen Testament (Meyer Kommentar)


Linguistic Biblical Studies


Library of New Testament Studies


Louvain Studies


Münchener theologische Studien


New Century Bible




Nag Hammadi Codex/​Codices

Abbreviations   xi NHS

Nag Hammadi Studies


Novum Testamentum

NovTSup Novum Testamentum Supplement NSBT

New Studies in Biblical Theology


Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen


Novum Testament et Orbis Antiquus


New Testament Monographs


Novum Testamentum Patristicum Series


New Testament Studies


New Testament and the Scriptures of Israel


New Testament Tools and Studies


Oxford Early Christian Studies


Ökumenischer Taschenbuch-​Kommentar


Quaestiones disputatae


Reallexikon für Antike Christentum


Revue Bénédictine


Roehampton Institute London papers


Stuttgarter biblische Aufsatzbände


Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity


Society of Biblical Literature Academia Biblica


Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series


Society of Biblical Literature Early Christian Literature


Society of Biblical Literature Resources for Biblical Study


Studies in the History of Religions


Schriften des Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum


Society of New Testament Studies Monograph Series


Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah


Texte und Arbeiten zum neutestamentliche Zeitalter


Theologischer Handkommentar zum Neuen Testament


Trinity Journal


Theologische Literaturzeitung


Theologie und Philosophie


Theologische Realenzyklopädie


Theologische Rundschau

xii   Abbreviations TS

Theological Studies


Theologische Wōrterbuch zum Neuen Testament


Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament


Vigiliae Christianae


Vigiliae Christianae Supplement

VL Vetus Latina WdF

Wege der Forschung

WMANT Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament WUNT

Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament


Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft


Zacchaeus studies. New Testament


Zeitscrift für Theologie und Kirche

Abbreviations of scriptural and other ancient sources follow conventional practice and are readily identifiable from context.


Harold W. Attridge  is the Sterling Professor of Divinity at Yale University Divinity School. He has engaged in research on Hellenistic Judaism, the Epistle to the Hebrews, Nag Hammadi texts and the Gospel According to John. He is the author of Hebrews: A Commentary (1989) and Essays on John and Hebrews (2010). Jo-​Ann A. Brant  is Professor of Bible and Religion at Goshen College in Goshen Indiana. She is an active member of the Johannine Literature and Ancient Fiction sections of the Society of Biblical Literature and author of Dialogue and Drama: Elements of Greek Tragedy in the Fourth Gospel (2004) and the commentary on John in the Baker Paideia Series (2011). Gitte Buch-​Hansen  is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen. Her research focusses on the relationship between New Testament texts and Hellenistic philosophy. She is the author of ‘It Is the Spirit That Gives Life’ (John 6:63): A Stoic Understanding of Pneuma in John’s Gospel (2010). Warren Carter is Professor of New Testament at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. His scholarly work has focussed on the Gospels of John and Matthew, and particularly in how early Christians negotiated the Roman Empire. He is the author of Telling Tales About Jesus: An Introduction to the New Testament Gospels (2016), John and Empire: Initial Explorations (2008), John: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist (2006), Matthew and Empire (2001), and Matthew and the Margins (2000). Colleen M. Conway  is Professor of Religion at Seton Hall University, NJ. She is the author of Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-​Roman Masculinity (2008), Sex and Slaughter in the Tent of Jael: A Cultural History of a Biblical Story (2016), John and the Johannine Letters (2017). Martinus C. de Boer is Professor of New Testament Emeritus, Vrije Universteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His primary research interests include the Johannine Literature and the Pauline Letters. He is the author of Johannine Perspectives on the Death of Jesus (1996) and Galatians: A Commentary (2011). Philip F. Esler  is the Portland Chair in New Testament Studies in the University of Gloucestershire, at Cheltenham, UK. He specializes in the social-​scientific interpretation of biblical and extra-​biblical texts and ancient legal papyri. He is the author (with Ronald A. Piper) of Lazarus, Mary & Martha: A Social-​Scientific and Theological

xiv   Contributors Reading of John (2006) and Babatha’s Orchard: The Yadin Papyri and an Ancient Jewish Family Tale Retold (2017). Jörg Frey  is Professor of New Testament Interpretation with special focus on Ancient Judaism and Hermeneutics in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Zürich, Switzerland. He is the author of Die johanneische Eschatologie (3 vols., 1997–​200), Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten (2013), Der Brief des Judas und der zweite Brief des Petrus (2015), and Von Jesus zur neutestamentlichen Theologie (2016). H. A. G. Houghton  is Reader in New Testament Textual Scholarship and Director of the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing in the University of Birmingham, UK. He has been a member of the International Greek New Testament Project committee for over a decade, and serves as a General Editor for the Editio Critica Maior of the Pauline Epistles in Greek as well as being an editor of the Vetus Latina edition of John. He is the author of Augustine’s Text of John (2008) and The Latin New Testament: A Guide to its Early History, Texts, and Manuscripts (2016). Michael Labahn is Extraordinary Professor at Martin-​Luther-​University in Halle-​ Wittenberg, Germany, and Extraordinary Associate Professor at North-​West University (Potchefstroom Campus), South Africa. His primary research interests include Q, the Johannine Literature, the Book of Revelation and the religious and cultural context of Early Christianity. He is author of Jesus als Lebensspender. Untersuchungen zu einer Geschichte der johanneischen Tradition anhand ihrer Wundergeschichten (1999), Der Gekommene als Wiederkommender. Die Logienquelle als erzählte Geschichte (2010), and Ausgewählte Studien zum Johannesevangelium. Selected Studies in the Gospel of John (ed. Antje Labahn; 2017). William Lamb  is the Vicar of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, and a former Vice-​Principal of Westcott House, Cambridge, and Affiliated Lecturer, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge. A New Testament scholar with an interest in the development of early Christian commentary, his publications include The Catena in Marcum: a Byzantine anthology of early commentary on Mark (2012) and Scripture: A Guide for the Perplexed (2013). Dorothy A. Lee is Frank Woods Professor of New Testament at Trinity College, University of Divinity, Melbourne, Australia. Her main research interests are the narrative and the theology of the Gospels, particularly the Fourth Gospel. She is the author of Flesh and Glory: Symbol, Gender and Theology in the Gospel of John (2002), A Friendly Guide to the Gospel of Matthew (2012), Hallowed in Truth and Love: Spirituality in the Johannine Literature (2016). Jutta Leonhardt-​Balzer  is Senior Lecturer in the School of Divinity, University of Aberdeen, UK. Her research interests are Philo of Alexandria and Hellenistic Judaism, Qumran, the Johannine Writings and the gnostic Apocryphon of John. She has published widely on Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity.

Contributors   xv Judith M. Lieu  is Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. Her research interests are in the Johannine Literature and in the formation of Christianity in the second century. Recent publications include Marcion and the Making of a Heretic (2015); I, II, III John: A Commentary (Louisville, 2008); Christian Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-​Roman World (2004); Neither Jew nor Greek. Constructing Early Christianity (2002/​2015). Alastair H.  B. Logan is Honorary Research Fellow in Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, UK, having retired in 2008 as Senior Lecturer in Christian Doctrine. His research interests include Gnosticism and early Christian heresy, and early Christian art, architecture, and archaeology. Recent publications include The Gnostics: Identifying an Early Christian Cult (2006). Adele Reinhartz  is Professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, Canada. Her main areas of research are New Testament, early Jewish-​Christian relations, and the Bible and Film. She is the author of Befriending the Beloved Disciple: A Jewish Reading of the Gospel of John (2001), Caiaphas the High Priest (2011), and Bible and Cinema: An Introduction (2013). Udo Schnelle is Professor of New Testament Emeritus, Martin-​Luther-​Universität Halle-​Wittenberg. His research interests include the Pauline and Johannine Literature and the History of Early Christianity. He is the author of Theology of the New Testament (2009), Die ersten 100 Jahre des Christentums (2015), and Das Evangelium nach Johannes (5th edition; 2016). Bruce G. Schuchard  is Professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. His primary research interests are the Johannine Literature and the use of Scripture in the New Testament. He is the author of Scripture within Scripture:  The Interrelationship of Form and Function in the Explicit Old Testament Citations in the Gospel of John (1992) and 1–​3 John (2012). Tom Thatcher  is Professor of Biblical Studies and Dean of the Seminary at Cincinnati Christian University (USA). His research interests focus on the application of social science models to problems in the Gospels and the Johannine Literature, including collective memory and media criticism. He is the author of Why John Wrote a Gospel (2006), and Greater Than Caesar (2009). Urban C. von Wahlde  is Professor of New Testament at Loyola University in Chicago. His main areas of research are the Gospel and Letters of John, including its archaeology. He is the author of The Earliest Version of John’s Gospel: Recovering the Gospel of Signs (1989) and The Gospel and Letters of John (2010). Jan van der Watt  is Professor of New Testament at Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. His primary area of research is the Johannine Literature, particularly its ethics. He is the author of Family of the King. Dynamics of Metaphor in the Gospel according to John (2000) and Introduction to the Johannine Gospel and Letters (2007).

xvi   Contributors Catrin H. Williams  is Reader in New Testament Studies at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter, UK; and Research Associate at the Department of Old and New Testament of the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Her primary area of research is the Gospel of John. She is the author of I am He: The Interpretation of   ’Anî Hû’ in Jewish and Early Christian Literature (2000). Ruben Zimmermann  is Professor of New Testament and Ethics, Protestant Faculty of Theology, Johannes Gutenberg-​University, Mainz, Germany; Chair of the Mainz Graduate school for ‘Time and Ethics’; and Research Associate at the Department of Old and New Testament of the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. His areas of research include the parables, the use of metaphors, the Gospel of John, and ethics in the New Testament. He is the author of Christologie der Bilder im Johannesevangelium (2004) and recently The Logic of Love Discovering Paul’s “Implicit Ethics” through 1 Corinthians (2018). Jean Zumstein  is Professor Emeritus at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Zurich, Switzerland. His areas of specialization are hermeneutics, the Gospel of Matthew and the Johannine Literature. He is the author of Kreative Erinnerung: Relecture und Auslegung im Johannesevangelium (2nd edition; 2004) and L’Evangile selon Saint Jean (2nd edition; 2016).

Chapter 1

Introduc t i on Judith M. Lieu and Martinus C. de Boer

The Gospel and three Letters traditionally ascribed to ‘John’ constitute a clearly coherent and distinctive body of literature within the New Testament. Although 3 John of all the so-​called letters in the New Testament is closest in length and form to the myriads of ephemeral letters from antiquity recovered from the sands of Egypt, it is unmistakeably part of the same family as the account of the life and death of Jesus which ever since the end of the second century ce has been dubbed ‘the spiritual Gospel’. Shared vocabulary and formulations point to a pattern of thought and a world-​view which are immediately recognizable as ‘Johannine’ and which give voice to a unique theological voice. That voice is arguably one of the two most influential sources of subsequent Christian thought, the other being the Pauline corpus. Yet from very early on the Johannine Gospel has been seen as a text to be fought over, startling in its differentness from the other Gospels and yet potentially their apex. Perhaps the earliest extended commentary on a Christian text was on part of the Gospel, that on the Prologue by Ptolemy, followed by one by Heracleon, both of whom were to be labelled heretical soon after if not within their lifetimes. A number of other Christian theologians who were to have lasting influence on the shape of Christian thought, including Cyril of Alexandria and Augustine, wrote commentaries on the Gospel, finding in its vocabulary resources to address the theological debates of their own age. John’s Gospel in particular has most often appeared to resist being constrained by the historical circumstances of its genesis. Although starting with the Johannine literature this introduction has quickly moved to the Gospel in particular. Despite the evident close links between the Gospel and Letters, and the questions to which these give rise, there is little if any explicit evidence that they ever circulated together as did the Pauline corpus. Yet the first author to make extensive use of the Gospel (other than those earliest commentaries), Irenaeus, already reads the first two Letters in close association with the Gospel, and assumes their common authorship, despite their actual anonymity, identifying the author with the Apostle John, son of Zebedee. That identification, long accepted despite some doubts at various times with regard to 2 and 3 John, is just one element in the search for the elusive

2    Judith M. Lieu and Martinus C. de Boer origins of these writings and of their distinctive patterns of thought and language. This handbook will use ‘John’ of the author as of the texts without any commitment as to the actual authorship. There is a particular irony in that a fifth writing, Revelation, which explicitly claims to be by ‘John’, and was early quoted as of apostolic origin (Rev. 1:4; Justin Martyr, Apol. 81.4, ‘John, one of the apostles of Christ’), has had the most chequered history in Christian reception, with the consequence that its authorship by John, the apostle, has most frequently been questioned. As was already recognized in the third century ce, Revelation does not share the same distinctive style, vocabulary, and theological outlook as the Gospel and Letters, and for this reason it is not counted within the ‘Johannine Literature’ for the purposes of this Handbook. Almost every chapter would have to explain that Revelation does not fit alongside the (other) Johannine writings within the topic to hand, and rather warrants separate discussion and a different range of lead themes. There are other writings that claim a close link with the Apostle John, and that demonstrate to varying degrees some affinity with the thought-​world of the Gospel, although perhaps indirectly or by imitation; most notable would be the Acts of John and the Apocryphon of John, both of which may go back to the second century in some form. These also are not discussed in this handbook. Study of the Gospel and Letters of John has reflected, and has been a prime example of, most of the changing faces of New Testament study. Debates about the historical reliability of the Gospel’s account of the ministry of Jesus have continued over much of the last two centuries, changing direction, occasionally as a result of new discoveries, but probably as much because of the different sets of questions or expectations brought to bear, as well as because of changing evaluations of the other Gospels. During the twentieth century, the tendency to see the Johannine literature as the clearest evidence of the move of the early Church into the Greek intellectual culture of the time was overtaken, especially following the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, by recognition of how well it fits within the diverse strains within contemporary Judaism, which themselves were being re-​evaluated. However, as is often the case, the pendulum begins to rebound or stark binary alternatives are reconsidered. Yet those aspects of the Gospel, particularly its dualism and attitude to the world, that attracted its earliest ‘Gnostic’ commentators, reinvigorated at points during the twentieth century by new discoveries, have ensured that its relationship with the ‘heterodox’ systems of thought that move towards Gnosticism, remains a point of lively debate. As the scholarly focus turned more towards the specific circumstances of the writing of each of the Gospels, especially provoked by form and redaction criticism, the Johannine corpus as a whole has stimulated probably the most sustained attempts to trace a specific history of a community whose experiences and developing theology arguably lay behind the texts as handed down. Here each of the Letters has played a key role alongside the Gospel, allowing recognition of their distinctive notes alongside their common voice. While the classic disciplines of source and form criticism, followed by more nuanced theories of literary genre and development, have been a major feature in study of the

Introduction   3 Gospel, and to some degree of 1 John, more recent methods of analysis have found the corpus particularly fruitful ground. Social scientific approaches have contributed to the study of its rhetorical strategies as well as to the socio-​historical circumstances that may lie behind the Gospel and Letters, often in creative combination with attempts to recover and describe the Johannine Community as previously noted. At the same time, the recognition of the ‘Jewishness of John’ was accompanied by awareness of its, according to some uniformly negative, portrayal of those it calls ‘the Jews’, and of the long legacy of this portrayal. Made particularly acute by more profound reflections on the holocaust or shoah, debates about ‘anti-​Jewishness’ or ‘anti-​semitism’ in the New Testament have often started from the Fourth Gospel, and it is here that the discussion has become most nuanced. The Gospel and the community hypothesized as lying behind it continue to play a key role in the still active study of the history of the emergence of ‘Christianity’ from its Jewish roots, while its attitude to Temple, Moses, and Scripture provide a classic example of the complexities of describing what is sometimes short-​handed as the ‘relationship between new and old’. It is a commonplace that ways of reading the New Testament have multiplied and become more diverse particularly since the 1980s, with none maintaining the dominant place once occupied by historical criticism. Again, the Fourth Gospel is a notable example of this; its style and method mean that it has lent itself particularly well to literary and narrative readings, both in relation to specific passages or themes, such as characterization, and in relation to the structure of the Gospel as a whole; it has also invited ideological analysis, while gender-​focussed readings have proved particularly creative and fast-​evolving. The literary alertness involved in such readings has often been associated with a new sensitivity to the richness of John’s symbolic world, allowing for greater reader participation in its effect as opposed to attempts to find a single meaning. While there may be a tendency to categorize these different methods independently, in practice they often overlap and cross-​fertilize each other, ensuring that the Johannine literature continues to be a highly energetic field of study. It has not been possible in this handbook to discuss the ways in which the creative potential of the Gospel has been explored in art, music, or film. The contribution of the Johannine literature to the development of Christian theology, and particularly to Christology, is uncontested, although careful distinction between the implications of its language, especially that of sonship, in a first century ‘Jewish’ context and in the subsequent theological controversies of the early Church has been particularly important if not always easily sustained. In other ways, too, recent study has shaken off the weight of subsequent Christian appropriation of Johannine language which has sometimes made readers immune to the ambiguities and challenging tensions in its thought. Chief among these have been those tensions between present and future eschatology, between individual and community, between the physical reality of Jesus’s experiences and those points at which he appears ‘like a God striding across the earth’, and between the more conventional-​sounding understanding of his death as ‘to take away the sin of the world’ (1:29) and Jesus’ own declaration before that event that he had already fulfilled the task God had entrusted to him, giving eternal life

4    Judith M. Lieu and Martinus C. de Boer to those God had given him, ‘which is to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (17:2–​3). Although much has been made of 1 John’s statement, ‘God is Love’ (1 John 4:8) and of the Johannine emphasis on love as that which unites Father and Son, and believers in relation to one another, others have found in the Johannine literature a striking, and disturbing, ethical deficit. These various topics in the study of the Gospel and Letters are discussed in detail in the chapters that follow. The volume starts with chapters concentrating on discussions of the background and context of the Johannine literature, leading to the different ways of reading the text, and thence to the primary theological themes within them, before concluding with some discussion of the reception of the Johannine literature in the early Church. Inevitably, given their different genres and levels of complexity, some chapters pay most if not all attention to the Gospel, whereas others are able to give a more substantial place to the Letters. All the contributors have themselves made significant contributions to their topic. They have sought to give a balanced introduction to the relevant scholarship and debate, but they have also been able to present the issues from their own perspective. The editors are grateful to all the contributors for the careful attention they have given to their task and for the stimulating insights they have offered. Inevitably, in a field that continues to provoke lively discussion, readers will find different points of view in the various chapters, including on issues where there is overlap between them. The editors have not attempted to hide such disagreements but where possible have directed readers to relevant discussion in other chapters. Readers have the opportunity, therefore, to encounter different approaches and conclusions and to gain a sense of how those differences arise, and perhaps to be helped to come to their own evaluation. The suggestions for further reading will be particularly helpful for those meeting these issues for the first time to explore them further or to hear some of the voices discussed at first hand. The more detailed bibliographies are limited to literature cited within the chapters, but will be a valuable starting point for those wishing to delve more deeply into the topics and debates. No introduction or handbook can hope to be comprehensive, and no doubt there are topics that readers, and indeed the editors, wish could have been included. Even so, we hope that the handbook will help those less familiar with the Johannine literature to get a sense of the major areas of debate and why the field continues to be one of vibrant and exciting study, and that those who are already part of the conversation will find new insights to enliven their own on​going engagement with these writings.

Chapter 2

T he Text of T h e G o spe l and Let ters of J oh n H. A. G. Houghton

Introduction In keeping with the principle of F. J. A. Hort that ‘knowledge of documents should precede final judgement upon readings’ (Westcott and Hort 1881: 31), this chapter consists of two parts. The first offers an overview of the manuscripts and other sources in which the Gospel according to John and the Johannine Letters are transmitted. These provide evidence for how the text was received, copied, and used for over a millennium. It also gives details of current critical editions and developments in textual theory. The second part considers a selection of variant readings, focussing on alternative forms preserved in the textual tradition which are significant for the interpretation of these writings.

The Transmission of the Text Direct Tradition (Greek Manuscripts) Manuscripts of the Greek New Testament range from fragments which may have been copied in the second century to books from the sixteenth century and even later. Nothing has been preserved which has a claim to be written in the hand of the author. Instead, the surviving documents represent later stages in the tradition, following the early intervention of editors. One obvious indication of this is the grouping of writings: most manuscripts consist of the four Gospels, or the Pauline Letters, or, with a greater degree of variety, Acts and the Catholic Letters, sometimes with Revelation. Apart from four remarkable Greek bibles created around the end of the fourth century, manuscripts of the whole New Testament are relatively rare. No early manuscripts

6   H. A. G. Houghton consist solely of the collection of writings ascribed to the Apostle John: instead, they are divided according to the groupings mentioned or transmitted separately. The Gospel is preserved in almost two thousand Greek manuscripts, while there are over six hundred and fifty witnesses to the Catholic Letters. Several of the oldest known Greek New Testament manuscripts feature the Gospel according to John. Originating from Egypt and written on papyrus, they were preserved by the arid climate until their excavation in the early twentieth century. The earliest is a small fragment with just thirty-​two words from John 18, identified in editions of the New Testament as P52 (P.Rylands Greek 457). An almost complete text of the Gospel is preserved in P66 (P.Bodmer II), while P75 (now in the Vatican) contains most of Luke and the first two-​thirds of John. The fragments of P45 (P.Chester Beatty 1) preserve text from all four Gospels and Acts. P22, a third-​century copy of John, is unusual as a Christian manuscript because it is written as a roll rather than in book format (a codex). No fewer than twenty-​six other papyri survive with portions of John in Greek, suggesting that it was the most popular New Testament writing in Egypt. In contrast, the Johannine Letters are only preserved in two papyri: P9 (P.Oxy. III 402), containing fifty-​six words from 1 John, and P74 (P.Bodmer XVII), a manuscript of Acts and the Catholic Letters with fragments from all three Johannine Letters; copied in the seventh century, the latter is one of the latest New Testament papyri. The dating of these manuscripts is based on their styles of writing. Literary texts are normally assigned to a range spanning several decades: although the year 125 has been proposed as the earliest date for the production of P52, it could have been copied at any time up to the early third century, and Nongbri cautions that ‘P52 cannot be used as evidence to silence other debates about the existence (or non-​existence) of the Gospel of John in the first half of the second century’ (2005: 46). What is more, the publication of other papyri since the first editions of these witnesses provides a greater amount of comparative material, which may lead to revisions of their date. For example, although P66 and P75 are traditionally dated around 200, they could be as late as the fourth century (Orsini and Clarysse 2012; Nongbri 2014; 2016). The adoption of parchment, as well as improved techniques in binding, led to the creation of larger books which could contain the entire Greek Bible in one or two volumes. As mentioned previously, four manuscripts of this type survive from the fourth and fifth centuries: Codex Sinaiticus (GA 01), Codex Alexandrinus (GA 02), Codex Vaticanus (GA 03), and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (GA 04).1 These codices, however, are exceptional: most manuscripts written in majuscule script, which was used until around the ninth century, are smaller and only contain part of the New Testament. As with the papyri, the Gospel is much more common than the Letters of John: it is transmitted in fifty-​seven majuscule manuscripts as well as the four complete Bibles; only seven other majuscules have all seven Catholic Letters, with four other Greek fragments preserving


The Gregory-​Aland (GA) register of Greek New Testament manuscripts is maintained online at .

The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John    7 one of the Johannine Letters. Codex Bezae (GA 05 or D) is a bilingual Greek-​Latin manuscript copied around the year 400 which contains the Four Gospels in the so-​ called ‘Western order’, with John second; after these, sixty-​four pages are lost before the final page of 3 John in Latin and the Acts of the Apostles. It has been suggested that the missing portion contained Revelation and the three Johannine Letters (Parker 1992: 8). If this is right, Codex Bezae could be taken as evidence for a collection of the Johannine writings, although the presence of Mark and Luke after John indicates that the corpus was not presented as a unity. The page numbers on a contemporary parchment leaf of 2 John in Greek (GA 0232) have also prompted the proposal that this, too, was preceded by the Gospel and Revelation (Hill 2004: 455–​6). Another example of the ‘Western order’ of the Gospels is GA 032, the Freer Gospels, which features a number of unusual readings. The majority of surviving Greek New Testament manuscripts were written on parchment in minuscule script between the ninth and the sixteenth centuries. The age of a manuscript, however, does not necessarily correspond to the number of generations of intervening copies:  many minuscules are important for the reconstruction of the earliest text. Of the twenty witnesses which stand closest to the initial text of the Catholic Letters, twelve are minuscules (Parker 2012: 87). Just under half of the two hundred and thirty-​three manuscripts selected for the Editio Critica Maior of John are minuscules (Parker et al. 2015: 328). Several of these are scholarly productions, such as catena manuscripts which alternate between biblical text and commentary from early Christian authors. Family 1, a group of related Gospel books including GA 1 and 1582, derives from an archetype in which variant readings were noted in the margin (Welsby 2013). The equivalent witness to Acts and the Letters is GA 1739, copied by the same scribe as GA 1582. Just two late Greek manuscripts contain only the writings attributed to John: GA 743, a catena manuscript copied in the fourteenth century of Revelation, the Johannine Letters, and John, and the fifteenth-​century GA 368 with the order John, Revelation, and Johannine Letters. Both the Gospel and the Johannine Letters are widely attested in Greek lectionary manuscripts containing the passages read during the liturgical year. In the Byzantine system, extracts from John were read between Lent and Pentecost, as well as on certain feast days; the full text of the Johannine Letters is present in certain lectionaries (Osburn 2013: 95 and 108).

Indirect Tradition (Translations and Quotations), Paratext, and Use The first translations of the New Testament, into Latin, Coptic, and Syriac, were made around the end of the second century from Greek manuscripts which no longer survive. Latin texts predating the late fourth-​century Vulgate form are called ‘Old Latin’ or Vetus Latina; the earliest Coptic version is Sahidic, closely followed by Bohairic, Lycopolitan, and Fayumic; two Old Syriac Gospel books, the Curetonian and Sinaitic, came before a standard text known as the Peshitta although the earliest Syriac form of the Gospels was a translation of the Diatessaron, a harmony created from all four canonical Gospels by

8   H. A. G. Houghton Tatian around 170CE. As in Greek tradition, there is no evidence among the early versions for the transmission of the Johannine writings as a unit. Although Gospel books predominate, it should be noted that they vary in order: most Old Latin codices have the ‘Western order’ with John second; in the Curetonian Syriac and an early Sahidic manuscript (sa 1) it is third.2 Several Coptic manuscripts appear only to have contained John, although with fragments it is impossible to be sure: these include three fourth-​ century papyri (two in Lycopolitan, one in Middle Egyptian) and many of the Fayumic witnesses. The only Achmimic papyrus of John (the bilingual P6) combines it with 1 Clement and James, while the earliest Bohairic papyrus (P.Bodmer III) consists of John and the first three chapters of Genesis. In Sahidic, John appears in conjunction with a variety of other biblical books, including portions of Isaiah, Psalms, 1 Corinthians, and Titus (sa 370L, fourth century), or 1 John and 2 Peter (cw 1, fifth century). As with the Greek papyri, the high proportion of surviving texts of John in Coptic shows its popularity in Egypt. The Johannine Letters are less widely attested in the early versions. The oldest witnesses are a number of fourth-​century Coptic papyri of 1 John, either by itself or in combination with other New Testament writings.3 Evidence for the collection of the Catholic Letters is provided by a leaf with 3 John and Jude (sa 617), and an eighth-​century parchment codex of all three Letters of John followed by James (sa 120; this is the standard Coptic order for the Catholic Letters). In Latin, 1 John first appears in fragments from a fifth-​century palimpsest of Revelation, Acts and the Catholic Letters (VL 55)  and seventh-​century additions to an earlier manuscript of Paul (VL 64). The end of 3 John in Latin is found in Codex Bezae, as noted. All three Letters are only found together in whole Bibles: the seventh-​century Léon palimpsest (VL 67), Codex Amiatinus (Vg A, completed in 716), and a ninth-​century copy of a pandect assembled in Rome in the fifth century (VL 7). There is no Old Syriac evidence for the Catholic Letters, and the Peshitta only contains James, 1 Peter and 1 John (identified as ‘The Letter of John’). The four other Catholic Letters, including 2 and 3 John, were probably included in the sixth-​century Philoxenian version, and are also present—​based on a relatively early Greek text—​in the Harclean Syriac completed in 616 (Williams 2013: 153–​4). Versional manuscripts display paratextual features also found in Greek tradition. The earliest evidence for the division of New Testament books into numbered chapters comes from north Africa in the middle of the third century, and no fewer than fifteen series of chapter titles for John are preserved in Latin (Houghton 2011: 327ff.). A set of eighty divisions is attested in Codex Vaticanus, matching certain section markings in P75 (Hill 2015: 232–​4), but most Greek manuscripts from the fifth century onwards have a single set

2  On the Latin tradition, see Houghton 2016; for Coptic, Askeland 2012; for Syriac, Williams 2013. Coptic manuscript sigla are taken from the Schmitz-​Mink-​Richter database available at . Full transcriptions of many versional witnesses to John are available at . 3  E.g. sa 608 with fragments of Ephesians, 1 John, 1 Peter, and James; sa 614 (1 John only); sa 32 (Revelation, 1 John, and Philemon); also cw 1 mentioned previously.

The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John    9 of kephalaia consisting of eighteen titles (titloi) for John. Coptic witnesses usually divide John into forty-​five sections. The Eusebian Apparatus, incorporated into Greek manuscripts from the fourth century onwards, is a system to identify material shared between the four Gospels. It consists of section numbers in the margins (232 in John) and ten initial canon tables with the different permutations of agreement. Jerome states that he was responsible for introducing it into Latin tradition, where it is more widely attested than in Greek; it is also present in Coptic and Syriac. A set of divisions for Acts and all the New Testament letters, accompanied by chapter lists, and other introductory material, is known as the Euthalian Apparatus: this is the most common form of division for the Johannine Letters in Greek, although Codex Vaticanus once again preserves a different system. Sets of prologues and chapter titles became standard for all books in the Latin Vulgate. One paratextual feature peculiar to John is the system of hermeneiai (sortes in Latin). These phrases written in the margins were used for divination and may be loosely connected with the Gospel text. For example, alongside John 2:12, where Jesus orders the servants to fill the wine jars with water, comes the hermeneia ‘believe that your purpose is good’, while at John 6:70 (‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil’), the hermeneia reads ‘through everything hidden the purpose will be made clear’. The principal witnesses to this system are the Latin Codex Sangallensis (VL 7) and the Greek side of Codex Bezae.4 However, the indication ‘hermeneia’ also appears in papyrus fragments of John in Greek and Coptic, and recent studies have proposed that its function is interpretative or liturgical (Jones 2016: 34–​7). The deployment of manuscripts for magical purposes is attested by early Christian writers: in his Commentary on John, Augustine suggests that holding a copy of the Gospel against the head to cure a headache is preferable to the use of an amulet, while one of John Chrysostom’s sermons on John claims that ‘the devil will not dare to approach a house in which a Gospel book is present’.5 Texts from the Gospel and Letters of John in Greek or Coptic (as well as extracts from other biblical books) are also found on folded scraps of papyrus which served as amulets and pieces of pottery (ostraca) from the fourth to the seventh centuries. Miniature codices may have had a similar purpose. Several of the Coptic papyri of John or 1 John fall into this category, as do two Latin copies of the Gospel: VL 33, measuring just 7 by 5½ centimetres, was produced in Italy around the year 500 and later discovered in a reliquary; the Cuthbert Gospel, made in Northumbria in the early eighth century, was enclosed in the saint’s coffin. Quotations in Christian writers also provide indirect evidence for the early text of the New Testament. These references can be assigned a date and location with much greater confidence than manuscripts, although authors may not always have quoted verbatim and their own text may have undergone alteration during its transmission. Various studies examine the text of one or more books of the New Testament in the writings of a 4  Despite their relation to John, in Codex Bezae the hermeneiai are written in Mark (the fourth gospel in this manuscript). 5 Augustine, Tractatus in Iohannis evangelium 7.12; Chrysostom, Homiliae in Iohannem 32.3; see further Gamble 1995: 238.

10   H. A. G. Houghton particular author.6 Online databases of biblical quotations, especially Biblindex () and the Vetus Latina Database, facilitate scholarship on the use of any verse in a particular author. Patristic evidence is also often cited in the apparatus of editions of the New Testament. Commentaries may be a source for the biblical text known to the author as well as their interpretation.7

Modern Editions and Textual Theory Since the invention of printing, the New Testament has largely been treated as a single corpus. Discoveries of older manuscripts and developments in textual theory have enabled the reconstruction of forms of text ever closer to the origins of the tradition, although the earliest period remains the most unclear. In recent decades, progress has been made towards a new scholarly edition of the New Testament based on an analysis of all surviving manuscripts and charting the development of the Greek text during the first millennium. This is the Novum Testamentum Graecum Editio Critica Maior (ECM), which will also provide a revised text for the standard Nestle–​Aland and United Bible Societies’ hand editions. Among the electronic tools used to handle large amounts of data is the Coherence-​Based Genealogical Method (CBGM), an application which assists traditional philological reasoning in establishing the earliest form of text in a tradition for which the construction of a stemma is not possible (Mink 2011; Wasserman and Gurry 2017). The result of this process has been termed the ‘Initial Text’ (Ausgangstext): this represents the earliest text attainable from the surviving evidence, which may or may not be identical with the ‘original’ text of the author. The first volume of the ECM to be published was the Catholic Letters: initial fascicles have now been replaced by a complete revised edition (ECM 2013). The Initial Text from this revision has been adopted in NA28 (2012) and UBS5 (2014), resulting in seven changes to the Johannine Letters (affecting 1 John 1:7, 3:7, 5:10, 5:18; 2 John 5, 12; 3 John 4), and twenty-​seven to the other Catholic Letters. The ECM of John is currently in preparation: separate editions of the Greek papyri and majuscules and the Old Latin tradition appeared in conjunction with this, including online versions with full transcriptions.8 A  related project produced an edition of the Greek text of John in the Byzantine tradition.9 Recent years have seen the publication of another hand edition, the SBL Greek New Testament (SBLGNT; Holmes 2010), which differs from the text of NA28/​ UBS5 in fifty-​five places in John and thirteen places in the Johannine Letters.10 6  Greek writers are listed online at ; for Latin authors, see Houghton 2016: 141–​2. 7  See Chapter 25, William Lamb, ‘Johannine Commentaries in the Early Church’. 8  Elliott and Parker 1995; Schmid, Elliott and Parker 2007; Burton et al. 2011. The online editions are at . 9  Mullen, Crisp and Parker 2007; a Byzantine text of the complete New Testament is offered by Robinson and Pierpont 2005. 10  The Tyndale House Greek New Testament (2017) appeared too late for the present survey.

The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John    11 One of the results of the fuller investigation of the manuscript tradition and analysis with the CBGM has been a move away from the older terminology of geographical text types to describe different forms of Greek text. Reliance on a subset of readings to characterize witnesses as ‘Western’, ‘Alexandrian’, or ‘Caesarean’ has become more difficult to maintain in the face of comparisons of the full text of each manuscript (Parker 2008: 171–​ 4; Elliott 2012:  207–​8). Even certain readings considered typical of later, ‘Byzantine’ witnesses have been shown to be present in the earliest stratum of the text, a development welcomed by advocates of the priority of the Byzantine or Majority Text, although Wachtel’s detailed analysis of the Catholic Letters (1995) has shown that the Byzantine form was the result of a lengthy process of development. The predominant methodology in New Testament textual criticism continues to be that of ‘reasoned eclecticism’, taking into account both external evidence (e.g. the age and number of manuscripts) and internal evidence (e.g. transcriptional probability and stylistic criteria):  alternative approaches include ‘thoroughgoing eclecticism’, based solely on internal criteria, and those who privilege the quantitative superiority of attestations of the Majority Text.11 The attempt by Boismard and Lamouille (1993–​96) to reconstruct the text of a ‘pre-​Johannine’ Gospel based on abbreviated quotations in a recension of Chrysostom’s Homilies was abandoned after five chapters.

Selected Passages The textual tradition of the Gospel and Letters of John is relatively consistent, unlike, for example, the different recensions of the Acts of the Apostles (see Chapa 2012: 154–​7 and Elliott 2012: 224). Nevertheless, variant readings are attested in every verse and certain phrases or passages are missing from some witnesses. A selection of these is treated in the following sections, referring back to the sources described in Part One. It should be emphasized that this is only a subset comprising well-​known differences and illustrations of common types of variation, with the philological reasoning which is applied to decide between them: reference should always be made to the critical apparatus of scholarly editions for a fuller picture, which may be supplemented by individual studies or a commentary such as Metzger (1994). Translations are based on the NRSV.

The Opening of the Gospel (John 1) The initial verses of the Gospel are some of the most stable in the whole of New Testament tradition. One aspect of the manuscript tradition which has often been overlooked, however, is the extent of the first section. Despite the layout of most modern printed texts, the first eighteen verses are rarely if ever treated as a unit in antiquity. Instead, the 11 

See further, Wallace 2013, Holmes 2013, and Elliott 2013.

12   H. A. G. Houghton first five verses constitute the opening section, and there is no major break after John 1:18 (Williams 2011). Identifying this passage as the ‘Prologue’ is therefore problematic. Punctuation and word division are relatively scarce in early manuscripts (cf. John 8:25 illustrated in this section); modern verse numbering was only introduced in printed editions and does not always correspond to the earliest interpretations. Many ancient sources take the last two words of John 1:3 (ὃ γέγονεν) with the following phrase, to read ‘What was made in him was life . . .’. In one strand of early Latin tradition, with some Old Syriac support, John 1:13 is read as singular (‘who was born, not of blood . . .’): the effect of this is to interpret Christ, the implied subject of the preceding phrases, as the subject of this as well. Tertullian even criticizes the plural reading as an alteration by heretics to make the verse refer to themselves (De carne Christi 19.2).

The Chosen Son or God (John 1:18; 1:34) The following four readings in John 1:18 are all attested in early Greek tradition: μονογενὴς θεός (‘only-​begotten God’); ὁ μονογενὴς θεός (‘the only-​begotten God’); ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (‘the only-​begotten Son’); εἰ μὴ ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (‘except the only-​begotten Son’).

The first reading, adopted as the editorial text in NA28/​UBS5, is the most difficult both in terms of sense and grammar, with the implication that God could be begotten and the absence of the article. It occurs in P66 and Codices Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Ephraemi Rescriptus. The other forms seem to be attempts to simplify this, beginning with the addition of the article ὁ in P75 and an early corrector of Codex Sinaiticus; the third reading appears in the majority of Greek manuscripts. Nevertheless, Ehrman maintains that ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός is the earliest form, based on the internal criterion of Johannine usage (2011: 78–​82). Although the commonest form of John 1:34 is ‘this is the Son of God’ (οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ), the first hand of Codex Sinaiticus has ‘Chosen One’ (ἐκλεκτός) in place of ‘Son’: this also seems to be the reading of P5 and P106. An early corrector of Sinaiticus added υἱός, resulting in the conflate reading ‘Chosen Son’ paralleled in some Old Latin, Sahidic, and Palestinian Syriac manuscripts. Other Old Latin witnesses and both Old Syriac Gospel books support ‘Chosen One’ by itself. This strikingly broad attestation and the lack of an obvious Synoptic parallel make this reading worthy of attention: although Metzger (1994: 172) suggests that the terminology is not Johannine, Quek (2009) argues in favour of ἐκλεκτός and it is adopted in the SBLGNT and by Ehrman (2011: 69–​70).

The Kingdom, the Spirit, and Heaven (John 3:5–​13) The similar phrases in this pericope have led to harmonizations: in John 3:5, some manuscripts read ‘see’ rather than ‘enter’, while in John 3:8 they have ‘water and the spirit’. The

The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John    13 substitution of ‘the kingdom of the heavens’ for ‘the kingdom of God’ in 3:5, however, derives from the Synoptic parallel. One Greek minuscule (GA 1344) adds ‘for God is Spirit’ at the end of John 3:6: this harmonization with John 4:23 is more widely attested in the Latin tradition and also appears in the Curetonian Syriac. At the end of John 3:13, after ‘the Son of Man’, the majority of Greek manuscripts and representatives of all three early versions add ‘who is in heaven’ (ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ). This is a difficult—​and therefore potentially original—​reading because it poses a conflict with the rest of the sentence which an editor might have sought to remove. Nevertheless, the formulaic nature of the phrase and its absence from the oldest Greek manuscripts have led to its being characterized as a secondary gloss (Metzger 1994: 174–​5); an alternative in a few late manuscripts, ‘who is from heaven’ (ὁ ὢν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ), seems to be an attempt to make the addition fit better with the context.

The Pool and the Angel (John 5:2–​4) There is a remarkable concentration of variants in this pericope. Greek manuscripts are divided as to whether the pool is ‘by’ (ἐπί), ‘in’ (ἐν), or is identified with the Sheep Gate, which is sometimes translated in Latin as ‘the lower part’. Proper nouns are always confusing for copyists not familiar with the original language: most Greek sources read ‘Bethesda’, but P66, P75, Codex Vaticanus and other early witnesses have ‘Bethsaida’. Codex Bezae and some Old Latin Gospel books have ‘Belzetha’, but modern editors accept ‘Bethzatha’, present in Codex Sinaiticus and a different early Latin tradition. A large number of witnesses include ‘great’ (πολύ) after ‘multitude’ in John 5:3, harmonizing it to Synoptic parallels. The list of the sick sometimes features ‘paralytics’, a later adjustment in order to ensure the inclusion of the man healed in this passage even though this is the only time the word appears in John. Similarly, the majority of manuscripts include the information that the sick were ‘expecting the stirring of the water’ as well as the whole of 5:4 with the descent of the angel into the pool. Both of these represent expansions which make the rest of the passage smoother yet use non-​standard vocabulary for John: their secondary character is confirmed by their absence from the papyri, three of the fourth-​ century bibles, and the early translations.

Authority, Ability, and Secrecy (John 7:1, 7:8) Part of the Old Latin tradition and the Curetonian Syriac state in John 7:1 that Jesus ‘did not have power’ rather than ‘did not wish’ to walk in Judea. In Greek, this is found in the Freer Gospels and manuscripts of the catena by Nicetas of Heraclea: the latter is often dependent on Chrysostom, who also attests this variant. Despite its surprising sense, the appearance of the same phrase elsewhere means that it may be explained as a harmonization (e.g. John 10:18, 19:10; cf. Mark 2:10, 3:15 and parallels): external evidence favours ‘did not wish’ as original. However, John 7:8 provides an example of an adjustment of the text as early as the oldest surviving manuscripts: P66, P75, and Codex Vaticanus all

14   H. A. G. Houghton have Jesus saying that he will ‘not yet go up to the festival’. This seems to be a deliberate attempt to remove the inconsistency with John 7:10, when Jesus does go up to the festival: it is more difficult to explain why ‘not yet’ (οὔπω) would be changed to ‘not’ (οὔκ) in this context. Furthermore, the presence of ὡς (‘as if in secret’) in John 7:10 has a similar attestation, and may represent a similar intervention by an early editor to reduce the contrast with the rest of the narrative.

The Woman Taken in Adultery (John 7:53–​8:11) The story of the Woman Taken in Adultery (the Pericope Adulterae) was not part of the earliest text of John. It is missing from all Greek manuscripts prior to Codex Bezae and from the earliest Latin, Syriac, and Coptic witnesses; it is rarely quoted by Greek writers; it also displays linguistic differences from the rest of the Gospel (see Becker 1963). The passage is found in different positions in certain groups of Greek manuscripts: in Family 1 it occurs at the end of John; in Family 13 it appears after Luke 21:38; other manuscripts place it after John 7:36. This, as well as the textual variation within the passage, is typical of a floating piece of tradition which was only incorporated at a relatively late stage. Nevertheless, among the abundant recent literature on this passage (e.g. Black and Cerone 2016) are renewed claims that it was originally part of John or one of the other canonical Gospels, and even that copyists sometimes left marks to indicate that it was deliberately omitted: the latter is not customary in ancient copying practice.

Jesus the Beginning? (John 8:25); An Acclamation of Faith (John 9:38–​39) The absence of word division and punctuation in the earliest Greek manuscripts means that John 8:25, translated as ‘Why do I speak to you at all?’ (with ὅτι) could also be read as ‘What I have told you from the beginning’ (ὅ τι): the latter is adopted in NA28 and the SBLGNT. Metzger (1994: 191) notes that it may even be interpreted as an exclamation. Uncertainty about this phrase may underlie an early correction in P66, prefacing it with εἶπον ὑμίν: ‘I said to you at the beginning that which I am also telling you’. The first hand of Codex Sinaiticus includes ἕν (‘I tell you one thing’, or possibly an erroneous ἐν, ‘in’). The ambivalent case of the Latin word for beginning adds to the confusion: in most Latin versions, Jesus claims that he is ‘the beginning who speaks to you’. All of John 9:38 and part of 9:39 are absent from a variety of early witnesses, including P75, the first hand of Codex Sinaiticus, the Freer Gospels, and Latin, and Coptic manuscripts. This has led to the suggestion that the acclamation of faith and the act of worship by the man born blind are a later addition (Brown 1966: 375). An accidental omission early in the tradition or an editorial intervention to remove the interruption from Jesus’ discourse could also explain the pattern of preservation. ᾽Έφη is very rare in John and it

The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John    15 is intriguing that P75 and the Freer Gospels are two of the four manuscripts which feature it in a truncated introduction to the same man’s question at 9:36: this abbreviation might be connected with the omission of his next intervention, and the fuller form at both places is retained in all current editions.

Martha and Mary (John 11) Schrader (2017) suggests that confusion between Mary and Martha and fluctuations in the number of sisters in the manuscript tradition (e.g. the absence of Martha from Codex Alexandrinus in 11:1 and from P66 in 11:3) might derive from an early form of text from which Martha was absent. The similarity in the names Μαρία and Μάρθα is likely to have led to copying errors, but a significant minority of Greek manuscripts read Μαριάμ, ‘Mariam’ instead of ‘Mary’, which is more distinctive: this form is adopted throughout John 11 in NA28/​UBS5, although less unanimity is displayed in John 19–​20. The presence of Martha at some point in every witness indicates that any such reworking precedes the earliest consistent text which can be reconstructed. Still, it remains possible that early redactional activity could leave traces of this sort.

Repetitions (John 13:32, 14:14) The first clause of John 13:32, ‘if God has been glorified in him’, is missing from a wide range of early witnesses, including P66, three of the four early Greek Bibles and the Latin, Syriac, and part of the Coptic tradition. It is unclear whether this is an omission resulting from skipping between identical words (an error known as ‘eyeskip’ or ‘homoeoteleuton’), the excision of repetitive material by an early editor, or the oldest form of text. As similar duplications are found later in this discourse (e.g. 13:34; 14:2–​3; 14:10–​11) the phrase may be original. A comparable example involves John 14:14, which reproduces much of the previous verse and is missing from some Greek, Latin, and Syriac witnesses. Even the earliest surviving manuscripts of John 14:14, P66, and P75, appear to be subject to influence from John 14:13 with the addition of τοῦτο (‘this’); most others omit με, ‘me’, for the same reason.

The Trial and Crucifixion (John 18–​19) There is evidence in a few Greek minuscules of an attempt to rearrange John 18:13–​27 in order to make sense of references to the high priest preceding Jesus’ appearance before Caiaphas and bring the account into line with the Synoptic Gospels. The Sinaitic Syriac also has a variation in this sequence, which may reflect the Diatessaron, while some Latin manuscripts read ‘to Caiaphas’ rather than ‘from Caiaphas’ in 18:28, and others substitute Pilate for Caiaphas. While all of this is secondary, it demonstrates concern

16   H. A. G. Houghton for the narrative sense and the extent of rearrangement which some editors were prepared to implement. Synoptic harmonization is also the best explanation for the variant reading at John 19:14 where, despite overwhelming evidence in support of ‘the sixth hour’, some majuscules and lectionaries read ‘the third hour’ as at Mark 15:25. Variants are attested for several of the key words in John 19:28. The Greek tradition is split between Jesus ‘seeing’ (ἴδων) rather than ‘knowing’ (εἰδώς) that everything was fulfilled, while the word ‘now’ is absent from the Freer Gospels, Family 1, and representatives of the three early versions. Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Bezae, and Family 1 and 13 offer a different word for ‘fulfilled’, πληρωθῇ instead of τελειωθῇ: both occur elsewhere in John, but the former is the preferred term in the Synoptics, which may have led to the substitution here. P66 and some early Coptic manuscripts lack the phrase ‘in order to fulfil the scripture’, which may be a deliberate omission (Ehrman 2011: 194). In the next verse, the interpretative difficulties of the reference to hyssop seem to have led to variations. At least two late Greek manuscripts read ὑσσῷ (‘on a javelin’, GA 476 and L32): this may simply be the accidental omission of two letters from ὑσσώπῳ (‘on hyssop’), although perticae (‘on a pole’) in a group of Old Latin manuscripts suggests that the reading may been current earlier (see also Parker 1997: 176–​7). A few Greek witnesses add καλάμῳ (‘on a reed’) to this phrase, probably reflecting the account in the Synoptics (Matt. 27:48, Mark 15:36). An ancient alternative for μίγμα (‘mixture’) in John 19:39 is ἕλιγμα (‘wrapping’): its attestation is restricted to Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, the Freer Gospels, and possibly one Old Latin manuscript; although this technical medical term is the more difficult reading, adopted by Westcott and Hort (1881), other editions have preferred the prevalent form.

The Final Chapter of the Gospel (John 21) There is no secure evidence in the textual tradition for copies of the Gospel which omit the final chapter, despite the apparent conclusion at John 20:31. The outer pages of manuscripts are most vulnerable to loss, so a blank space or a colophon would need to be present to indicate the end of the book. The one Coptic manuscript which has a gap following John 20:31, the fourth-​century sa 66, appears to be an amulet which only contained this passage rather than an otherwise complete text of the Gospel. An insertion from Luke 5:5, another episode with a miraculous catch of fish, is found following Jesus’ words in John 21:6. This entered the tradition at a very early date, as it is already found in P66 as well as a correction to Codex Sinaiticus.12 Another harmonization appears in John 21:13, where Codex Bezae, some Latin manuscripts, and the Sinaitic Syriac include the detail that Jesus ‘gave thanks’ before he distributed the bread (cf. John 6:11). The alternative words used for ‘love’, ‘feed’, and ‘sheep’ in the three questions and answers at John 21:15–​17 also cause confusion for copyists, and were only occasionally observed in early versions (Houghton 2014; Royse 2015). Although the majority 12 

For a comparable example of a parallel verse introduced into P75 by an early reader, see Schmid 2008: 16–​23.

The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John    17 of manuscripts read ‘Simon, son of Jonah’ in these verses and John 1:42, this is generally thought to be a harmonization to Matthew 16:17. The oldest witnesses to each of the four verses agree on ‘Simon, son of John’, although the variation ‘son of Joanna’ is also found on every occasion.

Our Joy or Yours? (1 John 1:4) The sound change known as itacism meant that the vowels η, υ, and οι came to be pronounced identically. One of the most commonly affected pairs of words is the plural pronouns ‘we’ and ‘you’, ἡμεῖς and ὑμεῖς. Other grammatical information, such as the person of the verb, often indicates the correct form. Yet there are also occasions, as in 1 John 1:4, where either form could stand. In this case, the external evidence is divided: both forms are attested in early manuscripts, and the alteration could easily have been made independently on different occasions. The editors of the ECM believe that either form could be original, and place both in ‘a split primary line’ (ECM 2013: 34*): this is indicated by the diamond symbol in the text of NA28 and UBS5. In such cases, a decision must be made on the basis of style and sense: it is interesting to note that the editors of UBS4 were confident of the first-​person plural in this verse (Metzger 1994: 639). Another sound change led to the convergence of ο and ω, which particularly affects subjunctives: ‘let us write’ is also found alongside ‘we write’ in this verse (γράφωμεν for γράφομεν), although the context and its restriction to late minuscule manuscripts indicates that this is secondary.

Additions and Omissions (1 John 2:17; 2:23; 3:1) The early versions of the Catholic Letters are marked by a number of expansions. One example of this is the addition of ‘just as God remains for ever’ at the end of 1 John 2:17 in Latin and Sahidic witnesses. Although these are interesting for the reception of the letter, their lack of Greek attestation means that they have little claim to constitute the earliest text. Conversely, the initial five words and the latter part of 1 John 2:23 are absent from later Greek tradition. Their widespread attestation in earlier manuscripts and biblical translations indicate that this is a later omission because of homoeoteleuton (see John 13:32 previously mentioned) rather than a gloss. The words ‘and that is what we are’ (καὶ ἐσμέν) in 1 John 3:1 are also missing from the majority of Greek manuscripts and some versions: although this could be interpreted as a gloss, the presence of the text in all majuscules once again supports its authenticity.

Acknowledging or Dissolving Jesus (1 John 4:3) One of the most interesting variants in the Johannine Letters is λύει (‘dissolves’) rather than μὴ ὁμολογεῖ (‘does not confess’) in 1 John 4:3. Its only appearance in a Greek

18   H. A. G. Houghton manuscript is as an alternative noted in the margin of GA 1739, but it is also found in quotations of this verse by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and other early Greek writers, and in the Latin tradition including the Vulgate. The universal attestation of μὴ ὁμολογεῖ in Greek manuscripts and its parallelism with the previous verse suggest that it is original, although the majority of manuscripts (including Codex Sinaiticus) take the parallelism yet further by repeating ‘has come in the flesh’ (ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα) from 4:2. Metzger suggests that the substitution with λύει was doctrinally motivated, in order to counter Gnosticism in the second century (1994: 645; see also Ehrman 2011: 125–​35).

The Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7–​8) The expansion of these verses to specify three witnesses in heaven, ‘the Father, the Word, and Holy Spirit’, while identifying spirit, water, and blood as the witnesses ‘on earth’ is best explained as one of the many versional glosses in the Catholic Letters (compare 1 John 2:17 previously discussed, or 5:20). It is first attested in Latin tradition in the fourth century, but does not appear in Greek until the sixteenth century: one of the minuscule manuscripts in which it is found, GA 61, is likely to have been created in response to Erasmus’ omission of these words from his edition, although there is no evidence that he suspected this nor that he had promised to include the text if a Greek witness could be found (de Jonge 1980). The dependence of GA 61 on a Latin source is shown in 1 John 5:6, where it reads ‘Christ’ rather than ‘Spirit’ because of a similarity peculiar to the Latin nomina sacra abbreviations (xps and sps). Nevertheless, Erasmus’ subsequent adoption of the expansion led to its inclusion in the printed edition of the Greek New Testament known as the Textus Receptus; it is rejected by modern editors.

Christ or the Believer? (1 John 5:18) In 1 John 5:18, a variation is found between the reflexive ἑαυτόν, ‘guards himself ’, which interprets the believer as ‘the one born from God’ (ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ), and αὐτόν, ‘guards him’, which implies Christ as the subject. On internal grounds, the latter is more probable: appearing in Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Vaticanus and the Latin translations, αὐτόν is adopted in the SBLGNT as well as NA27/​UBS4. Ehrman believes that ἑαυτόν was a deliberate change in order to prevent an adoptionistic reading of Christ as ‘born from God’ (2011: 70–​1). However, following the application of the CBGM, the ECM, followed by NA28 and UBS5, accepts ἑαυτόν, found in Codex Sinaiticus, as the Initial Text.

What was Written? (3 John 9) The oldest attested reading of 3 John 9 is ἔγραψά τι, ‘I have written something’. In the majority of Greek minuscules and the Latin Vulgate, however, τι is replaced by ἄν, ‘I would

The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John    19 have written’. Other witnesses have both τι and ἄν, and others neither. The underlying reason for the variations appears to have been a concern to avoid implying that another letter of John had been lost, or that John, despite his eminence, was prevented from writing by Diotrephes. The earliest reading is therefore also the most compelling on internal grounds.

Conclusion After several decades of a common editorial text in the standard editions of the Greek New Testament, diversity is being reintroduced both in new printed editions (such as the ECM and SBLGNT) and through recovering an awareness of manuscripts as individual artefacts with textual and historical importance. The haphazard preservation of documents, particularly from the earliest period of transmission, means that it is often difficult to assess the extent to which surviving material is representative of the whole tradition. For example, there is minimal evidence for the circulation of the Gospel and Letters of John in the same manuscript, but early collections of Johannine writings cannot be entirely ruled out. The same limitation underlies debates about the nature of a reconstructed text and the extent to which this may be identified with a single authorial ‘original’; it also affects methods of grouping witnesses, and explanations of how and why variant readings were introduced. While the digital medium has made source material available to a far wider audience than ever before, the interpretation of this evidence and its situation within the textual tradition still require appropriate philological expertise. Editors using electronic tools are expected to work to high standards of transparency, with innovative methods such as the CBGM subjected to careful scrutiny. Nevertheless, the modern ability to handle and present ever greater amounts of material means that, even though the earliest history of the New Testament may often remain a matter for conjecture, knowledge of the surviving documents and their significance is gradually becoming an integral part of engaging with the text and its interpretation and reception.

Suggested Reading Among several single-​volume introductions to the text of the New Testament, Parker (2008) is best on the state of the art, which may be explored further in the chapters by specialists in Wachtel and Holmes (2011) and Ehrman and Holmes (2013): the latter is particularly helpful on the early versions. Hill and Kruger (2012) provides a consideration of the earliest surviving sources for each New Testament book. Parker (1997) is the classic exploration of the theological significance of textual variation; Ehrman (2011) assembles numerous potential examples, although his analysis of many of these has been contested. The rationale behind many of the editorial decisions in the current hand editions is presented by Metzger (1994); this will be superseded by commentaries accompanying the ECM. On the process of producing the ECM and broader issues in the evidence for the New Testament, see Parker (2012).

20   H. A. G. Houghton

BIBLIOGRAPHY Askeland, Christian, 2012. John’s Gospel. The Coptic Translations of its Greek Text. Berlin: De Gruyter. Becker, Ulrich, 1963. Jesus und die Ehebrecherin. Untersuchungen zur Text und Überlieferung von Joh. 7,53–​8,11. Berlin: Töpelmann. Black, David A. and Cerone, Jacob N. (eds.), 2016. The Pericope of the Adulteress in Contemporary Research. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark. Boismard, Marie-​Émile and Lamouille, Arnaud, 1993–​6. Un Évangile pre-​johannique. 3 vols. Paris: Gabalda. Brown, Raymond E., 1966. The Gospel According to John. Anchor Bible 29; Garden City, New York: Doubleday. Burton, P. H., Houghton, H. A. G., MacLachlan, R. F., and Parker, D. C. (ed.), 2011. Evangelium secundum Iohannem. VL 19; Freiburg: Herder. Chapa, Juan, 2012. ‘The Early Text of John’, in Charles E. Hill and Michael J. Kruger, (eds.), The Early Text of the New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 140–​56. de Jonge, Henk Jan, 1980. ‘Erasmus and the comma Johanneum’, ETL 56: 381–​9. ECM, 2013. Novum Testamentum Graecum. Editio Critica Maior. (ed. Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung). IV. Die Katholischen Briefe/​Catholic Letters. Second edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. Ehrman, Bart D., 2011. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. Second edition. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Ehrman, Bart D. and Holmes, Michael W. (eds.), 2013. The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research. Second edition. Leiden: Brill. Elliott, J. K., 2012. ‘The Early Text of the Catholic Epistles’, in Charles E. Hill and Michael J. Kruger (eds.), The Early Text of the New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 204–​24. Elliott, J. K., 2013. ‘Thoroughgoing Eclectism in New Testament Textual Criticism’, in Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research. Second edition. Leiden: Brill: 745–​70. Elliott, W. J. and Parker, D. C., 1995. The New Testament in Greek IV. The Gospel According to St John. Volume One. The Papyri. NTTS 20; Leiden: Brill. Gamble, Harry Y., 1995. Books and Readers in the Early Church. A History of Early Christian Texts. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Gurtner, Daniel M., Hernández Jr, Juan, and Foster, Paul (eds.), 2015. Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity. Leiden: Brill. Hill, Charles E., 2004. The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church. Oxford:  Oxford University Press. Hill, Charles E., 2015. ‘Rightly Dividing the Word: Uncovering an Early Template for Textual Division in John’s Gospel’, in Daniel M. Gurtner et al. (eds.), Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity. Leiden: Brill: 217–​38. Hill, Charles E. and Kruger, Michael J. (ed.), 2012. The Early Text of the New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Holmes, Michael W. (ed.), 2010. The Greek New Testament. SBL Edition. Atlanta: SBL. Holmes, Michael W., 2013. ‘Reasoned Eclectism in New Testament Textual Criticism’, in Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research. Second edition. Leiden: Brill: 771–​802. Houghton, H. A. G., 2011. ‘Chapter Divisions, Capitula Lists, and the Old Latin Versions of John’, RBén 121: 316–​56.

The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John    21 Houghton, H. A. G., 2014. ‘A Flock of Synonyms? John 21:15–​17 in Greek and Latin Tradition’, in Peter Doble and Jeffrey Kloha, (eds.), Texts and Traditions. Essays in Honour of J. Keith Elliott. Leiden: Brill: 220–​38. Houghton, H. A. G., 2016. The Latin New Testament: A Guide to its Early History, Texts and Manuscripts. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jones, Brice C., 2016. New Testament Texts on Greek Amulets from Late Antiquity. London: T&T Clark. Metzger, Bruce M., 1994. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Second edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. Mink, Gerd, 2011. ‘Contamination, Coherence, and Coincidence in Textual Transmission: The Coherence-​Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) as a Complement and Corrective to Existing Approaches’, in Klaus Wachtel and Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Textual History of the Greek New Testament: Changing Views in Contemporary Research. Atlanta: SBL: 141–​216. Mullen, R. L, with Crisp, S., and Parker, D. C. (eds.), 2007. The Gospel according to John in the Byzantine Tradition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. NA28, 2012. Nestle-​Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, ed. Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung. 28th revised edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. Nongbri, Brent, 2005. ‘The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel’, HTR 98: 23–​48. Nongbri, Brent, 2014. ‘The Limits of Palaeographic Dating of Literary Papyri: Some Observations on the Date and Provenance of P. Bodmer II (P66)’, Museum Helveticum 71: 1–​35. Nongbri, Brent, 2016. ‘Reconsidering the Place of Papyrus Bodmer XIV–​XV (P75) in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament’, JBL 135: 405–​37. Orsini, Pasquale and Clarysse, Willy, 2012. ‘Early New Testament Manuscripts and Their Dates: A Critique of Theological Palaeography’, ETL 88: 443–​74. Osburn, Carroll, 2013. ‘The Greek Lectionaries of the New Testament’, in Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research. Second edition. Leiden: Brill: 93–​113. Parker, D. C., 1992. Codex Bezae. An Early Christian Manuscript and its Text. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Parker, D. C., 1997. The Living Text of the Gospels. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Parker, D. C., 2008. An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and their Texts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Parker, D. C., 2012. Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Parker, D. C., Wachtel, Klaus, Morrill, Bruce and Schmid, Ulrich, 2015. ‘The Selection of Greek Manuscripts to be Included in the International Greek New Testament Project’s Edition of John in the Editio Critica Maior’, in Daniel M. Gurtner et al., (eds.), Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity. Leiden: Brill: 287–​328. Quek, Tze-​Ming, 2009. ‘A Text-​Critical Study of John 1.34’, NTS 55: 22–​34. Robinson, Maurice A. and Pierpont, William G. (eds.), 2005. The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform. Southborough: Chilton. Royse, James R., 2015. ‘A Text-​Critical Examination of the Johannine Variation’, in Daniel M. Gurtner et al. (eds.), Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity. Leiden: Brill: 258–​86. Schmid, U. B., 2008. ‘Scribes and Variants—​ Sociology and Typology’, in H. A.  G. Houghton and D. C. Parker (eds.), Textual Variation:  Theological and Social Tendencies? Piscataway: Gorgias: 1–​23.

22   H. A. G. Houghton Schmid, U. B. with Elliott, W. J., and Parker, D. C., 2007. The New Testament in Greek IV. The Gospel According to St John. Volume Two. The Majuscules. Leiden: Brill. Schrader, E., 2017. ‘Was Martha of Bethany added to the Fourth Gospel in the Second Century?’, HTR 110: 360–​392. UBS5, 2014. The Greek New Testament. Edited for the United Bible Societies. Fifth revised edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. Wachtel, Klaus, 1995. Der byzantinische Text der Katholischen Briefe. Berlin: De Gruyter. Wachtel, Klaus and Holmes, Michael W. (eds.), 2011. The Textual History of the Greek New Testament: Changing Views in Contemporary Research. Atlanta: SBL. Wallace, Daniel B., 2013. ‘The Majority Text Theory: History, Methods, Critique’, in Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research. Second edition. Leiden: Brill: 711–​44. Wasserman, T. and Gurry, Peter J., 2017. A New Approach to Textual Criticism: An Introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method. Atlanta: SBL. Welsby, Alison S., 2013. A Textual Study of Family 1 in the Gospel of John. Berlin: De Gruyter. Westcott, B. F. and Hort, F. J.  A. (ed.), 1881. The New Testament in the Original Greek. Vol. 2. Introduction and Appendix. London: Macmillan. Williams, P. J., 2011. ‘Not the Prologue of John’, JSNT 33.4: 375–​86. Williams, P. J., 2013. ‘The Syriac Versions of the New Testament’, in Bart D. Ehrman and Michael W. Holmes (eds.), The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research. Second edition. Leiden: Brill: 143–​66.

Chapter 3

L iterary Sou rc e s of t he Gospel an d L et t e rs of Joh n Michael Labahn

Introduction New Testament scholars have long suspected that the author(s) of the Gospel of John used written sources which he (or they) had not written. Above all, the work of Rudolf Bultmann made the issue of John’s possible use of such sources a prominent theme in Johannine scholarship. Scepticism about the search for such non-​Johannine sources has increased in recent scholarship, mainly because of its methodological problems. This article gives a sketch of the history of Johannine source criticism1 and its problems, using significant examples from the history of research, and seeks to show that the issue of the literary pre-​history of the Johannine writings remains an important consideration.2 Recent research has, however, indicated even more emphatically than before that Johannine scholarship has to take the extant text and its design as its starting point.

The Origins of Johannine Source Criticism As in the case of the Synoptic Gospels, the origins of the source criticism of the Gospel of John lie in the development of modern biblical scholarship as a critical, scientific discipline for which the Gospels can no longer be regarded as apostolic eyewitness accounts of 1  Source criticism has traditionally been called ‘literary criticism’ (German: Literaturkritik), though in current scholarship the latter term is used to describe attempts to understand the biblical texts more broadly as ‘literature’ or, in the case of the Gospels, as narrative compositions, see note 2. 2  The issue of the literary pre-​history is necessarily related to that of the non-​literary (oral) pre-​history.

24   Michael Labahn the life of Jesus. Since the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, attempts have been made to reconstruct older sources (or written traditions) used by the author(s) of John. The search for possible sources for John as for the Synoptics was motivated not so much by problems discerned in the Gospel narratives themselves as by a desire to find reliable traditions of apostolic origin about the historical Jesus behind the Gospel narratives (see Bousset 1909: 1–​11; Schürer 1973: 7, 8f., 11f.). A good example of this concern is to be found in the work of Jakob Christoph Rudolf Eckermann (1754–​1837) who, as a pioneer of this research phase, asserted that the Gospel of John was based on ‘many very important essays from the apostle John’s own hand, essays in which he had recorded the particularly remarkable speeches of Jesus. These were joined together by one of his friends . . . with other reports, which were partly oral and partly collected by friends of the apostle’3 (see Kümmel 1970: 101; Köstenberger 1995: 40–​1). An example from the final phase of this period of research4 is the work of Hans Hinrich Wendt (1853–​1928) who, anticipating later scholarship, argued on the basis of ruptures in the narrative flow and theological discrepancies in John that a written source had been used. According to Wendt, this source was derived from the apostle John and contained the discourses of Jesus, uttered while Jesus was in Jerusalem or on the way there (1900; 1901: 33–​44; 1911). According to Wendt, since the actual evangelist and the followers of the apostle were seeking to justify faith in Jesus as the Messiah/​Christ on the basis of his miracles, the Johannine narrative material containing the accounts of Jesus’ miracles reflects the thinking of the post-​apostolic period and this period’s belief in miracles. The discourses, however, go back to Jesus himself. In the final composition, according to Wendt, Jesus’ discourses were joined to the ‘unhistorical’ narrative material. As a result, ‘The historical deeds of Jesus appear in these cases as symbolic illustrations of the higher processes of which he speaks’ (Wendt 1901: 35). In this way, Wendt’s hypothesis of a foundational document (Grundschrift), to which the Jesus of the discourses belonged but not the Jesus who performed the miracles recounted in the Gospel of John, forms part of the older Life-​of-​Jesus research (see Schmithals 1992: 90, for more recent links to this stream of scholarship).

Johannine Aporias A significant advance in the source criticism of the Johannine writings was based on the analysis of textual phenomena. Eduard Schwartz (1858–​1940) pointed to breaks


J. C. R. Eckermann, ‘Ueber die eigentlich sichern Gründe des Glaubens an die Hauptthatsachen der Geschichte Jesu; und über die wahrscheinliche Entstehung der Evangelien und der Apostelgeschichte’, in Theologische Beyträge V.2 (1796/​97) 106–​256 (213). 4  Other scholars could be mentioned, e.g. Christian Hermann Weiße, Daniel Schenkel, Alexander Schweizer, Ernest Renan, Heinrich Karl Hugo Delff, and Friedrich Spitta.

Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John    25 in the narrative logic of John and its structure, as well as linguistic inconsistencies, which he called ‘aporias’, derived from a Greek word meaning ‘difficulty’ (Schwartz 1907/​1908; see Thyen 1988: 203–​5). Some important examples illustrating the character of ‘the Johannine aporias’, as they have since been called, may here be noted: in John 6:1, Jesus surprisingly travels ‘to the other side of the lake of Galilee’, even though he was in Jerusalem in c­ hapter 5. John 7:15–​24 connects well with ­chapter 5, since Jesus is again in Jerusalem and not in Galilee as he is John 6. Indeed, John 7:23 mentions the healing of the lame man on the Sabbath, which is recounted in 5:1–​16, as though it had just happened. For such reasons, many commentators have suggested that ­chapters 5 and 6 are in the wrong order. Another example is the fact that while Jesus was already active in Judea in 2:13–​25, his brothers demand in 7:3 that he reveals himself in Judea. In John 14:31, Jesus ends his Farewell Discourse by saying, ‘Rise, let us go from here’, but he then continues speaking for three more chapters. It is only in 18:1 that Jesus and his disciples depart. The Gospel seems to end with a statement of purpose in 20:30–​31, but the story continues in ­chapter 21, where (the risen) Jesus is revealed to his disciples for the third time (21:14; cf. 20:19–​28), and a new ending for the Gospel is provided in 21:24–​25. Apart from the breaks in the narrative flow, repetitions and some seeming contradictions also present problems for interpretation. The most important case is the double explanation of the Footwashing in ­chapter 13. The washing of the feet of his disciples by Jesus in 13:4–​5 is first interpreted as a soteriological event in 13:6–​10, but later, in 13:12–​20, as a moral example to be imitated. Another example is 5:24–​29, where present and future eschatological statements of Jesus are juxtaposed and seem to contradict each other leading some scholars to suggest that the future statements here and elsewhere (6:39, 40, 44, 54) are interpolations by a later redactor (cf. e.g. Theobald 2010). In John 6, Jesus presents himself as ‘the bread from heaven’ which is to be metaphorically eaten as life-​giving nourishment, but John 6:51b–​58 surprisingly shifts the image to ‘eating the flesh of the Son of man and drinking his blood’, which seems to allude to the Eucharist. The list of such aporias can easily be extended. They have been interpreted as evidence that material has been taken from different sources (or written traditions). But they have also been given other explanations, e.g. that interpolations have occurred (e.g. by a later redactor) and/​or that the Gospel was composed in several stages by one or more authors.

The Johannine School The three Johannine Letters and the Gospel of John display formal as well as linguistic-​ theological differences with respect to each other. It is precisely in light of these differences, however, that the quite uniform language of all four documents stands out. These similarities along with the differences point to different authors from the same milieu who shared a fund of common ideas and language. These authors then were possibly members of a Johannine school (Brown 1979: 101–​2; Schnelle 1992: 41–​7; Labahn

26   Michael Labahn 1999: 21–​30).5 Julius Wellhausen had already joined the theory of a Grundschrift revised by several hands to the idea of a Johannine ‘circle’. Raymond Brown has aptly pointed out the importance of the assumption of a Johannine school for understanding the Sitz im Leben (setting in life) of the Gospel’s tradition (1979: 28): Eventually in Johannine history Synoptic-​like miracles and sayings were woven into unique Johannine scenes and discourses, but that very fact suggests that there was a continuity between Johannine origins and the later development of the community. The sacred material from the tradition of the original community has become the source of reflection and expanded teaching in a later period as the community moves toward a higher christology and the promised, greater things. [cf. 1:50–​51]

Brown’s remark describes the sociological framework for the origin of sources and revisions of the Johannine writings. The assumption of a circle of authors, of a community, or of a school, that preserved the memory of Jesus in a creative and perhaps controversial way is an essential starting point for the assumption of an oral or written pre-​history of the Johannine writings.

Source-​C ritical Models The search for sources which are useful for the reconstruction of the historical Jesus and the assumption of the original apostolic origin of the Gospel are not an exclusive phenomenon of Johannine research of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There are scholars today who pursue a similar agenda. Paul Anderson, for example, has recently argued that the Fourth Gospel contains traditions that go back to the historical Jesus and that acquired their ‘form in the ministry of the Beloved Disciple’ (2016: 200). Similarly, Folker Siegert’s (2010) reconstruction of a life of Jesus includes sources reconstructed from John’s Gospel. Aside from this agenda, the Johannine aporias can also be evaluated simply in terms of their utility for source-​critical research. Two ideal source-​critical models can be distinguished, each of which can also integrate aspects belonging to the other (Haenchen 1980: 48–​57; Labahn 1999: 56–​76).

5  For complete documentation, see Culpepper (1975). Brown, in contrast to Culpepper, did not equate the Johannine School with the Johannine Community. For Brown, the Johannine School was a group within the Johannine Community and it was responsible for the Johannine writings as well as for preserving and interpreting the received tradition on behalf of the Johannine Community. See Brown 1979: 101–​2, 1982: 94–​7. See further Chapter 5, Martinus C. de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’.

Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John    27 (a) The Grundschrift hypothesis: The Gospel of John is based on a foundational document or Grundschrift, perhaps a full Gospel (Grundevangelium), which was subsequently revised by one or more redactors, one of whom is regarded as the original author in some versions of the hypothesis. For this model, the composition history of the Gospel is an intra-​Johannine literary phenomenon in which the texts are further developed within the context of a group (teachers-​pupils, community or school). Non-​or pre-​Johannine texts could, however, have been used for the composition of the Grundschrift. (b) The multiple sources hypothesis: A  Johannine author or redactor composed the Gospel of John by using diverse literary sources. These are mostly of non-​ Johannine origin and may bear some relationship to the sources used by the Synoptic Gospels. As indicated, diverse criteria are brought to bear in different combinations and given different weight in the two models, such as narrative breaks; contradictions, duplications, and/​or repetitions; marginal comments or narrative asides; differences in terminology and style; differences in theology and Christology; different assumptions about the literary relationship to the Synoptic Gospels or their assumed sources; assumptions about religious parallels; and theories about the history of the Johannine community. The two models have also been applied to 1 John. The following small selection from source-​critical approaches to the Johannine Gospel and Letters presents different approaches which were intensively debated in their day and which were (or still are) pioneering in their understanding of source-​critical methodology. They are presented for their different strategies, results, and problems (see Schmithals 1992 for a detailed survey).

The Hypothesis of a Grundschrift The hypothesis of a Grundschrift or foundational document was first formulated by Julius Wellhausen in the early twentieth century. According to Wellhausen, (1908: 3–​4) this document was a full Gospel (thus a Grundevangelium), having a structure similar to the Gospel of Mark and consisting essentially of narrative material. Wellhausen called the foundational Gospel ‘an original creation by an open personality, a real author’ (1908: 102). The Grundschrift was revised by several ‘epigones’ of the original author (1908: 100). The revisions and expansions as well as the insertion of newly created material, especially in the discourse and dialogue passages, form a unity and suggest that these ‘usually come from the same circle’ (1908: 119). The idea of a Grundschrift revised by one or more hands has significantly influenced subsequent research up to the more recent source-​critical proposals of Walter Schmithals (1992) and Folker Siegert (2004; 2008). Another and more complex example of this approach is to be found in the works of Georg Richter and his students (e.g. Wagner 1988). Richter and his followers understand

28   Michael Labahn the Christological and theological differences in John’s Gospel to be an expression of a history of conflict within the Johannine circle and reconstruct the literary history of the Gospel accordingly.6 Three literary strata are distinguished, among them a Jewish-​ Christian Grundschrift, which was preceded by oral traditions. The Grundschrift was revised by the evangelist and his revision was subsequently subjected to an anti-​docetic redaction to which other material, such as John 21, was added later. Each layer is associated with a distinctive Christology (Richter 1977). The French exegetes Marie-​Emile Boismard and Arnaud Lamouille developed a Grundschrift hypothesis with four phases and they did so especially in relation to the Synoptic Gospels and their sources (Neirynck 1979 provides a detailed presentation and critique of their proposal). The criteria used by Boismard and Lamouille to distinguish the different literary strata are, on the one hand stylistic, on the other theological. According to Boismard and Lamouille, a Grundschrift, labelled ‘Document C’, influenced Proto-​Luke and was written in Palestine about 50 ce by an eyewitness, possibly John the son of Zebedee or Lazarus who is mentioned in John 11. It was expanded with three layers, which they called Jean IIA, Jean IIB (which had the structure characteristic of John as we now know it), and Jean III. The last layer (Jean III) dates from the second century. Significant additions were also made from the Synoptic Gospels.7 More recently, relying mainly on the analysis of terminological differences, Urban C. von Wahlde has distinguished three different compositional layers: a Grundschrift, which von Wahlde calls the first edition, and two subsequent editions of the Gospel. To distinguish among them he uses as criteria ‘characteristic terminology, features of narrative orientation (“ideology”), and differences in theological outlook’ (2010: 25). He devotes particular attention to the terms used for religious authorities (‘priests’, ‘Pharisees’, ‘rulers’, ‘Jews’) and the designation of miracles (‘signs’, ‘works’) on the assumption that these terms have different meanings in the different layers. The Grundschrift was already a complete Gospel with a passion narrative and an account of the resurrection. In this Grundschrift, the miracles of Jesus were called ‘signs’ and were recounted in order to identify Jesus as someone greater than Moses (2010: 51). Jewish authorities were called chief priests, Pharisees, or rulers. The conflict with the authorities of the synagogue led to a second edition, as the terminology used to describe these authorities as ‘the Jews’ attests. In the second edition, the acceptance of Jesus’ claims that he had been sent by the Father and was the Son of God became decisive. The miracles of Jesus are now called the ‘works’ of the Son of God. The Letters of John document conflicts within the Johannine Community. After the death of their author, ‘the presbyter’, a third edition of the Gospel was written, embodying ‘the understanding of the tradition as put forward in 1 John by the elder’ (2010: 53–​4). Von Wahlde’s attribution of the references or allusions to the sacraments, the resurrection of the dead, and the leadership of Peter as a symbol of the Great Church to this last layer of the Gospel 6  The results are too complex to be discussed in detail here. Summaries and evaluations are available in Brown 1979: 174–​6; Dauer 1986; Labahn 1999: 59–​64. 7  See Chapter 4, Harold W. Attridge, ‘John and the Other Gospels’.

Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John    29 recalls Bultmann’s hypothesis of an ‘ecclesiastical redaction’ to be investigated in this chapter as the final layer of the Gospel (see below). If the examples presented thus far reckon with the possibility of a Grundschrift reworked by different hands, other scholars understand the primary stylistic unity of the Gospel to signify that one author reworked his own original text, as argued, e.g. by Pierson Parker (1956), Wilhelm Wilken (1958), and Barnabas Lindars (1972). According to Lindars, the evangelist composed a foundational Gospel on the basis of his own sermons, splitting them up to some extent in the service of the narrative. He edited his Grundschrift with later additions, so that this mode of composition can explain some of the aporias (1972: 46–​54). Raymond E. Brown adopts the hypothesis of a foundational Gospel (Grundevangelium), which was first revised by the same writer (the evangelist) and subsequently modified by a redactor from the Johannine School (1966:  xxxv–​ xxxviii). This approach does not explain the aporias in terms of the use or incorporation of a non-​Johannine Grundschrift but in terms of a complex composition history by one main Johannine writer and his school; in this approach, the Grundschrift is not a non-​ Johannine source but a fully Johannine composition.8

The Hypothesis of Multiple Sources Rudolf Bultmann’s hypothesis that John used three sources has been particularly influential. Bultmann was initially sceptical of extensive source criticism of the Fourth Gospel (2002a, which includes a critical discussion of Schwarz’s 1908 article on aporias). He discerned a uniform theological atmosphere and literary style, so that he saw the possibilities of source criticism to be restricted compared to other New Testament writings, such as Acts (2002a: 25). This is reflected in his rejection of the Grundschrift hypothesis of Emanuel Hirsch (Bultmann 2002d; cf. Hirsch 1936a, 1936b). However, this standpoint did not prevent Bultmann from ultimately developing a complex combination of three different (non-​Johannine) sources, adapted by the evangelist in his own fashion (cf. Labahn 2017a: 88–​95; Smith 1965). The way in which the evangelist used his sources reflects Bultmann’s own hermeneutical principles (see Schnelle 1992: 7–​8). Bultmann sought to make his theory plausible with a wide range of methods: style criticism (Bultmann 2002b: 177; 2002c: 205), form criticism, and comparative religion. Bultmann adopted the hypothesis of a semeia (= signs) source containing seven Johannes miracle stories, now found in John 1–​20 (other scholars count the miraculous catch of fish in 21:1–​11 as also belonging to the pre-​Johannine signs source; cf. Van Belle 1994). According to Bultmann, the evangelist himself had a critical attitude towards miracles. The opening section of the signs source is to be found in John 1:35–​50, its conclusion in 20:30–​31. Formal markers of this source were, for example, the use of a semitizing Greek and the numbering of the first two miracles (John 2:11; 4:54). For other


See Chapter 5, Martinus de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’.

30   Michael Labahn scholars, the signs source was a full-​fledged ‘Gospel of Signs’ that contained a traditional passion narrative (Fortna 1970, 1988).9 According to Bultmann, the evangelist also used a revelation discourse source (Offenbarungsredenquelle), which he understood to be a collection of pre-​Christian revelation discourses. He isolated this source from the Gospel through style-​critical analysis using the Prologue as a guide. The source had a Gnostic character, which the evangelist, who (according to Bultmann) was once a member of the Gnostic group around John the Baptist, had reinterpreted for his own non-​Gnostic purposes (cf. Becker 1956).10 Bultmann proposed that the evangelist used a traditional Passion Narrative as a third source. Bultmann also interpreted some of the Johannine aporias as indications that the original order of the Gospel had been disturbed by an accidental rearrangement of the pages. An ‘ecclesiastical redactor’ tried in vain to restore this order. The ecclesiastical redactor was also responsible for adding the passages containing future eschatology and references or allusions to the sacraments (e.g. 3:5; 5:28–​29; 6:51c–​58; 19:34–​35), as well as ­chapter 21. The redactor added this material in order to bring the Gospel of John closer to the ‘orthodox’ mainstream of the early Christian understanding of Jesus, hence the term ‘ecclesiastical’. The ecclesiastical redactor thus changed the original meaning of the text. According to Bultmann’s understanding, the task of the exegete is to restore the original order of the Gospel and to reconstruct the original text of the evangelist, removing the additions and modifications of the ecclesiastical redactor. Bultmann’s proposal has been influential particularly in German-​language scholarship, although in a respectfully critical way (e.g. Becker 1991). Bultmann’s theory has even been appropriated by Roman Catholic commentators. Michael Theobald, for example, has adapted and revised Bultmann’s hypothesis of three sources in his commentary of 2009. Following Bultmann, Theobald maintains that the evangelist used a signs source and a source for the Passion Narrative. The revelation discourse source incorporated into the Gospel, however, is no longer a non-​Johannine source with a Gnostic origin for Theobald, as it was for Bultmann, but a Christian collection of Jesus’ sayings including those concerning the Paraclete, which was handed down in the Johannine circle (Theobald 2002).

The Letters of John Source-​critical theories concerning the earlier literary history of the Gospel have also been applied to 1 John. Once again, Bultmann has played an authoritative role in this discussion (for other source-​critical models see, e.g. Haenchen 1968:  242–​6, 250–​5; Klauck 1991a: 51–​8; Vogler 1993: 33–​8).



For objections to this thesis, cf. e.g. Schnelle 1992; Labahn 1999. See also Chapter 17, Jörg Frey, ‘Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John’.

Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John    31 Bultmann’s proposal was based mainly on differences in the letter’s style, which varies between shorter partly apodictic, often antithetically formulated sentences and longer sentences exhibiting a ‘homiletic style’. As early as 1927, Bultmann described the origin of the entire epistle as a pagan-​gnostic ‘Grundschrift’ (1967a: 105–​23) which was part of the revelation discourse, already known from the Gospel of John. He found the text of the source in 1 John 1:5–​10; 2:4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 29; 3:4, 6–​10, 14, 15, 24; 4:7, 8, 12, 16; 5:1, 4; 4:5, 6 (maybe); 2:23; 5:10, 12 (1967a: 123). The gnostic tendency of the source was softened by the writer. Bultmann also identified an ‘ecclesiastical redaction’ in 1 John (1967b:  381–​93), to which he assigned ‘apocalyptic’ passages which refer to Christ’s Parousia (2:28; 3:2; 4:17), passages which refer to the atoning death of Christ (parts of 1:7; 2:2; parts of 4:10–​11), and passages alluding to the sacraments (5:7–​9). He further assigned the letter closing (5:14–​ 21) to the ecclesiastical redaction. Understanding the letter closing as a later addition has found support in recent scholarship on the basis of various arguments (e.g. Klauck 1991b: 318; Vogler 1993: 38, 171–​3; Wengst 1978: 20–​1). 2 John and 3 John differ in form, content, and structure from 1 John, but also from the Fourth Gospel, so that source criticism of them is a separate issue. In addition, since the two letters of the Elder are as short as the many small private papyrus letters which have been found, they do not lend themselves to a source-​critical analysis, although Bultmann identified 2 John 9 as a fragment of the pagan-​gnostic ‘Grundschrift’ used by the author of 1 John (Bultmann 1967a: 121, 123).

Critique of Johannine Source Criticism Source criticism in the sense of the older historical Jesus research of the nineteenth and early twentieth century as a search for reliable eyewitness accounts in the Johannine texts that give access to the historical Jesus has now largely been abandoned despite the methodologically profound revival by Anderson and Siegert. To be sure, historical information about the life of Jesus could have survived in the memory of the Johannine Community but it is mainly the living Christ that lies at the centre of its faith. As a result, any memories of Jesus have been applied to the Community’s own situation (see, e.g. Moloney 2000; Smith 2003; Labahn 2011). The temporal distance of the Fourth Gospel from Jesus and the creative transformation of its traditions, (or sources, or layers) in the Johannine circle do not allow any certain conclusions about the historicity of these traditions. The Johannine texts concerning Jesus are witnesses to the Johannine reception of Jesus and only to this extent also sources for the proclamation of Jesus (Labahn 2017b: 556).

Redaction and Relecture A point of controversy in the discussion of Bultmann’s source-​critical methodology has been the question of how to determine the relationship between the reference text (the

32   Michael Labahn text of the source that is being adapted and redacted) and the reception text (the new text that results from the redactional interventions). For Bultmann and his pupils, the relationship of the redactor to the reference text was usually seen in terms of a contrast: the former did not agree with the latter and sought to change the meaning of the reference text. However, the use of language, motifs, and ideas derived from the source text in such ostensibly redactional passages as John 6:51c–​58, chs. 15–​17, and ch. 21 indicates that the concerns and even the authority of the older text are being acknowledged. For this reason, Jean Zumstein (2003; 2004a; 2004b) and his pupil Andreas Dettwiler (1995) used the theory of relecture (French for ‘rereading’) for understanding the Johannine redaction of the reference text (see also, e.g. Beutler 2015; Labahn 2017b; Scholtissek 2000). According to this approach, the original version has been updated in an independent way to be sure, but its authority is thereby in principle not denied but acknowledged (Zumstein 2008: 126): If we agree that the reception text intends to deepen the reference text –​or to allow a new level of reflection about the questions it has raised –​then it follows that the reception text does not in any way denigrate the validity or authority of the reference text; in fact, this is precisely what it recognizes.

The reception text reads and transforms the older text by filling in its mental gaps, adding new answers, and updating older ideas. Therefore, the new text depends on the older one and confirms its importance. This approach works both with the notion of a common milieu for the four Johannine writings (or for a Johannine School) and with the uniform language and history of the Johannine group, while not ignoring narrative breaks, meaning variations, and changing insights.11

The Synchronic Turn Johannine source criticism as done for instance by Schwartz, Wellhausen, and Bultmann has become subject to a critique that can be described as ‘the synchronic turn’. In reaction to the prominent interest in the source criticism of the Gospel of John, which is a ‘diachronic’ approach to the text (‘diachronic’ = ‘through time’), there arose a call to interpret the text predominantly or exclusively ‘synchronically’, focussing on the given or final form of the text and thus without reference to its historical origin or development (Van Tilborg 2005: ix; the pioneering work for this approach is Culpepper 1983). This change corresponds to the growing interest in the new literary criticism and narrative criticism in New Testament scholarship, which is accompanied by increasing scepticism about the possibilities of reconstructing the oral and written history of a text, any text, including those of the Gospels. For this reason, the Gospel of John in its extant form 11 

See Chapter 20, Jean Zumstein, ‘The Purpose of the Ministry and Death of Jesus in the Gospel of John’.

Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John    33 came to be understood as a ‘master narrative’, which has led not only to a new aesthetic and theological appreciation of the Gospel but also to its characterization as a comprehensive early Christian achievement in Sinnbildung or meaning creation (Schnelle 2005: 312). An important example of this synchronic turn is the work of Hartwig Thyen whose interpretation of John led him from source criticism to the demonstration of the literary unity of the Fourth Gospel. Early in his career, Thyen stayed close to Bultmann’s approach to John and understood the ecclesiastical redactor and author of John 21 to be the evangelist (2007: 50). On the basis of text-​theoretical and exegetical considerations, however, he later came to understand the Gospel as a literary unity, which resulted in his rejection of source criticism (2007b; see his 2005 commentary). A series of new commentaries has adopted the synchronic approach: e.g. Moloney (1998), Stibbe (1993), and Thompson (2015). The commentary of Schnelle (2016) can also be seen as a contribution to the synchronic approach, but it rightly does not abandon the issue of the earlier history of John’s text, finding it in the oral tradition of Jesus’ sayings, and in short dialogues, or stories about Jesus rather than in written sources. The material the evangelist uses can be reconstructed with some degree of certainty, but the evangelist narrates the material he uses in a new way (Labahn 1999). Exegetes who opt for the synchronic analysis of the Fourth Gospel can use the literary argument of text coherence to explain later additions, as in the case of ­chapter 6, which, according to Beutler (2007; 2013: 61), interrupts the original unity of the Gospel and constitutes a case of later relecture. In the critique of source criticism, the synchronic turn recalls the need for understanding the given text itself. Exegesis should have as its starting point and as its goal the interpretation of the given text. At the same time, however, New Testament scholarship must not abandon the search for traditions, sources, and revisions behind the given text since this is warranted by indications in the text itself, namely the aporias, especially the addition of John 21. Therefore, the reading of John 1–​20, or 1–​21, as a narrative unity must not exclude an analysis of oral or written traditions that may have been incorporated into the Gospel (Beutler 1998: 207). While the various source-​critical hypotheses usually find their origin in the phenomenon of the Johannine aporias, they differ in the details of their reconstructions and in the methods which they employ. Since the same observed literary phenomena lead to very different conclusions, the exegetical methods used are not (yet) sufficiently adequate to achieve a plausible and acceptable explanatory model. An alternative explanation of the aporias comes from the new synchronic approach: the aporias have a rhetorical function in the story, i.e. they can be interpreted at the synchronic level of the narrative as a means of catching (or holding) the reader’s attention or as transmitting the text’s meaning. The claim that the aporias actually point to one or more sources behind the Johannine narrative and provide the basis for convincing reconstructions has thus become increasingly questionable in Johannine scholarship. For instance, when the evangelist or a later redactor of the Farewell Discourses adds more discourses and prayers of Jesus (chs. 15–​17), he could be wanting to communicate to the reader that the discourses of chs. 13–​17 belong together and form a unity that goes beyond Jesus’

34   Michael Labahn exhortation to depart in 14:31 (cf. Parsenios 2005: 49–​76). In short, disruptive narrative sequences are not in themselves decisive for establishing whether an aporia indicates the use of a source or a later addition. When the narrator places his character(s) in various locations without transition (e.g. Jesus is in Jerusalem in c­ hapter 5, subsequently on the other side of the Sea of Galilee in 6:1, and then again in Jerusalem in 7:14), it may be part of his particular narrative strategy (e.g. Schnelle 2017: 565–​6). The juxtaposition of future and present eschatological statements in John 5:24–​29 can be considered an expression of the ‘bi-​temporal spirit of the evangelist’ (Schnelle 2008: 704), so that the future eschatology of 5:28–​29 is not necessarily to be regarded as a foreign body in contrast to the present eschatology of 5:24–​26 (cf. Labahn 2013: 199–​201). Disturbances in the narrative and logical structures of a text (the aporias) can of course also lead the modern reader to undertake a source-​critical analysis. A decision for the latter must rely on various arguments and demonstrate why a source-​critical explanation is the best solution for the aporias. There is no a priori guarantee that these literary phenomena must all be understood in the same way, however, either as a synchronic clue or a source-​critical crux. The putative literary breaks or inconsistencies of the Johannine aporias require, as we have seen, a careful analysis in each individual case. In each case it must be determined whether the aporia represents a viable indication of the use of a written source or tradition, i.e. represents a slice of text that is to be placed in the context of compositional development over time. Alleged tensions and contradictions can in principle also be explained differently, e.g. as part of the narrative strategy of the evangelist, and are not a priori secure indications of sources. The source-​critical decision of the exegete should also not be determined by his or her hermeneutical standpoint and the ‘evangelist’ must not be regarded as the ideal proponent of the hermeneutical concept of the exegete, as seems to have been the case with Bultmann’s programme of demythologization and existential interpretation of the Fourth Gospel.

The Future of Source Criticism Against this background, we come back to the aims of Johannine source criticism to ask about its problems as wells as its future possibilities and tasks. The relationship of John to the Synoptics, which rightly plays a major role in the discussion about the literary unity of John, is a difficult issue for Johannine source criticism. For some commentators, the Synoptic Gospels are the source of the Fourth Gospel, whereby further source criticism becomes superfluous (e.g. Manfred Lang 1999, who explains the Johannine Passion Narrative in terms of its use of the Synoptic passion narratives). With their Grundschrift hypothesis, which posited extensive text changes between the individual layers, Boismard/​Lamouille made a source-​critical contribution to this issue, since they tested the potential of source criticism as a method for determining the relationship of John to the Synoptics. Their contribution is methodologically difficult

Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John    35 to control, however, as are their numerous historical assumptions which can scarcely be verified. The complex reciprocal influence between pre-​Synoptic sources, the Synoptic Gospels, and the supposed literary layers of John remains hypothetical (Neirynck 1979). The exploration of the relationship between John and the Synoptics and source-​critical decisions remain difficult; scholars have not been able to come to a consensus. Source-​critical models like that of Boismard/​Lamouille or like that of Richter and his school, in which source criticism is linked to the history of conflict within Johannine Christianity, are difficult to convey because of their complexity. From a critical standpoint, the complexity of a model speaks against its plausibility (Occam’s razor), though this does not absolve scholarship from the obligation to examine each proposal in terms of argumentative plausibility. Unlike source criticism of the Synoptic Gospels, Johannine source criticism is in the same difficult situation as source criticism of the letters of Paul, Acts, or Revelation: as long as the disputed relation to the Synoptics is set aside, sources for the Gospel of John cannot be established or confirmed through a comparison with extant texts (an exception could be John 1:1–​18 and 1 John 1:1–​4). This complicates the task, though the difficulty may be partially alleviated through the presentation of possible parallels having similar formal features, as was attempted by using the disputed miracle source(s) of the Gospel of Mark as a parallel for the proposed signs source. Another important issue is linguistic variations between the assumed layers (von Wahlde). Here also it must be asked what the criterion of linguistic variation can achieve in particular cases. For example, the range of meanings of the term ‘the Jews’ is not necessarily related to different literary layers, representing different stages in Johannine thinking, but could also be attributed to different aims in creating meaning (Sinnbildung) by means of the Johannine narrative presentation (Schnelle 1999).12 Models of Christological and theological discourse within the development of the Johannine group have been used to find a more original unit behind the texts (e.g. Richter, Von Wahlde, but also Lindars, Brown). The Johannine texts and their emergence in the Johannine School or Community/​ies indeed raise the question of their literary development or growth. The two-​fold conclusion to the Gospel, in John 20:31 and 21:24, provides convincing evidence that the Fourth Gospel was part of an editorial process—​though within the synchronic turn the addition of John 21 has also become a matter of debate. The present text as the starting point for any textual analysis does not validate the conclusion that any discussion of its history is of no interest for understanding the Gospel. When the Johannine writings are regarded as the product of a social group, whether it be called a school, a community, or a circle, modifications are probable in the process of passing on received tradition. Such a creative passing on of tradition can probably best be described in terms of relecture, as proposed by Zumstein. For this reason, the importance of sociological and historical reconstructions for the analysis of traditions or sources becomes apparent, since such reconstructions can help to understand the addressees and their situations (de Boer 1992: 46; Labahn 1999: 50).


See Chapter 8, Adele Reinhartz, ‘The Jews of the Fourth Gospel’.

36   Michael Labahn In the context of a school or that of a teacher-​student relationship between the evangelist and the redactor, a certainly loyalty to tradition is also to be expected, which undermines the thesis of an extensive history of conflict with literary layers that contradict each other (as in Richter’s model). At the same time, this model allows room for relecture, as the examples of John 6:51c–​58, chs. 15–​17, and ch. 21 demonstrate. Bultmann’s project, justly regarded as influential, attempted to do justice to the Gospel’s unity as well as to the aporias with a source-​critical explanation whereby the evangelist combined written sources with a hermeneutically unified approach. Bultmann’s reconstruction of sources is also formed by certain historical, form-​critical, and hermeneutical presuppositions; the integration of different types of criteria, as for example his (doubtful) concept of pre-​Christian Gnosticism as an important presupposition of the revelation discourse source, is exemplary. However, the question arises whether the methodological possibilities of diachronic textual analysis are not being overestimated when the exegete seeks to reconstruct an original order of the Gospel on the assumption that the pages have become disarranged. The criticism that there was a more pronounced formal, religious, and theological variety in the traditions casts even more doubt on the existence of a uniform signs source covering all seven miracles in John 1–​20 (Labahn 1999). Bultmann’s thesis of an expansion of the Gospel by an (ecclesiastical) redactor has also experienced a continuation in scholarship, namely, in the hermeneutics of relecture. This approach shares with the Grundschrift hypothesis a focus on the development of ideas in Johannine history. It sees the answer for the growth or development of the text not in literary layers that contradict each other, however, as in Bultmann or in Richter and his school, but in the consistent rewriting of original text material. This seems to be a promising approach for the future scholarship. Style criticism, which plays an important role in Bultmann’s project, also requires further development. Bultmann’s proposal of discernible stylistic differences within the Johannine corpus has been contradicted by Eduard Schweizer (1965) and in greater detail by Eugen Ruckstuhl. Especially Ruckstuhl (1987), and later, together with his student Peter Dschulnigg (Ruckstuhl/​Dschulnigg 1991), argued for stylistic unity, whereby no distinction can be made between the style of the putative sources and the style of the evangelist. Even more difficult for the argument are proposals that attribute various material and layers to one and the same hand (e.g., those of Brown and Lindars). The linguistic-​stylistic argument then so good as disappears, so that especially historical reconstructions and textual breaks (the aporias) play a role (as in de Boer 1996). Ruckstuhl (1988) and Labahn (1999:  106–​9) have posited a distinction between Johannine sociolect and idiolect. Sociolect is the common language and style of a group, whereas idiolect represents the particular language of an individual. According to Ruckstuhl there is in the text of the Gospel no discernible distinction between the two. Labahn also warns against the general confidence in linguistic and stylistic criticism of group writings, since the language of the group (sociolect) characterizes the individual member of the group and therefore also the author(s) of the Johannine writings. Moreover, John’s characteristic idioms are found both in the tradition used by John and

Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John    37 in the redactional additions. This limits the potential of linguistic and stylistic criticism, though it is also the case that through this distinction individual linguistic and style characteristics become important for the investigation of sources or traditions. Finally we come to the Johannine Letters. Even though it cannot be ruled out that the Letters of John used traditional material, perhaps even written sources, scepticism with respect to source criticism of these letters is warranted. Scholars who opt for the literary unity of the Gospel normally do not consider it necessary to apply source criticism to 1 John (e.g. Schnelle 2010). Bultmann shows how difficult source criticism of the letter body of 1 John is: in his commentary (1967c) he attributes certain verses to the source or to the redaction, contradicting what he had argued in his own earlier studies, which can at times lead to confusion (so Klauck 1991a: 52). Another problem with Bultmann’s theory is that whereas he in his commentary maintains that 1 John 2:27 is the original ending of 1 John, in his analysis he attributes more material from 1 John to the source. Apparently, the relevant passages cannot be convincingly detached from their literary or theological context, meaning that the supposed stylistic variation must be credited to the letter writer himself and thus that a general redaction of 1 John cannot be convincingly justified; even the final section, 1 John 5:14–​21, can be understood as part of the original letter.

Conclusion Since ‘the synchronic turn’ in Johannine studies, doubts about complex literary theories have increased. Ideas and observations that have been derived not from the text of the Gospel but from the minds of its readers and interpreters have too often influenced the search for sources behind the Gospel or the characteristics of its literary layers. Bultmann’s insight into the uniform atmosphere of John’s narrative, which is supported by many scholars with synchronic approaches, is a basic fact, though it has been interpreted in different ways. For example, the breaks, repetitions, and tensions in the text, which have been known since Schwartz as ‘aporias’, can be understood either as signals that attract the attention of the reader (synchronic reading), or as signals indicating the use of fixed traditions or written sources (diachronic reading). Johannine source criticism has to deal with the particular Johannine manner of telling a story; otherwise it is in danger of mistaking what is going on in the narrative. At the same time, a history of Christological discussion is reflected in the aporias, which could point to traditions or sources. Therefore, it can be said that source criticism of the Johannine writings, especially the Gospel, has permanent methodological validity. It has become clear that for the reconstruction of traditional units or possible later additions (or relecture) a variety of criteria must be brought into play. As Fortna has observed: ‘in any case one must look for an intersection of as many criteria as possible to locate an aporia and assign strata’ (1992: 20). Given the methodological challenges of the different ideas about the text and the various accounts of the history of the Johannine

38   Michael Labahn circle and its sociological profile, it is not surprising that different, partly conflicting source-​critical theories have emerged reflecting the methodological problems of this approach and providing a challenge to further refinement. Since we have to recognize that the Johannine writings, the Gospel, and the Letters, were part of the lively debate going on within an early Christian community, source criticism cannot be abandoned; rather its methods must be refined in terms of the specific character of the Johannine writings, something which, for example, is happening through the hermeneutics of relecture, as proposed by Zumstein. It should, therefore, be emphasized together with Zumstein that ‘synchronic and diachronic approaches are not to be understood as mutually exclusive’ (2016: 42). As we have seen, both the claim of the literary unity of the Johannine literature and the investigation of its literary development, as well as its oral history have their own validity and deserve further attention in future research.

Suggested Reading To understand the different and competing theories of source criticism, it makes sense to read each author in his own context and to recognize his contribution and its limits. A good start can be made with two recent publications by Anderson (2016) and Urban C.  Von Wahlde (2010). Anderson provides a good introduction to the discussion and includes his own contribution. With respect to von Wahlde, his introduction to the Gospel and the Letters of John is helpful. It gives a critical overview of source-​critical criteria in general and how they are used in his approach. There are many introductions to Bultmann’s still influential three-​sources hypothesis, which must be read in its hermeneutical and philosophical context (e.g. Labahn 2017a). Smith’s critical presentation of the sources reconstructed by Smith is still useful (1987: 39–​61). Zumstein’s introduction to his concept of relecture is worth the effort (2003; cf. 2004a; 2008).

Bibliography Anderson, Paul N., 1996. The Christology of the Fourth Gospel. Its Unity and Disunity in the Light of John 6. WUNT 2/​78; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Anderson, Paul N., 2001. ‘John and Mark. The Bi-​Optic Gospels’, in R. T. Fortna and T. Thatcher (eds.), Jesus in Johannine Tradition. Louisville: Westminster John Knox: 175–​88. Anderson, Paul N., 2016. ‘On “Seamless Robes” and “Leftover Fragments”—​A Theory of Johannine Composition’, in Stanley E. Porter and Hughson T. Ong (eds.), The Origins of John’s Gospel. Johannine Studies 2; Leiden: Brill: 169–​218. Becker, Heinz, 1956. Die Reden des Johannesevangeliums und der Stil der gnostischen Offenbarungsrede. (Rudolf Bultmann ed.), FRLANT 68; Göttingen:  Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Becker, Jürgen, 1991. Das Evangelium des Johannes. 2 vols. 3rd edition; ÖTK 4; Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus/​Würzburg: Echter. Beutler, Johannes, 1998. ‘Methoden und Probleme heutiger Johannesforschung’, in Johannes Beutler, Studien zu den johanneischen Schriften. SBAB 25; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk: 191–​214.

Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John    39 Beutler, Johannes, 2007. ‘Joh 6 als christliche “relecture” des Pascharahmens im Johannesevangelium’, in Ruth Scoralick (ed.), Damit sie das Leben haben (Joh 10,10). Festschrift Walter Kirchschläger. Zürich: TVZ: 43–​58. Beutler, Johannes, 2013. Das Johannesevangeliu. Kommentar. Freiburg im Breslau: Herder. Beutler, Johannes, 2015. ‘Von der johanneischen Gemeinde zum Relecture-​Modell’, TP 90: 1–​18. Boismard, M.-​É. and Lamouille, Arnaud, 1977. Synopse des quatre évangiles en français. Tome III. L’évangile de Jean. Paris: Éditions du Cerf. Bousset, Wilhelm, 1909. ‘Ist das vierte Evangelium eine literarische Einheit?’, TRu 12: 1–​12, 39–​64. Brown, Raymond E., 1966. The Gospel According to John (i-​xii). AB 29; Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Brown, Raymond E., 1979. The Community of the Beloved Disciple. The Life, Loves, and Hates of an Individual Church in New Testament Times. New York, Mahwah: Paulist Press. Brown, Raymond E., 1982. The Epistles of John. AB 30; Garden City, New York: Doubleday. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1967a. ‘Analyse des ersten Johannesbriefes’, in Rudolf Bultmann, Exegetica. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 105–​23. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1967b. ‘Die kirchliche Redaktion des ersten Johannesbriefes’, in  Rudolf Bultmann, Exegetica. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 381–​93. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1967c. Die drei Johannesbriefe. 7th edition; KEK 14; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1985. Das Evangelium des Johannes. 20th edition; KEK 2; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Bultmann, Rudolf, 2002a. ‘Die neutestamentliche Forschung 1905–​1907’, in Rudolf Bultmann, Theologie als Kritik. Ausgewählte Rezensionen und Forschungsberichte. (M. Dreher and K.W. Müller, eds.); Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 7–​26. Bultmann, Rudolf, 2002b. Review of: ‘Windisch, H.: Johannes und die Synoptiker’, in Rudolf Bultmann, Theologie als Kritik. Ausgewählte Rezensionen und Forschungsberichte. (M. Dreher and K.W. Müller, eds.); Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 174–​8. Bultmann, Rudolf, 2002c. ‘Das Johannesevangelium in der neuesten Forschung’, in  Rudolf Bultmann, Theologie als Kritik. Ausgewählte Rezensionen und Forschungsberichte. (M. Dreher and K.W. Müller, eds.); Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 204–​15. Bultmann, Rudolf, 2002d. ‘Hirschs Auslegung des Johannesevangeliums’, in Rudolf Bultmann, Theologie als Kritik. Ausgewählte Rezensionen und Forschungsberichte (M. Dreher and K.W. Müller, eds.); Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 353–​77. Culpepper, R. Alan, 1975. The Johannine School. An Evaluation of the Johannine-​School Hypothesis Based on an Investigation of the Nature of Ancient Schools. SBL.DS 26; Missoula, MT: Scholars Press. Culpepper, R. Alan, 1983. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel. A  Study in Literary Design. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Dauer, Anton, 1986. ‘Schichten im Johannesevangelium als Anzeichen von Entwicklungen in der (den) johanneischen Gemeinde(n) nach G. Richter’, in Alfred E. Hierold (ed.), Die Kraft der Hoffnung: Gemeinde u. Evangelium. Bamberg: St.-​Otto-​Verlag: 62–​83. de Boer, Martinus C., 1992. ‘Narrative Criticism, Historical Criticism, and the Gospel of John’, JSNT 47: 35–​48. de Boer, Martinus C., 1996. Johannine Perspectives on the Death of Jesus. CBET 17; Kampen: Kok Pharos. Dettwiler, Andreas, 1995. Die Gegenwart des Erhöhten. Eine exegetische Studie zu den johanneischen Abschiedsreden (Joh 13,31–​ 16,33) unter besonderer Berücksichtigung ihres Relecture-​Charakters. FRLANT 169; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

40   Michael Labahn von Dobschütz, Ernst, 1907. ‘Johanneische Studien I’, ZNW 8: 1–​8. Fortna, Robert T., 1970. The Gospel of Signs. A Reconstruction of the Narrative Source Underlying the Fourth Gospel. SNTSMS 11; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fortna, Robert T., 1989. The Fourth Gospel and its Predecessor. From Narrative Source to Present Gospel. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. Fortna, Robert T., 1992. ‘Signs/​Semeia Source’, ABD 6: 18–​22. Haenchen, Ernst, 1968. ‘Neuere Literatur zu den Johannesbriefen’, in Ernst Haenchen, Die Bibel und Wir. Gesammelte Aufsätze. Zweiter Band; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 235–​311. Haenchen, Ernst, 1980. Das Johannesevangelium. Ein Kommentar aus den nachgelassenen Manuskripten (U. Busse, ed.); Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Hirsch, Emmanuel, 1936a. Das vierte Evangelium in seiner ursprünglichen Gestalt verdeutscht und erklärt. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Hirsch, Emmanuel, 1936b. Studien zum vierten Evangelium:  Text /​Literarkritik /​ Entstehungsgeschichte. BHT 11; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Klauck, Hans-​ Josef, 1991a. Die Johannesbriefe. EdF 276; Darmstadt:  Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Klauck, Hans-​ Josef, 1991b. Der erste Johannesbrief. EKK XXIII/​ 1; Zürich:  Benzinger /​ Neukirchen-​Vluyn: Neukirchener-​Verlag. Köstenberger, Andreas J., 1995. ‘Frühe Zweifel an der johanneischen Verfasserschaft des vierten Evangeliums in der modernen Interpretationsgeschichte’, EuroJTh 5:1, 37–​46. Kümmel, Werner Georg, 1970. Das Neue Testament. Geschichte der Erforschung seiner Probleme. 2nd edition; NTOA III/​3; Freiburg, München: Karl Alber. Labahn, Michael, 1999. Jesus als Lebensspender. Untersuchungen zu einer Geschichte der johanneischen Tradition anhand ihrer Wundergeschichten. BZNW 98; Berlin, New York: De Gruyter. Labahn, Michael, 2011. ‘The Non-​Synoptic Jesus: An Introduction to John, Paul, Thomas and other “Outsiders” of the Jesus Quest’, in Tom Holmén and Stanley E. Porter (eds.), Handbook of the Study of the Historical Jesus, vol. 3. Leiden: Brill: 1933–​96. Labahn, Michael, 2013. ‘Das “Fruchtbringen” der Glaubenden und das ewige Leben zwischen Gegenwart und Zukunft: Eschatologie und Ethik im vierten Evangelium’, in Lesław Daniel Chrupcała (ed.), Rediscovering John:  Essays on the Fourth Gospel in Honour of Frédéric Manns. Analecta 80; Milano: Edizioni Terra Santa: 183–​211, 580–​1. Labahn, Michael, 2017a. ‘Bultmanns Konzeption der existenzialen Interpretation des neutestamentlichen Kerygmas am Beispiel seiner Exegese des Corpus Johanneum. Versuch einer Annäherung im Spiegel der neueren Johannesauslegung’, in Michael Labahn, Ausgewählte Studien zum Johannesevangelium. Selected Studies in the Gospel of John 1998–​ 2013 (A. Labahn, ed.). BTS 28; Leuven: Peeters: 79–​113. Labahn, Michael, 2017b. ‘Peter’s Rehabilitation (John 21:15–​ 19) and the Adoption of Sinners: Remembering Jesus and Relecturing John’, in Michael Labahn, Ausgewählte Studien zum Johannesevangelium. Selected Studies in the Gospel of John 1998–​2013 (A. Labahn, ed.). BTS 28; Leuven: Peeters: 541–​57. Lang, Manfred, 1999. Johannes und die Synoptiker. Eine redaktionsgeschichtliche Analyse von Joh 18–​ 20 vor dem markinischen und lukanischen Hintergrund. FRLANT 182; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Lindars, Barnabas, 1972. The Gospel of John. NCB; London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott. Moloney, Frank J., 1998. The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina 4; Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. Moloney, Frank J., 2000. ‘The Fourth Gospel and the Jesus of History’, NTS 46: 42–​58.

Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John    41 Neirynck, Frans, 1979. Jean et les Synoptiques. Examen critique de l’exégèse de M.-​É. Boismard (avec la collaboration de Joël Delobel, Thierry Snoy, Gilbert van Belle, Frans van Segbroek) BETL 49; Leuven: Peeters. Parker, Pierson, 1956, ‘Two Editions of John’, JBL 75: 303–​14. Parsenios, George L., 2005. Departure and Consolation: The Johannine Farewell Discourses in Light of Greco-​Roman Literature. NovTSup 117; Leiden: Brill. Richter, Georg, 1977. Studien zum Johannesevangelium (Josef Hainz, ed.); BU 13; Regensburg: Pustet. Ruckstuhl, Eugen, 1987. Die literarische Einheit des Johannesevangeliums. Der gegenwärtige Stand der einschlägigen Forschungen. NTOA 5; Freiburg [CH] /​Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Ruckstuhl, Eugen, 1988. ‘Zur Antithese Idiolekt—​Soziolekt im johanneischen Schrifttum’, in Eugen Ruckstuhl, Jesus im Horizont der Evangelien. SBAB 3; Stuttgart:  Katholisches Bibelwerk: 219–​64. Ruckstuhl, Eugen /​Dschulnigg, Peter, 1991. Stilkritik und Verfasserfrage im Johannesevangelium. Die johanneischen Sprachmerkmale auf dem Hintergrund des Neuen Testaments und des zeitgenössischen hellenistischen Schrifttums. NTOA 17; Freiburg [CH]/​ Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Schmithals, Walter, 1992. Johannesevangelium und Johannesbriefe. BZNW 64; Berlin, New York, de Gruyter. Schnelle, Udo, 1992. Antidocetic Christology in the Gospel of John: An Investigation of the Place of the Fourth Gospel in the Johannine School. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Schnelle, Udo, 1999. ‘Die Juden im Johannesevangelium’, in Christoph Kähler and Martina Böhm (eds.), Gedenkt an das Wort. Festschrift für Werner Vogler zum 65. Geburtstag. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt: 217–​30. Schnelle, Udo, 2005. ‘Das Johannesevangelium als neue Sinnbildung’, in Gilbert Van Belle, Jan G. Van der Watt, Petrus Maritz (eds.), Theology and Christology in the Fourth Gospel. Essays by the Members of the SNTS Johannine Writings Seminar. BETL 184; Leuven: Peeters: 291–​313. Schnelle, Udo, 2008. Theologie des Neuen Testaments. UTB 2917; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Schnelle, Udo, 2010. Die Johannesbriefe. THKNT 17; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. Schnelle, Udo, 2016. Das Evangelium nach Johannes. 5th edition; THKNT 4; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. Schnelle, Udo, 2017. Einleitung in das Neuen Testament. 9th edition. UTB 1830. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Scholtissek, Klaus, 2000. ‘Relecture und réécriture: Neue Paradigmen zu Methode und Inhalt der Johannesauslegung aufgewiesen am Prolog 1,1–​18 und der ersten Abschiedsrede 13,31–​ 14,31’, TP 75: 1–​29. Schwartz, Eduard, 1907/​1908. ‘Aporien im vierten Evangelium’, Nachrichten von der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen: Philologisch-​historische Klasse (1907) 342–​72; (1908) 115–​48; 149–​88; 497–​560. Schweizer, Eduard, 1965. EGO ΕΙΜΙ. Die religionsgeschichtliche Herkunft und theologische Bedeutung der johanneischen Bildreden, zugleich ein Beitrag zur Quellenfrage des vierten Evangeliums. 2nd edition. FRLANT 56; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Schürer, Emil, 1973. ‘Über den gegenwärtigen Stand der johanneischen Frage’, in Karl Heinrich Rengstorf (ed.), Johannes und sein Evangelium. WdF 82; Darmstadt:  Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft: 1–​27.

42   Michael Labahn Siegert, Folker, 2004. Der Erstentwurf des Johannes. Das ursprüngliche, judenchristliche Johannesevangelium in deutscher Übersetzung vorgestellt nebst 2 Nachrichten über den Verfasser und 2 Briefen von ihm (2./​3.Joh.). Münsteraner Judaistische Studien 16; Münster: LIT Verlag. Siegert, Folker, 2008. Das Evangelium des Johannes in seiner ursprünglichen Gestalt. Wiederherstellung und Kommentar. Schriften des Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum 7; Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Siegert, Folker, 2010. Das Leben Jesu. Eine Biographie aufgrund der vorkanonischen Überlieferungen. Schriften des Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum 8/​ 2; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Smith, D. Moody, 1965. The Composition and Order of the Fourth Gospel. Bultmann’s Literary Theory. New Haven/​London: Yale University Press. Smith, D. Moody, 1987. Johannine Christianity. Essays on its Setting, Sources, and Theology. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. Smith, D. Moody, 2003. ‘John’s Quest for Jesus’, in David E. Aune, Torrey Seland, and Jarl H. Ulrichsen (eds.), Neotestamentica et Philonica NovTSup 106; Leiden: Brill: 233–​53. Stibbe, Mark W. G., 1993. John. Readings; Sheffield: JSOT Press. Theobald, Michael, 2002. Herrenworte im Johannesevangelium. HBS 34; Freiburg: Herder. Theobald, Michael, 2009. Das Evangelium nach Johannes. I:  Kapitel 1–​ 12. RNT 4)/​ 1; Regensburg: Pustet. Theobald Michael, 2010. ‘Futurische versus präsentische Eschatologie? Ein neuer Versuch zur Standortbestimmung der johanneischen Redaktion’, in Michael Theobald, Studien zum Corpus Iohanneum. WUNT 267; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 534–​73. Thompson, Marianne Meye, 2015. John:  A Commentary. Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox. Thyen, Hartwig, 1988. ‘Johannesevangelium’, TRE 17: 202–​25. Thyen, Hartwig, 2005. Das Johannesevangelium. HNT 6; Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck. Thyen, Hartwig, 2007a. ‘Entwicklungen innerhalb der johanneischen Theologie und Kirche im Spiegel von Joh. 21 und der Lieblingsjüngertexte des Evangeliums’, in Hartwig Thyen, Studien zum Corpus Iohanneum. WUNT 214; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 42–​82. Thyen, Hartwig, 2007b. ‘Johannes und die Synoptiker. Auf der Suche nach einem neuen Paradigma zur Beschreibung ihrer Beziehungen anhand von Beobachtungen an Passions-​ und Ostererzählungen’, in Hartwig Thyen, Studien zum Corpus Iohanneum. WUNT 214; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 155–​81. Vogler, Werner, 1993. Die Briefe des Johannes. THKNT 17; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. Van Belle, Gilbert, 1994. The Signs Source in the Fourth Gospel. Historical Survey and Critical Evaluation of the Semeia Hypothesis. BETL 116; Leuven: Peeters. Van Tilborg, Sjef, 2005. Das Johannesevangelium. Ein Kommentar für die Praxis. Stuttgart, Katholisches Bibelwerk. Wagner, Josef, 1988. Auferstehung und Leben. Joh 11,1-​12,19 als Spiegel johanneischer Redaktions-​ und Theologiegeschichte. BU 19; Regensburg: Pustet. Von Wahlde, Urban C., 2010. The Gospel and Letters of John 1:  Introduction, Analysis, and Reference. ECC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Wellhausen, Julius, 1907. Erweiterungen und Änderungen im vierten Evangelium. Berlin: Georg Reimer. Wellhausen, Julius, 1908. Das Evangelium Johannis. Berlin: Georg Reimer.

Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John    43 Wendt, Hans Hinrich, 1900. Das Johannesevangelium. Eine Untersuchung seiner Entstehung und seines geschichtlichen Wertes. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Wendt, Hans Hinrich, 1901. Die Lehre Jesu. 2nd edition. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Wendt, Hans Hinrich, 1911. Die Schichten im vierten Evangelium. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Wengst, Klaus, 1978. Der erste, zweite und dritte Brief des Johannes. ÖTK 16; Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn/​Würzburg: Echter. Wilken, Wilhelm, 1958. Die Entstehungsgeschichte des vierten Evangeliums. Zollikon: Evangelischer Verlag. Zumstein, Jean, 2003. ‘Ein gewachsenes Evangelium. Der Relecture-​Prozess bei Johannes’, in Thomas Söding (ed.), Das Johannesevangelium—​Mitte oder Rand des Kanons? Neue Standortbestimmungen. QD 203; Freiburg: Herder: 9–​37. Zumstein, Jean, 2004a. ‘Der Prozess der Relecture in der johanneischen Literatur’, in  Jean Zumstein, Kreative Erinnerung. Relecture und Auslegung im Johannesevangelium. 2nd edition; ATANT 84; Zürich: Theologischer Verlag: 15–​30. Zumstein, Jean, 2004b. ‘Die Endredaktion des Johannesevangeliums (am Beispiel von Kapitel 21)’, in Jean Zumstein, Kreative Erinnerung. Relecture und Auslegung im Johannesevangelium. 2nd edition. ATANT 84; Zürich: Theologischer Verlag: 291–​315. Zumstein, Jean, 2008. ‘Intratextuality and Intertextuality in the Gospel of John’, in Tom Thatcher and Stephen D. Moore (eds.), Anatomies of Narrative Criticism. The Past, Present, and Futures of the Fourth Gospel as Literature. SBL.RBS 55; Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature: 121–​35. Zumstein, Jean, 2016. Das Johannesevangelium. KEK 2; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Chapter 4

J ohn and oth e r G o spe l s Harold W. Attridge

Introduction Disciples of Jesus proclaimed his significance in many ways, through poetic encomia (Phil. 2:7–​12), visions of impending judgment (Mark 13; Revelation), recollections of his teaching (Gospel of Thomas), and declarations about the significance of his life, death, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1–​5). All these genres delivered a ‘gospel’ (euangelion) or ‘good news’ for his followers. The most influential proclamations were narratives of Jesus’ life and death. The first such popular biography, the Gospel according to Mark, was composed in the years prior to the destruction of the Temple during the Jewish revolt against Rome (66–​73 ce). Its spare narrative depicted a mysterious figure identified as the Son of Man, evoking Dan. 7:13 and its hopes for Israel’s liberation. Mark’s Jesus taught in parables and aphorisms, challenging conventional piety, and inviting followers to welcome the imminent ‘Reign of God’. The story concluded with the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb, which his women disciples greeted with stunned silence. After the Temple’s destruction (70 ce), others adapted Mark’s narrative to new situations. Matthew and Luke added legendary accounts of Jesus’ birth (Matt. 1–​2; Luke 1–​2) and youth (Luke 2:41–​52), and reports about post-​resurrection appearances (Matt. 28:8–​ 20; Luke 24:13–​53). Both Gospels also expanded Jesus’ teachings, Matthew through five major discourses, Luke with constant instruction as Jesus progressed from Galilee to Jerusalem. The most common view about the Gospel development is that Matthew and Luke independently combined Mark with a collection of Jesus’ sayings (‘Q’). Some scholars dispense with Q and argue that Luke knew Matthew as well as Mark.1 However they developed, the three Synoptic Gospels present a story of Jesus sharing the same general framework.


For recent discussion see Watson 2013: 117–​216.

John and Other Gospels    45 The Synoptic Gospels were not the only early narratives about Jesus. Fragments of others survive in the Church Fathers, including ‘Jewish Christian’ Gospels, ‘according to the Hebrews’, ‘the Nazarenes’, and ‘the Ebionites’.2 Modern discoveries have added fragments of lost narratives, such as the Papyrus Egerton 2. It is possible that the Gospel used by Marcion in the second century was not his own creation but another early narrative.3 Other texts bearing the title of ‘Gospel’ are quite unlike the canonical narratives, indicating that ‘Gospel’ originally designated not a literary genre but the content of ‘good news’. Thus, the Gospel of Thomas is a collection of sayings of Jesus; the Gospel of Truth is a meditation composed by a second-​century Valentinian teacher; the Gospel of Philip is a complex work, perhaps a florilegium, with special interest in Christian rituals; the Gospel of Mary enshrines debates about women’s roles; and, most recently, the Gospel of Judas, reporting on Jesus’ final days, combines speculative theology with anti-​institutional polemic. Second century Christians debated which Gospels to recognize as authoritative. Irenaeus of Lyons, ca. 180 ce, articulated the emerging orthodox position (Adversus Haereses). Only four Gospels should have special status, the three Synoptics and the Gospel according to John.4 Irenaeus’s linking of John with the Synoptics is understandable but fraught with problems. The Fourth Gospel exhibits a general framework paralleling that of the Synoptic Gospels. After its quasi-​poetic Prologue, it begins, like Mark, by describing the relationship of Jesus and John the Baptist. It tells of Jesus’ ministry and teaching before a final pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. There he dines with his disciples, one of whom betrays him. The authorities arrest him while another disciple denies him. At the urging of the Jerusalem elite, the Roman governor orders him tortured and crucified. Rising from the dead on the third day, Jesus appears to and commissions his disciples for mission. The basic outline is familiar. Within their common framework John and the Synoptic Gospels differ considerably. In John, the activity of Jesus, taking place in Galilee, Samaria, and Judaea, extends over three Passovers in contrast to the Synoptics’ single year. Jesus’ action in the Temple occurs at the beginning of his public activity, not his final week. Jesus performs healings and wondrous deeds but no exorcisms and does not send his disciples on a mission while he is alive. The Last Supper involves no symbolic sharing of bread and wine but an act of humble service and a long discourse. The Gospel reports nothing about Jesus’ birth or youth. Jesus’ teaching displays a complex web of similarity and difference in comparison with the Synoptics. Jesus gives a single command, to love as he did (John 13:34), reinforced by example (13:3–​17) and embellished with a familiar proverb (15:13). Jesus offers no detailed ethical advice, as do the Sermons on the Mount (Matthew) or Plain (Luke). There 2 

For the texts see Elliott 1993. For the text see Roth 2015; for a theory about its relationship to other Gospels, see Klinghardt 2015, criticized by Lieu 2015. 4  See Chapter 24, Judith M. Lieu, ‘The Johannine Literature and the Canon’, . 3 

46   Harold W. Attridge is no discussion, as in Matt. 5:17–​19 and 23:3, about observance of Torah. The Synoptics recount parables, both simple similitudes and complex narratives; in John Jesus describes himself with images, Light, Way, Truth, Life, and occasionally more complex vignettes, the shepherd (10:1–​18) and the vine (15:1–​8). Language of the Kingdom or Reign of God, prominent in the Synoptics, plays a marginal role (3:3, 5; 18:36), yielding to a focus on eternal life realized through belief in Jesus. The Gospel concentrates on Jesus as the Father’s unique emissary, whose willing death for his friends manifests the salvific imperative of love.

Theories of Relationship to the Synoptic Gospels Gospel readers have often laboured to explain the relationship between John and the Synoptics. Church fathers assumed that the evangelist knew and supplemented the Synoptics, producing a more ‘spiritual Gospel’.5 Nineteenth-​century scholars often followed their lead. Hans Windisch (1926), however, maintained that rather than supplementing, the evangelist tried to replace the Synoptics.6 Twentieth-​century scholars grew increasingly sceptical of a relationship, arguing that the evangelist used oral traditions or written sources but not the Gospels that became canonical (Garnder-​Smith 1938). Source-​critical exploration led to the hypothesis of a ‘signs source’, detected in the two numbered ‘signs’ (John 2:11, 4:54). This theory, part of Rudolf Bultmann’s landmark commentary (Bultmann 1941), was later elaborated more systematically (Fortna 1970, 1989; Nicol 1972), and developed (Siegert 2004; Siegert and Bergler 2010), but also subjected to vigorous criticism (Neirynck 1991b; van Belle 1994, for a response: Fortna 2007). Another theory posits a source for John’s passion narrative which drew on the Synoptics (Schleritt 2007).7 The hypothesis of a ‘Signs Source’ focuses on Jesus’ deeds. Other hypotheses explored the independent character of Jesus’ teaching (Dodd 1963: 335–​65, lists 13 sayings). Bultmann posited a ‘Discourse Source’, which developed traditional sayings in dialogue with Gnostic teaching.8 Although that theory has not won wide support, scholars continue to argue for John’s use of independent oral or written traditions (Theobald 2002; Porter 2015). The Gospel’s compositional history complicates the assessment of its relationship with the Synoptics. Most critics recognize that the Gospel’s production was not a simple matter.9 There are clearly interpolations, including the Pericope of the Adulteress 5 

Clement of Alexandria, Hypotyposes, cited in Eusebius, Hist. eccl. VI.14.7. For earlier scholarship, see Smith 1992. 7  See Chapter 3, Michael Labahn, ‘Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John’. 8  In favour: Koester, 1990: 244–​7 1; critical: Theobald 2002: 537–​53. 9  See Chapter 5, Martinus C. de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’. 6 

John and Other Gospels    47 (7:53–​8:11), found in different places in the manuscript tradition, and the account of the angel stirring the waters at the pool of Bethesda (5:4).10 More importantly, textual details suggest growth and development over time. Chapter 21 appears to be an epilogue, added after the first conclusion (John 20:30–​31). The lengthy farewell discourse (John 13:31–​17:26), although chiastically arranged, involves expansive repetitions on subjects such as the Paraclete (14:15–​17; 25–​26; 16:12–​15). Jesus’ exhortation to move along (14:31) leads readily to ­chapter 18. These facts suggest that c­ hapters 15–​17 constitute a second phase of the discourse, even if it deploys the dramatic convention of the protagonist’s ‘delayed exit’ (Parsenios 2005). Recognizing stages in the Gospel’s growth does not necessarily imply a change in authorship. The general uniformity of the Gospel’s style and its intricate cross-​referencing suggests that a uniform literary vision governed most of the text’s development. Exploring theories of development, some scholars place Johannine interaction with the Synoptics at a late stage. Marie-​Èmile Boismard and A. Lamouille (1993, criticized in Neirynck 1979)  posited a primitive document, composed in Palestine around 50 ce by a Christian with Samaritan connections. John the presbyter, mentioned by the second-​century collector of Gospel traditions, Papias (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. III.29.4–​17), edited this Gospel, probably in Ephesus, around 60–​65. John produced a second edition around 90, taking account of the Synoptic Gospels and Pauline letters. A final redactor added further touches early in the second century. More recently, Urban von Wahlde (2010) proposed three stages of composition, with knowledge of the Synoptics appearing late. In such reconstructions the earliest edition functions much like the ‘Signs Source’. Some scholars have suggested a more complex relationship, with some stages of the developing Fourth Gospel influencing the Synoptics (Anderson 2002; 2007; 2013), especially Luke (Shellard 1995; Matson 2001; Müller 2012). These suggestions rightly highlight connections between John and the Synoptics, but their arguments for substantial Johannine influence have not proven persuasive.11 While twentieth-​century scholars proposed various possible relationships between John and the Synoptics, some continued to insist that the most likely direction of relationship is from the Synoptics to John (Barrett 1978: 42–​54). The case, most forcefully made by scholars at the University of Leuven (Denaux 1992; Frey 2003; Labahn and Lang 2004), appears in recent commentaries (Thyen 2005). The position has been bolstered by observations that the Fourth Gospel apparently assumes that its readers know the Synoptic accounts (Bauckham 1998: 147–​7 1; critiqued by North 2003). Such passages include the reference to Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter (John 1:40), when neither has been named; the note of John the Baptist’s imprisonment (3:24), which is nowhere recounted in the Gospel; the anointing of Jesus’ feet by Mary of Bethany, mentioned at 11:2, but not described until 12:1–​8.

10  See also John 4:2, correcting 3:22. See Chapter 2, H. A. G. Houghton, ‘The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John’. 11  See also Chapter 3, Labahn, ‘Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John’.

48   Harold W. Attridge

An Account of Gospel Relationships The creative theologian and literary artist (or perhaps members of his school) who crafted this intricate work used various sources. These included the Synoptic Gospels, as well as other narratives and collections of sayings. He did not use those sources as the Synoptic authors used theirs. Rather, creatively ‘remembering’ (Breytenbach 1992), he freely selected and reworked stories and sayings to create a new kind of narrative, shaped by an impulse not simply to record the past accurately (contrast Luke 1:3). Instead, like some Hellenistic historians, the evangelist attempted to engage his audience in a ‘dramatic’ way (Attridge 2015). His story of Jesus presents a series of transformative encounters challenging readers to contemplate the paradoxical revelation offered by a crucified Son of God. In the process, he also wrestles with conceptual problems, such as whether divine sovereignty precludes human freedom or how God might be known (Attridge 2014).

Synoptic Narrative Parallels The following tables indicate passages in the Fourth Gospel (A) with significant Synoptic parallels, and (B) some elements familiar from the Synoptics. A The Baptist First Disciples Naming Simon John imprisoned Ministry in Galilee Healing official’s son12 Feeding 500013 Calming a storm At Genessaret Peter’s Confession A premature attempt Anointing Jesus14 Entry to Jerusalem Last supper Footwashing15 12 




1:19–​34 1:35–​37 1:40–​42 3:24 4:43–​46 4:46–​54 6:1–​13 6:16–​21 6:22–​25 6:66–​69 7:30 12:3–​8 12:12–​16 13:1–​11

3:1–​17 4:18–​22 16:17–​18 4:12 4:13–​17 8:5–​13 14:13–​21 14:22–​32 14:34–​36 16:13–​20

1:2–​11 1:16–​20 3:16 1:14a 1:14b–​15

26:6–​13 21:1–​9 26:17–​29

14:3–​9 11:1–​10 14:12–​25

6:32–​44 6:45–​51 6:53–​56 8:27–​30

Luke 3:1–​22 5:1–​1 6:14 4:14–​15 7:1–​10 9:10–​17 9:18–​21 22:53 7:36–​50 19:28–​38 22:7–​20 22:26–​27

Dauer 1984; Landis 1992; Thatcher 2014. Favouring dependence on Mark: Vouga 1992; Konings 1992; Dunderberg 1994: 126–​56; Hunt 2011; Lang 2014. 14  Sabbe 1992b; Dunderberg 1992. 15 Sabbe 1982. 13 

John and Other Gospels    49 Betrayal Prediction of denial16 Arrest17 Peter’s Denial18 Trial before Pilate19 Barabbas Crucifixion20 Burial Empty Tomb21 Resurrection Appearances A Final Appearance

13:21–​20 13:36–​38 18:1–​11 18:15–​27 18:29–​38 18:39–​40 19:16–​30 19:38–​42 20:1–​10 20:11–​29

26:21–​25 26:30–​35 26:36–​56 26:57–​75 27:22–​14 27:15–​23 27:24–​50 27:57–​60 28:1–​8 28:8–​10

14:18–​21 14:26–​31 14:32–​52 14:53–​72 15:2–​5 15:6–​14 15:15–​39 15:42–​46 16:1–​8


22:21–​23 22:31–​34 22:39–​53 22:54–​7 1 23:2–​5 23:17–​23 23:24–​48 23:50–​54 24:1–​12 24:26–​31 7:1–​10

B Temple incident Healing a paralytic22 Healing a blind man Raising Lazarus Prayer of anguish Voice from heaven

2:14–​22 5:2–​16 9:1–​7 11:1–​44 12:27–​32 12:28–​30

21:12–​13 9:1–​9 9:18–​26 26:38 17:5

11:15–​17 2:1–​12 8:23–​26 5:35–​43 14:34 9:7

19:45–​46 5:17–​26 7:11–​17 9:35

Other passages, such as the Wedding at Cana (2:1–​10), the encounters with Nicodemus (3:1–​13) and the Samaritan woman (4:4–​26), have no obvious Synoptic parallels. Such episodes do not prove John’s independence but indicate that he had other sources as well.

Comparative Observations It is striking that the passages that display the most significant correspondences with the Synoptics also generally follow the Synoptic order. The parallels often involve details that suggest a literary relationship. A few examples will suffice: The story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand shares with Mark alone the figure of 200 denarii as the estimated cost of feeding the crowd (John 6:7; Mark 6:37), and with the other Gospels the number of loaves and fish (John 6:9; Matt. 14:17; Mark 6:38; Luke 9:13). The Johannine setting, with Jesus ascending a mountain (John 6:3), is shared

16 Jennings 2013. 17 

Sabbe 1977; Lang 1999. Donahue 1973: 58–​63. 19  Sabbe 1992; Pichler 2008. 20  Sabbe 1994; Thyen 1992. 21  Lindars 1960 and Craig 1992 posit common tradition. 22 Neirynck 1991a. 18 

50   Harold W. Attridge only with Matt. 15:29, quite likely a Matthean redaction evoking the setting of the Great Sermon (Matt. 4:23–​5:1) (Allison 2017). The brief notice that the Jews did not lay a hand on Jesus because his hour had not yet come (John 7:30) signals the developing plot against Jesus. The wording resembles Luke 22:53 when Jesus chides the Jerusalem elite that they did not lay hands on him when he was teaching in the Temple, but did so once their hour had come. The scene of Mary’s anointing with fragrant oil (John 12:3) echoes the description of the anointing by an anonymous woman in Mark 14:3, but also recalls the action of the sinful woman in Luke, who anoints Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair (Luke 3 7:38). The Lukan version, a reworking of the Markan or Matthean account, is set in the public ministry of Jesus, not in the events leading to his death. John’s version, which alone identifies the woman as Mary, keeps the connection with the passion, but includes the Lukan form of the action. John’s account of the Last Supper is certainly distinctive, but the unique action at its centre, the Footwashing, bears a striking resemblance to the saying of Jesus at Luke 22:26–​ 27. There Jesus admonished his disputatious disciples that leaders must become servants and suggested that the servant is greater than the one who reclines at table. The same sentiment in slightly different words appears at John 13:16, after Jesus does precisely what the Lukan saying recommended. The Johannine Last Supper dramatizes the Lukan saying. The story of Peter’s denial in the high priests’ courtyard (John 18:15–​27) is structured as in Mark and Matthew, with two scenes focused on Peter (vv 13–​19, 25–​27) framing Jesus’ interrogation. In each of the Petrine scenes he is ‘warming himself ’ in both John (18:18, 25) and Mark (14:54, 67). The Johannine adaptation introduces another disciple, known to the high priest, who gains admittance for Peter (John 18:15). The confrontation between Peter and the maidservant (18:17), now relocated to the first scene, is echoed by the same question from another servant in the final scene (18:26). The Johannine reconfiguration provides Peter the opportunity to deny Jesus twice. The Johannine resurrection appearances have numerous parallels with the Synoptics along with many subtle differences. Like Luke, the Fourth Gospel reports that male disciples visited the tomb after the women’s report. A close verbal parallel appears in the description of the action of the Beloved Disciple, a Johannine addition, upon his arrival at the tomb (John 20:5) he ‘bends down and sees the linen cloths’. This is exactly the action ascribed to Peter in Luke 24:12, although ‘bending down’ is lacking in some manuscript witnesses. In the Lukan account, Peter, like the women in Mark 16:8, goes away ‘amazed at what had happened’. In the Johannine version, Peter exhibits no reaction, but the Beloved Disciple ‘believes’ (John 20:8). The evangelist seems to know the Lukan account, and uses it for his own purposes, which do not include exalting Peter.

Dissection and Reconstruction Shared details, including redactional elements, thus strongly suggest Johannine knowledge of the Synoptic Gospels. Two segments, at the beginning and end of the Fourth Gospel, display careful literary craftsmanship. In both cases, the evangelist has extracted

John and Other Gospels    51 elements from an existing account and fashioned them into new stories.23 A more detailed examination of these passages will illustrate the process. The Gospel begins with a series of carefully framed scenes, marked by references to ‘days’. The first (19–​23) introduces John, not named ‘the Baptist’. Two passages follow, in which John mentions one greater than himself (24–​28), to whom he dramatically points ‘on the next day’ (29–​34). Each scene is built on portions of a saying, paralleled in all the Synoptics, about the coming one’s baptism. Many elements in these vignettes appear in the Synoptics in the same sequence: John



The Baptist ‘One Stronger’

19–​23 24–​28

3:1–​6 3:11–​12

1:2–​6 1:7–​8

The Spirit Call of Disciples Naming Peter

29–​34 35–​37 40–​42

3:13–​17 4:18–​22 16:17–​18

1:9–​11 1:16–​20 3:16

Luke 3:1–​6 3:15–​18 (Acts 13:25) 3:21–​22 5:1–​11 6:14

In addition to the overall structural similarity there are numerous similar details: Isa 40:3 Sandal Water/​spirit Spirit descending

23 27 26, 33 33

3:3 3:11 3:11 3:16

1:2–​3 1:7 1:8 1:10

3:4–​6 3:16 3:16 3:22

Noticeable differences balance the similarities. John’s citation of Isaiah is by far the shortest, lacking the additional verse from Malachi found in Mark 1:2. In Matthew the Baptist says he is not worthy to carry the sandals of the coming one; in Mark, Luke, and John he is unworthy to untie them. In John there is no account of Jesus being baptized, thus avoiding the need for an apologetic explanation (Matt. 3:13–​15). The Spirit’s descent is a vision that Jesus sees in Mark and Matthew and a public event in Luke. In John it is a vision seen by John alone. The call of the first disciples, though reported close to the account of the baptism in Mark, takes place later, after John’s imprisonment (Mark 1:14, also Matt. 4:14, not so Luke). Repetitions characterize the Johannine account (Van Belle, Labahn, and Maritz 2009). The evangelist has framed the interaction between John and the Jews with a pair of questions, one asking who John is (John 1:19–​21), suggesting as possibilities Elijah or a prophet. The repeated question in v 25, asking why John baptizes, adds ‘Messiah’. John initially rejects all such titles, including those given him in Matt. 11:14. The denial introduces the citation of Isa. 40:3 (John 1:23). The Synoptics’ badge of honour, a prophecy fulfilled, now puts John in his place; he is only a voice crying out. 23 

See Brown 1961 on the dispersal of Synoptic materials in John.

52   Harold W. Attridge The repeated question in John 1:25 introduces a new topic and another repetition. John answers with the first half of a traditional saying about a ‘stronger’ one to come, who will baptize with spirit (Mark 1:7–​8) and, in Matthew and Luke, fire (Matt. 3:11, Luke 3:16). The truncated saying is thus the climax of Day 1. The second half of the traditional saying (‘He will baptize with Holy Spirit’) concludes Day 2 (John 1:33). The divided and reused saying makes the point that the Spirit delivered by Jesus through baptism is connected with the Spirit that initially descended on him. The recombination also connects with another important theme. The saying about ‘baptism by spirit’ is an integral part of Day 2, which begins with John’s identification of the ‘lamb of God’ (John 1:29) and ends with his naming Jesus ‘Son of God’ (1:34). The Gospel will explore how Jesus accomplishes his task of ‘taking away the sins of the world’ as the Paschal lamb (19:36), which is not an animal sacrificed for sin. The removal of sin will be intimately connected to ‘baptism of spirit’ made possible by the Lamb’s death. The passage reveals the evangelist at work. He had at his disposal a narrative of the start of Jesus’ ministry much like that of Mark, if not Mark itself. He freely adapted that source to make literary and theological points, particularly by excerpting from one section material on which to build another. Like the opening chapter, the Gospel’s account of the resurrection is carefully structured in four distinct scenes, two set in the garden where Jesus was buried, two in a room in Jerusalem on Easter night and one week later. The first and third scenes describe multiple disciples facing evidence of the resurrection. In each case there follows a dramatic encounter between Jesus and a single disciple. The first scene describes Peter and the Beloved Disciple visiting the tomb (John 20:1–​10). Jesus then appears to a disconsolate Mary Magdalene, transforming grief into mission (20:11–​18). In the third scene Jesus commissions disciples, with Thomas absent (20:19–​23). Finally, Jesus appears, resolves Thomas’s doubts, and makes his famous proclamation about seeing and believing (20:24–​29). The first and third scenes both have significant Synoptic parallels (Lindars 1960; Neirynck 1969, 1984), and the verbal correspondence in John 20:5 with Luke 24:12 has been noted. The dissection and reconstruction technique is evident in the appearance to Mary. The scene probably depends on a reported appearance to the several women who discovered the tomb (Matt. 28:8–​10). Instead of several women, whose presence may still be felt in Mary’s plural expression (John 20:2), the evangelist focuses on one. Mary becomes the centre of an emotional encounter with her teacher. The scene echoes Jesus’ words about sheep recognizing their shepherd’s voice (John 10:4, 16), and the encounter evokes well known recognition scenes (Larsen 2008). The evangelist has built a brief notice from his source it into a dramatic new episode. The third scene (John 20:19–​23) closely parallels the Lukan account of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples on Easter night (Luke 24:36–​43). The fourth scene, describing the encounter with Thomas (John 20:24–​29), displays the familiar compositional strategy. An element from the source, Jesus’ invitation to ‘see his hands and feet’ (Luke 24:39), becomes the focal point of two moments of recognition. Jesus first invites his disciples (John 20:20), then a week later Thomas (20:27–​28), to view and touch his hands and his

John and Other Gospels    53 side. The new reference to the side recalls the unique Johannine account of piercing of Jesus’ side at the crucifixion (John 19:34). The first command provides the occasion for commissioning the disciples (20:21–​23); the second provides a teaching moment about faith (20:29). The Gospel’s opening and concluding chapters clearly display the evangelist’s compositional technique. In both segments the evangelist takes elements at home in a traditional story, repeats or divides them, and builds a new vignette around them. Not slavish dependence but creative reuse characterizes the evangelist’s work.

Sayings of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel Woven throughout the Fourth Gospel are sayings of Jesus, many of which have parallels in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus preserved in Coptic and in three Greek papyrus fragments from Oxyrhynchus.24 The Gospel has intrigued scholars since its discovery as part of the Nag Hammadi find in 1945 and its publication in 1959. It contains sayings paralleled in all the canonical Gospels as well as some previously unknown. Its sources included the Synoptics, although probably through an indirect process of oral transmission. Its Johannine parallels may indicate knowledge of the Fourth Gospel (Zelyck 2013: 85–​103), but may simply result from independent elaboration of common motifs (Brown 1962; Dunderberg 2006). The following chart offers a brief overview: John You are Cephas/​Peter Destroy this Temple Groom’s joy Font within Harvest nigh Prophet dishonoured Reject Son/​Father Food that lasts Seek and Find Come Drink From Bethlehem Light of World Not taste death Know Son/​Father Light within 24 

1:42 2:19 3:29–​30 4:14; 7:38 4:35–​38 4:44 5:23 6:27 7:33–​4 7:37 7:42 8:12 8:51–​52 11:27 11:9–​10

Matthew 16:18 26:61 9:15 9:37–​38 13:57 10:40 6:19–​20 7:1–​11 2:5–​6 5:14 16:8




3:16 14:58 2:19

Acts 5:14 5:34

71 104 13, 108

6:4 12:33


10:2 4:24 10:16 11:19–​23

9:27 10:22

31 76.3 50 108


For the texts, Layton 1989. Koester 1990: 75–​128 and Watson 2013: 217–​85 explore relationships to other Gospels.

54   Harold W. Attridge Love life, lose it Glorify Son Sender and I Disciple/​Teacher25 One will betray Before the cock Ask and receive Do greater things Grief to joy Forgiving sin If he remains Looser Parallels Good wine first Born again Other Parallels Son of Joseph Give us a Sign


16:25 10:39 6:9b 13:20 10:24–​25 26:21 26:34 21:22 17:20

12:28a 12:44 13:16 13:21 13:38 14:12–​14 14:32 16:20 20:22–​23 16:19; 18:18 21:23


14:17 14:30 11:24

9:24 17:33 11:2c 10:40 6:40 22:34 5:35; 6:21


2:10 3:5

9:17 18:3

2:22 10:15

5:37–​38 18:17

1:45; 6:20 6:30

13:55 12:38

6:3 8:11

4:22 11:16, 39

Differences are as plentiful as the similarities, as a few examples will illustrate. The name given to the disciple Simon (John 1:42) is explicitly Cephas, which is ‘translated Peter’. In the Synoptics there is no reference to Cephas. The remark about destroying and rebuilding the Temple (John 2:19), an accusation against Jesus in the Synoptics and Acts 5:14, here appears on his lips. It uses an idiomatic Semitic expression of an imperative as a conditional, not found in the Synoptic parallels. John offers his own Christocentric interpretation: the ‘temple’ is Jesus’ body. The language of seeking and finding (Matt. 7:7–​11; Luke 11:19–​23) has a series of Johnannine parallels (7:33–​34; 8:21; 13:33). But here Jesus does not admonish, he states a fact: those who seek him do not find him (Attridge 2000). In Matt. 5:14 Jesus declares his disciples to be the ‘light of the world’. In John 8:12 Jesus is that light. In developing the theme, the evangelist suggests that by walking by daylight (John 11:9; 12:35–​36) one can have light within (11:10). The saying echoes the proverb about the sound eye (Matt. 6:22; Luke 11:34–​36), which enables the interior of the self to be filled with light. Reflection on interior light appealed to the Gospel of Thomas (24); in John the brief allusion to interior ‘light’ is submerged in the strong Christological focus. Some sayings are loosely related to their Synoptic counterparts. The steward’s remark about serving good wine first (John 2:10) recalls Jesus’ sayings about new wine, but the Synoptic sayings are about storing, not drinking, wine. The claim that one must be


Van Belle and Godecharle 2013.

John and Other Gospels    55 ‘born again’ (3:5) recalls sayings about becoming little children, but the more complex Johannine symbolism involves levels of irony absent from the admonitions to childlike simplicity. The Johannine Son of Man sayings present a particularly intriguing phenomenon. Running through the first half of the Gospel, much like their Synoptic counterparts, they fall into the classes of saying familiar from the Synoptics. One refers to Jesus’ present activity (John 9:35); some to his passion (3:13–​14; 12:32–​34), and one to his heavenly revelation, recalling predictions of his eschatological return (1:51). Yet the references are complex. Images from the Old Testament, Jacob’s ladder (1:51) and the bronze serpent (3:14), reinterpret two early sayings (Attridge 2006). Many of the remaining sayings blend the notion of an eschatological event with the crucifixion, when Jesus is ‘lifted up’, revealed for who he is (8:28), ‘glorified’ (12:23; 13:31), and returned to the Father (6:62). One (3:13) refers not to a future return of the Son of Man but to the descent that has already happened. As a very human Son of Man, he now exercises judgment (5:27) and nourishes his people (6:27, 53). The Gospel thus radically reinterprets familiar Son of Man sayings in the light of its distinctive understanding of Jesus.26 Two sayings display a tensive relationship to the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus’ statement that a prophet is without honour (John 4:44) appears in the Synoptics and in Thomas. The Johannine version is closer to the wording of Matt. 13:57 and Mark 6:4 than to the Lukan-​Thomas version, which refers to the prophet being ‘accepted’. The reference to Jesus’ ‘homeland’ is problematic. The saying seems to suggest a motive for going to Galilee, but v 45 indicates that Jesus was warmly received there. He had also just visited Samaria, where he was acclaimed Saviour of the World (4:42). Judaea (4:54) may be an option, but that stands in tension with the understanding that Jesus is ‘from Nazareth’ (1:45), whatever Nathanael thinks of that venue (1:46). The saying has been understood as an awkward editorial addition (Von Wahlde 2010: 2:207–​9), but with all its ambiguity it serves a thematic purpose. The issue of Jesus’ origins is a central concern in ­chapter 7. The crowds believe that the Messiah’s origins will be unknown (7:26), while some hold that he must come from Bethlehem (7:42), echoing Mic. 5:1, or Matt. 2:5–​6. The evangelist may ironically affirm the latter position (Heil 2008), and therefore the Matthean/​ Lukan account of Jesus’ origins. Or he may defend the Markan version, which knows only of Jesus’ Galilean origin. Or, most likely, he insists that neither position provides relevant information. The Jerusalem crowds are ironically correct on the earthly level. All one needs to know is that Jesus is from God (7:28–​29). The Fourth Gospel’s sayings thus draw on a broad tradition of Jesus’ teaching, apparent both in the form of individual verses and in materials unattested in the Synoptics, such as the image of the apprentice/​son in 5:19–​20, the proverb that truth liberates (8:31b), or the contrast between sons and slaves (8:35), a trope paralleled in Gal. 4:7 and Heb. 3:1–​6.


Among others see Lindars 1983; Burkett 1991; Moloney 2005; Ellens 2010.

56   Harold W. Attridge

John and Another Gospel While some of Jesus’ sayings and many of his actions in the Fourth Gospel resemble and may draw on the Synoptics in some fashion, either directly or indirectly, it is clear that the Fourth Evangelist also had access to other sources. At least one of the fragmentary Gospels discovered in modernity has been proposed as a source. Papyrus Egerton 2 consists of two leaves of papyrus and two minor fragments first published in 1935 (Bell and Skeat 1935) and supplemented with another fragment, P. Köln 255, in 1987 (Gronewald 1987; Nicklas 2009). The fragments, dating from the mid second to early third century (Nicklas 2009: 21; Porter 2013), contain on frag. 1 (1) a controversy between Jesus and Jewish leaders, with parallels to John 5:39, 45; 9:29, and 5:46; (2) an attempt to stone Jesus, paralleled at John 7:30, 44; 8:20; and 10:39, followed by (3) a healing of a leper, reminiscent of Mark 1:40–​44, with an admonition not to sin resembling John 5:14 or 8:11. Frag. 2 contains (4) a miracle on the banks of the Jordan, and (5) a debate about paying taxes, like Mark 12:13–​15, with verses similar to John 3:2 and 10:25. The relationship of this fragmentary text to the Fourth Gospel has long been contested. Many have argued that this unknown Gospel is dependent on the canonical Gospels (Dodd 1936; Neirynck 1985) or at least the Fourth Gospel (Nicklas 2009: 96–​8; Zelyck 2013: 25–​47; Nicklas 2014); others that it reflects independent tradition (Jeremias 1991); others argue that its story was a source of the Fourth Gospel (Koester 1990: 205–​ 16; Watson 2013: 286–​340). The close verbal parallels with John 5 indicate a literary relationship of some sort, but dependence could work in either direction. The note that his opponents do not know where Jesus is from (P. Eger. Fr. 1 verso, ll.16–​17 //​John 9:29) reflects not simply a floating tradition, but a theme that structures a major portion of the Fourth Gospel. This strongly suggests that the papyrus depends on the Gospel, although its author uses his source with the kind of freedom characteristic of the Fourth Gospel.

Conclusion The Fourth Gospel emerged amid the competition among first-​century Christians to find ever more effective ways of proclaiming their good news. It creatively drew on other efforts, including the Synoptics, but did so with its own distinctive style and theological emphasis. In turn it exercised increasing influence on early Christian literature across a wide theological spectrum (Hill 2004; Rasimus 2010; Zelyck 2013).

Suggested Reading An orientation to the topic is offered by Smith (1992), who argues for John’s independence, as do Borgen (2014) and Porter (2015). Anderson (2002, 2007, 2013) suggests that developing Johannine literature interacted with the other canonical Gospels. Koester (1990) and Watson (2013) treat within the general context of Gospel development. Rasimus (2010) and Zelyck

John and Other Gospels    57 (2013) situate John within second-​century literature. Dunderberg (2006) carefully considers the case for the dependence of John on the Synoptics.

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John and Other Gospels    61 Sabbe, Maurits, 1992. ‘The Trial of Jesus before Pilate in John and Its Relation to the Synoptic Gospels’, in Denaux, John and the Synoptics. BETL 101; Leuven:  Leuven University Press: 341–​85. Sabbe, Maurits, 1992b. ‘The Anointing of Jesus in John 12,1–​8 and Its Synoptic Parallels’, in F. van Segbroeck, et al. (eds.), The Four Gospels, 1992: Festschrift Frans Neirynck. BETL 100; 3 vols.; Leuven: Leuven University Press/​Peeters: 3: 2051–​82. Sabbe, Maurits, 1994. ‘The Johannine Account of the Death of Jesus and Its Synoptic Parallels (Jn 19, 16b–​42)’, EThL 70: 34–​64. Schleritt, Frank, 2007. Der vorjohanneische Passionsbericht:  Eine historisch-​ kritische und theologische Untersuchung zu Joh 2,13–​22; 11,47–​14,31 und 18,1–​20,29. BZNW 154; Berlin/​ New York: de Gruyter. Shellard, Barbara, 1995. ‘The Relationship of Luke and John:  A Fresh Look at an Old Problem’, JTS 46:  71–​97 (repr. in Peter Leander Hofrichter (ed.), Für und wider die Priorität des Johannesevangeliums. Theologische Texte und Studien; Hildesheim/​Zurich/​ New York: Georg Olms, 2002: 255–​80). Siegert, Folker, 2004. Der Erstentwurf des Johannes:  Das ursprüngliche, judenchristliche Johannesevangelium in deutscher Übersetzung vorgestellt, nebst Nachrichten über Verfasser und zwei Briefen von ihm (2./​3. Joh.). Münsteraner Judaistische Studien; Wissenschäftliche Beiträge zur christlichjüdischen Begegnung, 16; Münster: LIT. Siegert, Folker, and Bergler, Siegfried, 2010. Synopse der vorkanonischen Jesusüberliefer ungen:  Zeichenquelle und Passionsbericht, die Logienquelle und der Grundbestand des Markusevangeliums in deutschen Übersetzung gegenübergestellt von Folker Siegert. Rekonstruktion der Zeichenquelle von Siegfried Bergler. SIJD 8/​1; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Smith, D. Moody, 1992. John Among the Gospels:  The Relationship in Twentieth-​Century Research. Minneapolis:  Fortress, 1992 (2nd edition Columbia, SC:  University of South Carolina Press, 2001). Thatcher, Tom, 2014. ‘The Rejected Prophet and the Royal Official (John 4,43–​54):  A Case Study in the Relationship Between John and the Synoptics’, in Joseph Verheyden et al. (eds.), Studies in the Gospel of John and its Christology. Festschrift Gilbert van Belle. BETL 265; Leuven, Paris, Walpole: Peeters: 119–​48. Theobald, Michael, 2002. Herrenworte im Johannesevangelium. HBS 34; Freiburg, Basel, Wien: Herder. Thyen, Hartwig, 1992. ‘Johannes und die Synoptiker:  Auf der Suche nach einem neuen Paradigma zur Beschreibung ihrer Beziehungen anhand von Beobachtungen an Passions-​ und Ostererzählungen’, in Denaux, John and the Synoptics. BETL 101; Leuven:  Leuven University Press: 81–​108. Thyen, Hartwig, 2005. Das Johannesevangelium. HNT 6; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Vouga, François, 1992. ‘Le quatrième évangile comme interprète de la tradition synoptique: Jean 6’, in Denaux, John and the Synoptics. BETL 101; Leuven: Leuven University Press: 261–​79. Van Belle, Gilber, and Godecharle, David R. M., 2013. ‘C.H. Dodd on John 13:16 (and 15:20): St. John’s knowledge of Matthew revisited’, in Tom Thatcher and Catrin H. Williams (eds.), Engaging with C. H. Dodd on the Gospel of John: Sixty Years of Tradition and Interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 86–​106. Van Belle, Gilbert, Labahn, Michael, and Maritz, Petrus, 2009. Repetitions and Variations in the Fourth Gospel: Style, Text, Interpretation. BETL 223; Leuven: Peeters.

62   Harold W. Attridge Van Belle, Gilbert, 1994. The Signs Source in the Fourth Gospel: Historical Survey and Critical Evaluation of the Semeia Hypothesis. BETL 116; Leuven: Peeters. Von Wahlde, Urban C., 2010. The Gospel and Letters of John. ECC, 3 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Watson, Francis, 2013. Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Windisch, Hans, 1926. Johannes und die Synoptiker:  Wollte der vierte Evangelist die älteren Evangelien ergänzen oder ersetzen?. UNT 12; Leipzig: Hinrichs. Zelyck, Lorne R., 2013. John among the Other Gospels. WUNT 2.347; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

Chapter 5

The Story of t h e J ohannine C ommu ni t y and its Lit e rat u re Martinus C. de Boer

Introduction The view that the Gospel of John originated in and was composed for a socially distinguishable group of believers in Christ—​the Johannine Community—​has played a prominent role in Johannine scholarship since the late 1960s. J. Louis Martyn’s History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel (19681, 19792, 20033)1 and Raymond E. Brown’s The Community of the Beloved Disciple (1979) were particularly influential in this development. Some scholars have in recent years questioned their reconstructions of the origin, character, and history of this community, regarding them as merely hypothetical with little or no basis in the text of the Gospel itself and with little or no external corroboration either (Reinhartz 1998, 2008; Bauckham 1998, 2007; Kysar 2005; Klink 2007; Carter 2008; Lamb 2014). The extra-​biblical evidence, much of it from the second century and beyond, is inconclusive at best, but the existence of the three canonical Letters of John alongside the Gospel of John provides prima facie support for the existence of such a community (Klauck 2005). The Gospel has numerous affinities with the Letters in terms of vocabulary, diction, and style, indicating that they came out of the same milieu and bear some relationship to one another. The affinities that bind them together also set them apart from other surviving early Christian literature. The traditional explanation for these affinities is the attribution of all four Johannine writings to one author, usually John the son of Zebedee,


See also Martyn’s complementary essay, ‘Glimpses into the History of the Johannine Community’ (1979a).

64   Martinus C. de Boer one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, though others have also been proposed.2 The documents would then reflect this single author’s distinctive diction and style, his idiolect. A more probable explanation is that the four documents were written by a school of (two or more) writers who shared a common idiom (Brown 1966: xxxv; 1979: 101–​2; 1982: 94–​7; Zumstein 1999). Giving rise to this explanation are three considerations: (a) Despite the evident linguistic similarities between the Gospel and Letters of John, subtle differences in grammar and style (Dodd 1937)  or in clarity of expression (Brown 1982:  24–​5)3 between the Gospel and Letters seem to point to different authors. (b) The last two verses of the Gospel (21:24–​25) indicate that it is unlikely that a single author is responsible for the Gospel in its present form, since aside from referring to ‘the disciple who is bearing witness to these things and who wrote these things’, which is a reference to the Beloved Disciple (21:7, 20; cf. 13:23; 19:26; 20:2),4 they also mention a wider group (‘we know that his witness is true’), one of whom (‘I suppose’) is evidently responsible for penning at least these last two verses of c­ hapter 21. It is not unthinkable that the writer responsible for the last two verses also added or revised other material and did so on behalf of the wider group. (c) Like the writer of John 21:24–​25, the anonymous author of 1 John refers to himself several times in the first person singular (1 John 2:1, 7, 8, 12–​14, 21, 26; 5:13, 16), yet self-​consciously presents himself in the opening verses (1:1–​5) as writing on behalf of a group (‘we’) who are distinguished from the addressees (‘you’, plural): ‘we have heard, we have seen, we have beheld, our hands have touched, we bear witness, we are writing, we proclaim to you’. The author of 3 John (‘the Elder’) similarly refers to himself using a first person singular (vss. 9, 10), but also claims that ‘our testimony is true’ (vs. 12). The ‘we’ found in John 21:24; 1 John 1:1–​5; and 3 John 12 is arguably that of a Johannine school of writers responsible not only for the Johannine Letters but also for the Johannine Gospel, at least in its final form.5 The distinctive idiom of this Johannine School, found 2  See Chapter 6, Tom Thatcher, ‘The Beloved Disciple, the Evangelist, and the Authorship of the Gospel of John’. 3  Brown finds the grammatical and stylistic analysis of Dodd in support of different authors finally inconclusive, but nevertheless regards the letters as ‘more obscure’ than the Gospel and thus concludes that ‘the greater obscurity of the Epistles becomes an argument for difference of authorship’ (1982: 25). 4  The authorship of the Gospel is seemingly being ascribed to the Beloved Disciple (‘who wrote these things’, ho grapsas tauta), though it is possible that he is being presented not as the author of the Gospel in the modern sense of the term but merely as the authority or source behind the Gospel (Brown 1966: lxxxvii). He clearly did not write the last two verses of the Gospel. 5  The founder and head of this school is normally thought to be the Beloved Disciple, whose death is hinted at in 21:23. Culpepper (1975) compared the Johannine Community with other ancient schools (e.g. Pythagoreans, Stoics) and concluded that the Johannine Community as a whole was a school of which the Beloved Disciple was the founder and functioned as the head (1975: 265). Brown agrees that the Beloved Disciple was the founder and head of the school, but he distinguishes the Johannine School from the Johannine Community, arguing that the former was responsible for composing the Johannine documents on behalf of the latter (1979: 102).

The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature    65 in all four documents, plausibly reflects that of the community out of which the members of the school came and within which they composed these documents. The audiences of these writings probably also belonged to this community. The Epistles presuppose a network of several house churches, some located in the same city or town, perhaps ‘a larger metropolitan’ centre, and others in different towns situated nearby (Brown 1979: 98–​9). The word ‘church’ in the sense of local congregation or house church occurs three times in 3 John and all three letters indicate correspondence and travel between the house churches. The audiences of the three letters are addressed with a range of kinship terms for fellow believers such as ‘beloved’, ‘(my little) children’, and ‘brothers’, suggesting that the writer and the addresses come from the same ecclesiastical family, i.e. the same community of believers in Christ. The same is suggested by the use of an inclusive ‘we’ by the author of 1 John to refer to himself and the addressees as members of a single community of believers, sharing not simply a common idiom but also a common faith (e.g. 2:19; 3:1–​2; 4:7, 13; cf. 2 John 2–​3, 6:6; 3 John 8). The Gospel of John arguably emerged from the same community that lies behind the Johannine Letters and in its present form was meant for that community (cf. the use of ‘brothers’ in 20:17; 21:23). At the Last Supper and in the Last Discourse (13:1–​17:26), directly before his arrest and subsequent departure, Jesus addresses his inner circle of disciples (‘you’, plural), but in such a way that his discourse is clearly meant for later believers (cf. e.g. the predictions in 15:18–​16:4a), those contemporary with the writers responsible for the Gospel of John. The plural ‘you’ in 20:30–​31 probably also has these later believers in view: ‘Now Jesus did many other signs . . . which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe . . . and that believing you may have life ...’ (cf. 19:35). Though these closing verses of ­chapter 20 may originally have had a missionary purpose (‘that you may come to believe’), in the present Gospel they manifestly function to strengthen Johannine believers in their faith (‘that you may continue to believe’) in Jesus as ‘the Christ, the Son of God’ (20:31), in the face of the world’s misunderstanding and hostility (cf. esp. 15:18–​21). Jesus refers figuratively to the Johannine Community as ‘this (sheep)fold’ in 10:16. Such considerations make the existence of a distinctive Johannine Community out of which the Gospel and Letters of John emerged and for which they were originally written a plausible hypothesis—​even apart from such controversial matters as this community’s origin, character, history, and geographical setting, or the nature of its relationship to first-​century Judaism, other streams of early Christianity, and the Roman Empire.

Communal History and Composition History An account of the history of the Johannine Community responsible for the four Johannine writings is completely dependent on those writings. These writings themselves have a history of composition. They must have been written in a certain order, and they were probably

66   Martinus C. de Boer each occasioned by certain events transpiring in the Johannine Community. The Gospel in its final form appears to be the literary product of more than one hand, as discussed, indicating that it achieved its final form in stages. For such reasons, the communal history provides a clue to the composition history, even as the composition history in turn documents, both directly and indirectly, the communal history of those by whom and for whom (in the first instance) the Gospel and Letters were written. Claims made about the one inevitably affect claims made about the other. Given the nature of the sources, such circularity is inescapable and in fact necessary, since if an account of the communal history does not correlate well with an account of the composition history, or vice versa, it cannot hope to be persuasive. A key to both histories is the Gospel’s teaching on the role of the Spirit. In the Last Discourse, Jesus informs his disciples that when he departs to the Father, the Spirit will come and be with them forever as his substitute. The Spirit, also called the Paraclete in this section of John (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), is thus the means whereby Jesus will continue to be present with his disciples—​not just the original group—​but all subsequent disciples, and not just at a single moment but continuously (cf. 17:20; 20:22; 1 John 2:20–​27; 3:24). This Spirit will, among other things, ‘teach them all things’ and bring to remembrance all that Jesus told them (14:25). The Spirit will guide them into all truth (16:13) and bear witness to Jesus (15:26).6 On the one hand, then, the Gospel is the story of Jesus in the past. As such, it is presented in the coordinates of space and time; it is a narrative and, like all narratives, it is characterized by chronological markers and sequence. On the other hand, the Gospel is also the story of Jesus in the present (Martyn 2003: 142). For the Jesus who speaks and acts in the Gospel, especially in the discourses, is not only the earthly Jesus of the past, but also the resurrected and ascended Lord of the present. This latter Jesus is not bound by the constraints of space and time, nor then by the constraints of the Gospel’s ostensible literary genre (an ancient biography or bios telling the story of someone’s past life). A living presence, experienced in the form of the Spirit-​Paraclete, his words and works among later believers inevitably inject themselves into the account of his past, while the account of his past is told so as to illuminate the present. For such reasons, Martyn suggested that John, or much of it, can be read as a ‘two-​level drama’: in telling the story of Jesus ‘back then’, it also tells, at the same time, the story of Jesus ‘now’.7 The latter in effect provide a window on the history of the Johannine Community, for the story of Jesus ‘now’ is the story of his presence in the experiences and struggles of this community. The fact that there are four Johannine writings further indicates that the story of the Johannine Community cannot be reduced to a single moment or even a brief 6 

See Chapter 21, Catrin H. Williams, ‘Faith, Life, and the Spirit in the Gospel of John’. Martyn himself doubts that ‘the evangelist’ was ‘analytically conscious’ of this two-​level drama, because the evangelist’s concern is to bear witness to ‘the essential integrity’ of the two levels, that is, of Jesus ‘back then’ and Jesus ‘now’ (2003: 89). For this reason, ‘John does not in any overt way indicate to his reader a distinction between the two stages’ (2003: 131). A separation of the two levels is, therefore, the product of scholarly reflection and analysis. 7 

The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature    67 period but that it probably extended over many years, just as the evidence of the text also seems to indicate that the Gospel of John achieved its present form not in one sitting but in several stages. For this reason, it is appropriate to speak of a history of the Johannine Community and of a history of composition for the Johannine writings. Accounts of these two histories must ideally complement and confirm each other.

The History of the Johannine Community An account of the history of the Johannine Community will also shed light on its origin and character, as well as on the circumstances in which the Johannine writings were composed. The following account builds on the classic efforts of Martyn (for the Gospel) and Brown (for the Letters), while diverging from them at several points (de Boer 1996: 53–​82; 2001). In 15:18–​16:4a, part of the Jesus’ Last Discourse to his disciples, Jesus makes predictions of persecution to come: ‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. . . . If they persecuted me (cf. 5:16), they will persecute you’ (15:18, 20). Jesus then makes two very specific predictions about the form this persecution will take: ‘They will put you (poiēsousin hymas) out of the synagogue (aposynagogous); indeed, an hour is coming when whoever kills you (pl.) will think he is offering an act of worship (latreian) to God’ (16:2). It is extremely unlikely, especially given 16:4 (‘I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them’), that such predictions, just like the one pertaining to the Spirit-​Paraclete in 15:26 (‘when the Paraclete comes, . . . he will bear witness to me’), would have been preserved or attributed to Jesus if they had not been fulfilled in the experience of the Johannine Community after Easter. On the basis of this passage, Martyn (1979a) proposed that the Johannine Community at one phase of its history (what he called ‘the middle period’) experienced two significant and distinct traumas: (1) expulsion from the synagogue and (2) execution or martyrdom. The first trauma has been dramatized in John 9, where a miracle story of the healing of a man born blind (9:1–​7), taken from the tradition and/​or a previous version of the Gospel, is expanded into a drama of several scenes (Martyn 2003: 36–​45). In the expansion, the man whose sight Jesus has restored is interrogated by the authorities of the local synagogue (here called ‘the Jews’) and finally expelled for becoming a disciple of Jesus (9:34). ‘For’ as 9:22 reports, ‘the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess him to be the Christ, that person would be put out of the synagogue (aposunagogos genētai)’. In 9:34, ‘they cast him out’ of the synagogue community. The narrative aside in John 9:22 points to a formal agreement made by Jewish authorities (identified as

68   Martinus C. de Boer ‘Pharisees’ in 9:13, 15–​16, 40) at some earlier date pertaining to fellow Jews who were confessing Jesus to be the Christ (Messiah) in order to expel them from the local synagogue community (Martyn 2003: 47, 56). In 9:28, the authorities revile the man, saying, ‘You are a disciple of that one [Jesus], but we are disciples of Moses’. As Martyn compellingly observes with respect to this verse (2003: 47), which just like 9:22 has no counterpart in the Synoptic Gospels: ‘This statement is scarcely conceivable in Jesus’ lifetime, since it recognizes discipleship to Jesus not only as antithetical, but also as somehow comparable, to discipleship to Moses. It is, on the other hand, easily understood under circumstances in which the synagogue has begun to view the Christian movement as an essential and more or less distinguishable rival’. Those circumstances point then to the post-​Easter period, most probably the last third of the first century, after the disaster produced by the Jewish War of 66–​73 ce and in the midst of the rapid growth of (largely Gentile) Christian churches. The traumatic nature of the expulsion is discernible in 12:42, where some believers go so far as to hide their faith in Jesus as the Messiah in order to avoid expulsion: ‘many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they become excluded from the synagogue (hina mē aposunagogoi genōntai)’. The reasons for avoiding expulsion are evident in 9:28, quoted previously (Martyn 2003: 158, 161–​12). This verse presents a stark and uncompromising alternative which says, in effect: ‘As disciples of Jesus, you have forfeited your Jewish identity; as disciples of Moses, we Pharisees and not you believers in Jesus, are the Jews’. The significance of the peculiar and frequent epithet ‘the Jews’, used for authorities who reject and oppose believers in Jesus as the Messiah, may perhaps be discerned here. The Gospel’s references to these Pharisaic authorities as ‘the Jews’ is in the first instance an ironic acknowledgement of their claim to be the authoritative Jewish arbiters of Jewish identity for themselves and other Jews (de Boer 2001). For Jewish believers in Christ who were expelled—​the Johannine Community—​there was the deep and tragic irony that the Pharisaic authorities in the synagogue had actually betrayed their Jewish identity and heritage, because they had rejected the Johannine proclamation of Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel (cf. John 5:45–​47; 7:45–​52). The fulfilment of the second prediction Jesus makes in John 16.2, that ‘an hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think that he is offering an act of worship to God’, is dramatized in the Gospel’s distinctive portrayal of the plot to arrest and to kill Jesus himself, in c­ hapters 5, 7, 8, 10–​12, and 18–​19 (Martyn 2003: 71). There is one instance where the plot to kill Jesus is widened to include disciples, and that occurs immediately after the crucial official decision to put Jesus to death in 11:53 (‘From that day they decided that they would kill him’). In the opening verses of ­chapter 12, when a great crowd seeks not only to be with Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead (12:9), it is reported that ‘the chief priests decided that they would kill Lazarus as well’ (12:10). Whether the plan to kill Lazarus was successful remains unstated, but it is probable that he represents a disciple to whom Jesus has given ‘life’ and through whom others now come to believe in Jesus (12:11). Moreover, the rationale for the plan to kill both Jesus and Lazarus is the same: Jesus’ popularity with ‘the crowd’ upon raising Lazarus from

The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature    69 the dead (11:47–​48; 12:9–​11, 17–​19). This popularity is problematic for the Jewish authorities for political reasons (the Romans will feel threatened and destroy them), but also for theological ones. Though these theological reasons are left implicit in ­chapter 11, they are made explicit in previous chapters. Chapters 5, 7–​8, and 10 report earlier attempts to ‘arrest’ (7:30, 32, 44; 8:20; 10:30; cf. 11:57) and ‘kill’ (5:18; 7:1, 19, 20, 25; 8:22, 37, 40; cf. 11:53; 12:10; 16:2; 18:31) Jesus. The repeated attempts to arrest Jesus are distinctive to John, but all the attempts revolve around the same basic issue. The problem from the point of view of ‘the Jews’, including some Christian Jews still within the synagogue community (8:31), is that Jesus, being a human being, makes seemingly blasphemous claims for himself about a special relationship with God. They charge him with ‘making himself ’ God or Son of God (5:18; 8:52–​53, 58–​59; 10:30–​36; 19:7). In claiming equality with God, Jesus is ‘leading [others] astray’ (7:12, 45–​47) into the worship of a god—​himself—​alongside the one God of Israel. The charge of blasphemy (explicitly made in 10:33, 36) is also made against Jesus in the Synoptics in connection with the claim to be ‘Son of God’ (cf. Mark 14:55–​64 and parallels). It is not difficult, however, to see that in the Fourth Gospel the charge of blasphemy indirectly reflects a charge also brought against Johannine preachers in the post-​Easter period (cf. Martyn 2003: 72–​5). In proclaiming Jesus the Son of God (20:31), these believers, according to ‘the Jews’ of John, have also begun to ‘make’ Jesus, who is a mere human being, equal to God. The Gospel’s answer to the charge of ‘the Jews’ is that ‘we’ (the Johannine Community; cf. 1:14; 3:11; 9:4) have surely not ‘made’ Jesus equal to God. Jesus’ oneness with God is not a blasphemous human invention; this unity is God’s doing and is located in the Father’s purpose and will. Furthermore, Jesus is one with God precisely because he is also, paradoxically, completely subordinate to that divine will (5:19–​23). Jesus’ oneness with God is exhibited in his effective action, particularly that of giving life to the dead (5:21: ‘For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he wills’). The cycle of conspiracy against Jesus that begins in c­ hapter 5 and culminates in c­ hapter 11 begins and ends with Jesus as the divinely authorized raiser and giver of life to the dead. In raising the dead Lazarus to life Jesus in effect demonstrates his unity with God, the raiser of the dead, for all to see and believe (cf. 11:40). In fact, a large crowd does precisely that (11:45–​48; 12:9, 12, 17–​19). Yet this last ‘sign’, the Gospel reports with heavy irony, is the very catalyst for the final and now irrevocable decision on the part of ‘the chief priests and the Pharisees’8 to kill him (11:46, 47–​48, 53, 57; 12:19). It is because of Jesus’ claim of unity with God that Lazarus too is the object of a murderous plot, as are Johannine preachers of a later time (16:2b). In John 7, Jesus’ popularity with the crowds (7.31f.) is also the immediate cause for the despatch of police officers by ‘the chief priests and the Pharisees’ to arrest him, in contrast to the Synoptics where the popularity of Jesus prevents steps from being taken


The chief priests represent Jewish authorities in the days of Jesus, the Pharisees Jewish authorities in the late first century (Martyn 2003: 85–​6). The Gospel frequently fuses the two into ‘the Jews’.

70   Martinus C. de Boer against him (Martyn 2003: 85). It is here that the charge of ‘leading astray’ becomes explicit (7:12, 45–​47). ‘The Pharisees’ appeal to the Law to substantiate this charge (7:48– 52; cf. 7:42; 19:7). The Law stipulates death by stoning for such a deceiver of the people (Deut. 13:6–​11; m.Sanh. 7.10–​11), as it does for blasphemy (Lev. 24:16; m.Sanh. 7.5; cf. John 8:59; 10: 31, 32, 33; 11:8). The charge of leading astray brought against Jesus is absent from the Synoptic Gospels. It is found, however, in later rabbinic literature (b.Sanh. 43a; 107b) and is further attested by Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho (Dial. 69; cf. Matt. 27:62–​ 66). Martyn plausibly suggests that this tradition about Jesus arose not because Jesus was actually arrested, tried, and executed on this technical legal charge (it is absent from the Synoptics, as we have just noted), and actually plays a subordinate role in the Fourth Gospel itself, but because Johannine Jewish-​Christian preachers after Easter were. This legal charge would apply to alleged deceivers (Johannine preachers) supposedly leading people astray into the worship of Jesus as a god alongside the one God of Israel (Martyn 2003: 78, 83). For Jews seeking to serve the one and only God (cf. 8.41) to arrest, try, and execute such deceivers from among their own people would be to ‘offer up an act of worship (latreian)9 to God’ (16:2b). The attempts to kill God’s authorized emissary, Jesus, and the authorized emissaries of Jesus, the disciples and preachers of a later time (17:20; 20:21), constitute for John irrefutable evidence of a diabolical conspiracy in which ‘the Jews’, and especially Christian Jews troubled by the claims of Johannine Christians (8:31ff.), unwittingly and wittingly play their part (8:44; cf. 6:70; 13:2, 27). With the second trauma, then, ‘the Jews’ are cast as players in a cosmic drama, as representatives and functionaries of a cosmic power in opposition to the very God they seek to serve. What else, the Gospel seems to asking, could possibly explain the fact that representatives of God’s own people (‘the chief priests and the Pharisees’) have conspired to bring about the murder of God’s authorized envoy ‘back then’, while they, along with Jews who have some basic faith in Jesus as the Messiah (8:31f.; cf. 12:42), also seek to bring about the death of Johannine Jewish Christian believers ‘now’? The Gospel of John, including the notorious 8:44, is not anti-​ Semitic, as it seems to be apart from its literary and historical context, since it concerns an intra-​Jewish debate and attributes Jewish opposition and murderous intentions not to the human characters involved but to the devil (‘he was a murderer from the beginning’) who has, so the Gospel writer thinks, blinded their eyes (9:40–​41) and stopped up their ears (8:43) to what the Gospel regards as God’s own Truth (cf. de Boer 2001).10 There was a third major crisis in the history of Johannine Christianity which was brought about by the departure, or secession, of a portion of the Johannine Community (Brown 1979: 103–​44). The main witness for this crisis is 1 John though its traces may also be discerned in the Gospel itself. The author of 1 John indicates in 2:19 that those whom he regards as dangerous threats to his readers’ faith (cf. 2:6; 3:7) were in fact once 9  The Greek term is used elsewhere in the New Testament for Jewish worship (Martyn 1979b: 56; cf. Rom. 9:4; 12:1; Heb. 9:1, 6). 10  On the anti-​Jewish potential and misuse of the Gospel, see Chapter 8, Adele Reinhartz, ‘The Jews in the Fourth Gospel’.

The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature    71 members of the Johannine Community: ‘They went out from us (ex hēmōn exēlthan)’. The author calls them antichrists, liars, false prophets, and deceivers, those who lead the faithful astray (2.18, 22, 26; 3.7; 4.1, 3, 6; cf. 2 John 7). Here the language of deception, of leading astray, and of diabolical conspiracy is not, or no longer, turned against ‘the Jews’, as in the Gospel, but against former members of the Johannine Community (Brown 1979, 1982). It is difficult to know why those who left the church of the author seceded or what they precisely believed since the author (probably the Elder who also wrote 2 and 3 John) characterises their views only as negations of his own: he confesses ‘Jesus Christ having come in the flesh’ whereas they do not (1 John 4:2–​3; cf. 2 John 7). It is usually thought that they denied or downplayed Jesus’ humanity, including his very human death.11 It appears probable that a major issue dividing the epistolary author from the secessionists is the importance the author attaches to Jesus’ death (de Boer 1996: 219–​309), both as an atonement for sins (1 John 1:7; 2:2; 4:10; 5:6–​8) and as an example for acceptable behaviour toward fellow believers (1 John 3:16; cf. 2:6; 4:11). Traces of this schism, or something like it, may also be discernible in certain passages of the Gospel (cf. 6:60, 66). In 6:64, 67–​7 1 and 13:10–​11, Judas evidently functions as a symbol of a diabolically possessed, schismatic disciple. Behind Judas’ act of betrayal, the narrator informs its readers stands the devil or Satan (13:2, 27; cf. 6:70), just as this figure stands behind the schism that has rent the community in 1 (and 2) John (cf. 1 John 3:8, 10). Like the secessionists of 1 John, Judas ‘went out’ (exēlthen) from the company of Jesus’ genuine disciples into the world, the realm of darkness (13:30; cf. 1 John 2:19; 4:1; 2 John 7). In the Footwashing, the water Jesus uses (13:5) to make his disciples ‘clean’ (13:10) probably symbolizes the blood with which, as 1 John 1:7 puts it, he still ‘cleanses us from all sin’ (cf. 1 John 5:6–​8). Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet in John 13 not only symbolizes his uniquely atoning death, it is also presents his death as an example to be emulated (13:12–​15), as is the case in 1 John 3:16: ‘By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren’ (cf. John 13:34; 15:12–​13).12 John 6:51–​7 1 and 13:1–​30, just like 1 and 2 John, therefore, speak of believers who desert Jesus and the company of the truly faithful as the result of a diabolical conspiracy. Moreover, also like 1 and 2 John, these passages make pregnant use of the language of ‘flesh’ (John 6:51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 63; 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7), ‘blood’ (John 6:53, 54, 55, 56; 1 John 1:7; 5:6–​8), and ‘water’ (John 13:5; 1 John 5:6–​8).13 It thus seems likely that the situation that occasioned the writing of 1 and 2 John is also reflected in John 6:51–​7 1 and 13:1–​30, along perhaps with 19:34–​35, which solemnly attests ‘blood and water’ flowing from the crucified Jesus’ side (de Boer 1996: 292–​303).14


See also Chapter 11, Alastair H. B. Logan, ‘The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics’. See Chapter 22, Jan van der Watt, ‘Ethics in Community in the Gospel and Letters of John’. 13  Many of these passages also remain opaque and thus difficult to interpret. For an attempt, see de Boer 1996: 219–​309. 14  For an attempt to trace the history of the Johannine Community beyond the Gospel and Epistles of John, see Brown 1979: 145–​62. 12 

72   Martinus C. de Boer

The Composition History of the Johannine Writings The particular order in which the Johannine writings were written is not easy to determine. The Johannine Letters seem all to have been written at about the same time and by the same person (‘the Elder’), even if that is difficult to prove with absolute certainty. If that is the case and if, as many scholars claim, the Gospel in its final form is probably the product of a long process of composition, involving one or more significant revisions by members of the Johannine School, the Johannine Letters could have been written not only before or after the completion of the Gospel but also at some juncture during the process of its composition.15 The consensus is that the canonical order is also probably the chronological order, though it also conceivable, perhaps probable, that 1 John was written at about the time that the Gospel achieved its final form, with 2 and 3 John somewhat later. That is the view taken here (cf. de Boer 1996: 221–​2). The primary indication that the Gospel of John is the product of a long and complex composition history are the narrative disjunctions, commonly called aporias (from a Greek word meaning ‘difficulty’), that disturb the literary structure and flow of the Gospel of John, while also undermining its thematic and theological consistency. Some notable aporias are the following: 1. Multiple conclusions. The public ministry of Jesus seems to conclude at the end of ­chapter 10 (‘He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized. . . . And many believed in him there’, 10:40–​42), but it then continues for two more chapters. Jesus concludes his Last Discourse at the end of ­chapter 14 (‘Rise, let us go hence’, 14:31), only to continue speaking for three more chapters. The resurrection appearances of Jesus seem to conclude at 20:29 (‘blessed are those who do not see and yet believe’), but there is another one in 21:1–​14 (‘This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead’, 21:14). The Gospel as a whole seems to conclude at 20:30–​31, yet there follows ­chapter 21 with another conclusion to the whole at 21:24–​25. 2. The order of Chapters 5 and 6. At the end of ­chapter 5, Jesus is in Jerusalem, as he is again at the beginning of c­ hapter 7. The first verse of ­chapter 6 has Jesus in Galilee, where he had been at the end of c­ hapter 4, and assumes that he has been there for some time (‘After these things, Jesus went away to other side of the Sea of Galilee’). The first verse of ­chapter 7 (‘the Jews were seeking to kill him’) refers back to 5:18

15  Following Strecker (1996: xlii), Schnelle 2011 argues that the Johannine Letters were written before the Gospel, and then in the order 2 John, 3 John, 1 John (also Talbert 1992). For Schnelle, the Elder who wrote 2 and 3 John is, therefore, the founder of the Johannine School. Arguing that the Letters were written before the Gospel reached its final form are Von Wahlde (2010) and Anderson (2011: 141–​4).

The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature    73 (‘the Jews were seeking to kill him’), while 7:23 mentions the healing of the lame man on the Sabbath, recounted in 5:1–​16, as if it has just occurred. 3. Jesus’ signs. In 20:30, the reader is informed that Jesus did many other signs before his disciples, which are not written in this book’, yet there has been no mention of ‘signs’ (sēmeia) since 12:37 (cf. 2:11, 23; 3:2; 4:48, 54; 6:2, 14, 26; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18), nor has Jesus performed any in the interval. The two signs narrated in 2:1–​11 (the Wedding at Cana) and 4:46–​54 (the Healing of the Official’s Son) are numbered (first sign, second sign), but the other narrated signs (in c­ hapters 5, 6, 9, and 11) are not. Moreover, the signs not only elicit faith as they are supposed; they also elicit opposition and prompt intense debate about the legitimacy of Jesus’ messianic status and identity (cf. 5:10–​23; 6:26–​35; 9:8–​23; 11:45–​46). In 2:24–​25, the Gospel even attributes to Jesus mistrust toward those who come to him because they have seen the signs he has done (cf. 3:1–​3; 4:48; 6:26). Many more could be added to this list. It is possible that some of the difficulties surveyed are figments of the imagination of modern-​day interpreters who perceive difficulties where the author and original readers perceived none. But it is unlikely that all of them can be explained, or explained away, with this argument. By the same token, while one or more of these difficulties could plausibly be attributed to a single clumsy or inattentive author, not all of them can plausibly be. In any event, the closing verses of the Gospel (21:24–​25) attest multiple hands in the composition of the Gospel. The aporias provide the foundation for the hypothesis that the present Gospel was composed in two or more successive editions by a School of Johannine writers who felt free to write, and to rewrite, the Gospel on behalf of a community sharing a common history and a common linguistic idiom. Beginning with Brown (1966: xxiv–​xxxix) and Lindars (1971; 1972: 46–​51), the notion that the Gospel went through at least two major editions has gained ground (Brown 2003: 62–​9, 75–​89; Von Wahlde 2010; Anderson 2011; Ashton 2014: 126–​​7). The most sophisticated and impressive theory along these lines remains that of Brown (1966: xxxiv–​xxxix) who argues that the data seems to require at least two editions of the Gospel by a dominant or ‘master preacher and theologian’ (who was not John the son of Zebedee, nor the Beloved Disciple), with a subsequent redaction of the second edition by a disciple and friend of the evangelist. The second edition, as well as the final redaction, was prompted by the changing circumstances and needs of the Johannine Community. Brown postulates that the final redactor may have inserted material that the evangelist had left out of his first and second editions of the Gospel. The added material may thus, in Brown’s view, stem from the evangelist and may be just as old as the other material in the Gospel, which makes it difficult to distinguish material added by the redactor from material added by the evangelist himself in the second edition. Brown sees the work of the redactor particularly in places where a passage seems to disrupt the sequence or duplicates previous material (e.g. 5:26–​30 seems to be a duplicate or variant of 5:19–​25, 6:51–​58 of 6:35–​50, and 16:4–​33 of 14:1–​31). Brown attributes so much to the work of the redactor (1:1–​18; 3:31–​36; 5:51–​58; ­chapters 11–​12, including 12:44–​50; ­chapters 15–​17; ­chapter 21) that the redacted Gospel, which constitutes the

74   Martinus C. de Boer Gospel’s final form, is difficult to distinguish from a third major edition (cf. von Wahlde 2010 who posits three major editions). The more one assigns to the work of a final redactor, particularly if such a redactor also displaced material (e.g. according to Brown, the redactor in adding c­ hapters 11–​12 displaced the story of the cleansing of the temple to ­chapter 2), the less sense it makes to speak of the present Gospel as the literary and theological product of a single evangelist. There may have been one principal writer of the (two) formative versions of the Gospel, but the evidence seems to indicate that at least two members of the Johannine School made significant contributions to the Gospel as we know it. Each was arguably an evangelist in his own right. Brown surmises that the writing of his postulated first edition was preceded by the homiletical and catechetical development of the received tradition about Jesus into ‘Johannine patterns’. This process, Brown argues, was carried out by what was already ‘a close-​knit school of thought and expression’, led by the ‘principal preacher’ who, according to Brown, became the evangelist or author of the first two editions. Lindars similarly posits the homiletical development of the material prior to the writing of the first edition. Both Brown and Lindars think it likely that some of this material had achieved written form before being incorporated into the Gospel. Many others have argued that this early written material was in fact a single document with a coherent theological profile, namely a collection of miracle stories presented as ‘signs’ of Jesus’ messianic status and legitimacy. Robert Fortna (1970, 1988) has made a strong case for the view that this document would have been a full-​fledged Gospel with a rudimentary passion narrative. Such a ‘Gospel of Signs’ would also have been produced by the Johannine School (or an individual member thereof, perhaps even Brown’s principal preacher) and for that reason would constitute what amounts to the actual first edition of the Fourth Gospel, providing a very Johannine foundation for the erection of subsequent editions of the Gospel (cf. Anderson 2011; Ashton 2014).16 The hypothesis that there were as many as four distinguishable versions of the Gospel of John thus lies to hand: a foundational signs Gospel, followed by two substantial revisions, and concluding with a final redaction which itself can be regarded as a third revision. This hypothesis (as any other) attains plausibility to the extent that (a) a suitable motivation or Sitz im Leben can be found for the production of the foundational Gospel and for each of the subsequent revisions, and (b) each version exhibits a discernibly coherent and distinct theological point of view that bears some relation to the circumstances in which the version was composed.17

16  For Fortna himself, however, the Gospel of Signs was a non-​Johannine ‘source’ used by the evangelist of the present Gospel. On the possible use of (non-​Johannine) sources, see Chapter 3, Michael Labahn, ‘Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John’. 17  It is probably not possible to reconstruct the various proposed editions in any detail, since the several revisions make such an attempt difficult, perhaps impossible (and convincing only to the scholar proposing such detailed reconstructions). Some generalizations may be possible, however.

The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature    75

The Two Histories Combined The hypothesis that communal history of Johannine Christianity was marked by three major crises fits hand in glove with the hypothesis that the composition history of the Gospel and Letters consisted of possibly four discernible literary stages. A combination of the two produces the following chart: Literary stage I: A foundational signs Gospel Crisis I: Expulsion from the synagogue Literary Stage II: A major revision of the foundational Gospel after this first crisis Crisis II: Martyrdom or the prospect thereof Literary Stage III: A further revision of the Gospel after the second crisis Crisis III: A schism within the Johannine Community Literary Stage IV: A final revision of the Gospel and the writing of the Letters Each of the three crises provides a suitable, and plausible, motivation for a revision of the Gospel (under the guidance and the tutelage, so the Johannine Community believed, of the Spirit-​Paraclete). The curiously unfinished quality of the Gospel—​the aporias—​ reflects, then, the severity of the three crises for the faith and the identity of Johannine believers. Put otherwise, the literary and theological disjunctions reflect the deep social and theological disjunctions experienced by the Johannine Community at three distinct junctures in its history. The foundational Johannine Gospel (Grundevangelium) was composed when Johannine believers were still a group within a local synagogue community. It was probably a collection of miracle stories, presented as messianic ‘signs’ (2:1–​11; 4:46–​54; 5:1–​9a; 6:1–​21; 9:1–​7; 11:1–​44), and it was composed to convince fellow Jews that the expected Messiah (cf. 1:41; 7:31) was none other than Jesus of Nazareth (20:30–​31)—​and not another major candidate, John the Baptist (cf. John 1:20–​21, 25, 33; 3:30; 10:41). It thus had a missionary purpose, aimed not at ‘outsiders’ but at ‘insiders’, i.e. fellow Jews within the local synagogue community to which the Johannine believers belonged. The foundational Gospel evidently took shape in a setting that saw Jewish followers of Jesus in competition with Jewish followers of the Baptist (cf. Acts 18:24–​19:7; Mark 2:18 par.; 6:29) for the allegiance and the acceptance of still other Jews (cf. 1:19, 25; 3:22–​26; 4:1).18


A common view has been that one aim of the putative Signs Gospel (or Signs Source) was to convince followers of John the Baptist to become followers of Jesus (cf. e.g. Brown 1979: 69–​7 1). It seems more likely to assume that it was meant to enable Jews expecting a messiah to make an ‘informed’ choice between Jesus and John. In contrast to Jesus, John baptized with mere water (1:26, 33a; cf. 1:25, 33b), did no sign (10:41; cf. 7:31), and did not rise from the dead as Jesus did in what was his greatest sign (2:18).

76   Martinus C. de Boer The expulsion for making the confession of Jesus as the Messiah was a trauma that caused not only severe social dislocation but also a severe challenge to the Johannine Community’s prior understanding of Jesus and the nature of faith in him. The first substantial revision of the original Gospel reflects the tense debate with ‘the Jews’ that followed the implementation of the decree of expulsion and the Johannine perspective on it. The new version of the original Gospel focused on the issue of whether Jesus spoke and acted with divine authority and authorization. Was he or was he not ‘from God’ (cf. 3:2; 6:38; 7:28–​29; 8:42; 9:29–​30, 33; 13:3; 16:30; 19:9)? And on what basis can such a question be decided (cf. 5:39–​47; 6:30–​31; 7:40–52; 10:34–​36)? How do ‘we’ really know? The Johannine attempt to answer such questions in response to the challenges and objections posed by the synagogue leadership caused the Johannine understanding of Jesus to proceed along a trajectory that began by identifying the expected earthly messiah as Jesus of Nazareth (on the basis of his signs and in agreement with criteria provided by Scripture) and ended up affirming Jesus as the heavenly envoy and revealer, on the basis of his own word, which is regarded as God’s word and thus requiring no further validation (cf. Martyn 2003: 121–​3). The designation that encapsulates the theme of Jesus’ heavenly origin and stature in the Fourth Gospel (as indeed in other New Testament writings) is the ‘Son of God’. He is no longer to be understood simply as the Messiah, but as the Son-​of-​God Messiah.19 The second crisis occurred as a result of this ‘high’ Johannine Christology, enshrined in the second and formative version of the Gospel. The Johannine response was to revise the community’s Gospel once again, though this revision was less far-​reaching than the first. The dominant Son of God Christology of the second edition is expanded with an emphatic Son of Man Christology in the third (cf. e.g. 1:51). Jesus remains the Christ, the Son of God (20:31), but he now also functions as the vindicating and judging Son of Man. Jesus as the Son of Man is the divinely authorized and active eschatological judge (cf. 5:27; 9:35, 39; 12:31). The portrayal of Jesus as the Son of Man who has been exalted and glorified (3:13–​14; 8:28; 12:31–​34) plays a prominent role in giving expression to a two-​fold purpose: to vindicate Jesus (and his Father) along with his latter-​day disciples experiencing martyrdom or the threat of it (16:2b, 4) and to utter a word of effective eschatological judgment over ‘the ruler of this world’ (12:31; cf. 14:30; 16:11), the devil (8:44), and thus over ‘the Jews’, the Pharisees of John’s own day, to the extent, and only to the extent, that they were the murderous functionaries of this world’s ruler (cf. 9:35, 39–​41).20 The third crisis, a schism within the Johannine Community itself, provided the occasion for the writing of 1 John, probably 2 John as well, and maybe also 3 John. It also provided the occasion for a last revision of the Johannine Community’s Gospel. This revision is discernible in ­chapters 6 and 13 (probably also in 19:34–​35). Of the points of


See Chapter 19, Udo Schnelle, ‘The Person of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John’. That such judgement is not extended to Jews indiscriminately, or as an ethnic entity, is shown by the positive references to ‘the Jews’ in such passage as 11:19, 36, 45. See de Boer 2001. 20 

The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature    77 contact between these passages from the Gospel and the Johannine Letters, especially 1 John, two stand out: (1) both the Gospel passages and 1 John speak of believers who desert Jesus and the company of the truly faithful as part of a diabolical conspiracy (the figure of Judas functioning in both John 6 and 13 as a symbol of an unreliable, Satan-​ controlled, and schismatic disciple/​believer), and (2) both Gospel passages and 1 John, as noted previously, make pregnant use of the language of flesh, blood, and water. The Son of Man title is absent from 1 John because this designation had a function limited to the specific situation of the threat of martyrdom addressed by the previous revision of the Gospel. The identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, retained its abiding importance, however, for all Johannine Christians. The author of 1 John seeks to emphasize the death of Jesus as an atonement for sins and as an example. The same agenda has motivated a last revision of the Gospel, which while not as extensive as the revisions of the second and third editions has nevertheless left a significant mark on the final, canonical form of the Gospel.21

Contested Issues Two matters have been intensely debated since the work of Martyn in particular. Firstly, was the high Son-​of-​God Christology the cause or the result of the expulsion? For Martyn, as in the account give previously, the Gospel’s high Christology was developed in the debate with the scriptural authorities of the local synagogue after the edict to expel believers confessing Jesus to be the Messiah was put into effect. Others, such as Brown (1979) and Ashton (2007: 23), believe that the development of a high Christology provided the catalyst for the decision to expel. The second answer emerges as more plausible only when the two traumas posited by Martyn on the basis of 16:2 are collapsed into a single trauma (‘conflict with the synagogue’), as occurs in the works of Brown and Ashton, and many other Johannine scholars. Secondly, is there corroborating evidence from outside the Gospel for the two traumas posited by Martyn? For the first trauma (John 9:22; 12:42; 16:2a), Martyn posited a link to the Birkat ha-​Minim, the ‘Benediction Against the Heretics’, which is actually a malediction or curse of (Jewish) heretics (2003: 56–​66). This malediction was part of the prayer of Eighteen Benedictions or Amidah recited three times daily by pious Jews. According to rabbinic traditions (b.Ber. 28b), the Birkat ha-​Minim was reformulated ca. 85 ce by the rabbinic academy in Jamnia (near to what is today Tel Aviv) to curse heretics, including ‘Nazoreans’ (Christian Jews). Because the dating, original wording, and function of the Birkat ha-​Minim are uncertain, Martyn’s attempt to use it to corroborate the


See Chapter 20, Jean Zumstein, ‘The Purpose of the Ministry and Death of Jesus in the Gospel of John’.

78   Martinus C. de Boer Johannine expulsion texts has come under considerable fire, especially by scholars of rabbinic literature (Kimelman 1981; Katz 1984; Boyarin 2004; Langer 2012). The denial of a link to the Birkat ha-​Minim has in turn led to the counterclaim that the expulsion was a figment of the Johannine Community’s imagination, often with the corollary that Jewish believers in Christ must have left the (local) synagogue(s) completely of their own volition, as a way of forging a new identity (Reinhartz 1998, 2007, 2013; Hakola 2005, 2015; Kysar 2005; Carter 2008).22 Other scholars argue that the Birkat ha-​Minim remains relevant for understanding the Johannine situation and rhetoric, if not directly then indirectly (Lindars 1981; Horbury 1982; Alexander 1992; Davies 1996; Richey 2007; Marcus 2009; Heemstra 2010), whereas still others, including Martyn (2007), argue that a direct link is not decisive either way since the Johannine evidence speaks for itself and fits a post-​70 setting (Meeks 1972; Dunn 1983; Smith 2003; Brown 2003). The objection that Christians were welcome in the synagogues until the fourth century (van der Horst 1994) is not relevant since it pertains to Gentile Christians (and any other Gentiles) sympathetic to Judaism; such God-​fearers (cf. Acts 10:2, 22; 13:16, 26) were always welcome in the synagogues. The embrace of Jesus as the Messiah by fellow Jews would have been a different matter. According to Philip Alexander, also a scholar of rabbinic literature, ‘Rabbinic policy towards Christianity was aimed specifically at Jewish Christians. It attempted successfully to keep them marginalized and to exclude them’ from the community of Israel (1992: 3); the Birkat ha-​Minim played a significant role in this policy of exclusion (1992: 9; cf. Marcus 2009). Kimelman’s conclusion that there was no ‘anti-​ Christian Jewish prayer in antiquity’ is often cited against Martyn, but Kimelman supports this conclusion by arguing that the Birkat ha-​Minim, which he dates to the late first century as does Martyn, ‘was aimed [not at Christians in general but solely] at Jewish sectarians among whom Jewish Christians figured prominently’ (1981:  232; emphasis added). This claim about the Birkat ha-​Minim is entirely compatible with Martyn’s thesis about the Johannine expulsion texts. For the second trauma (John 16:2b), Martyn (2003: 60 n. 69; 78–​83) appealed for support to Justin Martyr (Dial. 16, 69, 95, 108, 110); rabbinic texts (y.Sanh. 25c, d; b.Sanh. 43a, 67a, 107b), and the Pseudo-​Clementine literature (Martyn 1979b). Brown (1979: 42–​ 3) points to the reported martyrdoms of Stephen (Acts 7:58–​60), James the son of Zebedee (Acts 12:2–​3), and James the brother of Jesus (Josephus, Ant. XX.200), all at the hands of Jewish authorities, as well as to Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 133: 6: ‘Though you have slain Christ, you do not repent; but you hate and murder us also . . .’ (cf. 95: 4). These texts cannot all be taken at face value (cf. Lieu 1998), but together they do bestow plausibility on the second trauma of John 16:2. There is also the fact that Justin in his Dialogue with Trypho juxtaposes ‘cursing’ (a possible and, for many a probable, allusion to the Birkat ha-​Minim) and ‘killing’, e.g. ch. 95: ‘you curse 22  The rejection of any link to the Birkat ha-​Minim has in turn allowed Klink (2007) and Bernier (2013) to argue that the separation from the synagogue must have already have occurred in the time of Jesus, as depicted in the Gospel. This is most unlikely (see the previous discussion on 9:22 and 9:28; there is also no trace of such a drastic step in the Synoptics).

The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature    79 him [Jesus] and those who believe in him, and whenever it is in your power put them to death’ (cf. chs. 16, 110, 113). That provides a significant parallel to the juxtaposition of expulsion and execution in John 16:2 (Martyn 2003: 60 n. 69; 71 n. 89). The suggestion that both expulsion and execution were fabrications of the Johannine Community (Kimelmann, Katz, Reinhartz, Hakola, Carter) is unlikely given the specificity of the charges (which, if false, could easily have been disconfirmed by the first readers of the Gospel) and the fact that, as noted previously, they are predictions attributed to Jesus in his Last Discourse to his disciples about the time after Easter. It is unlikely that such predictions would have been preserved or attributed to Jesus if they had not been fulfilled in the experience of the Johannine Community. The external evidence, such as it is, supports this reading. The attention paid to the Johannine Community and its history has raised numerous further issues that have been subjects of ongoing debate, including this Community’s supposed sectarian profile with respect to its Jewish parent, other streams of early Christianity, or the world in general;23 the entry of Samaritans and Gentiles into the Johannine Community; the roles of women and men; and the use of the reconstruction of the Johannine Community and its history as a hermeneutical key to interpreting the documents and understanding the peculiar emphases of Johannine theology.

Suggested Reading Foundational are the works of Martyn (1979a; 2003) and Brown (1979) who gives an overview of other proposals in an appendix. The essay of Meeks 1972 builds on the work of Martyn and is a classic exposition of the sectarianism of Johannine Christianity. In the same line is the readable work of Rensberger (1988) who also explores the theological implications. Presenting alternative accounts of the history of Johannine Christianity on the premise that the expulsion passages are not historical are Reinhartz (1998, 2007)  and Carter (2008). Expressing grave doubts about the existence of a Johannnine Community behind the Gospel and Letters or its relevance for interpreting these works are Reinhartz (2008, 2013) and Lieu (2008, 2014), along with Bauckham (2007) and his followers (Klink 2007; Bernier 2013). An erudite defence of Martyn’s approach is to be found in the work of Ashton (2007, 2014).

Bibliography Alexander, P. S., 1992. ‘The Parting of the Ways’ from the Perspective of Rabbinic Judaism’, in J. Dunn (ed.), Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways A.D. 70–​135. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck): 1–​25. Anderson, P., 2011. The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel. Minneapolis: Fortress. Ashton, J., 2007. Understanding the Fourth Gospel. 2nd edition. Oxford:  Oxford University Press.


See Chapter 15, Philip S. Esler, ‘Social-​Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John’.

80   Martinus C. de Boer Asthon, J., 2014. The Gospel of John and Christian and Christian Origins. Minneapolis: Fortress. Bauckham, R. J., 1998. ‘For Whom Were the Gospels Written?’, in R.J. Bauckham (ed.), The Gospel for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 9–​48. Bauckham, R. J., 2007. The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. Bernier, J., 2013. Aposynagogos and the Historical Jesus in John: Rethinking the Historicity of the Johannine Expulsion Passages. BIS 122; Leiden: Brill. Boyarin, D., 2004. Border Lines: The Partition of Judeo-​Christianity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania. Brown, R. E., 1966. The Gospel According to John (i-​xii). AB 29; Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Brown, R. E., 1979. The Community of the Beloved Disciple. New York: Paulist. Brown, R. E., 1982. The Epistles of John. AB 30. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Brown, R. E., 2003. An Introduction to the Gospel of John. (F. J. Moloney, ed.) ABRL; New York: Doubleday. Carter, W., 2008. John and Empire: Initial Explorations. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity. Culpepper, R. A. 1975. The Johannine School: An Evaluation of the Johannine-​School Hypothesis Based on an Investigation of the Nature of Ancient Schools. SBLDS 26; Missoula, MT: Scholars Press. Davies, W., 1996. ‘Reflections on Aspects of the Jewish Background of the Gospel of John’, in R. A. Culpepper and C. C. Black (eds.), Exploring the Gospel John: In Honour of D. Moody Smith. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox: 43–​64. de Boer, M. C., 1996. Johannine Perspectives on the Death of Jesus. CBET 17. Kampen:  Kok Pharos. de Boer, M. C., 2001. ‘The Depiction of “the Jews” in John’s Gospel: Matters of Behavior and Identity’, in R. Bieringer, D. Pollefeyt and F. Vandecasteele-​Vanneuville (eds.), Anti-​Judaism and the Fourth Gospel. Louisville: Westminster John Knox: 141–​57. Dodd, C. H., 1937. ‘The First Epistle of John and the Fourth Gospel’, BJRL 21: 129–​56. Dunn, J. D., 1983. ‘Let John be John:  A Gospel for its Time’, in P. Stuhlmacher (ed.), Das Evangelium und die Evangelien. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 309–​39. Fortna, R. T., 1970. The Gospel of Signs: A Reconstruction of the Narrative Source Underlying the Fourth Gospel. SNTSMS 11. Cambridge: Cambridge University. Fortna, R. T., 1988. The Fourth Gospel and its Predecessor: From Narrative Source to Present Gospel. Philadelphia: Fortress. Hakola, R., 2005. Identity Matters: John, the Jews, and Jewishness. Brill: Leiden. Hakola, R., 2015. Reconsidering Johannine Christianity: A Social Identity Approach. New York: Routledge. Heemstra, M., 2010. The Fiscus Judaicus and the Parting of the Ways. WUNT 2/​277; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck. Horbury, W., 1982. ‘The Benediction of the Minim and Early Christian Controversy’, JTS 33: 19–​61. Katz, S., 1984. ‘Issues in the Separation of Judaism and Christianity after 70 C.E.:  A Reconsideration’, JBL 103: 43–​76. Kimelman, R., 1981. ‘Birkat ha-​Minim and the Lack of Evidence for an Anti-​Christian Jewish Prayer in Late Antiquity’, in E. P. Sanders (ed.), Jewish and Christian Self-​Definition, Vol. 2. Philadelphia: Fortress: 226–​44. Klauck, H.-​J., 2005. ‘Community, History, and Text(s)’, in J. R. Donahue (ed.), Life in Abundance: Studies in John’s Gospel in Tribute to Raymond E.  Brown. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press: 82–​90.

The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature    81 Klink, E. W. III., 2007. The Sheep of the Fold: The Audience and Origin of the Gospel of John. SNTSMS 141; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kysar, R. R., 2005. ‘The Whence and Whither of the Johannine Community’, in J. R. Donahue (ed.), Life in Abundance: Studies of John’s Gospel in Tribute to Raymond E. Brown. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press: 65–​81. Lamb, D. A., 2014. Text, Context and the Johannine Community: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of the Johannine Writings. LNTS 477; London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark. Langer, R., 2012. Cursing the Christians? a History of the Birkat Haminim. Oxford:  Oxford University Press. Lieu, J. M., 1998. ‘Accusations of Jewish Persecution in Early Christian Sources, with Particular Reference to Justin Martyr and the Martyrdom of Polycarp’, in G. N. Stanton and G. G. Stroumsa (eds.), Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 279–​95 Lieu, J. M., 2008. I, II, & III John: A Commentary. The New Testament Library. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Lieu, J. M., 2014. ‘The Audience of the Johannine Epistles’, in R. Culpepper and P. N. Anderson (eds.), Communities in Dispute: Current Scholarship on the Johannine Epistles. Atlanta: SBL: 123–​40. Lindars, B., 1971. Behind the Fourth Gospel. London: SPCK. Linders, B., 1972. The Gospel of John. NCBC. Grand Rapids:  Eerdman; London:  Marshall, Morgan & Scott. Lindars, B., 1981. ‘The Persecution of Christians in John 15:18-​16:4a’, in W. Horbury and G. M. McNeil (eds.), Suffering and Martyrdom in the New Testament: Studies Present to G.M. Styler. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 46–​69. Marcus, J., 2009. ‘The Birkat ha-​Minim Revisited’, NTS 55: 523–​51. Martyn, J. L., 1979a. ‘Glimpses into the History of the Johannine Community’, in The Gospel of John in Christian History: Essays for Interpreters. New York: Paulist,: 90–​121 (reprinted in Martyn 2003: 145–​67). Martyn, J. L. 1979b. ‘Persecution and Martyrdom’, in The Gospel of John in Christian History: Essays for Interpreters. New York: Paulist: 55–​89. Martyn, J. L., 2003. History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. 3rd edition (1st edition 1968; 2nd edition 1979). NTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox. Martyn, J. L., 2007. ‘The Johannine Community among Jewish and Other Early Christian Communities’, in T. Thatcher (ed.), What We Have Heard from the Beginning:  The Past, Present, and Future of Johannine Studies. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press: 183–​90. Meeks, W. A., 1972. ‘The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism’, JBL 91: 44–​72. Reinhartz, A., 1998. ‘The Johannine Community and its Jewish Neighbors: A Reappraisal’, in F. F. Segovia (ed.), What is John? Vol II: Literary and Social Readings of the Fourth Gospel. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press: 111–​38. Reinhartz, A., 2007. ‘Response [to J.L. Martyn]: Reading History in the Fourth Gospel’, in T. Thatcher (ed.), What We Have Heard from the Beginning: The Past, Present, and Future of Johannine Studies. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press: 191–​4. Reinhartz, A., 2008. ‘Building Skyscrapers on Toothpicks:  The Literary-​Critical Challenge to Historical Criticism’, in T. Thatcher and S. D. Moore (eds.), Anatomies of Narrative Criticism:  The Past, Present, and Future of the Fourth Gospel as Literature. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature: 55–​76. Reinhartz, A., 2013. ‘Forging a New Identity: Johannine Rhetoric and the Audience of the Fourth Gospel,’ in J. Krans, B. J. Lietaert Peerbolte, P. B. Smit and A. Zwiep (eds.), Paul,

82   Martinus C. de Boer John, and Apocalyptic Eschatology: Studies in Honour of Martinus C. de Boer. NovTSup 149. Leiden: Brill: 123–34. Rensberger, D., 1988. Johannine Faith and Liberating Community. Philadelphia: Westminster. Richey, L. B., 2007. Roman Imperial Ideology and the Gospel of John. CBQMS 43; Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association of America. Schnelle, U., 2011. ‘Die Reihenfolge der johanneischen Schrifte’, NTS 57: 91–​113. Smith, D.  M. 2003. ‘The Contribution of J.  Louis Martyn to the Understanding of the Gospel of John’, in Martyn, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. 3rd edition. NTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox.1–​23. Strecker, G., 1996. The Johannine Epistles. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. Talbert, C. H., 1992. Reading John: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Fourth Gospel and the Johannine Epistles. New York: Crossroad; London: SPCK. van der Horst, P., 1994. ‘The Birkat ha-​Minim in Recent Research’, ExpTim 105: 363–​8. von Wahlde, U.C., 2010. The Gospel and Letters of John. 3 Volumes. Eerdmans Critical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Zumstein, J., 1999. ‘Zur Geschichte des johanneischen Christentums’, in Kreative Erinnerung: Relecture und Auslegung im Johannesevangelium. Zurich: Pano: 1–​14.

Chapter 6

T he Bel oved Di s c i pl e , t he Fou rth Eva ng e l i st, an d the Au th orsh i p of the Fourth  G o spe l Tom Thatcher

Introduction The title attributed to the fourth book in the New Testament—​the ‘Gospel of John’—​ reflects the traditional belief that this account of Jesus’ ministry was written by John the son of Zebedee, one of Jesus’ twelve Apostles (see Mark 1:19–​20; 3:17). While the Fourth Gospel does not explicitly identify this person as its author, and in fact alludes to John the Apostle only once, and then only obliquely (‘those of Zebedee’, hoi tou Zebedaiou; John 21:2), the traditional association of the book with this individual has been reinforced by the corresponding belief that the ‘Beloved Disciple’ who appears at several key points in the narrative is, in fact, John. In recent research, however, the identities of both the Beloved Disciple and the Fourth Evangelist have been topics of intense debate, and many scholars today believe that more than one person is responsible for the text as it now stands.1 Two major questions must be addressed in any attempt to understand the authorship of the Fourth Gospel. First, who is the mysterious ‘Beloved Disciple’ who appears from time to time in the Gospel of John, and how is this character related to Jesus, the Johannine tradition, and the Gospel itself? Although the Beloved Disciple is critical to John’s presentation and was apparently the source of at least some of the information in the book (see John 19:35; 21:24), his name is never given. Second, how is this


See Chapter 5, Martinus C. de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’.

84   Tom Thatcher Beloved Disciple related to ‘John’ the evangelist, the author of the Fourth Gospel as it exists today? John 21:24 seems to indicate that the Fourth Evangelist and the Beloved Disciple are the same person, but many scholars argue that this conclusion is inconsistent with other information from the text. Any answer to either of these questions requires a close analysis of internal evidence from the Gospel itself, evaluation of how this evidence aligns (or does not align) with ancient patristic traditions (and why it does or does not), and consideration of social-​scientific models that might explain why the Fourth Evangelist, ‘John’, portrays the ‘Beloved Disciple’ in the way that he does.2 The remainder of this entry will first review textual and traditional evidence regarding the identity of the Beloved Disciple and this character’s possible relationship to the Fourth Evangelist, then consider insights from recent research on collective memories of individuals who are viewed as particularly significant to the formation of a group’s religious identity. Ultimately, questions relating to the identity of the Beloved Disciple, his significance to the Johannine Christians, and the unique aspects of his characterization in the Fourth Gospel are questions of how and why the reputations of founding figures are developed and maintained within the communities that remember them. It will be suggested here that the ‘Beloved Disciple’ was an associate of the historical Jesus whose claims were particularly significant to the Johannine tradition and whose characterization in the Gospel was significantly shaped by his critical role as the definitive source for Johannine faith. While this individual was not likely the author of the Fourth Gospel in its present form, the content of John’s narrative is grounded in the Beloved Disciple’s testimony.

The ‘Beloved Disciple’ in  the Fourth Gospel In four different contexts, the Gospel of John mentions a mysterious individual who is identified by some form of the formula ‘one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved’ (heis ek tōn mathētōn autou hon ēgapa ho Iēsous). • The ‘Beloved Disciple’ first appears at the Last Supper, where he sits in the seat of honour next to Jesus and ‘lies on his [Jesus’] bosom’ (ēn anakeimenos ev tō kolpō; John 13:23). After Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and tells them they should show a similar spirit of humble service, he suddenly claims that one of them will betray him. Stunned by this revelation, Peter motions to the Beloved Disciple to ask who the traitor might be. Jesus says that he will give a morsel of bread to the betrayer, but the Beloved Disciple apparently does not see Jesus hand the bread to Judas Iscariot, who soon leaves the room. 2 

See Chapter 15, Philip S. Esler, ‘Social-​Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John’.

THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL    85 • The Beloved Disciple next appears at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother and several other female disciples. Just before his death, Jesus entrusts his mother to the Beloved Disciple’s care, and ‘from that hour the disciple took her into his home’ (John 19:25–​27). The Beloved Disciple presumably remains by the cross to watch Jesus die and to see water and blood flow from Jesus’ body after the soldiers pierce his side with a spear (19:31–​34). This passage portrays the Beloved Disciple as male, inasmuch as Jesus refers to this character as Mary’s new ‘son’ (John 19:26). • Three days after Jesus’ death, the Beloved Disciple runs with Peter to the empty tomb after being informed by Mary Magdalene that Jesus’ body has been taken. Arriving first on the scene, the Beloved Disciple sees the discarded burial wrappings and, after Peter enters the tomb, also goes in and ‘saw and believed’ (20:1–​8). • The Beloved Disciple makes his final appearance in John 21, where he goes on a fishing trip with a number of other disciples and recognizes that the stranger on the shore is Jesus (21:7). After they share a meal, Jesus refuses to reveal the Beloved Disciple’s fate to Peter, whose martyrdom he has just predicted (21:20–​23). Jesus’ remarks apparently caused some confusion after Peter’s death, generating a rumour that the Beloved Disciple would not die before Christ’s return (21:19, 23). The Beloved Disciple, then, first appears in John’s story the night before Jesus dies and last appears in the days following the resurrection. But while ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ is mentioned specifically only four times in the Gospel of John, some scholars associate the Beloved Disciple with two other anonymous characters on the basis of an oblique reference at John 20:2. There John calls the Beloved Disciple ‘the other disciple [other than Peter], the one whom Jesus loved’ (ton allon mathētēn hon ephilei ho Iēsous). A similar reference, again involving Peter, appears at John 18:15–​16. After his arrest, Jesus is taken to the home of Annas, the former high-​priest, for questioning. Peter and ‘another disciple’ (allos mathētēs) follow the crowd at a distance; this ‘other’ disciple, who is somehow ‘known to the high priest’ (ekeinos ēn gnōstos tō archierei), enters the courtyard and persuades the gatekeeper to admit Peter as well. If this ‘other disciple’ is, in fact, the Beloved Disciple, one must explain how he was attached to the high priest’s household, a biographical detail that would suggest membership in, or at least affiliation with, the Judean ruling class. Following a similar line of reasoning, some scholars believe that the Beloved Disciple also makes a brief appearance near the very beginning of the Fourth Gospel. At John 1:35–​41, John the Baptist tells two of his own disciples that Jesus is ‘the Lamb of God’; they follow Jesus, spend the evening with him, and quickly conclude that he is the Messiah. John (the evangelist) indicates that one of these two disciples is Andrew, Peter’s brother, but the other is not named. If Andrew’s anonymous companion is the (‘other’) Beloved Disciple, one may conclude that the Beloved Disciple was originally involved in John the Baptist’s movement and that he was one of Jesus’ first disciples, suggesting that he witnessed events from the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Perhaps the most helpful—​or at least most tantalizing—​internal clue to the identity of the Beloved Disciple appears at John 21:2. After Jesus’ death and several resurrection

86   Tom Thatcher appearances, a number of his disciples go fishing on the Sea of Galilee. They labour all night with no success, until a stranger appears on the shore and tells them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat; they do so, and immediately draw in 153 large fish (21:4–​11). The Beloved Disciple, who is present with the others, realizes that their mysterious advisor is, in fact, Jesus, and Peter immediately swims to shore while the others bring in the huge catch. Clearly, then, the Beloved Disciple is one of the people in the boat with Peter, who are conveniently listed at John 21:2—​Thomas, Nathanael, ‘those of Zebedee’ (hoi tou Zebedaiou), and ‘two others of his disciples’ (alloi ek tōn mathētōn autou duo). This would seem to narrow the list of possibilities, were it not for the fact that it is impossible to know the identity of the two other disciples John mentions. They could be two of the Twelve listed at Mark 3:16–​19, but this approach is complicated by the fact that the Fourth Gospel is generally less interested in the Twelve than the Synoptics and, in any case, never provides a specific list of the names of these individuals (see John 6:67; 20:24). Further, it is unclear whether the Beloved Disciple is one of the named disciples or one of the unnamed ones. Most scholars think that the Beloved Disciple must be one of the two anonymous disciples mentioned at 21:2, but others reject this approach and argue that the Beloved Disciple is identical with one of the named individuals. Ultimately, then, even the most obvious internal evidence for the identity of the Beloved Disciple is inconclusive. A Biography of the Beloved Disciple According to the Gospel of John, the Beloved Disciple . . . •  was a disciple of John the Baptist (1:35–​42). •  was one of Jesus’ first disciples (1:35–​42). •  was one of the Twelve. • was present at the Last Supper, where he sat next to Jesus (13:23). •  knew the identity of Jesus’ betrayer (13:21–​26). •  was somehow acquainted with the Judean high priest (18:15–​16). •  took care of Jesus’ mother after his death (19:25–​27). •  saw Jesus die on the cross (19:25–​30). •  saw water and blood flow from Jesus’ corpse (19:25–​35). •  saw and entered the empty tomb (20:1–​8). •  was present for the miraculous catch of fish (21:1–​8). •  saw Jesus resurrected (21:4–​14). • was believed by some to be immortal, because Jesus had promised to return before the Beloved Disciple died (21:20–​23). • was the source for at least some of the information in the Fourth Gospel (21:24). • wrote a book about Jesus, possibly the Fourth Gospel itself (21:24).

certainly maybe

✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓

✓ ✓ ✓

✓ ✓ ✓

THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL    87 Whether or not the identity of the Beloved Disciple can be precisely determined, a quick survey of the contexts in which this figure appears highlights a significant trend in his characterization: the Beloved Disciple is witness to a number of incidents that were foundational to key premises of Johannine theology, as indicated on the table in this chapter. The Fourth Gospel presents the Beloved Disciple as an individual who had direct physical contact with the historical Jesus and was a witness to Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection. The evangelist also goes to pains to associate his account of Jesus’ ministry with this individual, at one point directly attributing the contents of the Gospel, or of an earlier book about Jesus, to the Beloved Disciple’s ‘testimony’ (John 21:24). As will be seen, while it is ultimately impossible to determine the precise identify of this individual, these aspects of the Beloved Disciple’s characterization are key to understanding his role in the Johannine tradition.

Theories on The Beloved Disciple’s Identity: Historical Figure or Literary Symbol? Overall, the Gospel of John is very clear about the Beloved Disciple’s relationship with the historical Jesus and his importance as a witness to Christ’s death and resurrection, but very unclear about this character’s specific identity. Who was this mysterious individual, and why does John portray him in the way that he does? The many answers that have been offered to these questions fall into two major camps: 1) those that view the Beloved Disciple as a real historical individual whose identity can be deduced from details in the Fourth Gospel and, in some theories, from the Synoptics and early church tradition; and, 2) those that view the Beloved Disciple as a fictional/​ideal character who represents certain theological themes that John (the evangelist) wishes to emphasize. Even within each camp opinions vary widely and here it will be possible to review only a few prominent representatives of each group.

The Historical Beloved Disciple Traditionally, the Beloved Disciple has been associated with the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James who was a member of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples and who became a ‘pillar’ in the Jerusalem church after Jesus’ death (see Mark 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; Gal. 2:9). This argument was advanced in the late second century by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, and later by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (330s CE). In Book 3 of Against Heresies, Irenaeus asserts that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are apostolic writings and then claims that ‘John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon his breast [John 13:23–​ 25], did himself publish a Gospel during his residence in Ephesus in Asia’ (Haer. III.1.1).

88   Tom Thatcher Here, Irenaeus explicitly associates John the son of Zebedee with the Beloved Disciple and portrays him as the author of the Gospel of John, consistent with his earlier claim that ‘all the elders associated with John the disciple of the Lord in [the Roman province of] Asia bear witness that John delivered it [the Fourth Gospel] to them’ (Haer. II.22.5).3 As Culpepper notes, Irenaeus’ arguments were enormously influential: after him, ‘neither the authority of the [Fourth] Gospel as scripture nor its apostolic authorship were debated until modern scholarship began to challenge the latter’ (2000: 123). Writing 150 years after Irenaeus, Eusebius could simply assume that the Apostle John was the author of the Fourth Gospel, the only question being whether that same individual was responsible for the book of Revelation (Hist. eccl. III.39.1–​7). Some scholars today, and perhaps most laypeople, support Irenaeus’ theory that ‘Beloved Disciple’ is a nickname for the Apostle John, whom they also view as the author of, or at least a primary source for the contents of, the Fourth Gospel. Representative of this approach, Don Carson focuses on the unanimous testimony of the church fathers in favour of John and argues that internal evidence from the Fourth Gospel is consistent with their claims. For example, the Gospel of John reflects first-​hand familiarity with the topography of Palestine and the Aramaic language, and the Apostle John would certainly have been well aware of both. Also, the Synoptic Gospels suggest that only the twelve Apostles attended the Last Supper (Mark 14:17), and the Fourth Gospel indicates that the Beloved Disciple was present among them; further, the ‘sons of Zebedee’ were on the boat with Peter in John 21 when the risen Lord was recognized by the Beloved Disciple (John 21:2; Carson 1991:  68–​81; see also Köstenberger 2004a:  6–​8). Arguing along similar lines, Paul Anderson has noted that the book of Acts portrays the Apostle John as an advocate of theological themes that align with the presentation of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (1996: 274–​75). Yet while many readers still support the traditional view that the Apostle John was the Beloved Disciple, most scholars today reject this conclusion on the grounds that it relies too heavily on external evidence—​data from the Church Fathers and other New Testament writings—​rather than on clues from the Fourth Gospel itself. This is true even of many commentators who believe that the Beloved Disciple was a real person and an associate of the historical Jesus. The proposals of James Charlesworth and Ben Witherington illustrate the types of considerations that support these alternate theories. In an exhaustive study, Charlesworth argues that the Beloved Disciple was a real person but not, as tradition holds, the Apostle John, but rather Thomas, often referred to as ‘the doubter’ for his initial refusal to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead (John 20:24–​28). While Thomas’ pessimistic spirit and demand for physical evidence (John 11:16; 14:15; 20:25) have made his name a byword for scepticism, Charlesworth characterizes Thomas as ‘the disciple who verifies accounts and proves that they are trustworthy so that others may believe in Jesus’. In fact, Thomas’ response to the other disciples’ claims about the resurrection are an essential element of the Fourth Gospel’s response to


See Chapter 24, Judith M. Lieu, ‘The Johannine Literature and the Canon’.

THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL    89 ‘the social crises confronting the Johannine Christians’. The Jewish authorities no doubt criticized John’s (the evangelist’s) faith, arguing that his claims about Jesus’ resurrection were ‘nonsense’ and disparaging the witnesses to this event. Against these charges, the Fourth Evangelist appeals to the testimony of ‘Thomas, the Beloved Disciple, [who] did not believe unsubstantiated reports. He demanded empirical proof ’. In support of these conclusions, Charlesworth notes that the Beloved Disciple seems to be one of the twelve Apostles and that Thomas is specifically referred to as ‘one of the Twelve’ at John 20:24 (Charlesworth 1995: 118–​26 [120–​21]). Further, Thomas is listed among the six people on the boat with Peter at 21:2, one of whom must be the Beloved Disciple. Other scholars argue that the Beloved Disciple, although a real associate of the historical Jesus, was not one of the twelve Apostles. Approaching the problem from the perspective of narrative studies, Witherington has revived the thesis that the Beloved Disciple is Lazarus of Bethany, whom Jesus raises from the dead in John 11. This conclusion is supported by the fact that John refers explicitly to Jesus’ ‘love’ for Lazarus three different times. At John 11:3, Mary and Martha urge Jesus to come quickly to Bethany because their brother Lazarus ‘whom you love is ill’ (hon phileis asthenei). Their claim is verified by the narrator at v. 5 (‘Jesus loved [ēgapa] Martha and her sister and Lazarus’) and then again by the crowd of Jewish mourners at v. 36 (‘See how he [Jesus] loved him [Lazarus]!’; ide pōs ephilei auton). Several further points support the thesis that Lazarus is the Beloved Disciple. First, the Beloved Disciple first appears in the story at 13:23, soon after Lazarus is described as the one Jesus ‘loves’. Second, while the Beloved Disciple was present at the cross (19:25–​27), the Synoptic Gospels suggest that none of the Twelve witnessed Jesus’ death (see Mark 14:50; 15:40–​41; cf. John 16:32); Lazarus was not one of the Twelve. Similarly, the Synoptics seem to assume that the owner of the house where Jesus ate the Last Supper was not one of the Twelve (Mark 14:12–​17); Lazarus may have offered his home in Bethany for this purpose, which would explain why he, as host, would recline next to the guest of honour, Jesus (Witherington 2006; 2009). If Lazarus was the Beloved Disciple, perhaps the Fourth Evangelist associates him closely with Peter to symbolize the geographical scope of Jesus’ ministry, Peter being the ideal Galilean disciple and Lazarus the ideal Judean believer.

The Ideal Disciple Despite their disagreements, scholars such as Carson, Anderson, Charlesworth, and Witherington all believe that the Beloved Disciple was a real person and an associate of the historical Jesus. Others, however, have concluded that the Beloved Disciple is a fictional character invented by the Fourth Evangelist to serve narrative or/​and theological purposes. Two pieces of internal evidence are particularly relevant to this group of theories. First, as noted earlier, the Beloved Disciple appears in the Gospel at points that are critical to John’s Christology: as a witness to these critical events, the Beloved Disciple possesses first-​hand information that could readily support John’s claim that Jesus was both

90   Tom Thatcher God’s divine Son and a real flesh-​and-​blood human being (John 1:14; 20:30–​31; 1 John 5:6). A second piece of evidence derives from the fact that the Beloved Disciple never appears alone, but rather always in the company of other famous associates of Jesus, especially Peter. In each episode where he appears with Peter, however, the Beloved Disciple demonstrates a superior comprehension of Christ. This observation may suggest that the Beloved Disciple has been invented to serve as a foil for Peter’s misunderstandings: the historical Peter illustrates the wrong way to react to Jesus, while the fictional Beloved Disciple illustrates how Peter and others might have done better. Building on these and similar observations, scholars such as Barnabas Lindars and Rudolf Bultmann have concluded that the Beloved Disciple is an ‘ideal figure’, a fictional character that John (the evangelist) developed to highlight certain literary and theological themes that were essential to his message and to the beliefs of the group whom he represented. In Lindars’ view, the Beloved Disciple ‘represents true discipleship’, making him a composite image of traits that embody ideal faith (1990:  22–​3; see also 1972: 31–​4). Bultmann goes further, arguing that the Beloved Disciple represents ‘Gentile Christendom,—​not of course with regard to its ethnic character, but in so far as it is the authentic Christendom which has achieved its own true self-​understanding . . . emancipated from the ties of Judaism’. Bultmann concludes that the evangelist uses the Beloved Disciple ‘to portray himself ’, not in the sense that John claims to be an associate of the historical Jesus but rather in the sense that the Beloved Disciple ‘bears in himself the self-​awareness and consciousness of the superiority of free Gentile Christendom’ (Bultmann 1971: 483–​ 5). The Beloved Disciple, in other words, is the figure with whom John himself identifies, and with whom many of John’s first readers would identify, representing what John or the reader might or should have done had they themselves been witnesses to Jesus’ ministry.

The Legendary Beloved Disciple As this brief review has indicated, scholars divide into two major camps in discussions of the Beloved Disciple. Some argue that he was a real person and an associate of the historical Jesus, the main point of contention being whether it is possible to identify him with other individuals mentioned in the New Testament (e.g. John, Thomas, Lazarus). Others, however, focus on the symbolic dimensions of John’s characterization of the Beloved Disciple and conclude that he is a fictional construct, a symbol for important literary and theological themes. Variations on the latter position reflect differing perspectives on exactly which traits, themes, or entities the Beloved Disciple represents (e.g. mature faith, Gentile Christianity). Both approaches have their merits, and both are grounded in solid textual evidence. Significantly, they are not mutually exclusive, and both are likely correct: the presentation of the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel could be based on a real historical individual who has been characterized in a particular way to highly certain themes and values. Before proceeding to a discussion of the relationship between the Beloved Disciple and the author of the Fourth Gospel, it will be helpful to offer four observations on the

THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL    91 possible identity of this figure that will inform the conclusions of the present discussion. By way of preview: 1) viewed from the perspective of narrative criticism—​evidence drawn solely from the flow and presentation of the Fourth Gospel itself—​it seems clear that the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ must be Lazarus; but, 2) viewed from the perspective of the external patristic evidence, he must be John the son of Zebedee. In the end, however, 3) neither of these two forms of evidence is sufficiently clear to support a definitive conclusion, with the result that it is presently impossible to identify the Beloved Disciple with any level of certainty. Taken together, these three points strongly suggest that, 4) the Beloved Disciple, as presented in the Gospel of John, is a highly memorialized literary figure based on a historical individual who was an associate of the historical Jesus. Put another way, the Beloved Disciple was a real person who had achieved legendary status in the Johannine Community, and whose presentation reflects the significance of his reputation for the preservation of the ‘orthodox’ Johannine theological position encoded in the Fourth Gospel and 1–​2–​3 John. On the first point, the Gospel of John mentions a large number of individuals who interacted with Jesus, many of whom became prominent figures in the early Church, yet Lazarus and his sisters are the only ones whom Jesus ‘loves’—​in fact, John says three times that Jesus ‘loved’ Lazarus (John 11:3, 5, 36) before Lazarus ever actually appears in the story. Further, the flow of the story following the resurrection of Lazarus, and the appearances of Lazarus and the Beloved Disciple within that flow, tend to suggest that these two individuals are the same person. After Jesus brings his beloved friend back from the grave, Lazarus sits with Jesus at a banquet in Lazarus’ home (12:1–​2); immediately after this episode, John notes that the chief priests had conspired to kill Lazarus ‘since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus’ (12:9–​11). In the very next chapter, the ‘one Jesus loved’ again sits with Jesus at another banquet several days later, apparently a Passover celebration (13:23). The conclusion that Lazarus is the Beloved Disciple is consistent with the fact that John locates the Beloved Disciple at the cross of Jesus but seems to understand that none of the named disciples, specifically none of the Twelve, were present to witness Jesus’ death (16:32). Further supporting the conclusion that Lazarus is the Beloved Disciple is an oft-​ overlooked, yet critical, piece of textual data: in actual fact, and despite the prevalence of the title in academic discussions of the authorship of the Fourth Gospel, no character is ever called ‘the Beloved Disciple’ (ho agapētos mathētēs). While the Johannine Epistles clearly indicate that Johannine Christians used ‘beloved’ (agapētos/​oi) as a term of familial affection (1 John 2:7; 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11; 3 John 1, 2, 5, 11), the Fourth Gospel does not use this adjective as a simple descriptor for ‘the disciple Jesus loved’. Instead, this character is identified with a number of formulae that use two different verbs (agapaō and phileō) in a variety of constructions and that show no attempt at the economy of speech one would expect from an established nickname/​spitzname:  ‘one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved’ (heis ek tōn mathētōn autou hon ēgapa ho Iēsous; 13:23); ‘the disciple whom he loved’ (ton mathētēn hon ēgapa; 19:26); ‘the other disciple whom he loved’ (ton allon mathētēn hon ephilei; 20:2); ‘that disciple whom Jesus loved’ (ho mathētēs ekeinos hon ēgapa ho Iēsous; 21:7); ‘whom Jesus loved’ (hon ēgapa ho Iēsous;

92   Tom Thatcher 21:20). At 20:8, after being identified as ‘the other disciple whom Jesus loved’ (20:2), the Beloved Disciple is simply called ‘the other [than Peter] disciple who came to the tomb first’ (ho allos mathētēs ho elthōn prōtos eis to mvēmeion). Overall, while John the evangelist is clear that Jesus loved this person, he is also inconsistent in the way that he communicates this point to the reader. Of course, these grammatical variations do not themselves demonstrate, nor even suggest, that Lazarus is the Beloved Disciple. They do, however, strongly suggest that the Johannine tradition had not developed a single, static moniker or nickname for identifying this critical individual. If the ‘Beloved Disciple’ were a fixture in the Johannine tradition and a figure (fictional or historical) whose reputed testimony was of great significance to Johannine faith, it is difficult to imagine that a fixed title for him would not have evolved early on in performances of those stories in which he appeared. Put another way, the terms used to describe this individual do not take the form of a fixed title for a reputed figure that the Fourth Evangelist could simply assume the reader would recognize. They instead take the form of literary allusions to an individual who has already been identified earlier in the narrative as one ‘loved’ by Jesus—​ Lazarus. For this reason, the various formulae used in John 13–​21 to describe the Beloved Disciple closely resemble, in form and content, the phrases used to describe Lazarus in John 11–​12. Yet, returning to the second previously presented point, while the internal evidence suggests that Lazarus of Bethany is the Beloved Disciple, the Synoptic Gospels seem to know nothing of this individual (although Luke was clearly aware of his sisters, Mary and Martha; see Luke 10:38–​42), and the patristic witnesses unanimously associate the Beloved Disciple with John the son of Zebedee. Of course, one might argue that the church fathers made this assertion in service of their own interests and more on the basis of deduction than of tradition. Irenaeus, the first author to explicitly associate the Beloved Disciple with the Apostle John (180s CE), also emphasized the four-​fold witness of the canonical Gospels, and he (or his predecessors) may have simply deduced that John was the Beloved Disciple by comparing the Fourth Gospel with the Synoptics. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all suggest that three disciples—​Peter, James, and John—​were particularly close to Jesus (see also Gal. 2:9), and John’s Beloved Disciple was obviously very close to him as well. Peter cannot be the Beloved Disciple because he always appears in the Fourth Gospel with the Beloved Disciple, and James died long before the Gospel of John was written (see Acts 12:2). John the son of Zebedee doesn’t conflict with the internal evidence from the Fourth Gospel itself, and if he was the Beloved Disciple one can harmonize the four Gospels more neatly, a fact that would make this association very appealing to Irenaeus and other second-​century Christians. These and other considerations cast some suspicion on the patristic traditions about the authorship of the Gospel of John and the identity of the Beloved Disciple, specifically by suggesting that these ‘traditions’ were not actually traditions but rather exegetical conclusions based on Irenaeus’ (or/​and others’) own readings of the written Gospels. The third and fourth points noted previously emerge from the first two and are closely related: the evidence is insufficient to draw a definitive conclusion on the specific

THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL    93 identity of the Beloved Disciple, and this is the case because that individual’s specific historical identity was so much less significant than his resume that the latter has eclipsed the former in both the textual and the patristic evidence. Put another way, John is more interested in what the Beloved Disciple does than in who he was, with the result that this individual’s reputation has entirely overshadowed his historical person. By the time the Fourth Gospel was written, the person now known as ‘the Beloved Disciple’ had achieved a legendary status in the Johannine churches that was more significant than his actual name. The observation that the Beloved Disciple had achieved ‘legendary’ status is helpful in answering perhaps the most obvious problem associated with this figure: Why does John not name him directly? As the candidates become more famous, John’s failure to name his source becomes more striking. Why not simply claim that the Apostle John—​ well known as a member of Jesus’ inner circle (Mark 5:37; 9:2; 14:33) and a ‘pillar’ of the Jerusalem church (Gal. 2:9)—​was the author of the book, rather than using such an oblique reference? Why not call Lazarus ‘the one whom Jesus loved’ the first time he appears in the story, rather than switching from his proper name in ­chapters 11 and 12 to this opaque title in ­chapter 13? These questions would be more apparent to modern scholars than to the Fourth Evangelist simply because the evangelist was less concerned with the Beloved Disciple’s specific identity than with his reputation as a point of contact with the historical Jesus, a centring point for the Johannine tradition and key themes within it that the evangelist and his allies wished to preserve to the exclusion of other understandings. At the same time, identifying the Beloved Disciple as a ‘legendary’ figure does not imply that he was not a real historical individual, and in fact would point toward the opposite conclusion. By way of analogy, King Watzmann and Paul Bunyan are legendary figures who were not historical individuals; Babe Ruth, Baron von Richtofen, Margaret Thatcher, and Michael Schumacher are historical individuals who have also become legends. A ‘legendary’ figure is one whose name has come to represent both that person her/​himself and the set of values that a particular group associates with that person. Thus, the name ‘Babe Ruth’ calls to mind both a historical individual and the sum total of the values associated with the golden age of American baseball; ‘Ferdinand Porsche’ was an industrialist inventor whose name now stands for excellence and innovation in automotive engineering. The names of legends are overdetermined, evoking at once the figures of these specific individuals and also the moments and movements in broader cultural history with which collective memory associates them. Following this pattern, the title ‘Beloved Disciple’ refers both to an associate of the historical Jesus whose witness was critical to the Johannine Community and, at the same time, to the validity of a particular set of theological values built upon that witness. Specifically, as a legendary figure, the Beloved Disciple ‘stands for a historical period and set of events’ (Fine 2001: 7), in this case the period of the origins of Johannine Christianity and the events surrounding the object of Johannine faith, the life and death of the historical Jesus. The previous observations are consistent with emerging understandings of the formation and maintenance of collective memories and of the reputations of specific

94   Tom Thatcher individuals within collective memories. While it is sometimes the case that reputations are invented from nothing, normally with the backing of totalitarian states or global corporations with vast political and economic resources, most legendary figures are also real-​world individuals whose exploits have come to represent specific values within a group’s collective memory because it served the interests of others for them to do so. These interested others, ‘reputational entrepreneurs’ who convert figures from the actual past (or present) into indexes of a group’s ideals, reduce historically complex people to archetypes that serve as positive or negative exemplars, normally by selectively representing known facts about them (see Fine 2001: 10–​23). The Beloved Disciple’s reputation, as reflected in the Fourth Gospel’s presentation, was likely the end product of a memorial process that spanned several decades of storytelling and that turned a flesh-​ and-​blood associate of Jesus into an index for everything essential to Johannine faith. Thus, the Beloved Disciple, as an especially intimate associate of Christ, knows that Jesus is the one who came from God, what Jesus told the disciples in the upper room, and that the tomb was empty, and was entrusted with the care of Jesus’ mother as Christ was dying on the cross. Further, just because this Beloved Disciple was especially close to Jesus, the Fourth Evangelist and his readers can know that this person’s ‘witness is true’ (John 21:24; see also 19:35). The title, then, is more significant to John than the historical person behind it, and the Beloved Disciple represents everything that John confessed and that his enemies outside and within the church denied (see 1 John 2:18–​27; 4:1–​6; 5:6–​12; 2 John 7–​11; 3 John 9–​11). Doubtless the Fourth Evangelist and his first readers were aware of the Beloved Disciple’s specific identity, but they were clearly less concerned with naming the Beloved Disciple than with citing him as the ultimate and compelling source of authoritative information about Jesus—​so compelling, indeed, that a perusal of this person’s testimony should lead the reader to ‘believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’ (John 20:30–​31).

The Beloved Disciple and ‘The Elder’ This conclusion—​that the Beloved Disciple is a historical figure whose presentation in the Fourth Gospel reflects his legendary status as the source of the Johannine tradition—​ raises the question of whether or how this individual might have been related to other known authority figures in early Christianity. For purposes of the present discussion, the most significant consideration relates to how this Beloved Disciple might be related to ‘The Elder’, the author of 2 and 3 John and, presumably, the authority behind the contents of 1 John as well (see 2 John 1; 3 John 1). While the author of these letters refers to himself only as ‘The Elder’ (ho presbuteros), he clearly views himself, and expects others to view him, as qualified to send emissaries to visit and report on local congregations (2 John 4; 3 John 5–​8), to issue authoritative doctrinal pronouncements to these churches in the form of letters (2 John 5–​9), and to instruct the leaders of these churches on how to conduct the business of their congregations and to discipline them when they do not

THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL    95 obey (3 John 9–​10). Aside from his inherent authority, The Elder justifies his claims on the basis of appeal to established tradition (2 John 4–​5, 9–​10; 1 John 1:5; 2:7–​8, 20–​25; 3:11, 23; 4:2–​3, 7, 14, 19–​21; 5:14–​15), of which he postures himself the guardian and definitive interpreter. Based on this characterization, most scholars would argue that ‘The Elder’ must have been associated in some way with the Beloved Disciple, at least as a member of the Community or ‘School’ that maintained the Beloved Disciple’s witness to Jesus. Some scholars have suggested that The Elder and the Beloved Disciple are in fact the same person, an individual whose reputation as an associate of the historical Jesus granted him a unique role within the Johannine churches as a ‘witness’ to foundational points of orthodox faith (see, e.g. Hengel 1989: 102–​8; von Wahlde 2010: 1.50–​55, 374–​6; 3.6–​11).4 Scholars who hold this view generally conclude that John the evangelist was a disciple of this individual who recorded his teachings and preserved his distinct perspective on Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, a thesis that readily explains the many similarities between the language and theological themes of the Gospel and 1–​2–​3 John.

The Beloved Disciple and the Fourth Evangelist A wide range of theories have been proposed to explain the relationship between the Beloved Disciple and the author of the Gospel of John, but all fall into two major categories. Either 1) the Beloved Disciple was himself the author of the Fourth Gospel, meaning that the Beloved Disciple and the Fourth Evangelist are the same person; or, 2) the Beloved Disciple was the ultimate source of John’s information about Jesus, but not the actual author of the book. Most current versions of the latter theory suggest that the Beloved Disciple died some time before the present version of the Fourth Gospel was written, and that his testimony about Jesus was preserved by a ‘Johannine School’, a group of loyal followers committed to the preservation of his witness and beliefs. Here again, it will be helpful to summarize the evidence from the text before evaluating several recent proposals and drawing a conclusion. Perhaps the most critical internal clues to the authorship of the Fourth Gospel come from two passages near the end of the book, John 19:35 and 21:24. As Jesus hangs on the cross, soldiers come to break the legs of the crucifixion victims so that they will die quickly, in time for the removal of the bodies before Sabbath. Surprised to find Jesus already dead, a soldier pierces his side with a spear, releasing a flow of water and blood. The author immediately breaks into the story to stress the historicity of this event: ‘He who 4  Hengel among others identifies this person as ‘John the Elder’, a shadowy figure mentioned by Papias (apud Eusebius, Hist. eccl. III.39.3–​4). See Chapter 24, Judith Lieu, ‘The Johannine Literature and the Canon’.

96   Tom Thatcher saw (ho heōrakōs) has testified, and his testimony is true, and that one [ekeinos; likely Christ or God, cf. 1 John 4:17] knows that he speaks truly, so that you also may believe’ (John 19:35). In view of the masculine gender of the participle ho heōrakōs, its antecedent seems to be ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, who stands at the foot of the cross and to whom Jesus has just entrusted the care of his mother (19:25–​27). Similarly, at 21:24, after refuting a rumour that the Beloved Disciple would not die before Jesus’ return, the evangelist reveals that ‘this is the disciple who testifies [ho mathētēs ho marturōn; present tense participle] about these things and who wrote [ho grapsas; aorist tense participle] them, and we know that his testimony is true’. Both of these verses are open to multiple interpretations and can therefore be used in support of opposing theories about the relationship between John (the evangelist) and the Beloved Disciple.

The Beloved Disciple was the Evangelist As noted earlier, Irenaeus and Eusebius associated the Beloved Disciple directly with both the Fourth Evangelist and the Gospel of John, suggesting that the Beloved Disciple, John the Apostle, lived to an advanced age before writing a book about Jesus in western Asia Minor (Ephesus). This position has been defended by Don Carson and, more recently, Andreas Köstenberger, who take the present tense participle (‘who is testifying’) at John 21:24 to mean that the Beloved Disciple was still alive at the time the Fourth Gospel was written. Following this line of reasoning, one may interpret 19:35 (‘and the one who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true’) to mean that ‘the witness [to Jesus’ death] and the evangelist are one, and the most compelling assumption . . . is that he [the evangelist] is also the beloved disciple’ (Carson 1991: 626, 681; 82 [626]; see also Köstenberger 2004a: 553, 602; 3). Why, then, does the Beloved Disciple speak of himself in the third person at 21:24 (‘we know that his testimony is true’), and why does he mention the strange rumour that he himself would not die before the Lord’s return (John 21:23)? Köstenberger, citing parallels from a variety of ancient sources, suggests that 21:25 (‘I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books’) is an instance of ‘authorial modesty in commending a claim or a comment made by the writer [himself] to his or her audience’. Thus, the ‘I’ of v. 25 would be included among the ‘we’ of v. 24 who know that Beloved Disciple’s witness in true; in turn, both ‘I’ and ‘we’ are the Beloved Disciple’s self-​references (Köstenberger 2004b: 87–​8).

The Beloved Disciple and the Johannine School While commentators like Carson and Köstenberger defend the traditional view that the Beloved Disciple was himself the Fourth Evangelist, most scholars today believe that John (the author of the Gospel) and the Beloved Disciple are not the same person. Approaches in this category take the third person references at John 19:35 and 21:24 to mean that the author is vouching for the veracity of another person’s testimony. Scholars

THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL    97 who take this position also argue that their reading better explains the reference at 21:23 to a rumour that the Beloved Disciple would not die before Jesus’ return. Raymond Brown, for example, has contended that ‘the sense of crisis’ in this verse is most reasonably explained by the proposal that the Beloved Disciple had already passed away by the time these words were written. In Brown’s view, the Beloved Disciple’s followers were ‘disturbed by the death of their great master since they expected him not to die’ before Christ’s Second Coming (Brown 1966/​1970: 2.1119). To reassure his readers, John stresses that Jesus did not say that the Beloved Disciple would never die, and uses the present tense (‘is testifying’) to remind them that the Beloved Disciple ‘lives on in his testimony’, which has now been recorded in John’s Gospel (Schnackenburg 1987: 3.372; see also Brown 1966/​1970: 2.1119). While Brown’s approach to John 21:24 seems like a relatively straightforward answer to the question of the relationship between the Beloved Disciple and the Fourth Evangelist—​the evangelist was a disciple of the Beloved Disciple who recorded his dead master’s teachings about Jesus—​this summary of his position actually rests on a much more complicated theory. In Brown’s view, the Beloved Disciple was an associate of the historical Jesus who observed and remembered a number of Christ’s deeds and words. This person’s ‘testimony’ became the foundation of the Johannine Community’s proclamation and teaching, which gradually developed distinct patterns and themes reflecting the theological perspective and experiences of these Jewish Christians. After the Beloved Disciple’s death, one of his disciples collected and edited the master’s teaching to produce a Gospel; this work was later expanded by yet another individual, who produced the Gospel of John as we have it today (Brown 2003: 62–​9, 75–​85). Brown’s theory is distinct in many respects, but is also typical of a number of recent approaches that view the Gospel of John as the product of a community of believers rather than the work of a single creative genius. According to most versions of this theory, the Beloved Disciple was an associate of Jesus who, in turn, gathered a group of disciples around himself. These people preached and taught under the Beloved Disciple’s authority and guidance, and continued to proclaim and protect his ‘witness’ after his death. The Fourth Evangelist, who may have been a disciple of the Beloved Disciple himself, eventually wrote a book about Jesus to preserve the Beloved Disciple’s distinct theological vision for future generations. According to this approach, then, ‘John’, the author of the Fourth Gospel, was not the Beloved Disciple, but was rather a member of the ‘Johannine School’ that preserved this disciple’s teachings.

John, a Disciple of the Beloved Disciple Here again, both views outlined above—​that the Beloved Disciple was also the Fourth Evangelist, and that the evangelist was a disciple of the Beloved Disciple or/​and a member of a larger school of that person’s followers—​are reasonable, and both build on solid textual evidence. Yet the conclusion offered earlier on the identity of the Beloved Disciple and the social-​memorial forces at work in his presentation, combined with

98   Tom Thatcher what appears to be the most natural reading of the language of John 21:20–​25, would tend to support the view that the Fourth Evangelist and the Beloved Disciple were not the same person, but were closely related individuals. Whether or not the Beloved Disciple was still alive at the time the Fourth Gospel was written (see 21:23), the third person reference at John 21:24 most likely indicates that the author of the text as we have it today was not the Beloved Disciple. As noted, scholars like Andreas Köstenberger (2004b) and Howard Jackson (1999) have cited impressive parallels to show that ancient historians sometimes referred to themselves in the third person, and have argued that John 21:25 would be a typical way of expressing authorial modesty while affirming the truth of one’s own testimony. Closer inspection, however, reveals that none of the examples they cite are identical to the third-​person references in the Fourth Gospel, and some are even drawn from different genres of literature. This observation does not, however, support reconstructions of the Fourth Gospel’s composition–​history that place the Fourth Evangelist several generations or ‘stages’ away from the Beloved Disciple. John 21:24 seems to state fairly clearly that the Beloved Disciple ‘wrote’ a book about Jesus, and the author of the Fourth Gospel mentions this book while also referring to the Beloved Disciple in the third person. Taken together, these data suggest that the Fourth Evangelist was either the Beloved Disciple’s scribe/​ amanuensis, or that the evangelist expanded an earlier document that he attributes to the Beloved Disciple, a document that he perhaps knew largely from memory. In either case, ‘John’ the evangelist is best understood as a disciple of the Beloved Disciple, who is writing the Fourth Gospel either by dictation from the Beloved Disciple or shortly after the Beloved Disciple’s death on the basis of an earlier document attributed to his esteemed teacher (21:23). Like the Beloved Disciple, the evangelist’s name and details of his identity cannot now be known with certainty.

Conclusion: the Beloved Disciple, the Fourth Evangelist, and the Gospel of John In summary, it seems most likely that the Gospel of John was written by a disciple of the Beloved Disciple, an associate of the historical Jesus who was remembered as the key witness to a number of critical events from Jesus’ ministry, including his death and resurrection. This Beloved Disciple may also be ‘The Elder’ mentioned in 2 John and 3 John, in which case he should be understood as the author of the Johannine Epistles. While it is impossible to know the precise identity of this individual, the evangelist ‘John’ clearly presents the Beloved Disciple as the ultimate witness to Christ’s ministry and is confident in the truthfulness of the Beloved Disciple’s testimony. In John’s view, true faith is defined by acceptance of the Beloved Disciple’s understanding of Christ and his mission.


Suggested Reading The milestone studies of Martyn (1968/​2003) and Brown (1966/​1970; 1979; 2003) on the history of the Johannine Community and on the composition history of the Johannine Epistles and Gospel provide a helpful foundation for understanding subsequent discussions of the authorship of these books. Building on their precedent, many scholars have tended to view the Beloved Disciple as a founding figure in the Johannine Community (or ‘School’; Culpepper 1975) and portray John the evangelist as a literate member of that group who committed its Jesus traditions to writing. While Brown’s work reflects the long-​standing consensus (based on the earlier work of Gardner-​Smith, 1938) that the Johannine literature developed in isolation from other strains of early Christian tradition, scholars such as Barrett (1978), Neirynck (1977; 1990), and, more recently, Keith (2016) have contended that John the evangelist may have utilized the Synoptics as sources.5 Advocates of the traditional view that the Beloved Disciple, the source of the information included in the Fourth Gospel, was John the son of Zebedee include Carson (1991), Köstenberger (2004a), Anderson (1996), and Schuchard (2012). Hengel (1989) and von Wahlde (2010), among others, have argued that the author of the Gospel of John and ‘the Elder’ mentioned in 2 and 3 John are closely related, perhaps the same person (see also Schuchard 2012). For the view that the Beloved Disciple is Lazarus, a character in the Fourth Gospel whom Jesus raises from the dead (John 11), see Witherington 2009. Some scholars have suggested that the Beloved Disciple was John’s literary creation (Bultmann 1971); for the view that the Beloved Disciple was a real historical individual who is presented as a legendary figure in the Gospel by one of his own disciples, ‘John’ the evangelist, see Thatcher 2001.

Bibliography Anderson, Paul N., 1996. The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Its Unity and Disunity in Light of John 6. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International. Barrett, C. K., 1978. The Gospel According to St. John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text. 2nd edition. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster. Brown, Raymond, 1966/​1970. The Gospel According to John:  Introduction, Translation, and Notes. 2 vols. Anchor Bible Commentary. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Brown, Raymond, 1979. The Community of the Beloved Disciple. New York, NY: Paulist. Brown, Raymond, 2003. An Introduction to the Gospel of John. Ed. and updated Francis J. Moloney. ABRL; New York, NY: Doubleday. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1971. The Gospel of John:  A Commentary. Trans. G. R. Beasley-​Murray, R. W. N. Hoare, and J. K. Riches. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster. Carson, D. A., 1991. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Charlesworth, James, 1995. The Beloved Disciple: Whose Witness Validates the Gospel of John? Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International. Culpepper, R. Alan, 1975. The Johannine School:  An Evaluation of the Johannine-​ school Hypothesis Based on an Investigation of the Nature of Ancient Schools. SBLDS 26; Missoula, MT: Scholars Press.


See Chapter 4, Harold W. Attridge, ‘John and Other Gospels’.

100   Tom Thatcher Culpepper, R. Alan, 2000. John, the Son of Zebedee:  the Life of a Legend. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Fine, Gary Alan, 2001. Difficult Reputations:  Collective Memories of the Evil, Inept, and Controversial. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Gardner-​Smith, Percival, 1938. St. John and the Synoptic Gospels. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press. Hengel, Martin, 1989, The Johannine Question. Trans. John Bowden. Philadelphia, PA: Trinity Press International. Jackson, Howard, 1999. ‘Ancient Self-​Referential Conventions and Their Implications for the Authorship and Integrity of the Gospel of John’, JTS 50: 1–​34. Keith, Chris, 2016. ‘The Competitive Textualization of the Jesus Tradition in John 20:30-​31 and 21:24-​25’, CBQ 78: 321–​37. Köstenberger, Andreas J., 2004a. John. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker. Köstenberger, Andreas J., 2004b. ‘‘I Suppose’ (οἰμαι): The Conclusion of John’s Gospel in Its Literary and Historical Context’, in P. J. Williams, Andrew D. Clarke, Peter M. Head, and David Instone-​Brewer (eds.), The New Testament in Its First Century Setting:  Essays on Context and Background in Honour of B. W. Winter on His 65th Birthday. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans: 72–​88. Lindars, Barnabas, 1972. The Gospel of John. NCB. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Lindars, Barnabas, 1990. John. New Testament Guides; Sheffield: JSOT Press. Martyn, J. Louis, 2003. History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. 3rd edition Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. (1st edition 1968). Neirynck, Frans, 1977. ‘John and the Synoptics’, in Marinus de Jong (ed.), L’Évangile de Jean: Sources, Rédaction, Théologie. BETL 44; Leuven: Leuven University Press: 73–​106. Neirynck, Frans, 1990. ‘John and the Synoptics: Response to P. Borgen’, in David L. Dungan (ed.), The Interrelations of the Gospels. BETL 95; Leuven: Leuven University Press: 438–​50. Schnackenburg, Rudolf, 1987. The Gospel According to St. John. Trans. Kevin Smyth. 3 vol. New York, NY: Crossroad. Schuchard, Bruce, 2012. 1–​3 John. Concordia Commentary. St. Louis, MO: Concordia. Thatcher, Tom, 2001. ‘The Legend of the Beloved Disciple’, in Robert Fortna and Tom Thatcher (eds.), Jesus in Johannine Tradition. Ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox: 91–​9. von Wahlde, Urban C., 2010. The Gospel and Letters of John. 3 vols. ECC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Witherington, Ben, III., 2006. ‘The Last Man Standing’, BAR 32/​2: 24–​5. Witherington, Ben, III., 2009. ‘What’s In a Name? Rethinking the Historical Figure of the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel’, in Paul N. Anderson, Felix Just, S. J., and Tom Thatcher (eds.), John, Jesus, and History, Volume 2: Aspects of Historicity in the Fourth Gospel. SBLECL 2; Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature: 203–​12.

Chapter 7

The Gospel of J oh n a nd Archaeol o g y Urban C. Von Wahlde

Introduction While archaeology has proved useful in the study of the Synoptic Gospels, it has proved particularly valuable in the study of the Gospel of John. Not only are the topographical references in the Gospel of John often more detailed than in the other Gospels, the Gospel contains references to sixteen places that are mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament: (1) Bethany-​beyond-​the-​Jordan; (2) Cana; (3) Aenon-​near-​Salim; (4) Jacob’s well; (5) Sychar; (6) Sea of Tiberias; (7) Pool of Bethesda; (8) Pool of Siloam; (9) Bethany; (10) Ephraim; (11) the ‘winter-​flowing’ Kidron; (12) Jesus staying in a cave on the hillside of the garden east of the Kidron; (13) the Lithostrotos; (14) the location of Golgotha; (15) the presence of a garden in the vicinity of the crucifixion; (16) the tomb of Jesus close by the place of crucifixion. Of these sixteen, eleven are located in Judea, demonstrating the focus of the Gospel in this southern region. In addition to these topographical references, there are a number of other features of the Gospel that have been illumined by archaeology: (1) the mention of water jars made of stone for purification (2:6); (2) the implicit references to miqvaot in the mention of Bethesda (5:2) and (3) Siloam (9:7); (4) the peculiar reference to Mary ‘bending down’ to see into the tomb (20:11); and (5) the more specific reference to opening the tomb by ‘removing’ the stone rather than by ‘rolling it away’ (11:41; 20:1). Further insights in the debate will be noted in this chapter. The abundance of such references has long attracted the attention of scholars, who have recognized the potential of archaeology to shed new light on the role of topography as well as of these other details in the Gospel. While many studies have presented evidence indicating the sites are authentic, there have also been a number of opinions sceptical about the value of these references in the Gospel for the historical ministry of Jesus.

102   Urban C. von Wahlde

Place Names and Sites Apart from what might be called the period of ‘naive historicity’ in which the historical accuracy of individual sites was simply taken for granted, the critical period in research on the topography of the Gospel of John can be said to begin with a book by K. Kundsin (1925) who argued that many of the sites mentioned in the Gospel were places with significant early Christian communities and that the importance of the sites was due to this rather than to their association with the historical Jesus. In 1954, Norbert Krieger focused on place names in the Gospel and claimed that some of the designations were fictional, invented by the author in order to create a symbolism that would contribute to the meaning of the event being narrated. Krieger’s most well-​known claim was that there was no Pool of Bethesda and that the five porticoes described in the Gospel were meant to symbolize the five books of Moses, and that this and other miracles of Jesus somehow demonstrated the superiority of Jesus to the Old Testament. In addition, the etymology of Bethesda (House of Mercy) was thought to symbolize the mercy given by Jesus to the crippled man.

Bethesda and Siloam One of the events leading to a new period in the study of the historicity of Gospel of John was the archaeological work at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:2) associated with the name of Joachim Jeremias, who was then a graduate student. Jeremias’s book (1966) on the excavations confirmed the existence of a four-​sided pool with a portico running across the middle of the complex, thus revealing a pool with five porticoes. Since that time, archaeology has revealed increasingly more evidence about the various sites mentioned in the Gospel. In 2006, the present author published a study of twenty unique Johannine topographical references (von Wahlde 2006). That study included not only the references that are distinctive to this Gospel, but also a selection of other sites considered more than ordinarily significant. Some of the sites were well-​ known, while some discoveries had been made quite recently. The understanding of the Pool of Siloam had increased exponentially only two years before, when archaeologists uncovered a massive pool just south of what traditionally had been thought to be ‘the Pool of Siloam’ (John 9:7, 11). With this new discovery it became clear that the small pool at the mouth of Hezekiah’s tunnel (originally thought to be the Pool of Siloam) was in fact a holding pool for water that was then let into the much larger stepped pool to the south. The complex was then, for the first time, understood to be a large miqveh (together with an otzer) intended for the ritual purification of pilgrims coming to the Jewish Temple, particularly at the major feasts. This discovery led to a reappraisal of the purpose of two pools north of the Temple Mount that make up ‘the Pool of Bethesda’. Previous scholarship had proposed that the

The Gospel of John and Archaeology    103

Photo 1  The southern pool of Bethesda showing the combination of steps and landings of the miqveh descending from the west to the bottom of the pool. The steps continue beyond the medieval wall at the top of the picture. The wall at the lower right is the dam that divides the north­ ern from the southern pool. The wall at the upper left shows the limit of the excavation of the southern pool. After the construction of the southern pool, the northern pool functioned as an otzer for the miqveh in the southern pool. Photo by U. von Wahlde.

104   Urban C. von Wahlde

Photo 2  Prior to 2004, this pool was shown as ‘the Pool of Siloam’. It is filled by water from the Gihon Spring, flowing through Hezekiah’s Tunnel and entering the pool at the top of the picture. Water from the pool exits through a channel at the bottom of the picture. The exit itself is not visible. The pool was at ground level in the first century. Photo: M. von Wahlde, with permission.

The Gospel of John and Archaeology    105

Photo  3  In 2004, a salvage excavation south of the smaller pool revealed remains of a very large, somewhat trapezoidal pool with the combination of steps and landings characteristic of a miqveh. The smaller pool (which functioned as the otzer) is located on the other side of the entrance where the people are exiting. The channel from that pool could be directed into the miqveh or around it and into the Kidron valley. Photo by U. von Wahlde.

two pools were reservoirs (Pierre/​Rousée 1981). It now became clear that the function of the two pools was more complex. The northern pool had originally been a reservoir contained by a massive dam, with a chimney within the dam for regulating the release of water into a channel leading to the Temple Mount. When the southern pool was added, it was configured with the alternation of steps and landings on its west side typical of a miqveh. Thus the southern pool was intended to be a miqveh from the beginning and the northern pool was reconceptualized as an otzer. The chimney within the dam then served not only to release water into the southern pool but also to render the water in the southern pool ‘clean’ and ‘pure’ by ritual standards (mMiqvaot 6:1–​8; Gibson 2005; von Wahlde, 2011). While this much was clear, complicating the overall interpretation of the site was the existence of a series of small pools and caves immediately to the east of the larger pools. These smaller pools have been identified as part of a healing complex dedicated to the god Aesclepius. Some scholars (Pierre/​Rousée 1981; Magness 2015) have proposed that the miracle of John 5:1–​9 actually took place at these smaller eastern pools since the depth of the larger pools would have prevented access. However, this is unlikely: in the Gospel the healing is attributed to the turbulence of water in the southern pool; this turbulence was almost certainly caused by the rush of water from the northern pool being discharged with some force through the chimney into the southern pool. Moreover, the recognition that the steps on the western side of

106   Urban C. von Wahlde the southern pool were to allow entrance into the water has removed the problem of entry into that pool. The Pool of Siloam is located at the extreme southern end of the city of Jerusalem, at the very tip of the City of David. This pool trapped and preserved the water flowing from the Gihon Spring and through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. In the summer of 2004 excavations by R. Reich and E. Shukron revealed one side of a large stepped pool with the configuration typical of miqvaot, namely a series of three or four steps followed by a wider step or landing to allow for standing while immersing in the water. With this discovery, it became clear that first-​century Jerusalem had two large public miqvaot, one north of the Temple and one to the south, undoubtedly intended for the large number of pilgrims coming to the city for feasts. Both of these are mentioned in the Gospel of John and only there within the New Testament.

Advances in Identifying Previously Uncertain Sites In the aforementioned article (von Wahlde 2006), it was proposed that there were three sites for which there was not sufficient evidence for any confidence in identification. Since that time, progress has been made and two of them can now be identified with some certainty.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan Bethany-​beyond-​the-​Jordan is mentioned twice in the Gospel, near the beginning (1:28) when Jesus came to John while John was at this baptizing place, and later, near the end of Jesus’ ministry, when Jesus is said to return there (10:40). The Gospels of Mark (1:4, 5) and Matthew (3:6) say only that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan; Luke (3:3) is even less specific. Only John gives a precise location. At present two sites vie for attention. The first is on the Israeli side of the Jordan at a place known as Qasr al-​Yehud. Directly across the river lies the Wadi Al-​Kharrar, the second site. The greater archaeological evidence favours the site on the eastern side of the Jordan. This site, which is set back somewhat from the Jordan itself, is located on a wadi that is fed by springs. Because John used ‘living’ (i.e. naturally flowing) water for purification, such a location would have had much to recommend it. In addition, remains of a number of Christian installations, including a church from Byzantine times, have been found at the site. M. Piccirillo reports that during an examination of the area in 1995 sherds of pottery ‘belonging to different first-​century pottery types, together with some fragments of stone vessels typical of the Jewish environment’ were found (2006: 433). Together, the presence of a spring and evidence of Jewish occupation in the first century constitute significant evidence that this is a place with important historical associations. While the identity of the site cannot be said to be absolutely certain, given the evidence, it surpasses the claims made for Qasr al-​Yehud and for any other proposals.

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Aenon-​near-​Salim Aenon-​near-​Salim is mentioned in John 3:22. This is the only reference to Aenon-​near-​ Salim in the Bible. Because water is such a scarce commodity in Israel, it was common in ancient times to name places in relation to a nearby spring or springs. The word ‘Aenon’ is derived from ‘Ein’ (Hebrew for ‘spring [water]’) and is probably plural, referring to a region rather than to one specific place. One long-​standing tradition locates Aenon about eight miles south of Beth-​Shean in an area that has a number of springs in a compact area. To the north of this area is a place known as Tell-​Shalem, also known as Salim/​ Salumias. These facts have recently been affirmed on the basis of personal observation by S. Gibson (2004: 241). However, there are problems in situating John 3:22 at this location in the sequence of the Gospel. Beth-​Shean (Scythopolis) is not in Judea but is part of the Decapolis on the west side of the Jordan, north of Samaria. According to John 3:22 Jesus had just come from Jerusalem into the Judean countryside with his disciples and was baptizing; it is then stated that John was baptizing at Aenon-​near-​Salim. While John is there, a Judean1 enters into a discussion with John’s disciples about purification. The question then becomes: how close is the place where Jesus is baptizing to where John was baptizing? John’s disciples would be with John or very near the place where John was baptizing, as was the case described in 1:35–​42. The fact that Jesus was in Judea and the disciples of John were speaking with a Judean would lead to the conclusion that John the Baptizer was also in Judea. This is strong evidence that Aenon-​near-​Salim is in Judea, not in the Decapolis. Therefore, there still appears to be no site that would satisfy all of the criteria for an accurate identification of the place.

Ephraim The existence of the town of Ephraim, mentioned in John 11:54, has never been in doubt. It appears several times in the Jewish Scriptures, in Josephus, and in later writings. It is the same as the city of Ai mentioned in Joshua 7–​8 and attacked by him as he attempted to conquer the hill country of Canaan. However, the location of Ephraim has never been established with certainty. Today there are two sites that vie for recognition as biblical Ai/​Ephraim. The traditional view is that it is located at the site known today as Et-​Tell (El-​Taybeh).2 The newer candidate is El-​Maqatir. This second site has undergone excavation off-​and-​on over the past twenty years by the Associates for Biblical Research, although the first-​century remains at the site have only been studied since 2010 (Byers 2011; Wood 2009, 2016).

1  This individual is identified only by the region he comes from. This usage is distinct from the usage (always in the plural in the Gospel) where ‘Ioudaioi’ refers to unspecified religious authorities (von Wahlde (2010: I, 72; II, 152). On the question of translation, see further Chapter 8, Adele Reinhartz, ‘The Jews of the Fourth Gospel’, below. 2  The name Et-​Tell (which simply means ‘mound’) is also used to describe one of the candidates for biblical Bethsaida, as will be discussed.

108   Urban C. von Wahlde Et-​Tell is slightly more than nine miles north-​north-​east of Jerusalem. The site was the location of a large city but one that was destroyed in antiquity. However, the site has no archaeological evidence of habitation during the time of Joshua or the time of Jesus, a fact that rules out the identification from an archaeological point of view. El-​Maqatir is located close to Et-​Tell, also about nine miles north of Jerusalem and 0.6 miles to the west of Et-​Tell. The excavators there present two types of evidence that indicate El-​Maqatir is Ai/​Ephraim. Firstly, El-​Maqatir fits the geographical description of Ai. In the Jewish Scriptures (Gen. 12–​13; Josh. 7–​8) the city is always mentioned in connection with Bethel, which lies two miles to the west. Secondly, B. Wood (2009: 210) points to the considerable geographical detail in the description of Joshua’s attack on Ai. From that description, Wood lists twelve requirements a location must meet to confirm its identity as Ai. Wood has surveyed all of the contenders for biblical Ai using these criteria and argues that only El-​Maqatir meets all the criteria/​requirements (Wood 2009). This of course does not prove that the site is the location of Ai/​El-​Maqatir, but it does increase the likelihood considerably. Archaeological remains at El-​Maqatir from the time of Joshua (if dated to the Late Bronze Age I, 1400–​1500 bce, according to some the time of the Conquest) include evidence of a fortified city. In addition, there is considerable evidence of a wholesale conflagration in the same time period, a fact that correlates with the account of the destruction of Ai recorded in Joshua 8. Evidence from the first century suggesting that this is also the site of the city later known as Ephraim comes from two sources. First, fragments of numerous stone (chalk) vessels from the first century ce are indicative of Jewish habitation in the first century when concern for ritual purity was at its height. Second, there are also Jewish coins from the second (seventeen coins) and third (three coins) years of the Jewish Revolt but none from the fourth year, suggesting that the city was destroyed in the year 69 ce. This would correspond with reports in Josephus (War IV.9.9 §551) that before he turned toward Jerusalem, Vespasian destroyed the two towns of Bethel and Ephraim. According to the excavators, Ephraim was a walled city, with a large tower on the north side (Wood 2016). Thus, it would seem that the evidence makes a substantial case for the location of Ephraim at El-​Maqatir. For understanding the Johannine text, whether Et Tell or El-​Maqatir is the location of Ephraim is, in the last analysis, not crucial since the two sites are little more than one half mile apart. But it is now reasonable to conclude that we know at least the general location of Ai/​Ephraim. From this, some added detail can be gained about the final days of Jesus’s ministry as it is presented in the Gospel of John. From the hill where Ephraim is located, it is possible to look south and see the skyline of Jerusalem, nine miles away. From the point of view of the Gospel account, although Ephraim might provide temporary safety for Jesus, Jerusalem and the danger looming there was not far away, not out of sight and hardly out of mind.

Where Jesus Stayed in the Garden Before His Arrest The traditional answer to this question is that Jesus stayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, east of the Kidron Valley. However, careful analysis in the light

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Photo 4  The cave on the Mount of Olives where it is thought Jesus had determined to spend the night with his disciples prior to his final Passover. The inner walls of the cave have been built out with concrete, but the square opening in the wall to the right, level with the altar, leads to a smaller niche in the bare rock which would have served as the anchor point for the beam of an olive press. Photo M. von Wahlde, with permission.

of evidence in the Gospel of John seems to allow for greater precision regarding the location. According to John, Jesus crosses the Kidron valley and enters a garden (kēpos) (18:1). Although kēpos is usually translated as ‘garden’, in fact it can refer to an orchard or other cultivated tract of land. Jesus and his disciples go to the garden and Judas comes with the arresting force of Romans and attendants of the chief priests and Pharisees (18:2–​3). There follows the curious statement that ‘Jesus went out to meet them’ (18:4). While in general terms this statement could be taken as meaning ‘he went forward to meet them’, the text appears more specific than this. J. Taylor (1995: 27) has proposed that Jesus went out from a cave located on the hillside where he was staying with his disciples. As Taylor points out, it was not that Jesus went out of the garden: as is evident from the later reference in John 18:26, the arrest takes place within the garden. Taylor argues the name ‘Gethsemane’ (found in Mk. 14:32; Matt. 26:36 but not in John and generally understood to be the name of the garden) is a corruption of the Hebrew Gat-​shemanim, which means ‘press of oils’ and refers not to the garden but to the cave located on the hillside within the garden, where an olive-​oil press was located. Taylor goes on to point out that there is such a cave on the hillside today and there is substantial evidence that it once contained an olive-​oil press.

110   Urban C. von Wahlde Although the cave has been converted into a chapel, in the stone wall of what is now the sanctuary there is a square notch (covered with a small veil) and behind that is a smaller notch almost certainly intended originally to hold the horizontal beam of an olive-​oil press. Taylor also proposes, with good reason, that the nights at the time of Passover would be cool with heavy dew and it would be understandable for persons seeking to stay the night to make use of the cave for shelter. While it may seem inappropriate to have such a theory depend upon only one word (‘go out’, 18:4), there is at least one other instance in the Gospel in which the appearance of a single verb, when taken literally and when compared with the language in the other Gospels, indicates that the choice of the verb is almost certainly deliberate and meaningful. If this present detail is correct, then it would appear that the Johannine author understands Jesus (and his disciples) to be staying in a prominent cave on the Mount of Olives and that, when the arresting party arrived, Jesus went out of the cave to meet them.

The Sea of Tiberias Although there is certainly no doubt about the location of the Sea of Tiberias, the reason why the Gospel of John, alone among the Gospels, refers to the lake as ‘of Tiberias’ has occasioned some curiosity. It is also curious that the lake has had a number of names throughout history (Sea of Kinneret, Sea of Taricheae, and Sea of Tiberias). Insight into this name can be gained by a general knowledge of the archaeology of Galilee. U. Leibner (2006: 229) has proposed that it was the custom to name the lake after the largest city on its shore; this is a pattern that would explain the variations well. In early Israelite history, the lake was known as the Sea of Kinneret, after the city of the same name on the northwest coast of the lake, (Joshua 11:2; 12:3) or the Sea of Gennesaret (Matt. 14:34; Luke 5:1), a variation of Kinneret. Pliny the Elder (Nat. Hist. V.71), when speaking of the city Tarichea, reports that the lake was also known by some as ‘the Sea of Taricheae’ (‘Tarichea, quo nomine aliqui et lacum appellant’). With the recent excavation of the city of Tarichea (Magdala), the size and importance of the city has become clear, thus providing a confirmation of the statement by Pliny. After the foundation of the city of Tiberias (c. 20ce), the common name became ‘the Sea of Tiberias’, the name used in the Gospel of John, although the lake also continued to be known by its more general name, the Sea of Galilee.

Magdala In 2009, during the preparation for the construction of a pilgrimage centre on the north-​west shore of the Sea of Galilee, bulldozers uncovered the remains of a first-​ century city. Excavations, which are still ongoing, revealed remains of a major city with a large harbor, pools for storing and processing fish, a marketplace, a sizeable road, several miqvaot, and a synagogue (one of only seven known from first-​century Galilee). The city has been positively identified as Magdala (known in Greek as Taricheae), the town described as the home town of the Mary, mentioned in John 19:35; 20:1, 18. This

The Gospel of John and Archaeology    111 Mary was a close follower of Jesus and was present at the Cross when Jesus was crucified as well as being the first to witness the risen Jesus.3

Bethsaida Traditionally two sites have vied for recognition as the site of Bethsaida, the home town of Peter, Phillip, and Andrew as reported only in the Gospel of John (1:44; 12:21).4 Professor Rami Arav has been excavating at the site of Et-​Tell for thirty years and has long made the claim that this is the city of Bethsaida. The evidence at Et-​Tell has not been overwhelming but the issue seemed settled in the absence of alternatives. Among the problems that persist however is that the site at Et-​Tell contains remains primarily from the Iron Age rather than the first century ce. In 2016, a team from Kinneret College (Galilee) under Professor Mordechai Aviam began excavations at the other site (El Araj). In the first season, mosaic tesserae were found suggesting to the excavators that they were remnants of a Christian basilica said to have been located there in the fourth century ce.5 In addition, first-​century pottery was discovered at the site. In August 2017, at the end of the second season, archaeologists at El-​Araj announced the discovery of additional first-​century pottery, a mosaic, and, in addition to other coins, a Roman silver coin from 65–​66 ce. Most striking was the discovery of remains said to be of a Roman bath house. The excavators consider this is particularly significant because it indicates, they say, that the location had the status of a city rather than a simple fishing village. Josephus (Ant. XVIII. 28) reports that Philip had renamed the town Julia in honor of the emperor’s wife,6 and raised the place’s status from that of village to that of polis.7 One of the traditional problems with locating Bethsaida at El-​Araj had been that, according to some calculations of the lake’s level, El-​Araj was under water in the first century; however, the excavators at El-​Araj have found Roman ruins at 211 meters below sea level, evidence the site was indeed inhabited during the first century. Some concerns remain: the presence of tesserae are significant but alone they can hardly indicate the presence of a basilica. Soon after the announcement of these findings Rami Arav published a critique of the findings at El-​Araj.8 He proposed that the presence of a Roman style bathhouse could be indicative simply of a Roman camp rather than a 3 

A summary of findings together with preliminary proposals of their meaning can be found in Bauckham and De Luca 2015, with further literature referred to in the footnotes. For observations on the finds from a Jewish scholar, see Schiffman 2017 (with photos). 4   An excellent aerial overview of the two sites is available on YouTube ‘Bethsaida from the Sky’, Bill Schlegel, Satellite Bible Atlas. Published Sept 1, 2017 (retrieved Sept. 2, 2017). 5  Mordechai Aviam, ‘First Season of Excavations at El Araj’: Blog of the Center for Holyland Studies (Sept 6, 2016) (retrieved August 31, 2017). An article summarizing the findings at the end of the second season (2017) can be found at M. Aviam, R. Steven Notley, ‘Has Bethsaida-​Julias Been Found?’ (16 pages), an online publication for the website The Bible and Interpretation ( (retrieved October 6, 2017). 6  Some argue that the ‘Julia’ is the daughter of Augustus: see the extended note 4 in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus, ed. T. Holmén and S. Porter (Leiden/​Boston: Brill, 2011) 2975–​6. 7  Noa Shpigel and Ruth Schuster, ‘The Lost City of Jesus’ Apostles Has Just Been Found, Archaeologists Say’, Ha Aretz online, Aug 08, 2017; (retrieved August 31, 2017). 8  R. Arav, ‘Bethsaida Controversy’, The Bible and Interpretation, August, 2017 (online); (retrieved August 31, 2017).

112   Urban C. von Wahlde well-​developed city. Work will continue, but clearly more is being learned about El-​Araj and what has been learned will contribute to the knowledge of first-​century Galilee and hopefully to knowledge of first-​century Bethsaida.

Other Details in the Gospel Confirmed by Archaeology Stone Water Jars In the account of Jesus attending the wedding in Cana in Galilee, it is reported that he made use of water in six stone jars full of water intended ‘for the purification ritual of the Jews’. The presence of six such large (each holding two or three measures, i.e. between 18 and 27 gallons) jars is striking, at least for Western readers. However, in Israel where it seldom rains except between October and March, water for purification had to be gathered when it was ‘living’, i.e. from falling rain or from a spring, which would be less common; as a result, water needed to be gathered during the rainy season and preserved for use in the dry season. According to Lev. 11:33 vessels made of stone could not incur ritual impurity. Earthenware however could incur impurity and could not be subsequently purified but had to be destroyed. Stone jars and cups—​and even tables—​were made from a chalky form of rock and would be quite unwieldy. Although inevitably Jerusalem contained the greatest number (Magen 1994), remains of such wares have been found throughout Israel, including at Kirbet Qana, the site of the Cana mentioned in the Gospel (McCulloch 2015). This is a striking example of something only the Gospel of John mentions.

The Construction of First-​Century Jewish Tombs Although the bodies of Jews belonging to lower economic classes were buried in graves dug in the earth, those with the economic means would choose to be buried in tombs cut into stone. These would regularly be cut into the vertical walls of abandoned quarries. Such tombs were intended to be used by the family for multiple generations. In tombs from the first century, the entrance led into a small ante-​chamber or sometimes directly into the burial chamber. The centre area of the chamber was excavated to provide sufficient room to stand upright. These tombs were often constructed in stages, being enlarged when necessary to accommodate an increased number of bodies. The first stage would include cutting into the wall, leaving a ‘shelf ’ for the bodies and an arched, hollowed-​out area above to allow placement of the body and easy access to its full length, e.g. for placement of spices and/​or the arrangement of the wrappings. This was the so-​called archisolium arrangement. When necessary, the first stage tomb would be enlarged by the carving out of relatively small niches (Hebrew:  kochim) perpendicular to the face of the rock and of sufficient width, depth, and height to accommodate

The Gospel of John and Archaeology    113 a body. The body was generally placed in such kochim after the corpse had decomposed or when the archisolium areas were needed for other burials. There could be a number of kochim, depending on the wishes of the owner. The tomb currently shown as the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre conforms to the arrangement of the archisolium type. It has only one place for burial, to the right of the entrance, a fact perhaps consistent with the state of a ‘new’ tomb. It also conforms to the account in John 20:12, where it is said that Mary saw two angels, one where the head had lain and the other where Jesus’ feet had been, something not possible in a kochim arrangement. The entrance to such tombs would generally be quite low and narrow in order to make sealing the tomb easier and more secure against vermin. Again, the author of the Gospel shows his awareness of this by his reference to the fact that Mary had to bend down in order to look into the tomb (John 20:11).

The Closure of the Tomb of Jesus (and of Lazarus) The common image in the Christian tradition is that the closure of the tomb was accomplished by rolling a large circular stone in front of the entrance. However, according to A. Kloner and B. Zissu (2007), who have studied over nine hundred tombs in the vicinity of Jerusalem, only four tombs have true ‘rolling’ (circular) stones. The remainder of the tombs from the late-​Second Temple period were closed with various sorts of rectangular stones (Kloner 1999: 23–​5). Some were flat and larger than the tomb entrance. They would be put in place and any gaps filled with smaller stones and plaster. Some were flat and would fit into a recess in the face of the tomb. The third form of closure was in the shape of a mushroom or a champagne cork: part of the stone was shaped to fit into the opening of the tomb and the outer part extended as a flange against the exterior of the tomb. The three Synoptic accounts of Jesus’ burial vary somewhat but in all cases the verb ‘to roll’ (kukliō) or a compound of it is used. In the case of the Johannine text, there are two significant differences from the Synoptic accounts, details that indicate the Johannine author had a different understanding of what had taken place. The Johannine text reads: blepei lithon ērmenon ek tou mnēmeiou. (‘She sees [saw] the stone taken out of the tomb’): what is distinctive here is the use of the verb airō (‘to lift up, to take away’) rather than the verb used in the Synoptic accounts; the action is made even clearer by including the preposition ek (rather than apo). In John, therefore, the stone had been ‘taken out of the tomb’. When the Johannine text is read with sensitivity to the various forms of closure possible for rock-​cut tombs, these details can be readily recognized as being more specific and more accurate than would normally be thought. Thus, it is very likely that in these two minor details, the Johannine text may be able to supply a detail of the tomb that is no longer accessible through archaeology.9 9 

Some claim that the stone was circular as the Synoptic accounts would seem to indicate and that this indicated Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man. However the actual tombs with rolling stones belong to the family of Herod and the queen of Adiabene. To claim that Joseph of Arimathea was of this social and economic status goes beyond anything the evidence would suggest.

114   Urban C. von Wahlde

Photo 5  Excavations by N. Avigad in the Jewish quarter revealed this gate which the excavators have identified as the Gennath Gate mentioned by Josephus. The configuration is not easy to imagine. The site is located on the extension of the Roman Cardo, approximately two hundred metres south of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo M. von Wahlde, with permission.

While the chief concern here is the closure of the tomb of Jesus, the description of the closure of the tomb of Lazarus is also relevant (11:38–​40): in this case ‘a stone was lying up against it [the tomb]’ (epekeito ep’ aytōi). This may be an indication that the stone closure was not of the ‘stopper’ type but simply a flat slab positioned to seal the tomb. When Jesus asks about opening the tomb, he does not speak of ‘rolling away’ the stone; rather his request is, ‘Take away the stone!’ (arate ton lithon), which is the same verb that is used in the account of the tomb of Jesus on the morning of the third day. The conclusion follows that the Johannine author exercises the same specificity and historical accuracy as he had in his description of the tomb of Jesus (von Wahlde 2015).

Some Problematic Features? Although there is plentiful evidence to indicate that these features have been corroborated by archaeology, some scholars continue to express scepticism.

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Photo  6  A rock-​cut tomb with an entrance typical of first century Judaism. The larger part of the ‘stopper’ rock would have been inserted into the entrance and the flange (part of which is broken away in the photo) would have filled the shallow recess around the entrance. Photo by T. Powers, with permission.

Joan Taylor (1993: 11–​42, 1998: 180–​203) has argued that Golgotha was not situated under the present Church of the Holy Sepulchre but about two hundred yards to the south. Taylor proposes that ‘Golgotha’ did not refer to a specific spot but rather a larger area within which there would have been the stone where the cross was located. Taylor argues that, if the cross was located in the traditional place, a sign on the cross stating the charge against Jesus could not be read from a road that went west or north from the Gennath gate. But this view seems to presume too much of the Johannine text (19:20) which simply reads, ‘Therefore, many of the people of Judea read this inscription because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city’. In addition, Taylor argues that the earliest reference to the location of the crucifixion of Jesus is in the Peri Pascha of Melito of Sardis, whose account, she explains, clearly places the site south of the traditional site at a point roughly on David Street in today’s old city. However, relying on Melito is inappropriate since, as the present author has shown (von Wahlde 2009), Melito’s purpose was to portray theological convictions regarding the death of Jesus and he did so with numerous rhetorical devices. This desire for rhetorical effect led to exaggeration and inconsistency both with

116   Urban C. von Wahlde regard to his own references to Gospel accounts and also to Jewish Law. To see Melito’s account as a source for precise historical or topographical details is to mistake its literary genre.

Collective Memory More recently (2015), J.  Magness has written an article for an edited volume of studies on Memory in Ancient Rome and Early Christianity. Magness dialogues with the sociological theory of M. Halbwachs (1941) and proposes that many references to specific places are inventions of the Gospel authors in order to ‘anchor’ various beliefs of Jesus’s followers. However, there seem to be several problems: firstly, such a process of ‘memory’ takes place when actual memory of the sites has been lost, whereas the Gospel of John itself was written perhaps seventy years after the ministry, a time when recollection of historical details would still be accurate. Secondly, as R. Handler (1994) has pointed out, to presume that memory works the same in all cultures needs to be proved; this would be true especially in cultures where literacy is not widespread. Thirdly, this chapter has demonstrated a number of remarkably specific details associated with the sites mentioned in the Gospel. These details are both specific and accidental to the theological aspects of the text. It is improbable that such details would appear in accounts if the association of the site with the ministry was created for simply for anchoring theological beliefs. Fourth, although there has been some debate of the issue,10 there is substantial evidence that a Christian community (the ‘little church of the apostles’) continued to exist in Jerusalem during the second and third centuries, and so might serve as a means for preserving accurate memories of the places, at least in Jerusalem, that were associated with the ministry of Jesus. Finally, as Halbwachs himself notes (1941: 204–​6) such collective memories change from historical period to historical period. Scientific analysis by means of historical records and archaeology is regularly able to correct such inaccuracies.11 Thus, it would seem that the claim of inaccuracy due to collective memory is unfounded in the case of the Gospel of John given the positive archaeological evidence.

10  Joan Taylor (1993: 206–​20) has argued against the presence of a constant community presence there. However, J. Murphy O’Connor (1995), combining the archeological findings of J. Pinkerfield (1960) dating to the late Roman period with Eusebius’ reports of a community there, has argued persuasively that there was a Christian presence beyond the southern end of the camp of the Roman Tenth Legion, a place so awkward and difficult that it could not have been invented (1995: 315). 11  A particularly apt example of how collective memory can be corrected is the remarkable work of J. Herrojo (1999), who has studied the evidence for the localization of Cana of Galilee and shown when and how the localization was changed (erroneously) from Kirbet Qana to Kefr Kenna.

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The Impact of Discoveries on  the Interpretation of The Gospel The Value of Such Accurate Information As has been shown, there have been several studies that have questioned the authenticity of the sites and customs referred to in the Gospel of John. However, study of those texts by means of archaeology as well as by references in contemporary literature has established the accuracy of many of those references. Only Aenon-​near-​Salim, which is an area rather than a single location, has eluded positive identification. The accuracy of these identifications as well as the accuracy of incidental details in descriptions in the Gospel indicate that the author of these texts was someone with access to detailed knowledge, not only of the places mentioned in the ministry, but also of various other elements of Jewish customs and life. Recently it has become possible, for the first time, to read the references to the Pools of Bethesda and Siloam and become aware of what would have been obvious to first-​ century readers. Such discoveries are a major gain in understanding the Jerusalem context in the first century. Knowing the location of Ephraim, while not as important as knowing the nature of the pools at Bethesda and Siloam, gives some detail and clarity to the author’s presentation of Jesus’s last refuge before his return to Jerusalem and the events leading up to his death.

Implications of this Material for the Larger Context of The Gospel The Gospel of John is known for its peculiar mix of material that gives every indication of being ‘early and accurate’ with other material that reflects circumstances later than the period of the historical ministry. The material that has been examined in this study by means of archaeology combined with contemporary literature shows every sign of belonging to the material that is ‘early and accurate’. Such material is quite different from the Gospel’s references to official exclusion from the Jewish synagogue (9:22; 12:42; 16:2) and from Christological statements such as Jesus’s claim to be ‘I AM’ which many would consider as going beyond anything consistent with the period of the historical ministry. An example of how the archaeological insights can be integrated in an understanding of the Gospel as a whole is provided by the focus on ritual purity and ‘living water’. The relevance of the more complete understanding of the Pools of Bethesda and Siloam goes beyond the simple recognition of their role in first-​century Jewish life. Their prominence heightens awareness of the numerous other references to ritual purification in the Gospel. There is the reference to six stone jars intended for ritual purification (2:6); the question of ‘the Judean’ about ritual purification (3:25); the mention of the Pool of

118   Urban C. von Wahlde Bethesda (5:1–​9a); the reference to the Pool of Siloam (9:1–​9); the reference to pilgrims coming early to Passover in order to purify themselves (11:55); and the reference to the Jewish authorities avoiding entrance into the Praetorium lest they be defiled and be unable to eat the Passover (18:28). In spite of these regular references to the practice of ritual purity, there is no evident polemic against it. At the same time, there is an obvious intent to show that Jesus provided something that was better than anything that ritual washing could accomplish. Thus, the water of 2:6 is changed into wine, and the healing of the man by Jesus (5:1–​9) is greater than any healing properties of the water at Bethesda. The (temporary) purification afforded by Siloam is surpassed by the healing of Jesus (9:1–​12). Yet in the Gospel as a whole, Jesus offers ‘living water’ to those who believe in him. This term, which is prominent in all Jewish discussion of ritual cleansing, is used by Jesus (4:10–​15; 7:37–​39; cf. 19:34) to refer to the Holy Spirit which he promises to all who believe in him. This living water brings about effects that far surpass any effects of the living waters of ritual purification. Thus, the study of archaeology has a greater relevance for the study of the Gospel than is often recognized. It has much to teach not only about the historical accuracy of its references, but also about the Jewish context of its theological message as well as about important elements of its composition.

Suggested Reading A list of resources for further reading on the topic of archaeology and the Gospel of John will be somewhat different from that regarding other areas of Johannine research. Most writing on archaeology concerns the New Testament in general. This can be helpful but often does not describe the evidence for a particular view sufficiently. Many of the books focused on the Gospel of John have been written to prove or disprove a particular thesis. For example, the books of Kundsin (1925); Halbwachs (1941); Krieger (1954), and to a certain extent the article of Magness (2015). The book by Taylor (1993) concerns the New Testament in general and questions the accuracy of many alleged sacred spaces associated with the life of Jesus. Another resource consists of the excavation reports of the various archaeologists in charge of particular sites. Often these excavation reports are too detailed to be of interest to any but professional archaeologists. Most archaeology in Israel today is done under the auspices of the Israeli Antiquities Authority and such reports are regularly available on the website of the IAA. The primary exception to this is the work being done on the high priestly house just outside the Zion gate on the south side of the old city. This is being conducted by Shimon Gibson, with James Tabor, and Jodi Magness, all of the University of North Carolina. A very useful publication for prompt, responsible, but non-​technical, reporting on general issues of biblical archaeology is The Biblical Archaeology Review. The articles are often written by the excavators themselves but in a non-​ technical format. The large format photography together with ‘sidebars’ that explain technical issues in general language make the issues readily accessible; a DVD is available containing all back issues. In addition, Charlesworth 2006; Evans 2012; Gibson 2009; Ritmeyer 2006; and von Wahlde 2006 treat a number of the issues discussed in this chapter.

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Bibliography Avigad, N., 1980. Discovering Jerusalem. New York: T. Nelson. Bauckham, R. and De Luca, S., 2015. ‘Magdala As We Know It’, EC 6: 91–​118. Brown, R. E., 1994. The Death of the Messiah. 2 Vols.; New York: Doubleday. Byers, G., retrieved October 2016. ‘Our Rich History and the Future of ABR’, at http://​www.​post/​2011/​04/​29/​Our-​Rich-​History-​and-​the-​Future-​of-​ABR.aspx. Charlesworth, J., 1988. Jesus within Judaism: New Light from Exciting Archaeological Discoveries. New York: Doubleday. Charlesworth, J. (ed.), 2006. Jesus and Archaeology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Evans, Craig, 2012. Jesus and His World:  The Archaeological Evidence. Louisville: Westminster-​John Knox. Gibson, S., 2004. The Cave of John the Baptist. New York: Doubleday. Gibson, S., 2005. ‘The Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem and Jewish Purification Practices of the Second Temple Period’, Proche-​Orient Chrétien 55: 270–​93. Gibson, S., 2009. The Final Days of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence. New York: Harper One. Halbwachs, M., 1941. La topographie légendaire des Évangiles en Terre Sainte: Étude de mémoire collective. (Edition prepared by Marie Jaisson with contributions from Danièle Hervieu-​ Léger, Jean-​Pierre Cléro, Sarah Gensburger, and Éric Brian). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. (Chapter IX = Halbwachs 2009: 193–​235). Halbwachs, M. 2009 (1992). On Collective Memory. Trans. L. Coser. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Handler, R., 1994. ‘Is Identity a Useful Cross-​ Cultural Concept?’, in J. R. Gillis (ed.), Commemorations:  the Politics of National Identity Princeton:  Princeton University Press: 27–​40. Herrojo, J., 1999. Caná de Galilea y su localización: un examen crítico de las fuentes. Paris: J. Gabalda. Jeremias, J., 1966. The Rediscovery of Bethesda, John 5:2. New Testament Archaeology Monographs 1; Louisville: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Kloner, A., 1999. ‘Did A Rolling Stone Close Jesus’ Tomb?’ BAR 25, 5: 23–​9, 76. Kloner, A. and Zissu, B., 2007. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. Interdisciplinary Studies in Ancient Culture and Religion 8; Leuven: Peeters. Kundsin, K., 1925. Topologische Überlieferungsstoffe im Johannes-​ Evangelium; eine Untersuchung. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Krieger, N., 1954. ‘Fiktive Orte der Johannestaufe’, ZNW 45: 121–​3. Leibner, U., 2006. ‘Identifying Gennesar on the Sea of Galilee’, JRA 19: 229–​45. McCullough, T., 2015. ‘Searching for Cana:  Where Jesus Turned Water into Wine’, BAR 41, 6: 31–​9. Magen, Y., 1994. Purity Broke Out in Israel (Tractate Shabbat, 13b): Stone Vessels in the Late Second Temple Period. Haifa: The University. Magness, J., 1995. ‘Review of K. Vriezen, Ausgrabungen’, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 298: 87–​9. Magness, J., 2015. ‘Sweet Memory:  Archaeological Evidence of Jesus in Jerusalem’, in K. Galinsky (ed.), Memory in Ancient Rome and Early Christianity. New  York:  Oxford University Press: 324–​43.

120   Urban C. von Wahlde Murphy-​O’Connor, J., 1995. ‘The Cenacle—​Topographical Setting for Acts 2:44-​45’, in R. Bauckham (ed.), The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting. The Book of Acts in its First-​ Century Setting 4; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 303–​21. Piccirillo, M., 2006. ‘The Sanctuaries of the Baptism on the East Bank of the Jordan River’, in J. Charlesworth (ed.), Jesus and Archaeology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 433–​43. Pierre, M.-​J. and Rousée, J.-​M., 1981. ‘Sainte Marie de la Probatique, état et orientation de recherches’, Proche-​Orient Chrétien 31: 23–​42. Pinkerfeld, J., 1960. ‘ “David’s Tomb”:  Notes on the History of the Building. Preliminary Report’, Louis Rabinowitz Fund for the Exploration of Ancient Synagogues. Bulletin III; Jerusalem: Hebrew University/​Department of Antiquities: 41–​3. Ritmeyer, L., 2006. The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Jerusalem: Carta. Schiffmann, L. 2017. ‘The Magdala Stone’, ADI Magazine May 28, 2017: 161–​4 Taylor, Joan, 1993. Christians and the Holy Places. Oxford: Clarendon. Taylor, Joan, 1995. ‘The Garden of Gethsemane:  Not the Place of Jesus’ Arrest’, BAR 21,4: 26–​35, 62. Taylor, Joan, 1998. ‘Golgotha:  A Reconsideration of the Evidence for the Sites of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Burial’, NTS 44: 180–​203. von Wahlde, U. C., 2006. ‘Archaeology and John’s Gospel’, in J. Charlesworth (ed.), Jesus and Archaeology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 523–​86. von Wahlde, U. C., 2009. ‘The References to the Time and Place of the Crucifixion in the Peri Pascha of Melito of Sardis’, JTS 60: 556–​69. von Wahlde, U. C., 2010. A Commentary on the Gospel and Letters of John. 3 Vols.; Eerdmans Critical Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. von Wahlde, U. C., 2011. ‘The Puzzling Pool of Bethesda’, BAR 37, 5: 40–​7, 65. von Wahlde, U. C., 2015. ‘A Rolling Stone That Was Hard to Roll’, BAR 41, 2: 26. Vriezen, K. J. H., 1994. Die Ausgrabungen unter der Erlöserkirche im Muristan, Jerusalem (1970-​ 1974). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. Wightman, G., 1993. The Walls of Jerusalem:  From the Canaanites to the Mamluks. Mediterranean Archaeology Suppl. 4; Sydney: Meditarch. Wood, B., 2008. ‘The Search for Joshua’s Ai’, in R. Hess, G. Klingbeil, P. Ray, Jr. (eds.), Critical Issues in Early Israelite History. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns: 205–​40. Wood, B., 2009. ‘The ABR Excavation at Khirbet el-​Maqatir: Review of Past Work and Report on the 2009 Season’, at:  http://​​post/​2009/​07/​17/​The-​ABR-​ Excavation-​ at- ​ K hirbet- ​ el- ​ Maqatir- ​ R eview-​ of-​ Past-​ Work-​ and-​ R eport-​ on-​ t he-​ 2 009-​ Season.aspx#Article (retrieved February, 2016). Wood, B., 2016. ‘Khirbet el-​Maqatir Spring 2016 Season: Week One, May 22–​29’, at: http://​​p ost/​2016/​06/​06/​Khirbet-​el-​Maqatir-​Spring-​2016-​S eason-​ Week-​One-​May-​22-​29.aspx#Article (retrieved Oct. 1, 2016). Zangenberg, J., 2008. ‘Observations on the Function, Character, and Localization of the New Testament Toponym Gennesaret (Mark 6:53; Matthew 14:34)’, in R. Buitenwerf, H. W. Hollander, and J. Tromp (eds.), Jesus, Paul and Early Christianity. Leiden: Brill: 439–​69. Zissu, B. and Kloner, A., 2007. The Necropolis of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. Interdisciplinary Studies in Ancient Culture and Religion 8; Leuven: Peeters.

Chapter 8

The Jews of t h e Fourth G o spe l Adele Reinhartz

Introduction The Gospel of John tells a Jewish story. Its narrative, its language, and its conceptual framework situate it squarely within the same realm as other first-​century Jewish texts written in Greek.1 With the exception of Pontius Pilate, the main characters are Jewish; with the exception of ­chapter 4, the action takes place in Galilee and Judea, areas populated primarily by Jews. The Gospel’s theology, including its messianism, is similar to that associated with many Jewish texts and groups—​the ‘common Judaism’—​of the first century (Sanders 1992; McCready and Reinhartz 2008). Jesus—​its Jewish protagonist—​ behaves in Jewish ways: he goes on pilgrimage to the Jerusalem temple for the festivals; he quotes liberally from the Torah and prophets; he argues from and with Scripture in ways that resemble the midrashic arguments that later appear in rabbinic literature; and he engages in debates that are also present in Hellenistic Jewish writings from the second temple period (Borgen 1965; Borgen 2014). He is intensely engaged with ‘God the Father’, the God of the Jewish scriptures. Scripture, Temple, and covenant are accorded high value in this Gospel, as they are in other contemporaneous Jewish texts and artifacts. At the same time, the Gospel consistently distances Jesus and those who believe in him from the ‘ioudaioi’—​the Jews. With the exception of 4:9, neither Jesus nor his

1  There is an inevitable circularity in defining texts as ‘Jewish’ and ‘Hellenistic’: we extrapolate the characteristics of these texts from the texts themselves and use them to define other texts, as such. See Chapter 9, Gitte Buch-​Hansen, ‘The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context’, and Chapter 10, Jutta Leonhardt-​Balzer, ‘The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature’.

122   Adele Reinhartz immediate disciples are explicitly labelled as ioudaioi, despite their obvious Jewishness. The Gospel narrator traces the escalation of the Jews’ opposition to and enmity towards Jesus, through antagonistic interrogation (John 2:18–​21), persecution (5:16), attempts to stone (8:59; 10:31–​33) and even kill him (5:18; 7:1), and, finally, their successful plot to have him crucified by Pilate (11:49–​52; 18:1–​19:16). The negative characterization of the Jews, especially their hostility and violence towards Jesus and his followers, implies a rhetorical intention on the part of the Gospel: to encourage its audience to distance themselves from the label ioudaios and from those non-​believers to whom that label is applied. Why would a Gospel that situates its story so firmly in a Jewish social, cultural, political, geographical, and conceptual landscape at the same time distance its protagonist and thereby its audience from an identification as or with the Jews? Or, to paraphrase C. K. Barrett and Wayne Meeks, how can a Gospel that is so Jewish also be so anti-​ Jewish? (Meeks 1975: 163; Barrett 1978: 71). For some, the answer lies in history, whether in the historical facts of Jesus’ life or death, or in the historical experience of a ‘Johannine community’.2 The church fathers, who affirmed the Gospel’s portrayal of the Jewish role in Jesus’ death, viewed the distancing as a natural and necessary response to a group that by its murderous acts had shown its affinity with Satan (Wilken 1983). Some twentieth and twenty-​ first-​century scholars, by contrast, argue that John’s portrayal of the Jews reflects the trauma of a late first-​century Jewish-​Christian community that had been expelled from the synagogue on account of their confession of Jesus as the messiah.3 Still others look to the processes by which social groups develop and consolidate their identities in order to differentiate themselves from the groups within which they emerge and to which they remain close (Hakola 2005, 2015). My own approach, which does not exclude other approaches, focuses on the role of this paradoxical pattern of assimilation and distancing functions in the Gospel’s rhetorical project, that is, its persuasive intent of the Gospel insofar as this can be extrapolated from the document as it now stands. I begin by describing the Gospel’s usage of the term ‘ioudaios/​ioudaioi’ (‘Jew, Jews’) in the Gospel and its role within the narrative, and then exploring its function within the Gospel’s symbolic world. I subsequently address the fraught question of the possible referent(s) of the Gospel’s usage of the term, situate this term in the Gospel’s rhetorical intent, and conclude with some brief comments on anti-​Judaism.


For a critique of the use of ‘community’ in New Testament studies, see Stowers 2011. For a critique of ‘Johannine Community’ theories, see Reinhartz 1998a. See Chapter 5, Martinus C. de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’. 3  The foundational texts for this perspective are Martyn 2003 (orig. 1969) and 2003a (orig. 1979). This hypothesis is also presumed by Brown 1979. For my critique of this perspective, see Reinhartz 1998b.

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The Ioudaioi in the Fourth Gospel Outline of Usage Neutral Of the approximately seventy occurrences of ioudaios/​ioudaioi, approximately seventeen are descriptive and neutral. Eight are references to the Passover and other Jewish festivals (2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 7:2; 11:55) and behaviours such as burial customs (19:40), purification rites (2:6), and social practices (4:9). Another seven describe individuals or groups: Nicodemus (a leader of the Jews; 3:1); mourners (11:19, 31, 33); Jesus’ addressees (13:33, ‘as I said to the Jews’); as a party to a discussion with the Baptist’s disciples (3:25); the Jewish police (18:12), and as the group that come together in synagogues and the temple (18:20).

Questioning Thirteen occurrences involve Jews who ponder the Christological claims made by or about Jesus among themselves. In the Bread of Life discourse (6:26–​59), the Jews complain about the claim that ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven’ (6:41) whose flesh they must eat (6:52). At the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jews search for him (7:11) and are then puzzled by his learning (7:15), his possible intentions to travel to the Diaspora and teach the Greeks (7:35), his promise that ‘where I am going, you cannot come’ (8:22), and his very messiahship (10:19; 24). After Lazarus’s death, the Jews who mourn with Mary and Martha of Bethany are struck by Jesus’ love for Lazarus (11:36); after witnessing Lazarus’s resurrection, some Jews believe (11:45; 12:11) or at least are very interested in him (12:9), while others raise the alarm (11:46). These passages point to differences of opinion among the Jews and caution us not to see them as a monolithic group. The Johannine Jesus himself holds out hope for the Jews in 8:31 by promising that, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples’—​an opportunity which they proceed to squander.

Hostile Twenty-​nine occurrences express hostility of the Jews towards Jesus and/​or Jesus’ hostility towards the Jews. The passages include the preliminary interrogation of John the Baptist by priests and Levites (1:19), the Jews’ request for and then consternation over a sign or explanation for Jesus’ disruption in Temple area (2:18, 20); disputes over healing on the Sabbath (5:10, 15; 9:18), persecution of Jesus for breaking the Sabbath and making claims about God (5:16, 18), and a strident conflict about the Jews’ right to a covenantal relationship with God (8:48, 52, 57). The Jews attempt to stone Jesus (8:59; 10:31–​33) and orchestrate his death (18:14, 31, 35, 36, 38; 19:7, 12, 31). Fear of the Jews is a major concern for the disciples (11:8; 20:19), for Jesus’ would-​be followers (7:13; 19:38), for other Jews (9:22), and even for Jesus (7:1; 11:54). According to

124   Adele Reinhartz 7:13, ‘no one [in the Temple at the Feast of Tabernacles] would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews’. The parents of the man born blind are afraid to answer questions about their son ‘because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue’ (9:22). For this reason, Joseph of Arimathea remained a secret disciple (19:38).

Jesus the Jew? Jesus is called a ioudaios only in 4:9, in which a Samaritan woman remarks on the unusual fact that Jesus, as a Jew, is asking her, a Samaritan woman, for a drink. The title ‘King of the Jews’ indirectly implies Jesus’ identity as a ioudaios (18:33, 39, 19:3, 19:14, 19:20), but the narrative distances Jesus from it. The Jews object to this title (19:20); Jesus does not acknowledge it; and by this point the Gospel’s audience should understand that it falls far short of describing his true identity.

Salvation is of/​from the Jews The sole unambiguously positive reference to the Jews occurs in 4:22, in which Jesus tells the Samaritan woman: ‘You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews’. Yet its meaning is unclear: the immediate context and broader context rule out the idea that Jesus is after all declaring that only Jews will be saved.4 Perhaps Jesus is simply asserting that the one whom the Samaritan woman has identified as a Jew is offering salvation to those whom the Jews have excluded.

Emphasis on Hostility The hostile statements have a much stronger emotional impact than the other categories for several reasons. First, by describing murderous intents and extreme behaviour, they capture the attention and emotion of the audience more than other types of references. Second, they do not stand in isolation but are frequently embedded in lengthy and tense exchanges as in John 8:33–​59. The neutral occurrences, by contrast, may set the scene, temporally (the references to the festivals) or socially (the references to handwashing and other Jewish practices), while the references to inner-​Jewish debates, while significant, end inconclusively. This overall negative tone serves rhetorically to warn against identifying with the ioudaioi. A similar purpose is served by the Gospel’s tendency to use ioudaioi interchangeably with terms that refer to a subset of the ioudaioi (e.g. Pharisees). Like the Synoptic Gospels, the Fourth Gospel demonstrates the author(s)’ awareness that the first-​century ioudaioi were not a monolithic undifferentiated group; it refers to Pharisees and chief priests though not to Sadducees or scribes. In a number of extended narratives, however, ‘the Pharisees’ give way to ‘the Jews’, thereby blurring the distinctions between these groups.


  One may ask whether it is essential that 4:22 be consistent with its immediate narrative context. Our usual mode of synchronic reading is generally predicated on this assumption though in the case of the Gospels some resort to a source-​critical solution in order to explain narrative inconsistencies.

The Jews of the Fourth Gospel    125 The interrogation of the man born blind in John 9 provides a good example. In 9:15, ‘the Pharisees . . . began to ask him how he had received his sight’. In 9:16, the Pharisees are divided as to whether Jesus comes from God, with ‘some of the Pharisees’ doubting this possibility while others seem ready to accept it. In 9:18, however, it is ‘the Jews’ who do not believe the son’s testimony that he had been ‘born blind’. A similar blurring occurs in 12:42, which refers to the ‘fear of the Pharisees’ in the same way as 7:13, 19:39, and 20:19 refer to ‘fear of the Jews’. In 19:14–​15 the same pattern is seen with respect to the priests. In 19:14, Pilate ‘said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” ’ ‘They’—​that is, the Jews—​‘cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” ’ The negative usage contributes to the persuasive intent of the Gospel and points quite clearly to an intention to create or reinforce negative attitudes towards the Jews. It also drives a wedge between the positive characters—​Jesus and those who believe in him—​ and the negative characters—​the Jews and their leadership.

The Ioudaioi in the Gospel’s Symbolic World Rhetoric of Binary Opposition The negative role of the Jews is evident not only in the Gospel’s story line but also in the symbolic system promoted by Jesus in his discourses. This symbolic system is governed by a rhetoric of binary opposition. This rhetoric is most obvious in the Gospel’s use of contrasting metaphors. One set of metaphors describes opposing states of being, such as light/​dark, life/​death, above/​below, and from God/​not from God. Another set describes opposing activities, such as believing/​disbelieving, accepting/​rejecting, doing good/​ doing evil, and loving/​hating. The positive element of each pair is associated with Jesus, the negative element of each pair with those who oppose Jesus and reject the claim that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The negative elements are directly identified with hoi ioudaioi, who do not believe. Belief in Jesus is evidence of faith in God (12:44); the one who sees Jesus also sees God (12:45). Hoi ioudaioi, on the other hand, do not believe and do not see God because they do not believe in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God (5:38). Accepting Jesus demonstrates a love for God, for Jesus, and for fellow believers (15:12–​17). Rejecting Jesus is tantamount to hating God. Jesus accuses the Jews of not having the love of God in them (8:42), and tells the disciples that his enemies hate both himself and his father (15:23–​24).

The Cosmological Tale The broader context for this symbolic system is the cosmological worldview that underlies John’s story of Jesus (Reinhartz 1992, 2001a). This worldview can be viewed

126   Adele Reinhartz as an implicit narrative—​a cosmological tale—​that pits God and his only-​begotten son against the ‘ruler of this world’ (16:11), the ‘evil one’ (17:15), or ‘Satan’ (Kierspel 2006). In this conflict, the Jews, as the hostile force in the life of the earthly Jesus, are on the side of Satan; their plot against Jesus’ life is also a plot against the divine, from whom they became estranged when they rejected the Christological claims made for and by his son. This cosmological plot is explicit in John 8:33–​59. In 8:35 Jesus introduces the contrast between the slave and the son and insists that freedom comes to the slave only through the son—​Jesus himself. He then injects a note of hostility that seems to be out of place in a discussion with ‘the Jews who had believed in him’ (8:31) and who to this point have not declared otherwise. In 8:37 he declares, ‘I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word’. The discussion deteriorates from there, reaching its nadir in 8:44: ‘You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires’. This passage situates the Jews in opposition not only to Jesus as an individual but more drastically in opposition to God in the eternal cosmic sphere. The foregoing makes it clear that the negative role that the ioudaioi play in the Gospel’s cosmological tale, as the children of Satan and therefore a force for evil in the world, parallels their negative role on the surface level of the story as the ones whose machinations lead to Jesus’ death on the cross.

Who Are the Ioudaioi of the Fourth Gospel? A Collective Literary and Symbolic Character The ioudaioi function as a corporate villain in John’s narrative. This is an unsavoury but necessary role, for it sustains the plot and moves it forward to its tragic conclusion. Rudolf Bultmann argued that hoi ioudaioi are not primarily, if at all, a historical group, but rather a potent existential symbol representing the world that rejects the Gospel message (Bultmann 1971, 647, 655, 647, 655 and passim). Most scholars would certainly agree that there is an important symbolic dimension particularly to the negative dimension of ioudaios/​ioudaioi. This is particularly evident given the narrative motif in which some Jews are shown as attracted to and believing in Jesus.

Historical Referents Nevertheless, the existence of a symbolic dimension does not preclude a more concrete narrative and even historical referent. By situating the story in a historical time and place, and populating it with historical figures—​Jesus, Caiaphas, Pilate, Annas, the

The Jews of the Fourth Gospel    127 disciples, Mary Magdalene—​whose historicity is not readily questioned, the Gospel implicitly encourages readers to postulate a historical referent for its ioudaioi as well. Until the second half of the twentieth century, many scholars did not hesitate to identify this referent as the Jews of Jesus’ time, a group whose members were the genealogical ancestors of the Jews of late antiquity, medieval, and modern history. After the Nazi genocide of European Jewry, many scholars of early Christianity entered into a critical examination of the contribution of Christian theology, and of the Christian Scriptures themselves, to an ideology that demonized the Jews to the point that their extermination could be seen as a necessary measure. One strategy to mitigate the responsibility of canonical texts in this regard was to look for a more limited referent for ioudaios/​ioudaioi, and thereby to argue that the Gospel did not intend to foster anti-​Semitism or to tar all Jews with the same brush. The extensive use of ioudaios/​ioudaioi in other ancient texts, such as the writings of Josephus; on inscriptions; and in papyri, supports the idea that ioudaios was a widespread and well-​known designation that denoted something concrete to those who used the term. Some have suggested that in the Johannine context, ioudaios/​ioudaioi does not denote the Jewish people as a whole but a specific subgroup. For Daniel Boyarin (2002), the ioudaioi constitute a Jewish group that traces its roots back to the exiles who returned from Babylonia with a sense of superiority to those who had stayed behind. Similarly, Cornelis Bennema (2009) suggests that the term refers to a particular religious group of Torah and Temple partisans that is not coextensive with the people as a whole, but that constitutes a group alongside the Pharisees and chief priests, with whom they align against Jesus. Urban von Wahlde (1982) constructs the ioudaioi as the Jewish authorities, as distinct from the crowds. This is substantiated by the plot explicitly prescribed by Caiaphas and apparently accepted by the Council, and the role accorded to the chief priests in leading the call for Jesus’ crucifixion. It must certainly be acknowledged that John’s ioudaioi are not an undifferentiated group. Yet none of the specific proposals such as those of Boyarin and Bennema can be verified due to the absence of external sources. From a rhetorical perspective, the Gospel does not appear to be referring to a Jewish subgroup, given that the beliefs and practices associated with hoi ioudaioi correspond to what we know about the beliefs of the larger ethnic group (and, parenthetically, Jews today), including a commitment to monotheism, a view of Abraham as the ancestral progenitor, the observance of the Sabbath and pilgrimage festivals, and an understanding of the Temple as the locus for the sacrificial cult.5 Von Wahlde’s proposal too is unconvincing: had the Gospel writer wished to differentiate the authorities from the Jews as a whole, he would have done so. Instead, as noted earlier, the Gospel blurs the distinctions between the authorities and the ioudaioi and, in doing so, draws attention away from individuals and leadership groups, to the Jews as a whole.


For a detailed discussion of this ‘common Judaism’, see Sanders 1992.

128   Adele Reinhartz

Historical Reference and the Problem of Translation The issue of historical referent is intertwined with the fraught question of translation, particularly into English. The default has been to use Jew/​Jews as the translation for ioudaios/​ioudaioi, as in the New Revised Standard Version. This default has been challenged periodically since the 1980s, and with increasing vehemence since 2000, on both historical and ethical grounds. On historical grounds, Philip Esler (2007: 107) has argued that there is no persistence of identity between the ioudaioi of John’s time and the Jews of ours. In his view, the identity of the ioudaioi of John is so different from the Jews of the modern period that only by ‘gross moral and intellectual confusion can we impute to the latter any responsibility to the former’ (Esler 2007: 110). On ethical grounds, the search for an alternative translation is directly tied to the recognition of the potentially destructive rhetorical effects of the seventy-​fold repetition of the term ‘Jew/​Jews’. Frederick Danker (2000: 478) argues that ‘incalculable harm has been caused by simply glossing Ioudaios with “Jew,” for many readers or auditors of Bible translations do not practice the historical judgment necessary to distinguish between circumstances and events of an ancient time and contemporary ethnic-​religious-​social realities, with the result that anti-​Judaism in the modern sense of the term is needlessly fostered through biblical texts’.6 Alternatives must first address the question of whether to translate contextually or to translate uniformly. Norman Beck (1985: 290–​310) suggests that each occurrence be translated to reflect its immediate context. For example, one could use ‘they’ in 2:18, ‘some people in the Temple’ in 2:20; omit ‘Jew’ or the textual variant ‘Jews’ altogether in 3:25; similarly, one might opt for ‘the people from Jesus’ home area’ in 6:41, and ‘Jesus’ enemies’ in 19:38. This approach may capture the variation in referent that is evident in the Gospel. Nevertheless, it falls short insofar as it dilutes the rhetorical force which in part depends upon the repetition of ioudaioi and its effect on the hearer or reader. For this reason, most scholars opt for a uniform translation, whether ‘Jews’ or more specifically, as in the case of Malcolm Lowe (1976: 104, 115), ‘Judeans’ in a geographical sense, that is, the people of Judea. This solution must, however, account for the fact that some occurrences of hoi ioudaioi, notably those in c­ hapter 6, clearly refer to Galileans and not to residents of Judaea. One can always rationalize and say that these were Judaeans that resided in the Galilee, but that truly seems to be beside the point of ­chapter 6. Although the translation of ioudaioi as Judeans was not generally accepted when originally argued by Malcolm Lowe in the 1980s, it has some more recent proponents. Steve Mason (2007) has mounted a detailed argument in favour of Judeans not only in John but in a broad range of early Jewish literature. While hoi ioudaioi is in the first instance a geographical designation (‘people of Judea’) Mason argues that it was used far more broadly to describe the members of an ethnic-​political entity, an ethnos, nation or 6 

See also Lowe (1976: 130), who sees the ongoing use of ‘Jews’ as pernicious excuse for anti-​Semitism.

The Jews of the Fourth Gospel    129 people, that trace their origins to Judaea whether or not they live there at the time. In his view, the English term ‘Jew’ is primarily a religious designation that cannot capture the full meaning of the ancient term. The attempts to differentiate clearly between the ancient ioudaioi and the Jews, while well-​motivated, are nevertheless problematic, for one reason: they incorrectly reduce Judaism, Jewish identity, and therefore the identifier ‘Jews’ to religion. As large Jewish population surveys have shown consistently, while some Jews identify themselves primarily in religious terms, the majority do not (Sherwin 2009:  23). In English usage, the term ‘Jew’ carries the same complex combination of national, ethnic, religious, linguistic, emotional, and other traits that Mason associates with the Greek term ioudaios. There is no perfect solution to the translation conundrum. As Tina Pippin (1996: 93) has noted, ‘If one changes the literal meaning of Ioudaioi to refer to Judeans or Jewish religious authorities, then one dilutes the force of the ethnic verbal warfare, and ignores that it was a warfare that turned into so much more than a first-​century dispute. If one keeps the literal “the Jews” in the English translation, then one is perpetuating the hateful polemic.’ One option is to use the Greek term without translating. This solution, while viable in an academic essay, is not very appealing for the purposes of Bible translation or for liturgical purposes. ‘Jews’ is still the most appropriate translation, as it reflects a complex construction of identity that parallels, even if it does not precisely mirror, the ethnic-​political identity to which the ancient term ioudaios refers.

The Ioudaioi and the Gospel’s Rhetorical Project The Gospel’s Persuasive Intents The Gospel’s use of the term is best understood not on the level of historical referents but of rhetorical—​persuasive—​intent, which in the absence of external evidence, must be extrapolated from the Gospel itself. The most explicit statement appears in 20:30–​31, which states: ‘Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.’ From this passage we may infer a rhetorical intent: to persuade the audience to take on or deepen belief that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. Those who fulfil this intent, the passage promises, will receive ‘life in his name’ (20:31). Because this audience lives after Jesus’ own time, the Gospel itself, as a record of (some of) Jesus’ signs and discourses, constitutes the medium through which the encounter between the audience and Jesus takes place. The use of the second and third person plural forms (‘you may come to believe’, ‘you may have life in his name’, ‘those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’)

130   Adele Reinhartz implies the important role of community or ‘groupness’ in achieving this rhetorical purpose (Stowers 2011; Brubaker and Cooper 2000). The same message is conveyed through the use of collective metaphors such as the grapevine (John 15). Several passages imply that this collectivity will have members from different ethnic backgrounds, the ‘other sheep that do not belong to this fold’ (10:16), ‘the dispersed children of God’ (11:52), indeed, ‘all people’ (John 12:32), to form ‘one flock’ with ‘one shepherd’ (10:16). Embedded in the rhetorical intent expressed in 20:30–​31 is therefore the imperative to band together with others ‘not of this flock’, to become a ‘family’—​the ‘children of God’. This imperative is not only implicit in 20:30–​31 but is expressed directly by means of a ‘rhetoric of affiliation’ that includes the references to mutual love (e.g. 15:12) and unity (e.g. 17:22–​23). At the same time, the Gospel also engages in a ‘rhetoric of disaffiliation’, that is, the imperative to separate or distance oneself from those who do not believe.

The Ioudaioi and Johannine Rhetoric The rhetorical intent that I have inferred from 20:30–​31 and the Gospel as a whole provides a framework within to situate the various categories of ioudaios/​ioudaioi passages. I posit that the different categories serve different functions within the overall rhetorical program of the Gospel. The neutral passages remind the audience of the Jewish context of Jesus’ activity, a reminder that is important due to the Gospel’s restraint in referring to Jesus and the disciples themselves as ioudaioi. The questioning passages function rhetorically to draw attention to the choice that these Jewish crowds and individuals, such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, faced and thereby to emphasize the point made in the Gospel’s statement of purpose: the signs—​which were viewed by these Jewish crowds—​have been written in this book to place before the Gospel’s audience the same choice that these crowds confronted in their direct encounters with Jesus. Finally, the hostile passages convey the rhetoric of disaffiliation: the majority of Jews, enough to be seen as representative, either did not make a choice for Jesus or, worse, actively worked against him and his followers. The audience should not emulate them, or, indeed, identify with them in any way. This rhetorical interplay can account for the varied usages of the term ioudaios/​ ioudaioi. But what about the pervasive Jewishness of the Gospel? Perhaps, as Craig Keener (2003:  173) has suggested, this Jewishness should be attributed to the Jewish identity of the evangelist and /​or his awareness of Jesus’ own Jewish context. It is also possible, however, to view the Gospel’s Jewishness as part of its rhetorical program. This possibility does not negate, contradict or exclude the other options just mentioned, but it permits speculation concerning the way in which a unified ‘flock’ constructed by the Gospel’s rhetoric could express a communal identity and situate itself in a cosmic framework shaped by a covenantal relationship with God that to this point had ‘belonged’ to the ioudaioi. The Gospel’s replacement theology is a starting point for such reflection (Culpepper 2001: 80–​1). At several points the Gospel reassigns key Jewish concepts or items to Jesus,

The Jews of the Fourth Gospel    131 thereby asserting Jesus’ own authority over them. This is done systematically in John 8:33–​59, in which Jesus redefines and appropriates three important identity markers—​ freedom, affinity with Abraham, and divine sonship—​that the Johannine Jews propose as definitive evidence of their covenantal relationship with God (Reinhartz 2001b). The cleansing of the Temple scene in John 2:13–​22 redefines the Temple as Jesus’ father’s place, a redefinition that is reinforced by the use of Temple-​related language in the discourses (Coloe 2001, 2013). That Jesus replaces the Temple is prophesied in the discourse with the Samaritan woman (4:21, 23) and its fulfilment begins as soon as the subsequent Passover, when people flock to Jesus rather than to the Temple (Reinhartz 1989). In his identity as the Logos or Word that proceeded from God before the world was created, Jesus supersedes the Torah as God’s preeminent and decisive revelation, even as the Torah remains revelatory insofar as it witnesses to Jesus and authenticates the claim that he is the messiah and son of God (see 1:1–​3; 5:39–​40). This appropriation may provide some insight into the assertion that ‘salvation is from the Jews’ (4:22), and suggests that the new group being created rhetorically by the Gospel was to be in continuity with Judaism in the sense that it used the same overall structure transposed into a ‘Christ’-​ian key, that is, transferred from the Jewish people to Jesus in his role as messiah and son of God. It also raises the interesting possibility that the Gospel of John envisioned—​or perhaps reflected—​a set of communal practices that in some way mirrored those of ‘common Judaism’, in the same way that its concepts did.

Rhetorical Intent and Historical Speculation There is no evidence for the practice—​or even, one might add, the existence—​of a Johannine community that predated the Gospel, though the letters of John might signal the existence of such a group in the period after the Gospel was written. But if we posit a pre- or post-Gospel community, we might further speculate that the Gospel either reflects or proposes a set of practices for that hypothetical community. The meals in the Gospel, for example, may hint at the centrality of communal meals among the group (Kobel 2011); the Footwashing scene in John 13 may hint at a similar practice within the group itself (Connell 1996; Thomas 1991). Along these same lines, might we not also use the self-​referentiality of the Gospel’s conclusion—​its reference to itself as a repository of ‘some of ’ Jesus’ signs and therefore as a foundation of faith—​as a basis for speculating about the concrete and specific role that the book itself may have had for its own audience?

Gospel as Scripture It is not possible to know whether the Fourth Gospel—​in whole or in part—​was read aloud during hypothetical communal gatherings of this imaginary community, whether as the basis for discussion and exposition, or even liturgically, as part of a scripted and

132   Adele Reinhartz repeated liturgical experience.7 The Gospel provides three clues that bring this possibility to mind. Firstly, when speaking about Jesus’ speech, the Gospel uses similar formulae and phrases as it does with reference to the Torah and Israelite prophets. In 2:22, for example, the post-​resurrection fulfilment of Jesus’ words, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’ (2:19), led the disciples to believe ‘the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken’. This last phrase accords the same status, authority, and source, to Jesus’ word as to prophetic word. Other events are also seen as confirming the prophetic value of Jesus’ words, using fulfilment formulae. Jesus’ claim that ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me’ (17:12) is fulfilled when the soldiers and police release the disciples in response to Jesus’ words, ‘If you are looking for me, let these men go’ (18:8–​9). The crucifixion itself occurred in order ‘to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die’ (18:32). The language in these verses is parallel to verses that refer to the fulfilment of scripture. The details of Jesus’ crucifixion, for example, ‘occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken” (19:36; cf. Exod. 12:46; Num. 9:12). Similarly, the passages that emphasize the divine origins of Jesus’ words and teachings (e.g. 7:16–​17) and that describe Jesus’ commandments (15:12–​ 14) imply that Jesus’ words have the same status as the Torah, which also originated from God and includes divine commandments. Secondly, if Jesus’ words are equivalent in status and divine authority to the words of the prophets, perhaps the Gospel, as the record of Jesus’ words and deeds, can be seen as equivalent in status to the books of the prophets, which record the prophets’ words and deeds. This possibility is suggested by 20:30–​31: ‘Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written . . .’ (20:30–​31). The phrase ‘written in this book’ or similar can be found five times in the Torah and 65 times in the prophetic and historical books of the Jewish scriptures. 2 Kings 23:28 refers to the ‘acts of Josiah, and all that he did’ which are ‘written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah’. Deuteronomy 30:9–​10 promises prosperity ‘when you obey the LORD your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul’. Third, like the Jewish scriptures, the Gospel of John records the deeds of a king, though a cosmic rather than earthly monarch. It promises eternal life to those who hold by Jesus’ commandments, and can be considered a ‘book of the covenant’ insofar as it spells out the terms of the relationship between humankind and the divine, now mediated through Jesus (e.g. 14:6). It is therefore possible, though not verifiable, that the Gospel had a scriptural or quasi-​scriptural status for its audience, and that it was used in that group in much the same way that the Torah and prophets were used in the synagogues of first-​century Judaism.


For detailed exploration of the Gospel’s claims to authority including its quasi-​scriptural status, see Menken 2013.

The Jews of the Fourth Gospel    133 The Gospel’s appropriation of Jewish symbols, ideas, and practices does not make the Gospel pro-​Jewish or anti-​Jewish. This move, however, can account for a pattern according to which the Gospel’s fundamental framework is familiar to—​because it is taken over from—​Jewish practices and values at the same time as it promotes a separation from the group called the ioudaioi.

Anti-​Judaism in the Fourth Gospel? Underlying much of the discussion concerning John’s use of ioudaios/​ioudaioi in the Gospel’s narrative and theology is the question: is the Gospel of John anti-​Jewish? The answers range from one extreme (absolutely not, Hoet 2001) to the other (yes, obviously, Kysar 2006: 147), with a range of more nuanced views in between (e.g. Schoon 2001). In great measure, the answer depends on two factors: how committed one is to the project of safeguarding the Gospel from serious critique, and, more to the point, how one understands the Gospel’s purpose, audience and historical context. Scholars who view the Gospel’s hostile comments as intra-​Jewish polemic may argue that it cannot therefore be anti-​Jewish (Johnson 1989). Those who believe that the Gospel was written in the aftermath of a traumatic expulsion of Johannine Christians from the synagogue may suggest that the hostile comments are merely rhetorical ‘payback’ for the suffering that this expulsion caused to the Johannine community (Ellens and Rollins 2004: 120; Quast 1991).8 On one point there is general agreement:  however, one might read John’s hostile comments about the ioudaioi, the Gospel is not anti-​Semitic on ‘racial’ or genealogical grounds. Rather, what is at stake is belief or non-​belief in Jesus as the Messiah (Culpepper 2001: 71). Furthermore, the Gospel cannot be held responsible for later interpretations of passages such as 8:44, which became foundational for Christian anti-​ Semitism.9 At the same time, it is reasonable to assume that the rhetorical force of the Gospel would have encouraged audiences to view Jews and non-​Christ-​confessing Judaism in a negative light;10 the generally anti-​Jewish readings of John by the church fathers attest to that rhetorical effect (Efroymson 1999).11 As I have noted, the Gospel engages in an elaborate rhetoric of affiliation and disaffiliation, which encourages its audiences to align themselves with Jesus and the disciples, and distance themselves from


Some urge caution in reading the Gospel’s hostile comments about Jews as an understandable response to the trauma of expulsion. See, for example, Kittredge 2007. 9  For a treatment of this theme in anti-​Semitic discourse, see the classic work by Trachtenberg 1943. 10  See the ‘compliant readings’ described in Reinhartz 2001a. 11  Efroymson concludes that Augustine ‘seems to grow angrier as he reads John, believing, as he did, that the Johannine ‘Jews’ actually said and did to Jesus what John ascribes to them’. For a more benign reading of the Fathers, see Azar 2016.

134   Adele Reinhartz the ioudaioi. While such distancing may be interpreted as theological, the history of Christian anti-​Semitism shows that it was often read also as a sociological imperative. The question of whether the Fourth Gospel is or is not anti-​Jewish, like other issues such as the appropriate translation of the term ioudaios/​ioudaioi, is at first glance a straightforward historical matter. From a historical-​critical perspective, the solution to such difficulties is to investigate the social, political, economic, religious, ethnic, and other aspects of the Gospel’s own context and to use those contexts as a starting point for understanding its presentation of the ioudaioi, the Gospel’s appropriation of Jewish identity markers and symbols, and other related topics. I would add that it is also crucial to examine the Gospel’s ioudaioi to the context of the Gospel’s rhetorical intentions as they can be discerned in, or extrapolated, from the Gospel itself. When it comes to the Christian scriptures, however, there are almost no ‘purely’ historical questions. Rather, every important issue also has resonances in Christian theology and contemporary political issues. Anti-​Judaism is a sensitive matter particularly in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Johannine anti-​Judaism poses a theological problem for those who reject anti-​Judaism and its close relation, anti-​Semitism, but at the same time uphold the sanctity and truth value of the Christian scriptures. This quandary can lead to the confusion of theology and history. Attempts to explain away the Gospel’s hostile comments about the ioudaioi as mere conventional taunts, or as an understandable response to the trauma of expulsion may satisfy those who seek to protect the Gospel from the charge of anti-​Judaism, but they also fail to address the ways in which these hostile comments are deeply embedded in the Gospel’s narrative, symbol system, and rhetoric.

Suggested Reading The literature on this topic is vast, reflecting its importance in the field as much as the central role that the Fourth Gospel has played in the development of Christian theology, identity, and history. The translation question in John is part of a broader scholarly debate about the meaning and appropriate English translation of ioudaios/​ioudaioi particularly in Second Temple Jewish literature written in Greek, such as the works of Josephus and Philo. On the general question, see Mason (2007) who argues against the use of ‘Jew/​Jews’ on the grounds that these are religious designations inappropriate to a period when ‘religion’ as such did not yet exist. In response to Mason, see Baker (2011), S. Schwartz (2011), and D. R. Schwartz (2007). For an excellent and detailed overview of the issue, see David M. Miller (2010, 2012, and 2014).

Bibliography Azar, Michael G., 2016. Exegeting the Jews:  The Early Reception of the Johannine Jews. Leiden: Brill. Baker, Cynthia, 2011. ‘A “Jew” by Any Other Name?’, Journal of Ancient Judaism 2: 153–​80. Barrett, C. K., 1978. The Gospel according to St. John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

The Jews of the Fourth Gospel    135 Beck, Norman A., 1985. Mature Christianity:  The Recognition and Repudiation of the Anti-​ Jewish Polemic of the New Testament. Selinsgrove; London: Susquehanna University Press; Associated University Presses. Bennema, Cornelis, 2009. ‘The Identity and Composition Of Οι Ιουδαιοι In The Gospel Of John’, Tyndale Bulletin 60: 239–​63. Borgen, Peder, 1965. Bread from Heaven; an Exegetical Study of the Concept of Manna In the Gospel of John and the Writings of Philo.Leiden: Brill. Borgen, Peder, 2014. The Gospel of John:  More Light from Philo, Paul and Archaeology:  The Scriptures,Tradition, Exposition, Settings, Meaning. Leiden: Brill. Boyarin, Daniel, 2002. ‘The IOUDAIOI of John and the Prehistory of Judaism’, in Janice Capel Anderson, Philip Harl Sellew, and Claudia Setzer (eds.), Pauline Conversations in Context: Essays in Honor of Calvin J. Roetzel. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press: 216–​39. Brown, Raymond E., 1979. The Community of the Beloved Disciple. New York: Paulist Press. Brubaker, Rogers, and Frederick Cooper, 2000. ‘Beyond “identity” ’, Theory and Society 29: 1–​47. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1971. The Gospel of John:  A Commentary. Philadelphia, Pa.: Westminster Press. Coloe, Mary L. 2001. God Dwells with Us: Temple Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical. Coloe, Mary L., 2013. ‘Gentiles in the Gospel of John: Narrative Possibilities—John 12:12-​43’, in David C. Sim and James S. McLaren (eds.), Attitudes to Gentiles in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. London; New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark: 209–​23. Connell, Martin F., 1996. ‘Nisi Pedes, Except for the Feet : Footwashing in the Communities of John’s Gospel’, Worship 70: 517–​31. Culpepper, R. and Alan, 2001. ‘Anti-​Judaism in the Fourth Gospel as a Theological Problem for Christian Interpreters’, in R. Bieringer, Didier Pollefeyt, and F. Vandecasteele-​Vanneuville (eds.), Anti-​ Judaism and the Fourth Gospel:  Papers of the Leuven Colloquium, 2000. Assen: Royal Van Gorcum: 61–​82. Danker, Frederick W., Bauer, Walter, and Ardnt, William F., 2000. A Greek-​English Lexicon of the NewTestament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago:  University of Chicago Press. Efroymson, David P., 1999. ‘Whose Jews? Augustine’s Tractatus on John’, in Benjamin G. Wright (ed.), A Multiform Heritage: Studies on Early Judaism and Christianity in Honor of Robert A. Kraft. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press: 197–​211. Ellens, J. Harold, and Rollins, Wayne G., 2004. Psychology and the Bible: A New Way to Read the Scriptures. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. Esler, Philip F., 2007. ‘From Ioudaioi to Children of God: The Development of a Non-​Ethnic Group Identity in the Gospel of John’, in Jerome H. Neyrey, Anselm C. Hagedorn, Zeba A. Crook, and Eric Clark Stewart (eds.), In Other Words: Essays on Social Science Methods and the New Testament in Honor of Jerome H. Neyrey. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press: 106–​36. Hakola, Raimo, 2005. Identity Matters: John, the Jews, and Jewishness. Leiden; Boston: Brill. Hakola, Raimo, 2015. Reconsidering Johannine Christianity:  A Social Identity Approach. New York: Routledge. Hoet, Hendrik, 2001. ‘ “Abraham Is Our Father” (John 8:39): The Gospel of John and Jewish-​ Christian Dialogue’, in R. Bieringer, Didier Pollefeyt, and F. Vandecasteele-​Vanneuville (eds.), Anti-​ Judaism and the Fourth Gospel:  Papers of the Leuven Colloquium, 2000. Assen: Royal Van Gorcum: 187–​211.

136   Adele Reinhartz Johnson, Luke T., 1989. ‘The New Testament’s Anti-​Jewish Slander and the Conventions of Ancient Polemic’, JBL 108: 419–​41. Keener, Craig S., 2003. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson. Kierspel, Lars, 2006. The Jews and the World in the Fourth Gospel: Parallelism, Function, and Context. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Kittredge, Cynthia Briggs, 2007. Conversations with Scripture: The Gospel of John. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Pub. Kobel, Esther, 2011. Dining with John: Communal Meals and Identity Formation in the Fourth Gospel and Its Historical and Cultural Context. Leiden; Boston: Brill. Kysar, Robert, 2006. Voyages with John: Charting the Fourth Gospel. Waco: Baylor University Press. Lowe, Malcolm F., 1976. ‘Who Were the “Ioudaioi?”‘, NovT 18: 101–​30. Martyn, J. Louis, 2003. History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. 3rd edition. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press. Martyn, J. Louis, 2003a. ‘Glimpses into the History of the Johannine Community’, in Martyn History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. 3rd ed. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press: 145–​67. Mason, Steve, 2007. ‘Jews, Judaeans, Judaizing, Judaism: Problems of Categorization in Ancient History’, JSJ 38: 457–​512. McCready, Wayne O., and Reinhartz, Adele, 2008. Common Judaism: Explorations in Second-​ Temple Judaism. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press. Meeks, Wayne A., 1975. ‘ “Am I a Jew?”—​Johannine Christianity and Judaism’, in Jacob Neusner (ed.), Christianity, Judaism and Other Greco-​Roman Cults: Studies for Morton Smith at Sixty. Leiden: Brill: 163–​86. Menken, Maarten J. J., 2013. ‘What Authority Does the Fourth Evangelist Claim for His Book?’, in Jan Krans et  al. (eds.), Paul, John, and Apocalyptic Eschatology:  Studies in Honour of Martinus C. de Boer. Leiden: Brill: 186–​202. Miller, David M., 2010. ‘The Meaning of Ioudaios and Its Relationship to Other Group Labels in Ancient “Judaism” ’, Currents in Biblical Research 9: 98–​126. Miller, David M., 2012. ‘Ethnicity Comes of Age: An Overview of Twentieth-​Century Terms for Ioudaios’, Currents in Biblical Research 10: 293–​311. Miller, David M., 2014. ‘Ethnicity, Religion and the Meaning of Ioudaios in Ancient “Judaism” ’, Currents in Biblical Research 12: 216–​65. Pippin, Tina, 1996. ‘ “For Fear of the Jews”: Lying and Truth-​Telling in Translating the Gospel of John’, Semeia 76: 81–​97. Quast, Kevin, 1991. Reading the Gospel of John: An Introduction. New York: Paulist Press. Reinhartz, Adele, 1989. ‘Jesus as Prophet:  Predictive Prolepses in the Fourth Gospel’, JSNT 11: 3–​16. Reinhartz, Adele, 1992. The Word in the World: The Cosmological Tale in the Fourth Gospel. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press. Reinhartz, Adele, 1998a. ‘On Travel, Translation, and Ethnography:  Johannine Scholarship at the Turn of the Century’, in Fernando F Segovia (ed.), What Is John? 2 vols.; Atlanta, Ga: Scholars Press: 2. 249–​56. Reinhartz, Adele, 1998b. ‘The Johannine Community and Its Jewish Neighbors: A Reappraisal’, in Fernando F Segovia (ed.), What Is John? 2 vols.; Atlanta, Ga: Scholars Press: 2, 111–​38. Reinhartz, Adele, 2001a. Befriending the Beloved Disciple: A Jewish Reading of the Gospel of John. New York: Continuum.

The Jews of the Fourth Gospel    137 Reinhartz, Adele, 2001b. ‘John 8:31-​59 from a Jewish Perspective’, in John K. Roth and Elisabeth Maxwell-​Meynard (eds.), Remembering for the Future 2000:  The Holocaust in an Age of Genocides. London: Palgrave: 2, 787–​97. Sanders, E. P., 1992. Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE-​66 CE. London/​Philadelphia: SCM Press/​Trinity Press International. Schoon, Simon, 2001. ‘Escape Routes as Dead Ends: On Hatred Towards Jews and the New Testament, Especially in the Gospel of John’, in R. Bieringer, Didier Pollefeyt, and F. Vandecasteele-​Vanneuville (eds.), Anti-​Judaism and the Fourth Gospel: Papers of the Leuven Colloquium, 2000. Assen: Royal Van Gorcum: 144–​58. Schwartz, Daniel R., 2007. ‘ “Judean” or “Jew”? How Should We Translate Ioudaios in Josephus?’, in Jewish Identity in the Greco-​ Roman World  =  Jüdische Identität in Der Griechisch-​Römischen Welt. AJEC; Leiden/​Boston: Brill: 3–​27. Schwartz, Seth, 2011. ‘How Many Judaisms Were There?’, Journal of Ancient Judaism 2: 208–​38. Sherwin, Byron L., 2009. Faith Finding Meaning:  A Theology of Judaism. Oxford/​ New York: Oxford University Press. Stowers, Stanley K., 2011. ‘The Concept of “community” and the History of Early Christianity’, Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 23: 238–​56. Thomas, John Christopher, 1991. Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community. Sheffield: JSOT Press. Trachtenberg, Joshua, 1943. The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its Relation to Modern Antisemitism. New Haven; London: Yale University Press. Von Wahlde, Urban C., 1982. ‘The Johannine Jews: A Critical Survey’, NTS 28: 33–​60. Wilken, Robert Louis, 1983. John Chrysostom and the Jews: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late 4th Century. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.

Chapter 9

The Joha nni ne Literatu re i n a Greek C ont e xt Gitte Buch-​H ansen

Introduction: Defining the Topic In any discussion of the Johaninne literature in a Greek context, the first choice concerns the aspects of Greek culture to be considered. In a trajectory that continues Tertullian’s (c.160–​c.222 CE) famous question what Athens had to do with Jerusalem, when he urged theologians to do ‘away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition’ (Prescr. 7.9), for much New Testament discussion ‘Greek’ still appears to be a synonym for philosophy: the classical Greek philosophical traditions (Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics), Hellenistic philosophy (e.g. Philo, Plutarch, and Seneca), and the religious literature it inspired in late antiquity (Gnostic, Hermetic, and Mandaean literature). The more popular aspects of Greek culture, e.g. the dramas and the written romances, have only recently gained interest as contextual material for our understanding of the Fourth Gospel (e.g. Brant 2004; Bro Larsen 2008; Parsenios 2010).1 However, this chapter will focus on the scholarly debate about the relationship between the Fourth Gospel and the Greek philosophical tradition, and will, of necessity, restrict the survey to the most significant scholarly work from the turn of the nineteenth century to the present day.


See Chapter 12, Jo-​Ann Brant, ‘The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama’.

The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context    139

Early Christian History and the Cultural Context of John’s Gospel The first half of the twentieth century was characterized by a debate about the historical and religious background of the Johannine literature. In ‘The History of Religions Background of the Prologue to the Gospel of John’ (1923), Rudolf Bultmann argued that the Prologue was influenced by the highly dualistic, Platonically inspired Mandaean traditions. Some decades later, in The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (1953), C. H. Dodd pointed to the Corpus Hermeticum—​Greek wisdom texts of Gnostic orientation—​ from the second and third centuries ce, as an important context for our understanding of John’s Gospel. Although Bultmann and Dodd’s appeals to the Mandaean and Hermetic literature were soon rejected as anachronistic, their references to the dualistic and Gnostic literature from the second and third century ce illustrate their—​and their contemporary New Testament colleagues’—​understanding of the historical situation that produced the Johannine literature, and hence remain of interest for our present topic.2 Their work shows that the discussion about the Johannine literature and its Greek context was embedded in another discourse, namely, the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity, which, it was assumed, had taken place early in the second century ce. The expulsion of Jews (including the sect of Christ-​believers) from Jerusalem after the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–​36 ce) severed the nascent religion from its Palestinian soil.3 The movement of Christ-​believers soon turned towards the pagan world with an attempt to reinterpret and adjust their Jewish worldview and heritage to Greek thinking. The Fourth Gospel testified to this geographical and ideological transformation leading scholars to date the Gospel quite late. The introduction of Logos-​ theology into Christianity was seen as the result of this new, Greek orientation: [The author of the Gospel] is thinking not so much of Christians who need a deeper theology, as of non-​Christians who are concerned about eternal life and the way to it, and may be ready to follow the Christian way if this is presented to them in terms that are intelligibly related to their previous religious interest and experience. (Dodd 1953: 9)

Thus, for Dodd, it was a mistake to speak about the influence of Greek ideas on John; instead, it was a matter of communication or of translation of the Christian sect’s unique faith to a new audience.


See further Chapter 10, Jutta Leonhardt-​Balzer, ‘The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature’. 3  See further Chapter 5, Martinus C. de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’.

140   Gitte Buch-Hansen However, in the case of Bultmann, this understanding of the history of early Christianity implied an antagonistic relationship between the Logos-​theology, particularly in the Prologue, and the authentic Palestinian Judaism, which constituted the religious background of the historical Jesus-​movement. The Jewish wisdom traditions, to which the Mandaean literature also belonged, represented an attempt to bridge the chasm between Greek and Jewish cultures. By the aid of the concept of wisdom, the religious myths of Jewish apocalypticism and nascent Christianity were demythologized. With regard to Judaism: . . . the Wisdom myth was not as such a living force in Judaism; it was only a mythological and poetic decking-​out of the doctrine of the law. Everything that the myth related of Wisdom was transferred to the Torah: the Torah is pre-​existent; she was God’s plan of creation and instrument of creation; Wisdom, being in some sense incarnate in the law has found in Israel a dwelling, prepared for her by God. But the Wisdom myth does not have its origin in the OT or in Israel at all; it can only spring from pagan mythology; the Israelite Wisdom poetry took over the myth and de-​ mythologized it. (Bultmann 1971: 23)

In a similar way, the Fourth Gospel—​and especially the Prologue—​demythologized the gospel of the impending kingdom of God in terms of a rationality that Greek minds would welcome. Consequently, as Greek and Jewish cultures represented opposing ideologies, so did wisdom and apocalypticism. However, by the turn of the twenty-first century, this version of early Christian history had been challenged and changed in several ways. Firstly, most scholars now date the Fourth Gospel to the end of the first century ce. Secondly, the parting of the ways has been ‘postponed’; according to Daniel Boyarin, the process began with the Bar Kokhba revolt and was only completed when, in the fourth century, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire (Boyarin 2001, 2004). Finally, the categorical antagonism between Judaism and Greek/​Hellenist culture, which characterized Bultmann’s interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, has been challenged: Judaism—​even the Palestinian part of it—​was also a Hellenized tradition (Hengel 1973; Boyarin 2001; Martin 2001). Whereas the second issue has led scholars to emphasize the Jewishness of early Christianity, the third tendency has drawn attention to Greek influence on the Judaism out of which Christianity grew. Within this more complex picture of the history of early Christianity, New Testament scholars have been inclined—​partly in a post-​Holocaust context—​to downplay difference and focus on sameness in the interaction between early (rabbinic) Judaism and nascent Christianity. For most scholars the influence of Jewish wisdom traditions—​as found in Proverbs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus—​on the Prologue now roots the Fourth Gospel firmly in Hellenistic Judaism. However, as shall be seen, the understanding of the extent to which these wisdom traditions also bring Greek ideas into the Gospel varies among these otherwise agreeing scholars. In addition, if Greek influence is accepted, scholars also disagree about the ideological character of the inspiration. While most scholars root the Prologue in (Jewish) Middle Platonism, (Greek) Stoicism keeps emerging as another option.

The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context    141

Scholarly Scepticism Concerning Greek Influence on John’s Gospel The Debate around the Turn of the Nineteenth Century Contrary to Bultmann, who saw the wisdom tradition as the means of a demythologization of Jewish religion in terms of Greek rationality, Adolf von Harnack had argued decades earlier the exact opposite. In ‘Ueber das Verhältnis des Prologs des vierten Evangeliums zum ganzen Werk’ (1892), von Harnack attacks the flirtation with Greek philosophy that had characterized German exegesis during the nineteenth century: ‘I will probably not be wrong if I claim that nobody would have thought of a relation between the Johannine Christ and the Alexandrian or any other personification of the divine Logos if the Prologue had not made this connection’ (1892: 211 [translation Buch-​Hansen]). The narrative body of the Gospel does not contribute to this contextualization, and even the Prologue did not offer a Logos-​theology inspired by Greek philosophy. On the contrary, the purpose of the Prologue was to put an end to all philosophical speculation by replacing the metaphysical concept of Logos with the history of the person Jesus Christ (226). Consequently, exegetes were misled when, in order to understand the function and meaning of the Prologue, they had recourse to Greek and Hellenistic philosophy. Instead, the proper context for an understanding of the Evangelist’s worldview and Christology should be Jewish apocalyptic thinking as found, for instance, in the Book of Daniel. Von Harnack’s rejection of any influence from Greek or Hellenistic philosophy on John’s Gospel won approval in England. In ‘Genesis I–​III and St. John’s Gospel’ (1920), Edwyn C. Hoskyns praised the thesis forwarded by James Rendel Harris in his booklet on the Origin of the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel (1917) suggesting that the proper context for our reading of the Prologue was Jewish wisdom literature. For Hoskyns, this insight took the understanding of the Prologue in the right direction: ‘If re-​creation by God is St. John’s primary explanation of Christian experience, the Prologue ceases to present real difficulty. Dr Rendel Harris . . . has brought back the study of i 1–​14 from Hellenistic Philosophy to the Old Testament Wisdom Literature, and for this we cannot be too grateful’ (Hoskyns 1920:  216). If the beginning of the Old Testament—​that is, the Word of God in the Genesis—​was also taken into consideration, the problem related to the terminological change from Sophia to the Logos, unsolved by Harris, was adequately explained (1920, 216). Hoskyns thus managed to bereave the Johannine Logos of any philosophical connotations. A couple of years later, Harris published a sequel to his first essays offering his own answer to the terminological problem that Hoskyns had pinpointed (Harris 1922). Whereas Hoskyns had explained the use of the term Logos in the Prologue with a reference to God’s creative Word in the Old Testament, Harris now turned to Stoicism for an explanation. Harris’ argument is worth revisiting, because it illustrates why it remains such a controversial step to bring Stoic thinking into New Testament studies.

142   Gitte Buch-Hansen After recapitulating his earlier argument, Harris appeals to the Wisdom of Solomon for a suitable equivalent for John’s identification of the Logos with God. He proceeds to prove two claims—​‘(i.) the hymn in the Wisdom of Solomon [­chapter 7] is a Stoic product, and (ii.) that the terms in which Wisdom is there described are, for the most part Stoic definitions of Deity’—​which, in turn, leads to his conclusion that ‘to the mind of the writer: Wisdom was God’ (1922: 440). In the course of his argument, Harris imagines a popular Stoic philosopher preaching on the market place: He had abandoned Plato and made God corporeal: he had affirmed Pantheism and has to meet objections on all sides. The man in the crowd wants to know if God pervades ugly things as well as beautiful things, dung-​heaps as well as stars. The philosopher in the crowd, a stray Epicurean, who will have nothing to do with Pantheism or Providence, wants to know the shape of the all-​pervading Deity; is it still anthropomorphic? (Harris 1922: 443)

The Stoic preacher, ‘driven into a corner, can only repeat that God is a spirit of the purest, and pervades all things. He is mind in matter: “Nature the body is, and God the soul” ’ (Harris 1922: 444). In order to establish an identification of the figure of Wisdom in Wisd. 7 with the Stoic deity, Harris had recourse to an Alexandrian MS, which—​ instead of the majority reading for Wisd. 7:23 ‘there is in her an intellectual spirit’—​reads ‘For she is an intellectual spirit’, remarking that ‘nothing could be more characteristically Stoic’ (447). He concludes: ‘It is enough for the present, to have shown that the missing factor in the evolution of the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel is found in the Wisdom of Solomon’ (448). Although Daniel Boyarin credits Harris as ‘the perhaps first scholar who noted the close connections of the Prologue with certain themes of early and later Jewish Wisdom literature’ (2001: 262), Harris’ thesis on the Stoic origins of John’s Prologue never gained any support and was largely ignored.

Reservations against Greek Influence around the Turn of the Twentieth Century Writing almost a century after von Harnack and Hoskyns, Daniel Boyarin largely supports their positions, concluding we do not need Greek literature to understand the Fourth Gospel since the Old Testament and its Hellenistic reinterpretations suffice (2001). On the one hand, Boyarin draws attention to the fact that when the author of the Fourth Gospel composed his Prologue, Hellenistic thinking had influenced Jewish theology for centuries: ‘[T]‌he lion’s share of the Hellenic thinking of early Christianity—​and most centrally, Logos-​theology—​was . . . an integral part of the first-​century Jewish world’ (2001: 246). For him, the Jewish exegete and philosopher Philo of Alexandria (c.25 bce–​ c.50 ce) is representative of the kind of Judaism that inspired Christianity. Consequently, the medieval legend about Philo Christianus turned history upside-​down: Philonic exegesis, was not inspired by early Christianity, but the opposite (247). On the other hand,

The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context    143 Boyarin places Philo’s ‘Hellenism’ in inverted commas because its sources cannot be traced to any specific Greek philosophical context. Instead, he points to Philo’s interpretation of the Old Testament prophets—​in their Greek Septuagint version—​as the source of Philo’s thinking about his Logos. Here he draws on the work of Maren Niehoff, who argues that Philo’s Logos was primarily inspired by the role of God’s voice in Jewish scriptures and only secondarily informed by Plato’s theory of the ideas (1995): Philo idealizes language. . . . For him, ideal language . . . seems to have pre-​existed with God Himself. . . . It is likely that both the enormous importance which Philo attributes to language and its active role as part of the Deity are ideas which are inspired by the natural assumption of God’s speech-​acts throughout the Biblical writings. The idea seems then to have been conceptualized in Plato’s terms of ideal Forms. (Niehoff 1995: 226)

Following Niehoff, Boyarin concludes that it may be wrong to characterize Philo’s Middle Platonism as influenced by Greek philosophy. Middle Platonism was from its beginning a Jewish way of philosophizing inspired by its own scriptures: ‘If the Logos as divine mediator, therefore, is the defining characteristic of Middle Platonism, then, not only may Philo’s Judaism be Middle Platonism, Middle Platonism itself may be a form of Judaism and Christianity’ (Boyarin 2001: 251). Consequently, the obvious parallels between Philo’s exegesis and John’s Prologue, which Boyarin identifies, firmly situate the Fourth Gospel in a Jewish context, which was Hellenized, but only in the most general sense. In 2014, summarizing a lifelong engagement with the Fourth Gospel, Peder Borgen aired a similar position: ‘It is difficult to identify any direct influence on John from outside of Judaism . . . John cultivates ideas and practices which to some extent are Jewish-​ Christian versions of aspects and trends present in the larger Hellenistic world’ (Borgen 2014: 90).

The Major Research Questions During the Twentieth Century The early debate about the proper understanding of the religious background of the Fourth Gospel laid out the pattern that came to structure Johannine scholarship throughout the following century. First, as von Harnack’s article indicated, if exegetes were interested in the relationship between John and Greek philosophy at all, they concentrated on the Prologue. Readings of the rest of the Gospel involving ideas or motifs from Greek or Hellenistic philosophy remained rare. In addition, following Harris, some kind of engagement with the Jewish wisdom tradition became almost mandatory for exegetes working with the Prologue. However, as previously seen, John’s alleged inspiration from the wisdom tradition has been instrumental of the most diverse—​and even

144   Gitte Buch-Hansen opposing—​purposes: in the case of Harnack (1892), to ward off philosophical speculation; in the case of Bultmann (1923), to replace Jewish mythology and apocalypticism by Greek rationality; in the case of Hoskyns (1920), to emphasize the biblical—​that is, the Old Testament—​outlook of the author; in the case Harris (1922), to introduce Stoic thinking into John’s worldview. In the course of the twentieth century, the discussions about the Prologue settled and, gradually, the allegorical exegesis of Philo of Alexandria and his Middle Platonic take on the Jewish wisdom tradition became the context that best explained the form and content of the Prologue. Dodd’s Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (1953) is representative: in line with his understanding of Hellenism as a syncretistic phenomenon that eclectically picked up ideas from available Greco-​Roman philosophies, his book constitutes an encyclopaedia on the many topoi that inspired the Fourth Evangelist. However, according to Dodd, this multidimensional influence was mediated through Philo of Alexandria whose treatises provided us with the most important background material for our understanding of the Gospel. With regard to John’s Prologue, Dodd even suggests a direct link with Philo: ‘Any reader influenced by the thought of Hellenistic Judaism, directly or at a remove would inevitably find suggested here a conception of the creative and revealing Logos in many respects similar to that of Philo; and it is difficult not to think that the author intended this’ (Dodd 1953: 277). Whereas the reinterpretation of the biblical narrative about the creation found in the Jewish wisdom tradition inspired the basic structure the Prologue, the terminological shift from Sophia to Logos was, according to Dodd, explained by Philo’s Middle Platonism. Although in ‘The Prologue of John in Hellenistic Jewish Speculation’ (1990), Thomas H. Tobin largely follows Dodd, he also draws attention to the ‘significant elements’ in the Prologue and its hymnal pre-​form ‘which cannot be explained simply on the basis of texts from Jewish wisdom literature’ (1990: 254). As Tobin explains, ‘[i]‌n Jewish wisdom tradition, the figure of wisdom [i.e. Sophia] was never displaced by the logos’ (254). In addition, the Johannine Logos is ascribed a role in creation which excels that of Sophia: Sophia is given an instrumental role—​typically expressed in the dative—​whereas the hymn ascribes a much more important role to the Logos, perfectly captured by the preposition dia in John 1:3. Thirdly, the author of the hymn goes as far as identifying the Logos with God—​cf. kai theos ēn ho logos (John 1:1)—​which is unprecedented in the case of Sophia (254). However, the decisive problem concerns the identification of the Logos with a specific historical person: Jesus of Nazareth (255). Whereas the first three issues may be explained by references to parallels in Philo’s allegorical exegesis of Jewish scriptures, the incarnation in John 1:14 inevitably causes problems. As several scholars refer to Tobin’s aporiai and discuss his solutions, his analysis can appropriately structure our account.

From the Jewish Sophia to the Middle Platonic Logos Tobin traces the roots of Philo’s Middle Platonism back to the second century bce, to the Jewish exegete Aristobulus, whose attempt to ‘interpret the LXX in a way consistent

The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context    145 with Greek philosophy’ was inspired primarily by Stoicism, although it also included ‘Platonic and Pythagorean elements’ (Tobin 1990: 256). On the one hand, ‘Philo could use the Stoic concept of the logos as the principle of rationality that pervades the universe (Heir 188; Flight 110)’; on the other hand, Philo’s ‘logos primarily fits into the pattern of the intermediate figures found in most Middle Platonic systems’ (257). Dodd, too, had recognized the debt of Middle Platonism to the Stoic doctrine of the Logos, but at the same time pointed out that from the time of Posidonius [c.135–​c.51 BCE], who gave the Stoic philosophy a strong infusion of Platonism, the two schools approached one another, and on the popular level philosophy often took the form of a platonizing Stoicism or stoicizing Platonism  . . .  [t]‌he fusion of Platonism and Stoicism provided an organon for thinkers of various tendencies who sought a philosophical justification of religion. (Dodd 1953: 11)

Thus, Plato’s world of immaterial ideas was subsumed into Philo’s—​now—​equally immaterial Logos, which then became the necessary mediator between the transcendent God and the created world. Like the plan in the architect’s mind, Philo’s Logos referred to the divine design according to which the creation came into being. Consequently, as argued by Tobin, Philo’s Logos was not instrumental in the dative sense—​that is, directly involved with matter like the manually working artisan with his instruments. Yet, the Logos remained the efficient cause through which the world came into being. With regard to this use of the preposition dia, Tobin refers to Philo’s application of the ‘metaphysics of prepositions’ (Cherubim 125–​7) which he thinks is ‘Platonic rather than Stoic’ (259). In this way, the introduction of the Logos in Middle Platonism served the separation of the divine and eternal God from the material, sense perceptible world of transitoriness and mortality. For Philo this separation was of immense importance and, according to Dodd and Tobin, the author of the Fourth Gospel benefited from that idea too. However, a Middle Platonic reading of John’s Gospel inevitably runs counter to the identity between the Logos and God found in the Prologue’s opening statement:  kai theos ēn ho logos (John 1:1). Although Tobin was able to identify a text in Philo’s writings in which the Logos was designated ‘god’—​in Dreams I.228–​30 Philo, too, predicates his Logos with the anartheous theos—​from a logical point of view, the function of the Logos as mediator between the transcendent God and the material world precludes full identity. As Dodd was fully aware, the tension between sameness and difference in the opening statement of the Prologue invites opposing philosophical contextualizations. On the one hand, the identity would immediately have been recognizable by a Stoic: ‘It is perhaps worth observing that the propositions en archē ēn ho logos—​theos ēn ho logos—​ panta di’ autou egeneto, are such as would have been directly intelligible and acceptable to any Stoic’ (Dodd 1953: 280). On the other hand, no Stoic would approve of the preceding proposition ho logos ēn pros ton theon (John 1:1), due to its implicit assumption that God transcended the work of his Logos. It is this difference, which, in the end, turns Dodd’s attention to Philo: ‘But it is just here, of course, that Philo, under the influence

146   Gitte Buch-Hansen of Platonism as well as of the Old Testament, differs from the Stoics with whom he has so much in common’ (280). In spite of the fact that allusions to Stoic doctrines also reverberate in John’s Gospel, they remain, as Dodd explains, an exterior verbal form, the meaning of which is derived from Platonic ideas of transcendence. So, for example, Dodd draws attention to the basically Stoic identification of God with spirit in John 4:24 (pneuma ho theos). On the one hand, the Stoic definition of God as the pneuma which pervades the entire cosmos seems, at least verbally, to be echoed in John 4:24: ‘the materialism of that definition was seldom completely transcended by Hellenistic writers who used the term pneuma however they might wish to maintain a non-​material, Platonic, conception of deity’ (225). On the other hand, Dodd shares Origen’s uneasiness with regard to John 4:24, which he approvingly quotes in his own translation: Many writers have made various affirmations about God and His ousia. Some have said that He is of a corporeal nature, fine and aether-​like; some that He is of incorporeal nature; others that He is beyond ousia in dignity and power. It is therefore worth our while to see whether we have in the Scriptures starting-​points (aphormas) for making any statement about the ousia of God. Here [John iv. 24] it is said that pneuma is, as it were, His ousia. For he says, pneuma ho theos. In the Law He is said to be fire, for it is written, ho theos hêmôn pur katanaliskon (Deut. iv. 24, Heb. xii. 29), and in John to be light, for he says, ho theos phôs esti, kai skotia en autô(i) ouk estin oudemia (I John i. 5). If we are to take these statements at their face value, without concerning ourselves with anything beyond the verbal expression, it is time for us to say that God is sôma; but what absurdities would follow if we said so, few realize. (Origen, Comm. Jo. XIII.21–​3; Dodd 1953: 225–​6)

In this quotation, we encounter the objections that Harris’ imagined proponent of Stoic doctrines would meet (Harris 1922: 443).

Reintroducing Stoicism into the Scholarly Discourse on John The Metaphysics of Prepositions. Philo and John on the Creation Nevertheless—​after almost a century—​Troels Engberg-​Pedersen has recently reclaimed Harris’ thesis and now suggests that not only the Prologue but the entire Gospel is inspired by Stoicism (2017a). Engberg-​Pedersen contests the scholarly tradition that has taken the meaningfulness of the Middle Platonic doctrine for granted and, in turn, has modelled their understanding of John’s Prologue on Philo’s version of Platonism. First, against Tobin, he argues that it is a mistake to understand the role of John’s Logos in the creation (cf. John 1:3–​5) in terms of the metaphysics of prepositions in which Middle Platonists excelled. Ancient Middle Platonists—​and their modern New Testament proponents—​made and make use of Plato’s ideas to separate the Aristotelian ‘efficient cause’ from matter. However, Aristotle had emphatically argued against Plato, whose

The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context    147 eternal ideas existed outside matter, and insisted that the forms worked in—​and could not be separated from—​matter. Further, this separation does not match the Fourth Gospel: rather, John’s claim that everything came into being di’ autou (John 1:3) is best understood in terms of Aristotle’s ‘efficient cause’ without any Platonizing separation from matter (2017a: 51–​2). Consequently, Engberg-​Pedersen draws attention to Seneca’s polemical perspective on the metaphysics of prepositions. As a Stoic, Seneca had argued that all the employed prepositions referred to one single cause, namely God: ‘Seneca therefore objects to the “throng of causes” posited by Aristotle and Plato (65.11). Instead, he is looking for “the primary and general cause” (prima et generalis causa, 65.12). And that is the “creative reason” (ratio faciens)—​“that is, God” (id est deus, 65.12)’ (2017a: 60). According to Engberg-​Pedersen, this ‘cause, then, is a wholly adequate candidate for the idea expressed in John 1:3 that everything in the world was created “through” the logos’ (60). Therefore, John’s (Stoically inspired) ‘through’ differs from Philo’s use of the same preposition: Philo’s poetical play with metaphors and metaphysics hides the fact that his immaterial Logos cannot bridge the gap between the transcendent God and the material world and, consequently, not explain how the creation took place. With particular reference to the De Opificio Engberg-​Pedersen argues: that Philo’s fondness for the expressions ‘through which’ and ‘instrument’ is an attempt to draw on the idea of wisdom’s direct involvement in the creation of the present world in order to create something that is in fact not to be found in Philo’s own picture when he develops it Platonically: a genuine explanation of exactly how the present, so-​called ‘sensible’ world was in fact literally created ‘through’ the logos as God’s ‘instrument’. (Engberg-​Pedersen 2017a: 58–​9; author’s emphasis.)

However, the problems that the immateriality of the Logos causes for our understanding of the creation in John 1:1–​5 only aggravate when we reach the statement about the incarnation in John 1:14: κai ho logos sarx egeneto.

Beyond Middle Platonism: Challenging the ‘Sui Generis’ of the Incarnation In general, the scholars who argue that John’s Logos is an immaterial entity are fully aware of the problems that their claim engenders for an understanding of the incarnation. Dodd explicitly notes that Philo is of no help here, and suggests instead that the metaphorical personification or hypostatizing of Sophia in the Jewish wisdom tradition may—​in some vague sense—​have inspired the definitely non-​metaphorical incarnation; even so, ‘it would be idle to look for any real anticipation of the Johannine doctrine of incarnation’ (Dodd 1953: 275). Tobin, for his part, suggests that Philo’s conception of the heavenly man, inspired by Plato’s universal idea of man, may have served the transition from the Logos to the historical exemplar of Jesus of Nazareth: ‘[T]‌his assimilation in Hellenistic Judaism of the logos to the figure of the heavenly man may have served as an important step in the kind of reflection that led to the identification of the logos with a particular human being, Jesus of Nazareth, in the hymn in the Prologue of John’

148   Gitte Buch-Hansen (Tobin 1990: 267). However, as he also admits: ‘Philo and Hellenistic Jewish exegetes of like mind would certainly have found such an identification impossible’ (267). When scholars give up finding a suitable context for the Johannine incarnation of the Logos, it ends up as a Christian idea sui generis. Engberg-​Pedersen agrees: ‘It is utterly incomprehensible how that type of distinctly immaterial logos could at all become flesh’ (2017a: 61). If we want to understand the rationality at work in the Prologue, the turn towards Philo is—​in his judgment—​a ‘cul-​ de sac’ (60); instead, through the recognition of the three forms in which the Logos is present in the world, the Stoic monism provides us with a solution: in the most general sense, the ‘Stoic logos is present as the world’s active power in everything that is, operating as it does in the whole world as an energy that guides and maintains it’, a form we encounter in John 1:15. More specifically, it ‘is also present, at the level of consciousness, in human beings as a power (“reason” or nous) that makes them capable of understanding the world’s order, for which the logos was responsible in the first place’: this function is present in John 1:4–​5 and 1:9–​13. The ‘Stoic logos is finally present in the world in its most powerful form in one being who may be as rare as the Bird Phoenix: the Stoic sage or “wise man” ’. This brings us close to the Stoic concept of God where it ‘is precisely not clear that there is in the end any distinction between the Stoic ideal “sage” and God’ (Engberg-​Pedersen 2017a: 61–​2). It is this very rare form of Logos’ presence in the world that provides a suitable model for the incarnation: ‘If, then, this logos has come to be present in its total fullness in an individual human body (as in the case of the imagined sage), then the universal logos has “become flesh” in him—​as it did, according to John, in Jesus’ (62). Nevertheless, Engberg-​Pedersen’s suggestion is followed by an epistemological reservation: ‘The idea is of course not that “John is a Stoic”, only that the picture one finds in Stoicism helps to give precise meaning to John’s claim’ (62). Initially, it is the heuristic value of Stoic ideas for the analysis, which concerns Engberg-​Pedersen; however, if a Stoic perspective is able to shed light on the world within the text, we may move on to the world behind the text with historical claims (Engberg-​Pedersen 2017a: 22–​23).

Revisiting Jewish Wisdom: Stoic Pneuma in Wisdom 7 However, in order to understand how the three aspects of the Stoic Logos work in the Prologue, Engberg-​Pedersen appeals to the Stoic idea of the pneuma:  although not explicitly mentioned in the Prologue, the pneuma permeates its thinking from the opening verse to John 1:18, as active in creation (1:1–​5), in recognition (1:6–​13), in regeneration (1:13), in the incarnation (1:14), and in divinization (1:18). In Stoic philosophy, the discourse on the Logos and the discourse on the pneuma constitute two different, but irreducible ways of speaking about the only ‘being’ that really is: the cosmos. The gap between the divine universal consciousness (Logos) and the creation, which the Middle Platonists left void, is filled by the Stoic pneuma: The point, therefore, of speaking of it as logos is to emphasize that it has rational content, is part of a plan, and indeed is such that it may be understood by human beings, who may come to grasp the content and see the plan. The point of speaking of it as

The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context    149 pneuma is to emphasize that it is a material power that is active in things in many different ways, including that of enabling human beings to grasp the rational content and see the plan. (Engberg-​Pedersen 2017a: 63)

In order to elucidate the Prologue’s enigmatic replacement of Sophia with the Logos, Engberg-​Pedersen appeals to the influence from Stoicism on the Jewish wisdom tradition: Wisdom 7:21–​24 ‘describes how Solomon has learned from sophia, who turns out to be directly the creator, or “fashioner”, of all things and who is still operating in the world. Here the description of the pneuma that she contains is in part unmistakably Stoic’ (64). Since Stoicism, which was firmly integrated in the wisdom tradition, offered John a term—​namely the Logos—​that enabled him to link up with the Septuagint version of the Genesis, recourse to Philo’s Middle Platonism is no longer necessary. Wisdom 7 had played a similar decisive role in James Rendel Harris’ argument: thus, Engberg-​Pedersen’s 2017a analysis brings us full circle back to Harris’ 1922 article.

Epilogue to the Prologue Aristotle’s Theory of the Epigenesis and the Fourth Gospel While Engberg-​Pedersen intends an account of how the author and readers of John’s Gospel may literally have understood, first, the incarnation (John 1:14) and, second, the promise of a divine regeneration of believers (cf. 1:13; 3:3.5), his explanation remains somewhat abstract, without directly answering the question about how the divine generation physically effects beings of flesh and blood. Here Adele Reinhartz’ analysis of the incarnation informed by the theory of epigenesis forwarded in Aristotle’s On the Generation of Animals (1999) offers a way forward.4 Reinhartz highlights the change of linguistic register from the initial account of God’s relationship with his Logos to the father-​son language, specifically at John 1:14. Whereas the Logos only appears in the Prologue, the language of kinship is continued throughout the narrative body of the Gospel and characterizes the Johannine Jesus’ discussion of his own identity. Consequently, Reinhartz suggests, the incarnation somehow transformed the nature of the relationship between God and his Logos (1999: 86). Since ancient Greek theories of generation shed light on how this transition may have been imagined, we are not dealing with a mystery. In particular Aristotle’s theory of the epigenesis, which ascribes a prominent role to the father as the ultimate source of the formative and life-​ generating powers, must be considered (1999: 87–​90). Since the son was—​in the literal sense—​an extension of the father whose soul-​stuff, that is, his cognate pneuma, was transferred to the child in the medium of the watery semen at impregnation,


See Chapter 14, Colleen Conway, ‘Gender and the Fourth Gospel’.

150   Gitte Buch-Hansen the epigenesis explains why Jesus as the Son of God reveals the Father in and to the world: as the embodiment of the divine Logos, brought about by the instrumental forces of the divine pneuma, Jesus as Son revealed God, his Father (cf. John 14:8–​11). Thus, Aristotelian theory offers a new and very physical perspective on the Gospel’s language of the mutual indwelling of the Father and His Son. The estrangement indicated by Jesus’ repeated, harsh, and anonymous way of addressing his mother (2:4; 19:26) is equally in accordance with the Aristotelian downplay of the role of the mother in procreation: she only matters insofar as she provides matter. Reinhartz suggests that some kind of virgin birth as in Luke and Matthew looms between the Prologue’s lines (94). So too, following Aristotle’s view of the purpose (telos) of generation as the perpetuation of the species (Gen. an. 731b35), Jesus’ mission, whose goal is the gathering of ‘God’s dispersed children into one’ (John 11:52), can be seen as the generation of a new and unique species, of which Jesus was the first exemplar. However, in contrast to the divine begetting of Jesus, this subsequent generation is not to be understood literally: despite ‘the striking parallel’ to the Aristotelian vocabulary of epigenesis in Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus (96), the generation anôthen promised believers (John 3:3) is metaphorical language. Whereas ‘from the Johannine perspective, Jesus’ special relationship with God as well as his revelatory function stem precisely from the claim that Jesus is literally and uniquely God’s son’, it is rather true and dedicated belief in Jesus as the Son of God that transforms the disciples into children of God (1999: 98).

Regeneration in Philo’s Treatises and in John’s Gospel The current writer has opposed Reinhartz’ categorical differentiation between the ‘incarnation’ and the ‘regeneration’ of subsequent generations of believers. Buch-​Hansen argues that it is possible to understand both phenomena in line with Philo’s interpretation of the spiritual possession involved in prophecy (Buch-​Hansen 2010): in the case of Moses, the divine impregnation of his prophetic mind brought forth wisdom, and, in turn, this wisdom generated virtuous behaviour (e.g. Migration 33–​5). Moses’ divine regeneration—​in QE II.46 called the deutera genesis—​happened when he mounted the Sinai. In order to understand Philo’s ideas, Buch-​Hansen appeals to the physics—​or physiology—​of Stoic psychology, on which the impact of Aristotle’s theory of the epigenesis is obvious. Philo adopted and adapted the Stoic understanding of the different faculties of the soul to emphasize the special gift of the heavenly aspect of the soul, the logos, as coming from God, but after birth. In her argument, it is the cultural devaluation of the first material generation in favour of the second spiritual generation which characterizes Philo’s thinking, that explains the Johannine Jesus’ ambivalent relationship with his mother. In addition, this approach sheds light on the Sabbath controversy in the Fourth Gospel, because Philo’s deutera genesis belongs to God’s Sabbath work (QE II.46). As most scholars agree, the violation of the Sabbath is not the primary cause of the

The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context    151 controversy in John (cf. Borgen 1991). Instead, it is Jesus’ claim that he and his divine Father are still working that provokes the conflict. Apparently, according to John, the process of creation had not yet ended. The inbreathing that the heavenly Father began on the sixth day (cf. Gen. 2:7) is only finished when the resurrected Christ returns and insufflates his disciples with the Holy Spirit on the first day of the new week (Buch-​ Hansen 2010: 447–​51). Anticipating this, Jesus declares his and his heavenly Father’s work was fulfilled when he expires on the cross (John 19:30: ‘tetelestai’). Whereas Philo’s divine deutera genesis was reserved for elect beings like Moses and Elijah, John offers every believer a similar generation anōthen (cf. John 3:3, 5). In general, scholars of the Fourth Gospel have been reluctant to pass on the divine pneuma initially installed in Jesus (John 1:32) to his disciples (20:22) and subsequent believers. Nevertheless, as argued by Engberg-​Pedersen in his John and Philosophy, this is where a Stoic reading of the Fourth Gospel will take us (2017a: 30–​4). Engberg-​ Pedersen’s account of various logos/​pneuma aspects of Stoic discourse previously discussed sheds light on the function of the discourse on the pneuma in John’s Gospel: the pneuma facilitates the embodiment of the worldview (logos) introduced in the Prologue. In this way, the problem—​raised by von Harnack—​about the relationship between the philosophically minded Prologue and the narrative body of the Gospel here receives a new solution. After all, the relationship between Prologue and Gospel corresponds to the interaction in classical philosophy between the conceptual, dialectic discourses and the—​especially in Plato’s dialogues—​many myths.

Conclusion As has become apparent, the questions discussed during the twentieth century echo the battle-​lines set at its beginning: the impact from Greek philosophy on Johannine literature remains a contested issue. If Greek philosophy influenced the Gospel, it was mediated through Jewish Middle Platonism. The Stoic readings of the Fourth Gospel, which repeatedly emerge, were either opposed with dogmatic arguments, subsumed into Middle Platonism, or simply ignored. Nonetheless, there have been important changes. During the first half of the twentieth century, the discussions about the religious background of John’s Gospel formed part of the discourse on early Christian history. However, by the second half of the century, these diachronic questions had been left behind in favour of a synchronic interest in the worldview projected by the Gospel. Consequently, attentiveness to the sources or earlier forms of the Prologue was now replaced by an interest in the function of the present Prologue in its present context within the Gospel. Instead of the categorical classifications of the background—​be it Platonist or Stoic or Middle Platonist; be it Jewish or Hellenistic—​scholars, in general, now concentrate on the examination of the influence of a chosen perspective on our understanding of the Gospel: the quest for the intra-​textual ‘meaning’ has replaced the search for extra-​textual, historical ‘references’.

152   Gitte Buch-Hansen This change reflects the epistemological consciousness which has come to characterize biblical exegesis. Scholars have increasingly become aware that—​with terms coined by the American philosopher of science, Donna Haraway—​the methodological ‘prosthesis’ or ‘apparatus’, which we bring to the text, affects the results. On the one hand, the method, when applied meticulously, allows us to see something, which is really there. On the other hand, any reading always happens at the expense of an otherwise understanding (Haraway 1988). Whereas the cultivation of a Stoic perspective will allow us to identify some patterns in the Fourth Gospel, a Platonist outlook will, of course, reconfigure the Gospel differently. However, it is no longer an either-​or, because the truth (without inverted commas) is now perceived as conditional on the method/​perspective applied. Consequently, scholars, in general, appear more open towards readings that differ from their own interpretation. Throughout history, Stoically inspired readings of New Testament texts have provoked resistance. In her survey on ‘Stoicism and the New Testament:  An Essay in Historiography’ (1992), Marcia L.  Colish draws attention to the ‘catalogue of vices’ which New Testament scholarship—​ especially, in a Protestant tradition—​ has associated with Stoicism. Whereas Stoic ethics led to the so-​called ‘early Catholicism’ (Frühkatholizismus) of the third century ce, to the Pelagianism of the fourth century ce, and to the asceticism found in the continuing monastic tradition, the Stoic theory of Providence underpinned the dogma of the double predestination. In addition—​ as also James Rendel Harris was aware—​the Stoic pantheism asked for a theodicy. In Johannine scholarship these—​basically dogmatic—​positions pop up again and again. However, arguably, the recent epistemological awareness which characterizes present New Testament scholarship, will allow less dogmatically determined readings of the Fourth Gospel.

Suggested Reading As noted, Dodd’s The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (1953) is an encyclopaedia on the literature that constituted John’s contemporary Greek environment. Dillon’s book on The Middle Platonists (1977/​1996) provides a thorough presentation of Middle Platonism, which the majority of scholars now see as the philosophical context of John’s Gospel. The book From Stoicism to Platonism:  The Development of Philosophy, 100 bce–​100 ce (Engberg-​Pedersen 2017b) with contributions from philosophers and New Testament exegetes constitutes an alternative to Dillon’s book. Instead of focusing on content, Attridge’s article on ‘Genre Bending in the Fourth Gospel’ (2002) pays attention to the play with the genres of classical philosophy in the Fourth Gospel. The fact that the Johannine Jesus—​as compared to the Synoptic Gospels—​ often reacts emotionally to the situation has been forwarded as an argument against Stoic influence on the Gospel. Attridge takes issue with this debate in ‘An “Emotional” Jesus and Stoic Tradition’ (2010). His chapter also provides a fine introduction to the Stoic theory of emotions. Whereas the scholars presented in this chapter primarily refer to Middle Platonism or Stoicism as the context for our understanding of the Fourth Gospel, van Kooten’s ‘The “True Light Which Enlightens Everyone” (John 1:9): John, Genesis, the Platonic Notion of the “True,

The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context    153 Noetic Light”, and the Allegory of the Cave in Plato’s Republic’ (2005) suggests influence from Plato’s treatises on John’s Gospel. Van Kooten’s essay is also interesting because his analysis moves beyond the Prologue and discusses John 10. Engberg-​Pedersen (2010) discusses the relationship between Platonism and Stoicism in the early centuries ce. Conway’s Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-​Roman Masculinity (2008) examines the discourse on masculinity embedded in Hellenistic philosophy and analyses the Fourth Gospel from this perspective.

Bibliography Attridge, Harold W., 2010. ‘An “Emotional” Jesus and Stoic Tradition’, in I. Dunderberg, T. Rasimus and T. Engberg-​Pedersen (eds.), Stoicism in Early Christianity. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic: 77–​92. Attridge, Harold W., 2002. ‘Genre Bending in the Fourth Gospel’, JBL 121: 3–​21. Borgen, Peder, 2014. The Gospel of John:  More Light from Philo, Paul and Archaeology:  The Scriptures, Tradition, Exposition, Settings, Meaning. NovTSupp 154; Leiden/​Boston: Brill. Borgen, Peder, 1991. ‘The Sabbath Controversy in John 5:1–​18 and Analogous Controversy Reflected in Philo’s Writings’, in D. T. Runia (ed.), Heirs of the Septuagint: Philo, Hellenistic Judaism and Early Christianity. The Studia Philonica Annual III; Atlanta Georgia: Scholars Press: 209–​21. Boyarin, Daniel, 2004. Border Lines:  The Partition of Judaeo-​ Christianity. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. Boyarin, Daniel, 2001. ‘The Gospel of the Memra: Jewish Binitarianism and the Prologue to John’, HTR 94: 243–​84. Brant, Jo-​Ann, 2004. Dialogue and Drama: Elements of Greek Tragedy in the Fourth Gospel. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson. Bro Larsen, Kasper, 2008. Recognizing the Stranger: Recognition Scenes in the Gospel of John. Leiden: Brill. Buch-​Hansen, Gitte, 2010. ‘It Is the Spirit That Gives Life’ (John 6:63): A Stoic Understanding of Pneuma in John’s Gospel. BZNW 173; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1971. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Translated by G. R. Beasley-​Murray from the 1964 printing of Das Evangelium des Johannes. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Westminster Press. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1923/​1986. ‘The History of Religions Background of the Prologue to the Gospel of John’ (transl. John Ashton), in John Ashton (ed.) The Interpretation of John. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:  Fortress Press; London:  SPCK:  18–​35. [Originally published as ‘Der religionsgeschichtliche Hintergrund des Prologs zum Johannesevangelium’, in Eucharisterion: Festschrift für H. Gunkel II. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.] Colish, Marcia L., 1992. ‘Stoicism and the New Testament: An Essay in Historiography’, ANRW II. 26.1: 334–​79. Conway, Collen, 2008. Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-​Roman Masculinity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dillon, John, 1977/​1996. The Middle Platonists. 80 B.C. to A.D. 220. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. Dodd, C. H., 1953. The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

154   Gitte Buch-Hansen Engberg-​Pedersen, Troels, 2017a. John and Philosophy: A New Reading of the Fourth Gospel. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Engberg-​Pedersen, Troels (ed.), 2017b. From Stoicism to Platonism:  The Development of Philosophy, 100 BCE–​100 CE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Engberg-​Pedersen, Troels, 2010. ‘Setting the Scene: Stoicism and Platonism in the Transitional Period’, in I. Dunderberg, T. Rasimus and T. Engberg-​Pedersen (eds.), Stoicism in Early Christianity. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic: 1–​15. Haraway, Donna, 1988. ‘Situated Knowledges:  The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’, Feminist Studies 14: 575–​99. Harnack, Adolf von, 1892. ‘Über das Verhältniss des Prologs des vierten Evangeliums zum ganzen Werk’, ZTK 2: 189–​231. Harris, James Rendel, 1917/​2012 (Reissue edition). The Origin of the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Harris, James Rendel, 1922. ‘Stoic Origins of the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel’, BJRL 6: 439–​51. Hengel, Martin, 1973. Judentum und Hellenismus:  Studien zu ihrer Begegnung unter Berücksichtigung Palästinas bis zur Mitte des 2 Jh.s v.Chr. WUNT 10; Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr. Hoskyns, Edwyn C., 1920. ‘Notes and Studies: Genesis I–​III and St John’s Gospel’, JTS 21 (Old Series): 210–​18. Martin, Dale B. 2001. ‘Paul and the Judaism/​Hellenism Dichotomy: Toward a Social History of the Question’, in Troels Engberg-​Pedersen (ed.), Paul Beyond the Judaism/​Hellenism Divide. Louisville: Westminster John Knox: 29–​62. Niehoff, Maren, 1995. ‘What Is in a Name? Philo’s Mystical Philosophy of Language’, JSQ 2: 220–​52. Parsenios, George L., 2010. Rhetoric and Drama in the Johannine Lawsuit Motif. WUNT 258; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Reinhartz, Adele, 1999. ‘ “And the Word Was Begotten”: Divine epigenesis in the Gospel of John’, Semeia 85: 83–​103. Tobin, Thomas H., 1990. ‘The Prologue of John in Hellenistic Jewish Speculation’, CBQ 52: 252–​70. van Kooten, George H., 2005. ‘The “True Light Which Enlightens Everyone” (John 1:9): John, Genesis, the Platonic Notion of the “True, Noetic Light”, and the Allegory of the Cave in Plato’s Republic’, in George H.  van Kooten (ed.), The Creation of Heaven and Earth:  Re-​interpretation of Genesis I in the Context of Judaism, Ancient Philosophy, Christianity, and Modern Physics. Leiden & Boston: Brill: 149–​94.

Chapter 10

The Johanni ne Literature a nd C ontemp ora ry J ew i sh Literatu re Jutta Leonhardt-​B alzer

Introduction For a long time the Johannine texts were treated as outsiders among the Gospels, not only because of the difference in the narrative and theological structure of the Gospel, but also because, especially in the middle of the twentieth century, scholars such as Bultmann and Dodd saw their high Christology as an example of Hellenistic influence on Christianity and unlike the Jewish roots of Jesus.1 Nevertheless, J. A. T. Robinson, in a collection of essays from 1947 to 1961, already underlined the link between the Johannine Christianity and Jewish Christianity in Judea, while arguing that the Gospel was addressed to Diaspora Jews (Robinson 1962), an idea which is still accepted in some quarters today (Frey 2011: 99–​106). The more scholarship found out about the variety of Second Temple Judaism, the more new links to the Johannine texts were found and proposed, and it became increasingly clear that the Fourth Gospel represents a close reading and detailed use of a range of Second Temple Jewish traditions. Even if the community had already left the context of the synagogue by the time of the Gospel’s composition, and if the Gospel was also addressed to pagan Christians, it cannot be understood without knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures, and more specifically of certain inner-​ Jewish discourses (Frey 2011: 114–​19).2



See further Chapter 9, Gitte Buch-​Hansen, ‘The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context’. See Chapter 5, Martinus C. de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’.

156   Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer Rather than representing a drift away from Judaism towards Greek patterns of thought, Johannine theology fits within the variety of Jewish ideas about God found in the first century ce. Similarly, the Gospel’s use of Scripture does not differ from other Second Temple traditions (Lieu 1994; Manning 2004: 198–​213). While it would be instructive for a study on the Johannine literature in its relationship with Jewish literature to also look at the Johannine attitude towards the Jewish Scriptures, especially the Septuagint, this chapter will focus on later Second Temple texts, beginning with the Wisdom traditions. In the short space here it is not necessary to provide a detailed analysis of the Johannine texts themselves, for they have been studied in depth by a large number of learned scholars. This chapter will review their studies and attempt a conclusion regarding the situation of the Johannine literature in the context of the Jewish literature of their time. The categories used here are purely heuristic and overlap in many places, but they are practical because scholars use them frequently to distinguish Jewish traditions and identify clearly separate settings for the Johannine literature.

Johannine Literature and Wisdom Literature The links between Johannine Christological metaphors and Jewish Wisdom literature have been noted for a long time. The five main texts of the Wisdom myth are Prov. 8:22–​ 31; Job 28; Baruch 3:9–​4:4; Ecclus. 24, and Wisd. 6–​9. Thus the theme of the Logos in the Prologue is similar to the way in which Wisdom roams the earth according to Prov. 8 and Wisd. 9 and 24 only to take up a dwelling in Israel. By contrast, 1 Enoch 42:1–​3 describes Wisdom as roaming the earth without finding a home. Themes such as the divine likeness (John 1:3–​4), wisdom/​word (1:3–​4; 17:22), sonship (14:9; 12:45), and glory (kabod/​doxa) in John must be seen against this background of Wisdom’s search for a people (Oberforcher 2003: 157–​8). Likewise, the concept of the ‘children of God’ is based on the description of the wise man as a child of God in Wisd. 2:13, 16; 12:19–​21 or of Israel as children of God in Wisd. 5:5; 9:7; 18:13 (Culpepper 1981: 19–​20). There are also similarities to the way in which Wisdom provides for the children of God. Thus, the theme of Jesus as the giver of living water and nourishment in John (especially 4:14; 2:13 and 6) resembles (sometimes in a critical way) what is said about Wisdom and water in Ecclus. 15:3, 24:21 and Ps. 36:10, about Wisdom and bread in Prov. 9:1–​6 and Ecclus. 24:19, 21, as well as about manna as bread from heaven in Exod. 16:4, 15; Ps. 78:24 (Sandelin 1987: 15–​26).3 Even if there are disagreements about the form of the Johannine argument, it is widely agreed that John uses Wisdom motifs extensively to describe Jesus as not just the fulfilment of the expectations raised by Wisdom, but surpassing them (also Scott 1992). 3 

See further on Borgen’s (1987) appeal to Philo to interpret John 6 against a Wisdom background.

The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature    157

Johannine Literature and Diaspora Literature The Wisdom traditions already described belong to Hellenistic Jewish literature, which has been associated particularly with the Diaspora. A long history of scholarship has used this text, and especially Philo of Alexandria, for comparison with the Johannine literature. Similar to the Wisdom literature, Philo also compares Wisdom’s instruction to water (Posterity 138; Drunkenness 112; Flight 195), which makes the soul immortal (Posterity 122–​3). Philo also calls the morally good ‘sons of God’ (QG. I. 92; Spec. Laws I. 318), even together with the Logos as the ‘first-​born son’ in Confusion 145–​7, and in Sobriety 55–​6 they progress from friends to servants to adopted children in a development similar to that in John (Culpepper 1981: 20–​1).4 This shows that such ideas were widespread in Diaspora Jewish discourse and therefore available to the author of John, and that there is no need to assume an independent influence from Greek philosophy. A peculiar feature of the Wisdom influence on Hellenistic Jewish literature is the development of the Logos theology, which is also of particular importance for the Gospel of John. Philo uses the concept of the Logos in different ways, sometimes with a more Platonic emphasis, as a result of the interpretation of Gen. 1 (e.g. Creation 1–​36), as a mediator between the world of ideas (Leonhardt-​Balzer 2004), sometimes with a more Stoic emphasis as the source and guide of human reason, incarnate in the Torah (e.g. Creation 43; Heir 201–​14). As such, the Philonic Logos, even if dressed in Greek philosophy, is equivalent to the figure of Wisdom in the Wisdom tradition. The Logos in the Gospel of John as the visible aspect of God, which means the Logos as the ‘ “particular” pole of the universal-​particular dichotomy’, as well as the Logos as linking knowledge and action, has been paralleled to this (Attridge 2005: 116–​17). Thus, the Philonic and the Johannine Logos have a cosmological and an anagogical function (Tobin 1990: 256–​61). It has been claimed that a comparison with Philo shows that the Logos in the Prologue represents a philosophical interest not evident in the rest of the Gospel (von Wahlde 2015: 170–​9); however, this overlooks the continuation of the theme of Jesus’ pre-​existence and the importance of ‘the word’ in the form of Jesus’ speeches in the narrative throughout the Gospel. Likewise, the term the ‘true light’, known from Platonic philosophy and its Philonic application, can be traced from the Prologue via the narratives of Nicodemus, the blind man, and Lazarus, throughout the whole Gospel (van Kooten 2005: 149–​79). Similarly, the links to Jewish concepts associated with creation continue throughout the Gospel (Endo 2002: 259–​63). Another Wisdom theme that has also been studied in detail in a Hellenistic Jewish context is the theme of the bread from heaven in John 6. Philo compares Wisdom to bread (Leg. III. 161), and differentiates it as heavenly nourishment distinguished from


On John and Philo, see further Chapter 9, Buch-​Hansen, ‘The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context’.

158   Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer earthly food. In Worse 115–​18 Philo also calls it manna, and, just as in Ecclus. 24:21, in Names 258ff and especially Dreams I.  50 the disciple of Wisdom always wants more (Sandelin 1987: 16, 19–​20). The Johannine Jesus emphasises in deliberate contrast to this that those who receive his nourishment never experience need again. Further parallels can be found between John 6:35, 48–​51 and the ‘bread of life’ combined with ‘manna’ and ‘everyone who eats of this will never die’ in Joseph and Aseneth 8:5, 9; 15:5; 16:14, 16; 19:5; 21:21; however, while Aseneth’s food is an earthly substitute for the food of life, in John 6:30–​33, 49–​51, 58, Jesus is actually seen as providing this bread of life; alternatively, if John 6 is seen as an aetiology of the Eucharist, John 6 would follow a pattern also found in Aseneth’s meal in Joseph and Aseneth 16 (Burchard 1987: 119–​21). Based on the similarities between Philo and John, Peder Borgen has argued that both quote from the Old Testament and add motifs from the Haggadah about manna, contrasting bread from heaven and bread from earth (Mek.Exod. 16.4; Exod.Rab. 25.2), not in direct dependence on each other but following a similar pattern (Borgen 1965: 1–​27). Borgen argues for the existence of a ‘homiletic pattern’ or ‘midrashic pattern’ of expositions of primary and subordinate texts in both (Borgen 1965: 28–​98, 147–​92; Borgen 1987:  121–​44). Against this, Zumstein argues that the chapter is not a homily but a Christological reflection in the form of a dialogue with the aim of replacing the expectation of life based on Moses with that based on Christ (Zumstein 2004: 136–​, 142). Philo’s writings have also been compared to Johannine motifs unrelated to Wisdom traditions. Borgen finds parallels in the Sabbath controversy in John 5:1–​18 to a similar debate about observing the Sabbath in Philo’s Migration 89–​93 (Borgen 1996: 105–​20). However, while Philo’s parallel demonstrates that the Sabbath halakha was widely debated, the reasons for not observing the Sabbath literally were fundamentally different. Likewise, the controversy about the validity of self-​testimony in John 5:21–​40 and 8:12–​ 20 can be situated within a Jewish context, in which God himself bears witness to the truth of his own oaths, and only God is capable of testifying about himself (Alleg. Interp. III. 204–​8). This does not imply a direct dependence, but it does demonstrate that John is familiar with a Diaspora Jewish debate (Bekken 2008: 19–​42). Among other examples, Philo’s idea of ethical empowering through loving relationships has also been argued to provide a more useful background to Johannine ideas of ethical enabling than corresponding Stoic concepts (Rabens 2012: 114–​39). While few would argue for the direct dependence of John on Philo, Philo can offer a wealth of material on the thought of Diaspora Jews in a Greek context, if it is assumed that Alexandria offers comparable conditions to other cities such as Ephesus.

Johannine Literature and Apocalyptic Literature While Wisdom and Hellenistic Jewish literature rarely have been doubted as providing a background to the Johannine texts, the Johannine relationship to Apocalyptic Jewish

The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature    159 literature is more controversial. Some have argued that John does not itself contain apocalyptic thought, but, to the contrary, expresses critical views on the idea of a heavenly ascent, dream visions or other apocalyptic motifs. Texts such as John 1:51 take up Second Temple versions of biblical ascent motifs (Testament of Levi, I Enoch), but not in order to argue for the concept of a heavenly ascent (Manning 2004: 156–​60). To the contrary, for John the only way in which human beings can access God is through ‘the one who came from above’. Likewise, the messianic king in the Animal Apocalypse (1 Enoch 89–​90) is described as God’s appointed shepherd and refers to a historical figure, in this case Judas Maccabee, while John 21 reads it as referring to Jesus. Unlike in the case of Judas Maccabee, however, in John Jesus’ origins are described as supernatural (Manning 2004: 132–​4). Against the sceptical consensus, already in 1991, and again in his second edition of 2007, John Ashton argued that, despite its complex eschatology, apocalyptic motifs are pervasive in the Gospel (Ashton 2007: 305–​29). A 2010 conference on these apocalyptic ‘intimations’ in John shed light on a wide range of aspects, discussing issues of genre as well as specific apocalyptic motifs such as God’s dwelling, the Spirit-​Paraclete, evil, apocalyptic opponents, and petition for protection, as well as text and authority and the apocalyptic perspective of the reader (Williams and Rowland 2013). The conclusion of these studies is that the Johannine relationship to apocalyptic thought is more than superficial or restricted to individual motifs, and that the use of apocalyptic traditions is not merely polemical. Some scholars have assumed that any indication of dualism immediately implies apocalyptic. However, the complex history of the definition of the term ‘apocalyptic’ should be a warning against a facile identification with a dualism or with rash connections to the Dead Sea Scrolls (against von Wahlde 2015: 131–​4). Nevertheless, a careful study of the Qumran texts does offer invaluable background information for the Johannine texts.

Johannine Literature and Qumran Soon after the discoveries of the Qumran writings scholars drew attention to a number of connections to Johannine thought (Kuhn 1950; Brown 1957; Charlesworth 1969). Initially, the distinction later made between sectarian and non-​sectarian texts among the Scrolls was not well developed and the ideology of the ‘Community’ or yaḥad was naively reconstructed with an emphasis on the finds from cave 1. At first scholars assumed too easily a direct connection between the Qumran and the Johannine communities (see Attridge 2009 for a history of research). The Johannine contrast between light and darkness, heaven and earth, was seen as echo of the War Scroll and the Community Rule. Likewise, the difference in the date of the crucifixion between John and the Synoptics was explained by the assumption that the Johannine Community used a solar calendar comparable to that attested in the Scrolls, which was

160   Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer assumed to be a more widely used Zadokite calendar (Jaubert 1991: 62–​75). There also were attempts to find parallels to the Johannine Spirit-​Paraclete in the term ‘geber’, ‘Man’, the teacher of right and counsellor, in the Hodayot and the ‘Instruction on the Two Spirits’ (Shafaat 1981: 262–​9).5 In particular, the ‘Instruction on the Two Spirits’ in the Community Rule (1QS III. 13–​IV. 26), with its cosmic, psychological, and ethical dualism which involves the division of humanity into two groups, the sons of light and the sons of deceit, guided by the ‘prince of lights’/​the ‘spirit of truth’ and the ‘angel of darkness’/​‘spirit of deceit’, were compared to Johannine soteriological and ethical dualism (Charlesworth 1969:  388–​ 418), and especially to the Paraclete as ‘spirit of truth’ in John (Leaney 1991:  38–​61). Likewise, the term ‘God of knowledge’ in the ‘Instruction’ and its dualism was presented as background to John (Price 1991: 9–​37). In spite of the differences in their concepts of angelology, eschatology, predestination, and the origin and conquest of evil, similarities between the Gospel’s spatial dualism and the two spirits of the ‘Instruction’, their modified dualism, and their concept of life and light as gift of God were noted, all of which seemed to attest to a conceptual similarity, even extending to certain terms, such as ‘spirit of truth’, ‘holy spirit’, ‘sons of light’, which to some apparently suggested a direct dependence (Charlesworth 1969: 412–​18; Charlesworth 1991, 107–​36). Against this identification, however, it has been argued that the Johannine ‘spirit of truth’ in John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13 (cf. 1 John 5:6–​9) occurs in a courtroom context together with the Paraclete, not in the context of the light-​darkness dualism and thus is a natural formation parallel to other biblical spirit combinations (e.g. ‘spirit of wisdom’, Deut. 34:9; 1 Enoch 49:3 etc., Bauckham 2000: 113–​14). Yet while the emphasis on the courtroom context of the references to the Paraclete certainly is correct, it is noteworthy nevertheless that in the context of the Paraclete there is consistent mention of an opponent, the ruler of the world, parallel to the contrast of the spirits of truth and deceit in the ‘Instruction’. Likewise, the ‘truth’ terminology in John cannot sufficiently be explained with recourse to the Septuagint. The Community Rule, by contrast, provides sufficient parallels to suggest to many that the author of the Gospel was familiar with it (Mburu 2010: 189–​93). Other scholars have also paralleled the light-​darkness terminology, the ethical dualism, the love for the community members, and the language of the spirits in 1 John to the Qumran rule texts (Boismard 1991: 156–​65). The cumulative evidence of these parallels has even led some scholars to propose that the author of the Johannine texts was an Essene (Charlesworth 2000: 125–​8; Ashton 1991; cf. Attridge 2009: 114), that the Johannine readers must have been former Essenes (Boismard 1991: 164–​5), or that the Gospel originated within Baptist circles and that John the Baptist belonged to the yaḥad (see Pilgaard 1999: 127–​8 for an account of the debate). On the other hand, already in 1960 Teeple had studied in detail the similarities and differences in terminology and concepts, and demonstrated that the similarities


However, in the cited passage from the ‘Instruction’ (1QS IV) the ‘man’ is different from the purifying spirit, so that the idea of a consistent concept of an eschatological saving person does not apply.

The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature    161 between Qumran and John were no greater than those between Qumran and other early Christian texts, most of which could be traced to contemporary shared Jewish traditions (Teeple 1960: 6–​25). So, for example, the contrast between the spirit of truth and that of deceit or the opposition of the two ways—​obedience to God’s good Torah and following the evil works of Beliar—​are not specific to the texts from Qumran. They can also be found in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (T. Jud. 20:1–​5; T. Ash: 1:3–​9; T. Naph. 2:6–​3:1; T. Levi 19:1), which trace the deeds of humankind to the influence of two opposing spirits (von Wahlde 2015: 157–​61). Therefore, it is not strictly necessary to assume a familiarity with the ‘Instruction on the Two Spirits’ merely on the basis of the opposition of truth and deceit. More recently the individual concepts and expressions have been examined in greater detail and traced to a range of earlier traditions, and consequently the relationship between Qumran and the Johannine writings has come to be viewed more critically (Bauckham 2000: 105–​6; Aune 2003: 281–​303). Even so, not all scholars are equally sceptical: Fitzmyer parallels the ‘god of knowledge’ of 1QS III.15 to the creator Logos in John 1:3 and, once again, finds helpful similarities in the dualism, the ‘spirit of truth’, and the concept of love, concluding that while direct dependence cannot be argued, the parallels might go beyond a mere common root in the Jewish traditions of their times (Fitzmyer 2005: 119–​29; Harrington 2005: 134–​7). Another such supposed parallel is found in the Self-​Glorification Hymn 4Q491c, where the ‘I’ speaks of his revelation of heavenly matters, his exaltation and return to glory, although, as the ‘I’ remains undefined, it is hard to compare it to statements about the Johannine Jesus and his glory (Attridge 2009: 121–​6). Rather than rejecting any connection at all, many scholars assume an indirect relationship (Painter 2005:  225–​9). Discussion continues, identifying new issues, for example, regarding the concept of ‘mystery’, commonalities between Luke, John, and the Scrolls, the concept of ‘virtuoso religion’, purification, and the concept of the ‘evil one’, reaching differing conclusions regarding the link between the texts (Coloe and Thatcher 2011). The monotheism modified by dualism of the Qumran texts in particular remains of scholarly interest: The ‘Instruction on the Two Spirits’ (1QS III.13–​IV.26), as well as the War Scroll (e.g. 1QM XIII.1–​18), with their contrast of light and darkness and the corresponding spirits associated with truth versus deceit, still provide an important background to the Prologue (John 1:1–​18) and other passages in John, such as 3:19–​21; 8:12; and 12:35–​36 (Painter 2005: 228–​34; Attridge 2009: 114). However, careful studies on the ‘Instruction on the Two Spirits’, which still provides most of the material of interest, have argued that it is of non-​sectarian origin, and therefore cannot be evidence of a link between the Johannine community and the yaḥad in particular (Frey 2009: 138–​43). This undermines the argument that any similarity in dualism between John and Qumran is to be explained by the similarity of their social situation, rejecting or being rejected by the main Jewish tradition (Pilgaard 1999: 128–​30). Further analysis has led to other critiques. The combination of cosmic and ethical dualism with predestination and an eschatological perspective in the ‘Instruction’ had

162   Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer been likened to John (Pilgaard 1999: 130–​33), and the concept of predestination in both was sometimes connected with the human choice in the framework of the two spirits (Painter 2005:  235–​43). However, a comprehensive and detailed comparison of both texts leads to the conclusion that their dualism is of a different nature and origin (Frey 2009: 127–​57; 2013: 147–​237).6 Johannine literature itself does not exhibit a single comprehensive and consistent form of dualism but only separate dualistic motifs, such as light and darkness, above and below, flesh and spirit, which occur in different places in the Gospel (Frey 2013: 409–​82). So, for example, the betrayal of Judas is also clothed in light-​darkness terms and described in terms of Jesus’ contrast to the ruler of the world (Attridge 2009: 117–​19). Yet while the ‘Instruction’ gives evidence of a cosmic and a psychological dualism, in John the cosmic dualism is described in spatial terms (heaven and earth), internally (spirit and flesh) as well as socially between community and world in the narrative about Jesus (Bauckham 2000: 106–​13; Attridge 2009: 115–​16). Even the terminology of the light-​darkness dualism in the Qumran texts (‘sons of light’—​‘sons of deceit’, ‘Michael’—​‘Belial’, ‘spirit of truth’—​‘angel of darkness’ etc.) is different from that in the Johannine writings, where the light in Christ does not find a corresponding terminological counterpart (Bauckham 2000: 108–​14). The concept of predestination, which is combined with the idea of personal responsibility, as found in the ‘Instruction’ has also been compared to the Johannine texts, a comparison which only highlights the crucial element of faith in John and the idea of God’s will to save the whole world (Attridge 2009: 119–​21). The Johannine concept of predestination has also been compared with that in the Community Rule (1QS) within the framework of a discussion of petitionary prayer, concluding that they differ in the content of the predestination: in 1QS it is the world order, in John the individual. Any similarity in their concept of predestination results not from direct or indirect dependence but from a ‘similar social concern’, to ‘make an exclusive claim of divine origin for their respective community’ (Tukasi 2008: 135–​41, esp. 141). What is important in the parallels to the Scrolls is that they give evidence of the possibility of dualistic language to distinguish between the righteous and the wicked within the Jewish people. This challenges the argument that their sectarian origin provides the basis for an underlying ‘opposition between Jew and Gentile’ for the Johannine writings (against Ashton 1991/​2007: 409–​10). To the contrary: the conflict expressed in the Gospel of John and the Qumran texts is between different ideas about what it is to be Jewish. A sociological study of the two groups demonstrates that the Johannine community did not separate itself from the outside society to the extent that the yaḥad did, so the term ‘sect’ is not appropriate (Claussen 2010: 439​–​40).7 The sectarian question has also been debated in terms of the importance of the Temple in Qumran and in John. Qumran’s spiritualising attitude to the Temple (as in the Temple Scroll, Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, 4QTLevi) has been compared to the stance exhibited in John’s Gospel, in which Jesus represents God’s presence on earth, and to

6  7 

See Chapter 17, Jörg Frey, ‘Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John’. See Chapter 15, Philip F. Esler, ‘Social-​Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John’.

The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature    163 texts such as John 4:24, in which worship has to occur ‘in spirit and in truth’ (Pilgaard 1999:  133–​42).8 Both communities, it has been proposed, have had to adjust to life without access to the Temple, the expected place of worship of God (Cirafesi 2013: 315–​ 39). However, although John, the yaḥad, and the Diaspora Jews faced similar issues, they address the problem differently (Fuglseth 2005: 117–​284). Nonetheless, a study of the social relationships, particularly regarding non-​members, in the three corpora demonstrates the cultic dimension of the Johannine literature (Fuglseth 2005:  285–​374). The Johannine texts do not exhibit an attitude of rejection of the actual Temple as in Qumran, but neither one of acceptance as found in Philo; based on its new revelation, the Johannine texts do not exhibit antagonism to their Jewish background, a conclusion that is not limited to the theme of the Temple alone (Fuglseth 2005: 1–​30). Likewise, a consideration of covenant in Qumran and other Jewish texts can demonstrate the way in which the Johannine Christians understood their place within the covenant without rejection of the concept (Olsson 2012: 173–​203). In the face of increasing doubt about the persuasiveness of theories about the Johannine community, as well as the Qumran texts, scholarly attention turned away from the communities themselves and towards the texts which shaped them (Attridge 2009:  110–​11). In this context the Qumran texts have also provided useful information about forms and genres. Thus, the hymns in Qumran have led scholars to return to an identification of the Prologue as a ‘teaching hymn’ (Gordeley 2009: 781–​802). An example of insights by exclusion is a comparison of John’s biblical exegesis to that of the pesharim from Qumran. Here the conclusion is, that even John 6:31–​58, one of the passages most resembling the pesher method, cannot be classified as a pesher (Witmer 2006: 328). It remains the case that even without the assumption of a direct link between the Qumran texts and the Johannine literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls provide valuable background material on the range of motifs possible in the Jewish tradition in the first century ce, which shaped the Johannine texts.

Johannine Literature and Palestinian Jewish Literature In 1979 Louis Martyn proposed that the Johannine passages alluding to an expulsion from the synagogue (John 9:22) refer to rabbinic references to the introduction of the Birkat ha-​Minim into the Eighteen Benedictions understood as a curse directed at Christians (Martyn 2003). More recent scholarship on the Birkat ha-​Minim has questioned the evidence for Martyn’s theory, and consequently this attempt to link rabbinic


See Chapter 23, Bruce G. Schuchard, ‘Temple, Festivals, and Scripture in the Gospel of John’.

164   Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer sources with John has been widely contested.9 A more productive link with such sources consists in studying similarities of themes in certain rabbinic interpretations. In his 2003 commentary C. S. Keener indicates a continuity between Johannine and rabbinic themes, possibly drawing on common sources (Keener 2003). There have also been comparisons to Rabbinic literature in terms of customs described: for example, the marriages of the Samaritan woman in John 4:16–18 have been compared to the Levirate marriage in m.Yebamoth as well as in Tobit (Kellermann 2015). In particular, scholars have appealed to the Targumim for insights:  Peder Borgen noted the ‘targumic character of the Prologue of John’, especially the reading of Gen. 1 as relating to the time before the creation and the exposition on the themes of creative word, the light, and life Gen. 1:1–​5 in John 1:1–​18 (Borgen 1970: 188–​95), although these also can be found also in the Wisdom traditions and Philo. Others have drawn attention to further parallel readings to other Johannine motifs from early Palestinian Targumim (McNamara 2011: 480–​591). Thus the Jacob tradition in John 1:51 can be explained in the light of the Targumim (Rowland 1984: 498–​507), just as the preparation of the resting place for the faithful in John 14:2–​3 can be compared to the rendition of Deut. 1:33 and Num. 10:33 in Tg.Onqelos, Tg.Neofiti, Tg.Pseudo-​Jonathan, and the Peshitta (McNamara 2011: 446–​7), or the concept of Christ’s exaltation in John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32–​34 as a play on the verb ‘taken up’ of Num. 11:26 and 21:1 in Tg.Neofiti (McNamara 2011: 455–​6). It is possible that the Johannine concept of the ‘hour’ (John 2:4; 12:23, 27–28; 13:1; 12:27; 19:27) may be related to the concept of the ‘hour of distress’ as one of (life-​threatening) crisis found in the Palestinian Targumim (Tg.Ps-​Jonathan Gen. 22:14), especially in Tg.Neofiti Gen. 38:25; 22:10; 35:3; Lev. 22:27; Deut. 20:19; 32:15 (McNamara 2011: 509–​12). A study of the Targum of Isaiah exhibits parallels not only to the Gospel but also to the Johannine Letters, e.g. 1 John 2:12–​14 to Tg. Isa. 43:10, 25; 44:6; 48:6, John 6:16–​21 to Tg.Isa. 34:1–​10, and John 1:1–​3 to Tg. Isa. 44:24; 45:12; 48:13 (Ronning 2007: 247–​62, 269–​78). It may be objected that John is neither a Targum, nor a midrash, nor is it a pesher. Nevertheless, the fact that John uses exegetical motifs which can also be found in the Targumim shows that he is familiar with a range of Jewish exegetical traditions.

Exegetical Literature Much of the Second Temple Literature is exegetical in nature, whether it is of Diaspora or Palestinian origin, Apocalyptic or Wisdom literature. A detailed study of the Old Testament quotations in John shows that they not only reflect the biblical text itself but also Second Temple Jewish exegesis (Reim 1995: 1–​205). The biblical creation narrative in particular sparked a wealth of exegetical traditions. A comprehensive study of the Johannine Prologue in the context of early Jewish creation accounts demonstrates that they share an interest not only in God as creator, but also in


See Chapter 5, de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’.

The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature    165 his sovereignty and in the human position within the context of his creation. Frequently the creative word becomes important. Thus, the Prologue of John stands in line with Jewish approaches to creation, and these themes continue throughout the Gospel (Endo 2002: 259–​63). The exegetical interest also focussed on such features as the primordial light (4 Ezra 6:40; Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (L.A.B.) 28:8–​9; 60:2; Aristobulus in Eusebius’s Prep. ev. XIII.12.9–​11; Philo Creation 29–​35), even combined with life and truth (Joseph and Aseneth 8:9), or the use of Isa. 51:4 to refer to a person (Samuel) as ‘light to the peoples’ (‘Instruction on the Two Spirits’), so that the Johannine Prologue stands in a wide tradition of texts in dialogue with Gen. 1 and 2 (Borgen 1987: 75–​101; Bauckham 2000: 111–​12). In particular, a close comparison of Philo’s interpretation with the Prologue of John shows that there seems to have been a well-​developed Platonizing exegetical tradition on Gen. 1:1–​5 which read God’s creative word as the Logos and applied Gen. 1 to the time before the material creation, and which John 1:1–​5 is based on (Tobin 1990: 252–​69; Leonhardt-​Balzer 2004: 295–​319; Sterling 2005: 120–​3, 130–​40). These ideas have spread in a range of Jewish traditions. The invisible world as a model of the visible world occurs in such diverse texts as 2 Enoch 24:2–​26:3 and Gen.Rab. 1.1 (Sterling 2005: 135–​7). A comparative look at Jewish exegetical traditions on Gen 1:1 also demonstrates that the creation and the wisdom connections can include a reference to the Torah and its role in creation (Reed 2001: 720–​1), although it is overstating the evidence to claim that the Johannine Logos must be identified with the Torah. Yet the concept of the Torah as light, based on biblical texts such as Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23 and Isa. 2:3, 5; 51:4, is also prominent in L.A.B. 11:1; 19:4; 33:3; 4 Ezra 14:20-​21; 2 Baruch 17:4; 18:2; 59:2), also specifically as the light for the world (Wisd. 18:4; L.A.B. 11:1), and all these terms are similar to John (Bauckham 2000: 112–​13). There are further details which demonstrate that the Gospel is aware of a Second Temple Jewish interpretation of Abraham’s incredulity in Gen. 17:17 and 18:12–​15 as joy, current not only in the Hellenistic Diaspora, but also in a range of Jewish texts (Philo Names 154, also Jub. 15:17, Tg.Onkelos Gen. 17:17, see Frey 2011: 117). Likewise, the biblical motif of good and bad shepherds (e.g. Zech. 10:2), found in John 10, has also been taken up in the visions of Enoch (1 Enoch 83–​90). Similarly, the reference to the raising of the serpent in John 3:14–​15 not only constitutes a reference to Numbers 21:4–​9 but also to its Jewish reception history of a Mosaic serpent as opposed to the paradise serpent in Wisd. 16:5–​14, Philo Alleg.Interp. III.71–​105 and even in rabbinic texts, e.g. m.Rosh Hashanah 3.8 a,b (Frey 2013: 89–​145). Thus, the Johannine texts exhibit links to a wide range of exegetical approaches without identifying exclusively with one.

Conclusion The parallels to a range of motifs from different backgrounds demonstrates that the Johannine literature cannot be associated with a single Jewish tradition, but that it is aware of a wide range of Jewish texts and motifs. It is deeply immersed in the Jewish

166   Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer thought and particularly Jewish exegesis of its time, even if it denies the access to salvation through ‘Moses’ and develops the Jewish traditions into a very specific, exclusive, Christological spin (Frey 2011:  119). The tradition historical background of the Johannine literature is complex and cannot serve any other purpose but to highlight the specifically Johannine perspective on the traditions and motifs of the time (Frey 2013: 72–​8). Thus this survey of research on the Johannine literature compared with the Jewish literature of its time has produced two results. One, for the Johannine texts, that they are very familiar with the Jewish literary traditions of their time. If, as is often argued, the community did migrate from Palestine along the coast to Ephesus or some other Diaspora city, the texts bear out this varied interaction with a wide range of traditions. Even without a direct link to any specific texts, a comparison with the Jewish literature of their time can help to hone the reader’s understanding of the specifically Johannine view of texts and concerns common in the first century ce. The second conclusion relates to Jewish Second Temple literature: if it was possible for the Johannine authors to take up so many different traditions, then Jewish life in the Second Temple cannot have been as separated into mutually exclusive groups as some scholars seem to think. Both results consolidate the conclusion that Johannine texts, notwithstanding their specific perspective, are not out of place in the Jewish literature of their time.

Suggested Reading There is no comprehensive study on the Johannine texts in the context of the full range of ancient Jewish literature, but there is a wealth of fine studies on individual traditions. Thus Tobin (1990) and Attridge (2005) shed light on the Prologue of John against Wisdom and Hellenistic Jewish literature, especially Philo. In this context, Borgen’s work (1965, 1987) is still a classic position. A broad overview on the different uses of Apocalyptic traditions in the Johannine texts can be found in the book edited by Williams and Rowland (2013). For an enthusiastic argument for Johannine roots in the Essene context, see Charlesworth (1969, 1991). Attridge (2009) provides a more level headed and recent overview on research on John and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Likewise, Frey (2009) studies the Dead Sea Scrolls critically in their role as background to Johannnine dualism. An overview on parallels between the Targumim and John can be found in McNamara (2011).

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168   Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer Culpepper, Alan, 1981. ‘The Pivot of John’s Prologue’, NTS 27: 1–​31. Endo, Masanobu, 2002. Creation and Christology. A Study on the Johannine Prologue in the Light of Early Jewish Creation Accounts. WUNT 2/​149; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Fitzmyer, Joseph A., 2005. ‘Qumran Literature and the Johannine Writings’, in J. R. Donahue (ed.), Life in Abundance. Studies of John’s Gospel in Tribute to Raymond E.  Brown, S.S. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press: 117–​33. Frey, Jörg, 2009. ‘Recent Perspectives on Johannine Dualism and Its Background’, in R. A. Clements and D. R. Schwartz (eds.), Text, Thought, and Practice in Qumran and Early Christianity. Proceedings of the Ninth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature. Jointly Sponsored by the Hebrew University Center for the Study of Christianity, 11–​13 January, 2004. Leiden: Brill, 2009: 127–​57. Frey, Jörg, 2011. ‘Das Johannesevangelium und seine Gemeinden im Kontext der jüdischen Diaspora Kleinasiens’, in R. Deines (ed.), Neues Testament und hellenistisch-​ jüdische Alltagskultur. Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen. III. Internationales Symposium zum Corpus Judaeo-​Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti 21–​24. Mai 2009. WUNT 274; Tübingen:  Mohr Siebeck: 99–​132. Frey, Jörg, 2013. Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten. Studien zu den johanneischen Schriften I. Herausgegeben von J. Schlegel. WUNT 307; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Fuglseth, Kåre Sigvald, 2005. Johannine Sectarianism in Perspective. A Sociological, Historical, and Comparative analysis of Temple and Social Relationships in the Gospel of John, Philo and Qumran. NovTSup 119; Leiden: Brill. Gordley, Matthew, 2009. ‘The Johannine Prologue and Jewish Didactic Hymn Traditions. A New Case for Reading the Prologue as a Hymn’, JBL 128: 781–​802. Harrington, Daniel J., 2005. ‘Response to Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S. J. “Qumran Literature and the Johannine Writings” ’, in J. R. Donahue (ed.), Life in Abundance. Studies of John’s Gospel in Tribute to Raymond E. Brown, S.S. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press: 134–​7. Jaubert, A., 1991. ‘The Calendar of Qumran and the Passion Narrative in John’, in J. H. Charlesworth (ed.), John and the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Crossroad: 62–​75. Keener, Craig S., 2003. The Gospel of John. A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. Kellermann, Ulrich, 2015. Eheschließungen im frühen Judentum. Studien zur Rezeption der Leviratstora, zu den Eheschließungsritualen im Tobitbuch und den Ehen der Samaritanerin in Johannes 4. Berlin: de Gruyter. Kooten, George H.  van, 2005. ‘The “True Light Which Enlightens Everyone” (John 1:9): John, Genesis, the Platonic Notion of the “True, Noetic Light”, and the Allegory of the Cave in Plato’s Republic’, in George H. van Kooten (ed.), Creation of Heaven and Earth. Re-​ Interpretation of Genesis 1 in the Context of Judaism, Ancient Philosophy, Christianity, and Modern Physics. Leiden: Brill: 149–​94. Kuhn, K. G., 1950, ‘Die in Palästina gefundenen hebräischen Texte und das Neue Testament’, ZTK 47: 192–​211. Leaney, A. R. C., 1991. ‘The Johannine Paraclete and the Qumran Scrolls’, in J. H. Charlesworth (ed.), John and the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Crossroad: 38–​61. Leonhardt-​Balzer, Jutta, 2004. ‘Der Logos und die Schöpfung. Streiflichter bei Philo (Op. 20–​ 5) und im Johannesprolog (Joh 1:1–​18)’, in Jörg Frey & Udo Schnelle (eds.), Kontexte des Johannesevangeliums. Das vierte Evangelium in religions-​und traditionsgeschichtlicher Perspektive; WUNT 175; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 295–​319. Lieu, Judith M., 1994. ‘Biblical Theology and the Johannine Literature’, in S. Pedersen (ed.), New Directions in Biblical Theology. Papers of the Aarhus Conference, 16–​19 September 1992. Leiden: Brill: 93–​107.

The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature    169 Manning, Gary T. M., 2004. Echoes of a Prophet. The Use of Ezekiel in the Gospel of John and in Literature of the Second Temple Period. JSNTSup 270; London and New York: T.&T. Clark International. Martyn, J. Louis, 2003. History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. 3rd edition. Louisville KY: Westminster John Knox Press. Mburu, Elizabeth W., 2010. Qumran and the Origins of Johannine Language and Symbolism. New York: T.&T. Clark. McNamara, Martin, 2011. Targum and New Testament. Collected Essays. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Oberforcher, Robert, 2003. ‘Biblische Lesarten zur Anthropologie des Ebenbildmotiv’, in A. Vonach, G. Fischer (eds.), Horizonte biblischer Texte. Festschrift für Josef M.  Oesch zum 60. Geburtstag. OBO 196; Fribourg:  Academic Press; Göttingen:  Vandenhoek & Ruprecht: 131–​68. Olsson, Birger, 2012. ‘Johannine Christians—​Members of a Renewed Covenant? Jewish/​ Christian Identity According to the Johannine Letters’, in M. Zetterholm, and S. Byrskog (eds.), Conflicts, Contacts, and Constructions: Essays in Honor of Bengt Holmberg. ConBNT 47; Winona Lake Ind: Eisenbrauns: 173–​203. Painter, John, 2005. ‘Monotheism and Dualism’, in G. van Belle, J. G. van der Watt, and P. Maritz (eds.), Theology and Christology in the Fourth Gospel. Essays by the Members of the SNTS Johannine Writings Seminar. BETL 184; Leuven: Leuven University Press: 225–​43. Painter, John, 2010. ‘Johannine Literature: The Gospel and Letters of John’, in D. E. Aune (ed.), 2010,The Blackwell Companion to the New Testament. Malden, MA, Oxford:  Blackwell Publishing: 344–​72. Pilgaard, Aage, 1999. ‘The Qumran Scrolls and John’s Gospel’, in J. Nissen, S. Pedersen (eds.), New Readings in John. Literary and Theological Perspectives. Essays from the Scandinavian Conference on the Fourth Gospel, Århus 1997. JSNTSS 182; Sheffield:  Sheffield Academic Press: 126–​42. Price, James L., 1991. ‘Light from Qumran upon Some Aspects of Johannine Theology’, in J. H. Charlesworth (ed.), John and the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Crossroad: 9–​37. Quispel, Gilles, 1991. ‘Qumran, John and Jewish Christianity’, in J. H. Charlesworth (ed.), John and the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Crossroad: 137–​55. Rabens, Volker, 2012. ‘Johannine Perspective on Ethical Enabling in the Context of Stoic and Philonic Ethics’, in J. G. van der Watt, and R. Zimmermann (eds.), Rethinking the Ethics of John. ‘Implicit Ethics’ in the Johannine Writings. Kontexte und Normen neutestamentlicher Ethik /​Contexts and Norms of New Testament Ethics. Volume III. WUNT 291; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 114–​39. Reed, David A., 2001. ‘How Semitic was John? Rethinking the Hellenistic Background to John 1:1’. AThR 85: 709–​26. Reim, Günter, 1995. Jochanan. Erweiterte Studien zum alttestamentlichen Hintergrund des Johannesevangeliums. Erlangen: Verlag der Ev.-​Luth. Mission. Robinson, John A. T., 1962. Twelve New Testament Studies. London: SCM. Ronning, John L., 2007. ‘The Targum of Isaiah and the Johannine Literature’. Westminster Theological Journal 69: 247–​78. Rowland, Christopher, 1984. ‘John 1.51, Jewish Apocalyptic and Targumic Tradition’. NTS 30: 498–​507. Sandelin, Karl-​Gustav, 1987. ‘The Johannine writings within the setting of their cultural history’, in L. Hartman, and B. Olsson (eds.), Aspects on the Johannine Literature. Papers presented at a conference of Scandinavian New Testament exegetes at Uppsala, June 16–​19, 1986. ConBNT 18; Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International: 9–​26.

170   Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer Scott, Martin, 1992. Sophia and the Johannine Jesus. Sheffield: JSOT. Shafaat, A., 1981. ‘Geber of the Qumran Scrolls and the Spirit-​Paraclete of the Gospel of John’. NTS 17: 263–​9. Sterling, Gregory, 2005. ‘ “Day One”. Platonizing Exegetical Traditions of Genesis 1:1–​5 in John and Jewish Authors’. Studia Philonica Annual 17: 118–​40. Teeple, Howard M., 1960. ‘Qumran and the Origin of the Fourth Gospel’. NovT 4: 8–​68. Tobin, Thomas H., 1990. ‘The Prologue of John and Hellenistic Jewish Speculation’. CBQ 52: 252–​69. Tukasi, Emmanuel O., 2008. Determinism and Petitionary Prayer in John and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Ideological Reading of John and the Rule of the Community (1QS) LSTS 66; London: T.&T Clark International. Wahlde, Urban C. von, 2015. Gnosticism, Docetism, and the Judaisms of the First Century. The Search for the Wider Context of the Johannine Literature and Why It Matters. LNTS 517; London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark. Williams, Catrin H. and Rowland, C. (eds.), 2013. John’s Gospel and Intimations of Apocalyptic. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark. Witmer, Stephen, 2006. ‘Approaches to Scripture in the Fourth Gospel and the Qumran Pesharim’. NovT 48: 313–​28. Zumstein, Jean, 2004. ‘Die Schriftrezeption in der Brotrede’, in Jean Zumstein, Kreative Erinnerung. Relecture und Auslegung im Johannesevangelium. 2nd rev. edition. Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich: 127–​45.

Chapter 11

The Johanni ne Literature a nd t h e Gnost i c s Alastair H. B. Logan

The Definition Of ‘Gnosis’, ‘Gnostic’, and ‘Gnosticism’ The relationship between the Johannine literature (Gospel and Letters) and so-​called ‘Gnosticism’ and ‘the Gnostics’ has long been and remains a very contentious issue. In the earliest surviving Christian polemic against ‘falsely so-​called gnōsis’ (1 Tim. 6:20) and ‘Gnostics’, the five books ‘On the Detection and Overthrow of what is falsely called Gnosis (Adversus haereses)’ by Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, written in the 180s, he summarizes the views of followers of the gnostic Valentinus including their claim to find support for their views in the Prologue of John’s Gospel (Haer. I.8.5). Later on, he claims that John had written his Gospel to refute the earlier Christian heretic, Cerinthus, from Asia Minor (Haer. III.11.1; 16.5), included in his genealogy of heretical gnosis dating back to the Simon Magus of Acts 8 (Haer. I.26.1). This latter claim, which has not been taken sufficiently seriously in the past, will form a key element of this chapter. Conversely, scholars since the 1940s (Sanders 1943) have focused on Irenaeus’ claim and evidence about the Valentinians, the primary targets of his anti-​gnostic polemic, to develop the thesis, supported by the claimed dearth of evidence for knowledge and use of John’s Gospel in the earlier second century among mainstream Christians, that the former’s usage sparked Johannophobia among the latter (Hill 2006). This claim too will be evaluated in this chapter. Just as contentious in contemporary scholarship, however, has been the question of how to define the terms ‘gnosis’, ‘Gnostic’, and ‘Gnosticism’. Whereas scholarship prior to the 1950s and 60s had been almost entirely dependent on the hostile and

172   Alastair H. B. Logan polemical picture painted by the Christian heresiologists, Irenaeus and his successors, Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–​215), Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170–​236), and Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 315–​403), the discovery in 1945 in Upper Egypt of the Nag Hammadi Library of twelve fourth-​century Coptic codices containing over fifty original treatises hitherto virtually unknown, but including evidently Valentinian works and works by the Gnostics attacked by Irenaeus, radically changed that approach.1 Early attempts were made to try to reconcile the evidence of the Christian authors with the Nag Hammadi material by focusing on the most promising and best preserved texts, and an international colloquium in Messina in 1966 attempted a definition of ‘gnosis’ and ‘Gnosticism’, considering ‘gnosis’ the more overarching concept, defined as ‘knowledge of the divine mysteries reserved for an élite’, while ‘Gnosticism’ was reserved predominantly for ‘a certain group of systems of the Second Century ce which everyone agrees are to be designated with this term’ (Bianchi 1967: xxvi–​ xxix). However, both definitions have failed to meet general acceptance: ‘gnosis’ has been considered far too vague and all-​embracing, and the full publication of the Nag Hammadi Library led to the recognition of its very varied and sometimes contradictory character, including both mythological and non-​mythological, Christian and apparently non-​Christian, but evidently Jewish-​influenced texts, making it almost impossible to characterize or define it using the term ‘Gnosticism’. Indeed, in a classic study Michael Williams (1996) demonstrated how none of the supposed characteristics of ‘Gnosticism’ (its protest or reverse exegesis of scripture, its parasitic character, its negative, anti-​cosmic attitude and hatred of the body, its libertine or ascetic ethics, its deterministic élitism) were borne out by the Nag Hammadi evidence. He suggested abandoning the category completely. More recently, Karen King (2003b) has argued that ‘Gnosticism’ was and remains an artificial reification of a rhetorical entity (heresy) developed by the early Church (orthodoxy), and that the categories and judgements developed in the orthodoxy-​heresy debate continue to be unconsciously reinscribed in and distort modern discussion of the subject; hence the notorious difficulty of trying to define it. Thus, a term invented in the early-​modern period has come to be thought of as describing a distinctive Christian heresy or even a religion in its own right. In an attempt to meet the problems of definition, some scholars had already suggested a narrower definition focusing on those who were dubbed ‘Gnostic’ by their opponents, the Christian heresiologists and the pagan Platonists, Plotinus (c. 205–​70) and his pupil, Porphyry (c. 232–​304), or who apparently used the term as a self-​designation (Layton 1995; Logan 2006; Brakke 2010). However, Roelof van den Broek (2015) has criticized this approach as suffering from the fatal weakness that none of the original texts claimed to be ‘Gnostic’ use that self-​designation. He feels that we can readily abandon the term ‘Gnosticism’, itself a seventeenth-​century polemical coinage, but that


Hence the proposals by Rudolf Bultmann for gnostic sources behind John (see Chapter 3, Michael Labahn, ‘Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John’) will not be discussed in this chapter.

The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics    173 the term ‘gnosis’ is worth retaining in its original sense of saving knowledge of the heavenly world from which the possessor descended into this world of ignorance and illusion, the creation of a lower creator or creators, and to which they will return. Such knowledge, while requiring a heavenly source, normally a revealer figure, is essentially self-​knowledge, i.e. self-​knowledge and knowledge of God are two sides of the same coin, and so ‘gnostics’ can save themselves. Van den Broek prefers to speak of ‘gnostic religion’, criticizing recent attempts to derive it exclusively from Christianity, and seeks to set it in a wider history-​of-​religions rather than a narrower Church-​historical or theological context. What is striking is that following that approach takes us back to Irenaeus’ original position, combatting ‘falsely so-​called gnosis’, while also allowing us to include texts which do not seem to fit the common criterion for classifying texts as ‘Gnostic’. This involved the use of a form or forms of what Layton (1987) called ‘the classic myth’, that found in Irenaeus’ account of the views of ‘the Gnostics’ in Against Heresies I.29–​30, four versions of the Apocryphon of John, and related texts in the Nag Hammadi (NHC), Berlin (BG) and Tchacos (CT) codices. Thus, whatever texts echo the understanding of gnosis outlined by van den Broek, as knowledge revealed from heaven of one’s divine origin and ultimate destiny while trapped in this world and the material body, the work of a lower ignorant creator or creators, resulting in a return to the heavenly, spiritual world in principle now and certainly after death, knowledge reserved for a chosen few, can qualify. This does mean that texts which do not contain or allude to gnostic mythology, such as the renowned Gospel of Thomas, whose lack of such mythology has led some scholars to deny it is gnostic, can yet be included in our discussion. Now although this means that we can consider, in our discussion of Johannine literature and the Gnostics, texts which reflect this gnosis but are really only attested in Hippolytus’ Refutation of all heresies, such as those of the Naassenes and Peratae (Ref. V.6–​17.13), we are justified in focusing on texts emanating from groups which are multiply attested over a long period, which did claim to be Christian, and which posed the greatest challenge to the mainstream Christianity of the Great Church, primarily the Gnostics identified and combatted by the heresiologists and pagans, and the Valentinians. Here van den Broek’s definition of gnosis neatly overcomes the problem that, while the Valentinians have evidently been influenced by the Gnostics, as Irenaeus claims (Haer. I.11.1), the doctrinal differences between the two groups mean that the former cannot really properly be classified as Gnostics in the strict sense, as is often done, if implicitly. These two groups, widely dispersed geographically and lasting centuries (Layton 1987: 10–​11), supply most of the texts relevant to our theme. In response to Williams’s criticism of attempts to define ‘Gnosticism’ and appeal to the wide variety of sometimes conflicting views in the Nag Hammadi texts, I have argued (2006) that the Library is a collection of smaller libraries brought together by a community of Gnostics in Upper Egypt, containing both their texts and writings of other provenance, including pagan and Hermetic, considered congenial to them as dealing with the origin and fate of the soul and reflecting a strong ascetic bent. The same would appear to be true of the Berlin and Tchacos codices.

174   Alastair H. B. Logan

The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics Cerinthus What then of the present topic, the Johannine literature and the Gnostics? As regards the first, the traditional approach was to date the Gospel to the last decade of the first century, and the Letters to the early second century, although the reverse has recently been argued, with good reason, as shall be seen. As regards the hotly disputed question of authorship, this chapter is inclined to follow Martin Hengel (1989), at least as far as arguing that the same author wrote all four and that he was based in Ephesus. Although Hengel’s claim that both John the apostle and John the elder were conflated in the figure of ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, a member of the Jerusalem priestly aristocracy, and follower of John the Baptist, who was attracted to Jesus and survived on into old age in Ephesus, and who wrote the Letters and then the Gospel, has been generally rejected (Dunderberg 2015: 194), yet his appeal to the early evidence is vital and not to be downplayed.2 Here Irenaeus, who came from Smyrna, and knew the early Johannine traditions as passed on by Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was martyred most likely in 155–​56, is a key figure. Thus, in Book Three he claims that the elder John, whom he identifies, mistakenly, it would seem, with the apostle, wrote his Gospel (and by implication First Letter) to refute Cerinthus, as already noted. In his genealogy of gnosis in Book One, he had briefly described Cerinthus’ teaching as both distinguishing the supreme transcendent first God from the lower separate and remote creator of this world, who is ignorant of the supreme God, and distinguishing between the human Jesus—​not born of a virgin, which seemed to him impossible, but the son of Joseph and Mary, just like all the rest of humanity, but far superior in justice, prudence, and wisdom—​and the heavenly divine Christ, Son of the supreme Father. He descended on Jesus at his baptism in the form of a dove, proclaimed the unknown Father and accomplished miracles, but separated from him at the end. Jesus suffered on the cross and was raised again, while Christ remained impassible, since he was a purely spiritual being (Haer. I.26.1). What seems to underlie Cerinthus’ distinction between the heavenly, spiritual, impassible Christ, Son of the unknown, transcendent Father, and the human Jesus, who died on the cross, is a Platonic, dualist view contrasting spirit, which is divine and cannot suffer, and flesh, which can. His view that Christ proclaimed the unknown Father implies he did so to the elect, who thereby had the saving knowledge, and were spiritual, like him. Thus, they were able to free themselves from the tyranny of their subordinate, ignorant creator, maker of this world, i.e. to save themselves. However, his


See also Chapter 6, Tom Thatcher, ‘The Beloved Disciple, the Fourth Evangelist, and the Authorship of the Fourth Gospel’.

The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics    175 evidently Christian background and motivation is revealed by his high valuation both of Christ and of Jesus, who is far superior to all others in justice, prudence, and wisdom, and thus is raised from the dead, and by his evident knowledge and use, most likely, of the Matthaean account of Jesus’ virgin birth and baptism. Now this picture fits in very well, on the one hand, with van den Broek’s definition of gnosis, but more importantly, on the other, finds striking points of contact, as Hengel has persuasively demonstrated, with the views of the opponents in the Johannine Letters, particularly the first. All three Letters, as he has pointed out, have a very characteristic emphasis on the truth, and are evidently directed against false teachers, who, as the author of the First Letter claims, ‘have gone out from among us although they were not of us’ (2:19). These former pupils seem to have claimed that they were continuing the revelation through the Paraclete Spirit, as is hinted at in 4:1–​3, with its summons to test the spirits and its description of the false teachers as ‘pseudo-​prophets’. But, as Hengel notes (1989: 41), although a whole variety of modes of conduct such as the claim to sinlessness, hatred, and social irresponsibility are listed, the real problem is Christology. This is summed up in 2 John 7: the deceivers do not confess ‘the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh’. They appear to appeal to the Paraclete ‘who will lead you into all truth’ (John 16:13), deriving from him the right to ‘go ahead’ beyond the elder’s teaching, thereby failing to abide in the ‘teaching of Christ’. Such people separate themselves from God himself, i.e. from ‘the Father and the Son’ (2 John 9). Thus, for the elder, in the face of ‘deceivers’ and ‘antichrist’, the saving truth of belief in Christ and its goal, eternal life, are at risk. Conversely the Johannine disciples have received the Spirit as the gift of an ‘anointing (chrisma) of the Holy One’, who is in unity with the Father and thus has the correct knowledge. In consequence, the Johannine Community too has this saving knowledge, which they have had from the beginning. Finally, rather than self-​salvation through this knowledge, the author insists on salvation only through Jesus Christ. The author of the First Letter, despite a certain vagueness characteristic of such anti-​ heretical polemic, does give a more detailed account of his opponents’ views in 2:18–​23 and 4:1–​3. In the former, whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ is a liar and the antichrist, denying Father and Son. The latter insists that every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which dissolves Jesus is not of God.3 There is further insistence on the key point that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (4:15; 5:1; 5:5). Now this, as Hengel argues, is exactly the opposite of what Cerinthus taught. He separated the man Jesus from the heavenly Christ precisely because for him the created visible world and its lower, separate, and ignorant creator and the supreme first God were radically distinct. Thus, human beings and God must remain separated. Christologically this means that Jesus was not the Christ or Son of God, and that the ‘incarnation’ of the pre-​existent Son of God in the man Jesus was merely apparent. I think that, despite various counter arguments (e.g. Lieu 1991: 16, 22, 51), Hengel has persuasively demonstrated that, despite the elder’s general language, he was combatting


On the text see Chapter 2, H. A. G. Houghton, ‘The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John’.

176   Alastair H. B. Logan Cerinthus. His focus on ‘the truth’, on the unity of Jesus and the Son, Christ, on Jesus Christ as ‘the righteous one’, on remaining true to the traditional teaching of the Spirit Paraclete about Christ, on the need for love of the brethren, not hatred or exclusiveness, rejecting ‘the world’ and its teaching, all confirm that. Here Hengel rightly suggests that Cerinthus had a background in popular Platonic philosophy, which saw a fundamental difference between the demiurge of the visible world and the supreme transcendent God. He was thus led to deny that the heavenly, spiritual Christ could really unite himself with a corporeal human being, only entering him at baptism like an inspiring spirit and leaving him before his suffering. However, I am not convinced by Hengel’s claim that Cerinthus was a Judaeo-​Christian teacher from outside. His teaching betrays no particularly Jewish traits and seems entirely compatible with the Gentile Christian background of the Johannine Community. What is more, Polycarp’s anecdote quoted by Irenaeus about his meeting Cerinthus in a bathhouse in Ephesus and calling on everyone to flee now that the enemy of the truth (sic!) was inside (Haer. III.3.4), seems more explicable if Cerinthus had been a Gentile Christian member of the Johannine Community who took his teacher’s ideas further, under the influence of Platonic popular philosophy and Paul’s ideas about the freedom of the Spirit and his spirit-​flesh dualism, and was led to break away, taking some of John’s pupils with him. No wonder John was so hostile. Hengel has also made out a very persuasive case for the hypothesis that the Letters predate the Gospel, rather than vice versa, the more traditional view. He notes the lack of any clear references to the Gospel in them, rejects the postulation of a preliminary form of it known even to the false teachers, and the claim that the Prologue is already cited in 1 John 1:1–​3. Rather, he argues that key features of the Gospel such as its concern with protology and its high, anti-​docetic Christology, summed up in the Prologue and the first conclusion: ‘these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’ (20:31), reflect a further, more developed and nuanced response to the severe threat posed by Cerinthus and his teaching, which concentrated precisely on protology and Christology. Hengel’s arguments thus very much support Irenaeus’ original claim, previously noted, that John’s Gospel was written precisely to refute Cerinthus. Strikingly, Hengel has also suggested that Cerinthus was influenced by Mark’s Gospel, lacking the virgin birth and claimed by Irenaeus to have been the preferred Gospel of those separating Jesus from the Christ and contending that Christ remained free from suffering but Jesus suffered (Haer. III.11.7). Intriguingly Hengel also argues that John’s Gospel was written in part to correct what the author felt was wrong with Mark and its Petrine influence. All this evidence seems to support his hypothesis that John the elder wrote the three Letters first in the late first century in Ephesus as an immediate response to the heretical Christology and soteriology of his former pupil, Cerinthus, who had recently broken away, taking some of John’s pupils with him, and forming a rival sect. However, since this proved unsuccessful, John was driven around the beginning of the second century to collect material he had put together over a long period and present it as a Gospel meant to refute Cerinthus and also correct the errors he found in Mark’s. The device of the beloved disciple who is implicitly identified with John the apostle (and

The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics    177 John the elder) was a further way of guaranteeing the truth of his message (Dunderberg 2015: 202–​4). This scenario seems confirmed by the pseudepigraphical Epistula Apostolorum, which presents itself as a letter from the twelve apostles given to them by Christ after his resurrection and before the ascension. It is written in the form, familiar from Gnostic texts such as the Apocryphon of John, of a revelation discourse of the risen Christ, but this appears to have been deliberately chosen as a means of attacking them and rejecting their docetic Christology. Indeed, it opens with an attack on Cerinthus and Simon Magus as dangerous heretical opponents and appeals to John’s Gospel as its predominant authority, particularly citing the Prologue (Hill 2006: 36–​9). Intriguingly it places John the son of Zebedee at the head of its list of the apostles in Chapter 1, and John seems the author’s favourite Gospel, while he also seems to allude to the Letters, particularly the first. As regards its date and location, the evidence seems to point to the 140s and Egypt. This early evidence from Polycarp, Irenaeus, and the Epistula confirms both the essentially anti-​gnostic character of the Johannine literature and the knowledge, acceptability, and popularity of John’s Gospel from the 140s on, and thus undermines the claim of Johannophobia among the Christians of the Great Church.

Later Groups and Texts If we now consider in roughly chronological order the other targets of Irenaeus’ attack on false gnosis in his heresiological catalogue in Book One, such as the Samaritans, Simon and Menander, Saturninus of Antioch, Cerdo, and Carpocrates, none seem to betray any awareness of John’s Gospel, although the situation may be different with Basilides of Alexandria, who is recorded as teaching in Egypt in the reigns of Hadrian (117–​38) or Antoninus Pius (138–​60). However, the two claimed citations (John 1:9, in ‘the Gospels’, and 2:4) only occur in Hippolytus’ account, which differs so much from Irenaeus’ that scholars tend to attribute it to disciples of his, and there are several more quotations of Paul, and as many of the synoptics, suggesting John was not more favoured. Neither Gnostic group whose views Irenaeus summarizes in Haer. I.29–​30, the ‘Barbelo’ Gnostics and ‘Ophite’ Gnostics, seems to allude to or show any influence from John, although the latter clearly know the Synoptics (Haer. I.30.11–​13). However, it would seem that the former did at some point after the 180s appropriate the figure of John, son of Zebedee, apostle and author of the Fourth Gospel, as key protagonist of the classic account of their myth, the Apocryphon of John. Irenaeus’ account of the first half in Haer. I.29, as yet betrays no knowledge of such a feature, which is characteristic of gnostic as well as mainstream texts of the period. Just such a pseudepigraphical text of the kind attacked by the Epistula Apostolorum, and perhaps dating to around the middle of the second century, is the Apocryphon of James (NHC I, 2) (Hill 2006: 250–​8). It purports to be a letter from James (either the Lord’s brother or the apostle) to a disciple, recording an encounter between Jesus and his twelve disciples 550 days after his resurrection. James and Peter are selected by the

178   Alastair H. B. Logan Saviour to be ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit and to receive new revelation consisting of parables, woes, and discourses, some of which have parallels with canonical gospel materials. At the end of this revelation Jesus ascends to the Father and the two follow him to the third heaven but are prevented from seeing God because the other disciples call them back. James and Peter relate part of their encounter to the other disciples, who are sent away by Jesus, who then departs for Jerusalem. The work’s date and provenance are debated, with dates ranging from the beginning of the second to the beginning of the third century, and proposed location ranging from Asia Minor to Syria and Egypt, while coincidences with the Epistula Apostolorum have been noted. Despite scholarly dispute about the issue, a good case has been made (Perkins 1982) for seeing the text as presupposing the four Gospels, with a particularly good knowledge of John’s Gospel and the First Letter. However, Hill seems justified in seeing the text as critical towards and seeking to supersede the Johannine material, insisting on self-​salvation, rejecting those who have known only the human Jesus with their earthly senses, privileging James and Peter and deliberately omitting John. Dating to perhaps the same period is the Second Apocalypse of James (NHC V, 4), in which the Lord in dialogue with his brother, James of Jerusalem, predicts the future and reassures James about what will happen to him, with James presented as a kind of gnostic revealer/​redeemer. There are only traces of mythology, with God contrasted with an arrogant boasting demiurge, but almost no New Testament allusions, facts which seem to point to an early date. As regards awareness of John, scholars have pointed to the use of an ‘I AM Christology’ (Brown 1979), and we do find a stream of ‘I ams’, as well as an echo of John 1:4. But the evident disparagement of the creator suggests that, if there is awareness of John’s Gospel, it again is subject to criticism. This is even clearer in the Acts of John, a work not found at Nag Hammadi, which portrays at length John the son of Zebedee’s ministry in and around Ephesus. It is a composite document in three parts, according to recent scholarship (Lalleman 1998), with the third part (section C: 94–​102, 109) characterized as ‘gnostic’. Like so many gnostic works it is hard to date but, based on similarities with the Apocryphon of James and Epistula Apostolorum, Hill would date the composite work just before or after 150. The work may derive from Asia Minor, Syria, or Egypt. It clearly knows John’s Gospel, even assuming the attribution to John, son of Zebedee. In section C: 97–​102 the author clearly opposes John’s account of the crucifixion. He has Christ, the descended Saviour, reveal to John, who had fled from the crucifixion scene to the Mount of Olives, that he was not the person crucified on the cross, and at the conclusion has John laughing at the people round the cross. Section C clearly represents a critical revision of and attempt to supersede the Fourth Gospel. However, not all gnostic works share this negative, supersessionary approach to the Gospel. Two apparently related groups whose views are summarized by Hippolytus, the Naassenes (Ref. V.6.3–​11.1) and Peratae (Ref. V.12.1–​17.3), seem to quote John in a positive way as an authority (Hill 2006: 232–​5). The Naassenes, who called themselves ‘Gnostics’, venerated the serpent, and claimed as their authority James, the Lord’s brother, seem related to Irenaeus’ ‘Ophites’, focusing like them on the heavenly Man, Adamas, and perhaps originated in Syria. The ‘Naassene Sermon’, a lengthy interpretation of the origin

The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics    179 of Adamas based on the Attis hymn, quotes or alludes to John some fourteen times, at times as ‘scripture’, but makes slightly more use of the Synoptics, particularly Matthew, and quotes Paul ‘the apostle’ even more. Thus, it cannot be cited as having a predilection for John. Its widespread knowledge of the New Testament suggests a date towards the end of the second century. The Peratae, whom Hippolytus admits were fairly obscure, seem closely related to the Naassenes and ‘Ophites’. His account has five citations of John as ‘scripture’, including John 1:1–​4, to one of Matthew, and two of Paul. Both systems appeal to John along with a very wide-​ranging set of texts, Christian and pagan, as an established authority to support their views. We may suspect a similar appeal to the accepted authority of John and his Gospel in the Apocryphon of John, whose revised version of the earlier system outlined by Irenaeus in Haer. I.29, at least the Johannine frame story, must date from around the end of the second century. We have noted the frequency of appeal by Gnostics to James, the brother of Jesus (or apostle), as source or protagonist, and this single case of appeal to John must suggest the popularity of his Gospel at this time. However, the present myth of the texts appears to have undergone some development, as is clearly evident in the difference between Irenaeus’ account and that in the Apocryphon as regards the lower heavenly emanations, the aeons attached to the four great luminaries and their ministers, each of which is the location for, respectively, heavenly Adamas, his son, heavenly Seth, the seed of Seth, and other souls which repent eventually. Here heavenly Seth as progenitor of the spiritual race or seed seems an innovation. Irenaeus’ version of the myth has no sign of this. Rather, it has Man/​Adamas unite with his partner Knowledge and produce the Tree/​Knowledge, while the related ‘Ophite’ myth in 1.30 presents Seth as the son of human Adam, progenitor of the human race. Indeed, a significant interest in Seth as ‘other’ (allogenēs) really only seems to emerge in the early third century in Christian and Manichaean documents (Logan 1996: 15–​19). Now this scheme of the four luminaries and their ministers, and the four aeons of Adamas, Seth, his seed and the others, recurs in related texts such as the Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit (NHC III, 2; IV, 2) and Zostrianos (NHC VIII, 1), which present a much more elaborate heavenly hierarchy of aeons, which interestingly is not present in the briefer account of this section of the Barbelognostic myth in the Gospel of Judas (CT 47.1–​49.6), a text which may well have been known to Irenaeus in the 180s (Haer. I.31.1; van den Broek 2015: 57–​9), and which seems to date to the early third century. Conversely, Zostrianos was evidently known to, and presents concepts clearly related to, and perhaps influencing, Plotinus and the Neoplatonists (van den Broek 2015: 81–​3; 133–​5). Now the four luminaries and their ministers along with figures from the later developed myth occur in the Trimorphic Protennoia (NHC XIII, 1), whose third section (46.5–​50.20) bears a close resemblance to the Johannine Prologue, presenting a Word (Logos) Christology and ‘I AM’ Christology and a docetic account of Jesus’ death. So, what exactly is the relationship between the two? As the previous evidence suggests, and as I have argued (1991), the Barbelognostic myth underlying Trimorphic Protennoia has undergone considerable development, with the material similar to the Johannine Prologue dating from the later stages of that development. We have already seen how

180   Alastair H. B. Logan the frame story of the Apocryphon of John, added later, reflects Johannine influence, if peripheral, and the Trimorphic Protennoia presents a more integrated and developed stage of that influence. As we have argued, the Prologue was deliberately created to refute the gnostic Christology of Cerinthus, making it very improbable that it was influenced by a pre-​or non-​Christian gnostic myth, even if the Jewish figure of Wisdom played some part in its genesis. Indeed, even those such as Turner (2002/​1988), who posit a first, non-​Christian stage in the late first century as the unrelated product of a similar form of wisdom speculation to the Johannine Prologue, then undergoing a Christianization using material common to the Apocryphon of John and Irenaeus, Haer. I.29, followed by a final stage, a further Christian supplementation employing the Johannine material, admit Johannine influence only on this last Christianized stage. What is more, Turner insists that this final form ‘involved a deliberately polemical incorporation of Christian, specifically Johannine Christian, materials’ (Robinson 2002: 512). As Hill notes, what we have here is a deliberate polemical transformation of the Johannine conception into a ‘pure docetism’, while the text’s conception of the Godhead and creation are quite different from that of the Prologue, and he goes on to argue that, like other gnostic works, the text uses John’s Gospel only in order to ‘supersede’ it (2006: 246–​8). Finally, among non-​Valentinian gnostic texts which may reflect knowledge of John’s Gospel there are two works of uncertain date entitled ‘gospel’, the Gospel of Thomas (NHC II, 2) (Gathercole 2014) and the Gospel of Mary (BG 1) (Tuckett 2007), and a third, the somewhat fragmentary Dialogue of the Saviour (NHC III, 5), based on a collection of the sayings of Jesus. The first mentioned, a collection of 114 secret sayings of Jesus, which has generated an enormous volume of secondary literature, has been denied to be gnostic because it lacks the kind of mythology found in the ‘classic’ Barbelognostic myth of the Apocryphon of John, which precedes it in Codex II. However, it does seem to meet van den Broek’s ‘gnostic’ criterion, involving secret knowledge passed on by Jesus, which saves from death, with believers seeing themselves as coming from and returning to the realm of light. But although over half of its sayings (79) are paralleled in the Synoptic Gospels, if with divergences, debate still rages over its precise relationship with John. As compared to the plethora of Synoptic parallels, scholars have only identified some half a dozen possible parallels with John (Hill 2006: 274–​5; Dunderberg 2015: 99–​105). Dunderberg does note the striking similarities as regards key ideas and themes between the two texts but equally the astonishingly few verbal affinities between them, and his conclusion seems judicious: the two authors ‘drew upon the same pool of ideas, inspired by early Christian variations based on Jewish Wisdom theology, but they did this without being in touch with each other’s interpretations’. As regards the date and provenance of the Gospel, the similarities with John and the device of a specially close disciple as authenticating figure in both might suggest it was written early in the second century, very likely in Syria. On the other hand, the Gospel of Mary, a combination of resurrection dialogue of Jesus with his disciples and its aftermath and Mary’s recounting a vision and a revelation of the ascending soul, does seem to be dependent on John’s Gospel (Dunderberg 2015: 106–​15). Unfortunately, the opening pages of the Coptic MS are missing. Dunderberg dates the work to the middle or latter part of the second century, the strongest indication being

The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics    181 its philosophical outlook, covering topics popular among educated Christians in that period. The striking affinities between it and John’s Gospel, mostly relating to the portrayal of Mary of Magdala in both, have led scholars to posit a dependence, direct or indirect, on John. In addition, there do seem to be some thematic links between the two, such as Mary comforting the disciples like Jesus does in John, similarities in the roles of Jesus in John and of Mary in the Gospel of Mary, and Mary filling the paraclete role in John (King 2003a: 129–​31), which lead Dunderberg to agree that ideas and themes going back to John’s Gospel play a much more significant role in the Gospel of Mary than is usually recognized. He considers that the relationship should be understood primarily in terms of continuity, with the Gospel of Mary building on and creatively elaborating ideas stemming from John. The text thus does seem to be another of the few examples of gnostic works making positive use of John. The Dialogue of the Saviour is a complex work composed of several sources (Robinson 2002: 244–55; Koester 1990: 173–​6), a sayings collection like the Gospel of Thomas incorporated into a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples (only Matthew, Judas, and Mary are named), into which have been inserted a creation myth, a wisdom-​based cosmological list, and a fragment of an apocalyptic vision. As far as we can reconstruct it, the text has perhaps half-​a-​dozen allusions to John, rather more to Matthew and/​or Luke, one to Mark and six to Paul (mostly deutero-​Pauline), with some ten or eleven parallels with the Gospel of Thomas. But, unlike the latter, it does reflect gnostic mythological schemes and terminology. Koester (1990: 179–​81; 265–​7) claims that its teaching that self-​knowledge was the way to salvation caused John’s Gospel to react by insisting on salvation only through Christ, and he dates the finished work to around 100 ce. However, we have argued that John was reacting to Cerinthus’ false teaching and implicit claim to self-​salvation through gnosis, and the present work seems rather later and most likely dependent on, if tending to subvert, John. Finally, we might note that, in the case of other gnostic works claimed to show Johannine influence, such as The Thunder, Perfect Mind (NHC VI, 2), the Testimony of Truth (NHC IX, 3), or the Letter of Peter to Philip (NHC VIII, 2 and CT 1), the evidence is very slight and unconvincing.

The Johannine Literature and the Valentinians Having considered knowledge and use of John’s Gospel and the First Letter by gnostics, and found it largely negative and supersessionary, what of the Valentinians, accused by Irenaeus (Haer. III.11.7) of copious use of the Fourth Gospel? Was that and their early date, responsible, as has been frequently claimed, for Johannophobia among mainstream Christians of the second century? There is much debate over whether their reputed founder, Valentinus, probably from Alexandria and coming to Rome around 136 and active there till the 160s, actually knew John’s Gospel (Hill 2006: 216–​22). We only have a few fragments of his (Foerster 1972: 239–​43; Layton 1987: 229–​49), none of

182   Alastair H. B. Logan which seem to show knowledge of John, although one preserved by Hippolytus has Valentinus refer to a vision of a small, new-​born child who said he was the Logos. But the popularity of John among his followers, Ptolemy and Heracleon in Rome and Theodotus in Alexandria, and the likely knowledge of it in Rome in the mid second century, as Hill has cogently argued, make it probable. Indeed, Hill has made a good case for Valentinus, who Irenaeus claimed adopted the principles of the Gnostic heresy to the peculiar character of his own school (Haer. I.11.1), as having modified the names of the heavenly aeons in the Barbelognostic myth to harmonize more with the Johannine Prologue. What is more, key figures of the Barbelognostic myth occur in the fragments (pre-​existent Man (Adamas), Sophia, the demiurge, his ignorant creator angels), so that, despite the arguments of Christoph Markschies (1992), it does seem likely that Valentinus, not his pupils, originated the Valentinian myth. However, it is with his pupils that we find that myth fully developed, if with variations and divergences from the views of Valentinus himself. Thus, Tertullian says that Valentinus’ follower Ptolemy converted what were for him entities within the mind of the supreme Father, Bythos, into distinct heavenly beings (aeons) (Val. 4), and Hill has again plausibly argued that Ptolemy perfected Valentinus’ process of taking names from the Johannine Prologue and giving them to aeons in the Pleroma, the Valentinian term for the supreme divine realm. Indeed, Ptolemy seems the likeliest author of the Valentinian exegesis of that Prologue that Irenaeus summarizes (Haer. I.8.5; Hill 2006: 212–​5).4 Certainly he is the undoubted author of the Letter to Flora preserved by Epiphanius (Pan. XXXIII.3.1–​7.10), which cites John 1:3 as by ‘the apostle’, if alluding much more often to the Synoptics (most likely Matthew) and Paul, a pattern which Hill notes ‘conforms well’ to the New Testament citations in Haer. I.8. Thus, his appeal to the Prologue should not imply a special preference for John over the Synoptics and Paul, although it does suggest that Gospel’s authority alongside the Synoptics for the Valentinians. As regards the date, Ptolemy was active around the 160s, by which time John’s Gospel, as Hill has plausibly argued, was evidently accepted as authoritative by mainstream Christians in Rome. Indeed, those Christians were only belatedly coming to distinguish Valentinians in their midst as heretical. Thus, Valentinian appeal to John’s Gospel could not have contributed to any supposed Johannophobia on their part. Irenaeus also attributes a Gospel of Truth to the Valentinians (Haer. III.11.9), which he insists is very different from the canonical ones. Now a work given this title on the basis of its opening words was discovered at Nag Hammadi (NHC I, 3 and XII, 2). But there is no consensus over how exactly it relates to Valentinianism. It is a brilliant, poetic meditation which lacks the characteristic Valentinian myth of the Pleroma. A plausible hypothesis (Attridge 1986) presents it as an exoteric work deliberately designed to appeal to ordinary Christians. Although some scholars have attributed such a unique work to Valentinus, a creative poet, Irenaeus’ failure to ascribe it to him and its lack both of the characteristic myth and of plausible connections with Valentinus’ fragments tends to count against such a hypothesis. A further pointer to a date in the later second century is


On this, see also Chapter 25, William Lamb, ‘Johannine Commentaries in the Early Church’.

The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics    183 its considerable knowledge of the New Testament (Hill 2006: 265; Layton 1987: 251). As regards knowledge of the Gospel of John, frequent references have been noted (Barrett 1982; Williams 1988), with knowledge also of 1 John. Indeed, Layton thinks that the Johannine literature (including Revelation) has had the most profound theological influence on the author’s thought. A similar very high regard for the Gospel can be found in Heracleon, a younger contemporary of Ptolemy active in Rome or Italy, in that he composed the first known commentary on it, fragments of which up to chapter eight were preserved by Origen in his vast commentary (Foerster 1972: 162–​83). The work seems to date to the late 170s or 180s, being evidently unknown to Irenaeus, who yet mentions Heracleon as a follower of Valentinus, and probably also to Clement of Alexandria in the 190s. These two facts do tend to militate against the common view (Hill 2006:  207) that Heracleon’s commentary helped to contribute to Johannophobia among mainstream Christians. Heracleon’s allegorical interpretation of the Gospel very much reads Valentinian ideas into it, but, interestingly, he avoids speculation on the Pleroma and its aeons in Origen’s selection of his comments on John 1. The Alexandrian Theodotus of the Eastern school of Valentinianism, from whose late second-​century work Clement quotes excerpts (Foerster 1972: 222–​33), also regards the Gospel of John (‘the apostle’) as a key authority, citing it frequently, rather more than Matthew, Luke, and Paul, and he does exegete the Prologue in a similar way to Ptolemy. Among later works that can be classified as Valentinian, the Gospel of Philip (NHC II, 3), a collection of excerpts on sacramental themes, has some seven, fairly incidental, allusions to the Gospel and one to the First Letter, but this is balanced by eight citations from Matthew, seven from Luke, four from Mark and nine from Paul, as well as seven from the Gospel of Thomas. The work seems to date from the latter part of the second or the early third century, perhaps deriving from Syria. Other Valentinian works from Nag Hammadi of a similar date, the Tripartite Tractate (NHC I, 5), and the Epistle to Rheginus (NHC I, 4), also show awareness of the Fourth Gospel, but not to any significant degree, Paul being more important for the latter. Thus, while the Valentinians do treasure John’s Gospel and consider it authoritative, with two or three (Valentinus? Ptolemy, Theodotus) finding support for their speculations on the Pleroma in the Prologue, another inspired by it (the author of the Gospel of Truth), and another writing the first commentary on it (Heracleon), they also cherish and quote, sometimes more fully, the synoptics and Paul. Indeed, they clearly do not treat John as their special, uniquely gnostic, gospel, and the relative lateness of many works recognizing its authority as something already established, gives no support to the Johannophobia hypothesis.

Conclusion In considering the theme of the Johannine Literature and the Gnostics we have suggested a more comprehensive and satisfactory definition of ‘gnosis’ and ‘Gnostic’ which avoids recent criticism, particularly of the term ‘Gnosticism’, focusing on the Gnostics

184   Alastair H. B. Logan of the heresiologists and pagans and the Valentinians and utilizing the primary sources, the Nag Hammadi, Berlin, and Tchacos codices. We have stressed the central importance of the early gnostic Cerinthus for the genesis first of the Letters then of the Gospel, but, in treating later gnostic groups and texts have noted that, while a minority have a positive view of the Gospel and use it to bolster the authority of their views, the majority adopt a critical and supersessionary attitude to it. Far from being the favoured gospel of gnostics, they cite the Synoptics and Paul as often, sometime more so. The Valentinians, evidently closer to the Catholics of the Great Church, have a much more positive view of the Fourth Gospel in general, being responsible for the first known commentary on it. However, they do not seem to value it more highly than the Synoptics, and certainly not more highly than Paul, and several concentrate their attention on the Prologue in particular as support for their speculations about the heavenly world of the Pleroma. Furthermore, they appear to depend on John as an already accepted authority and thus do not offer any support for the theory of Johannophobia among the Christians of the Great Church from around the middle of the second century onwards till the time of Irenaeus.

Suggested Reading Useful introductions to the study of Gnosticism include Van den Broek (2015) and Logan (2006). The texts discovered at Nag Hammadi and other related ones are available by Layton (1987) and Robinson (2002, which is a completely revised edition of the earlier publication). Perkins (1993) discusses the relationship of Gnosticism to the New Testament, while the discussion here acknowledges the importance of Hengel (1989) and Hill (2006) for debates about the Johannine literature.

Bibliography Attridge, H., 1986. ‘The Gospel of Truth as an Exoteric Text’, in C. W. Hedrick and R. Hodgson Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism and Early Christianity. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson: 239–​55. Barrett, C. K., 1982. ‘The Theological Vocabulary of the Fourth Gospel and the Gospel of Truth’, Essays in John. London: SPCK: 50–​64. Bianchi, U., 1967. Le origini dello gnosticismo /​The Origins of Gnosticism. Colloquium of Messina 13-​18 April 1966. SHR 12; Leiden: Brill. Brakke, D., 2010. The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual and Diversity in Early Christianity. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press. Broek, R. van den, 2015. Gnostic Religion in Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Brown, R. E., 1979. The Community of the Beloved Disciple. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press. Dunderberg, I., 2015. Gnostic Morality Revisited. WUNT 347; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Foerster, W., 1972. Gnosis. A Selection of Gnostic Texts. 1 Patristic Evidence. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Gathercole, S. J., 2014. The Gospel of Thomas. Introduction and Commentary. Leiden: Brill. Hedrick, C.  W. and Hodgson, R. jnr (eds.), 1986. Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism and Early Christianity. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics    185 Hengel, M., 1989. The Johannine Question. London: SCM Press. Hill, C. E., 2006. The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. King, K. L., 2003a. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle. Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press. King, K. L., 2003b. What is Gnosticism? Cambridge, MA:  The Belknap Press of Harvard University. Koester, H., 1990. Ancient Christian Gospels:  Their History and Development. London and Philadelphia: SCM and Trinity Press International. Lalleman, P. J., 1998. The Acts of John:  A Two-​Stage Initiation into Johannine Gnosticism. Leuven: Peeters. Layton, B., 1987. The Gnostic Scriptures. A New Translation with Annotations and Introduction. Garden City: Doubleday. Layton, B., 1995. ‘Prolegomena to the Study of Ancient Gnosticism’, in L. M. White and O. L. Yarbrough (eds.), The Social World of the First Christians. Essays in Honor of Wayne A. Meeks. Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 334–​50. Lieu, J. M., 1991. The Theology of the Johannine Epistles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Logan, A. H. B., 1991. ‘John and the Gnostics: The Significance of the Apocryphon of John for the Debate about the Origins of the Johannine Literature’, JSNT 43: 41–​69. Logan, A. H. B., 1996. Gnostic Truth and Christian Heresy. Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark. Logan, A. H. B., 2006. The Gnostics: Identifying an Early Christian Cult. Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark. Markschies, C., 1992. Valentinus Gnosticus? WUNT 65; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Perkins, P., 1982. ‘Johannine Tradition in Ap. Jas. (NHC I,2)’, JBL 101: 403–​14. Perkins, P., 1993. Gnosticism and the New Testament. Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press. Robinson, J. M., 2002. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. 3rd, completely revised edition; Leiden: Brill. Sanders, J. N., 1943. The Fourth Gospel in the Early Church; its Origin and Influence on Christian Theology up to Irenaeus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Tuckett, C., 2007. The Gospel of Mary. OECT; Oxford: Oxford University Press. Turner, J. D., 2002 [1988]. ‘Trimorphic Protennoia (XIII,1)’, in J. M.  Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Library in English. 3rd, completely revised edition; Leiden: Brill: 512. Williams, J. A., 1988. Biblical Interpretation in the Gnostic Gospel of Truth from Nag Hammadi. SBL Dissertation Series 79; Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. Williams, M. A., 1996. Rethinking “Gnosticism.” An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Chapter 12

The Fou rth G o spe l as Na rrative and  Dra ma Jo-​A nn A. Brant

Introduction At the end of the twentieth century narrative criticism came into focus in the study of the Fourth Gospel, although already from the beginning of that century a lone scholar occasionally had strayed from the main path of historical criticism beguiled by aspects of the Gospel that bore affinity to the literary form of a drama. While their work did not become influential, recognition of their insights form part of the preface to current scholarship. This backstory serves as an introduction to this chapter’s main endeavor: identifying the literary elements of the Gospel, the various avenues of investigation already undertaken, and the prospects for continuing inquiry. Northrup Frye’s metaphoric description of literary criticism as anatomy is apt, not simply because it points to the text as a complex of interrelated features that constitute a unity, but because the task of narrative criticism is to choose instruments that allow for delicate incisions without severing the connections critical to the coherence of the narrative (Frye 1957). The goal is not simply to look at aspects in isolation in order to address historical or theological questions but to equip a reader for close and sustained meaningful readings.

From Periphery to Centre: The Narrative Turn In his 1974 monograph, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative, Hans Frei lamented that the adoption by Western biblical and theological studies of the presuppositions of historicism and positivism obscured the literary nature of biblical texts. Since then, both

The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama    187 disciplines have entered into a broad hermeneutical trend dubbed ‘The Narrative Turn’ that has wound its way through the humanities and into the natural and social sciences and professions to the degree that it can be called a cultural phenomenon. One of the basic premises of this turn is that narrative is an intrinsic component of cognition—​it is essential to the human endeavor of meaning-​making. Insofar as it conceives of truth or meaning apart from correspondence to historical event or observable phenomenon, the narrative turn participates in post-​modern thought. For biblical studies this signifies that Scripture does not represent something else, it does not passively mirror reality but constructs reality. For the study of the Gospel of John, the narrative turn came to full expression in 1983 with the appearance of R. Alan Culpepper’s Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design. But before Culpepper, as Mark W. G. Stibbe documents, periodically throughout the twentieth century, against the prevailing tendency to see the Gospel as the product of the stitching together of multiple sources and editing by various hands, isolated scholars read the Gospel as a single literary work akin to Greek tragedy (Stibbe 1993). They were struck by the Gospel’s emphasis upon Jesus’ impending fate, the exalted language, and the structure that begins with a prologue and ends with an epilogue and moves through a series of episodes that, like scenes in a play, are demarcated by changes of characters and filled with dialogue rather than narrated action. This interest in textual unity seems largely motivated by a concern for apostolic authority (Conway 2002). When The Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel was released, several authors had already applied tools developed for the study of fictional literary works to parts or themes within the Gospel. Culpepper’s study owes its prominence not to its being first but to his careful attention to method applied to the entire Gospel. His work is analogous to a textbook laying out the gross anatomy of the body of the Gospel, making it possible for subsequent scholars to join in a common discourse about the Gospel’s fine anatomy. Culpepper adopted the conceptual framework of a ‘narrative-​communication situation’ first presented by Seymour Chatman in Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (1978) in which the real author generates a series of story tellers and readers within the narrative (see Figure 1; Culpepper 1983: 6). By focusing upon the implied author, referred to in John simply as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ (21:20–​4), Culpepper was freed from speculating about the historical person behind the epithet. This approach did not deny that the Gospel was the product of some compositional history, but neither did it require assigning purpose to the aporias

Narrative Text

Real Author

Implied Author



Figure 1  Simple model of narrative communication

Implied Reader

Real Reader

188   Jo-Ann A. Brant (internal contradictions or logical disjunctions in a text) that preoccupied historical criticism. These include the intrusion of asides about John the Baptist in the exalted style of the Prologue (1:6–​8, 15), the awkward jump from Jerusalem to the other side of the sea of Galilee between the end of ­chapter 5 and the beginning of ­chapter 6, or the false endings at John 14:31 and 20:30–​31. Culpepper’s hermeneutic definitively leaves out the author’s intent and, under the influence of reader-​response criticism, prioritizes the experience of the reader. This form of criticism works from the premise that the author’s intentions cannot be reconstructed from his or her writing (Wimsatt and Beardsley 1954). For example, the question of how 1:6–​8 and 15 got into the Prologue shifts to how these verses cue the reader to who John the Baptist is and the role he will play as a witness (Culpepper 1983: 132). Arguing for the original literary unity of the Gospel was no longer a necessary preliminary step to discussing the Gospel as a coherent work. The shift from biography of the author to the text and then finally to the reader as the subject of study found full expression in the work of Jeffrey Staley. His published dissertation, The Print’s First Kiss: A Rhetorical Investigation of the Implied Reader in the Fourth Gospel, looks at how the strategies of the text evoke a reader. For example, the Prologue creates readers who are insiders by giving them ‘an Olympian perspective of the basic plot structure’ and ‘pulling them into an intimate relation with the implied author’ with a ‘shared convictional system’ (Staley 1988: 50). He then lays out how the Gospel’s structure, such as in the interplay between narration and direct speech, moves the reader through an experience of a repeated sense of closure (70). The text also periodically ‘victimizes’ the reader by doing such things as leading one to think that the narrative is over in 20:30 but continuing on for another chapter (see also 4:1–​2; 7:1–​10; 10:40–​11:18; 13:1–​ 10). Staley does not extract a theology from the text but rather finds it within the experience of the reader. Some scholars have followed the trajectory from the text to the reader by positioning the reader within a particular perspective to produce feminist, Jewish, post-​colonial, auto-​biographical, and deconstructive readings.1 Many literary critics have continued to pursue a more ‘objective’ approach by pairing their analysis with a construction of the implied reader. Initial criticism of Culpepper honed in on the limitations of a pure literary approach for a religious work in isolation of its historical context and the literary conventions of its era. Subsequent scholars have sought conceptual frameworks for a close reading that allows consciousness of multiple levels. Mark W. G. Stibbe introduced an actantial approach associated with A. J. Greimas in order to examine both the narrative and a deep generic structure informed by the Gospel’s literary and social context (see Figure 2; Stibbe 1992: 35–​6). In this approach, power and social relationships are key. Andrew Lincoln provides a clear example of this model when he examines how God (the originator) sends Jesus (the object) into the world (the receiver). Jesus voluntarily becomes God’s agent (subject) and gathers disciples (helpers) but faces worldly and satanic powers (opponents).


See for example Chapter 13, Warren Carter, ‘Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel’.

The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama    189 Axis of Communication Sender/ Originator



Axis of Volition




Axis of Power

Figure 2  Greimas’s structural model for narratives

At the centre of this tension stands the trial that will lead to eternal life for those who receive Jesus or condemnation for those who reject him (Lincoln 2000). For the most part, the attempt to read the Gospel from beginning to end as a unified literary work (i.e. a synchronic reading) now falls to the lot of commentaries that are free to appropriate whichever tool of literary analysis best fits the demands of a particular passage. When faced with aporias, commentaries are free to comment upon their role in the history of criticism as evidence for multiple sources and editing. They can then return to their synchronic approach and provide rationale for the presence of aporias by following Culpepper’s lead in relegating them to evidence of uneven attention by the author to composition or by discussing how they affect the reader (Culpepper 1983: 231). More recent works on Johannine narrative tend to use an integrative approach discussing narrative alongside theology as well as history. Works exclusively using literary criticism have largely focused upon particular features, such as the prominence of recognition scenes or narrator asides, to which readers doing close readings of the entire work should attend, or particular passages for which a specific literary approach is well suited.

Diegesis and Mimesis Given that John has a narrator, current literary criticism of John tends to read the Gospel in the context of biographies and histories, but many scholars recognize that any discussion of the Gospel of John’s literary structure needs a vocabulary that draws heavily from the terminology of works intended for performance. Most uses of the word ‘drama’ and its cognates refer to the effect of the Gospel upon its reader—​through the creation of tension, suspense or surprise—​or to the conflict in the text. In some cases, scholars refer to elements in the text related to the genre of a performance text. J. Louis Martyn

190   Jo-Ann A. Brant uses the word in both senses. Calling John ‘a two-​level drama’, he refers to both the conflict between Jesus and the Jerusalem authorities and the conflict between the Johannine community and the synagogue at the time of its composition (Martyn 1968: 121–​51).2 In his scene analysis of 5:1–​18 and 9:1–​41, Martyn outlines a performance genre’s structure in which action is constituted by entrances and exits (30–​6, 69). In drama, the arrival of a person to a setting begins the dialogue, and dialogues are limited to the exchange between two characters. This convention is also present in varying degrees in the episode with the Samaritan woman (4:1–​42), the story of Lazarus’ resurrection (11:1–​57), and the trial (18:29–​19:15). The current writer has attempted to show that the conventions of the genre of drama—​particularly its ability to create the aesthetic illusion of action, time, and space—​inform much of the Gospel’s uniqueness (Brant 2004). Narrative critics draw a distinction between a story mediated by a narrator (diegesis or telling) and a story that is enacted and thus unmediated (mimesis or showing). Culpepper describes John’s narrator as undramatized—​he is not a character in the text but ‘serves as the voice of the implied author’ who tells us the story from a position of omniscience (1983: 16). The narrator’s role in providing the Prologue, introducing characters and settings, and telling us who is speaking makes diegesis the primary mode that renders a series of events into a coherent narrative. Moreover, the narrator tells the reader what to think by explaining terms or by telling us what Jesus (e.g. 4:1; 11:33) and other characters (e.g. 9:22) are thinking so that we can understand motivations and interpret actions. The examination of the many narrative asides becomes a significant data set in the discussion of Johannine diegesis. The narrator sometimes simply states what happens in summary form avoiding an ‘as it happens’ pace (e.g. 2:23–​25). John 2:12–​15 covers a journey to Jerusalem and Jesus’ demonstration in the Temple, but this summary serves to orient the reader to the mimetic dialogue that follows (2:16–​20). Most ancient narratives have varying degrees of diegesis and mimesis. By providing an abundance of direct speech and making dialogue a significant part of the action, the Gospel uses mimesis to a significant degree. George Parsenios compares the interrogation of John in John 1:19–​22, in which the narrator is all but absent, with Thucydides’ Melian dialogue (Thuc. Hist. V.85–​113) to illustrate how the Gospel writer achieves a rapid-​fire technique. John’s narrator does not tell us the exchange is heated but rather allows us to sense the brewing conflict (2015). Much of the action of the Gospel is comprised of rejection or recognition of Jesus and reversal of understanding and emotion that unfolds through dialogue so that the audience ‘sees’ it happen rather than simply being told it happens. For example, the moment of Mary Magdalene’s and Thomas’ recognition of the resurrected Jesus is encoded in their own words. We know that Mary recognizes Jesus, not because the narrator tells us, but because she says, ‘Rabbouni’ (20:16). Similarly, we know that Thomas recognizes Jesus when he responds to Jesus’ invitation to touch his hands and side by answering,


See for example Chapter 5, Martinus C. de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’.

The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama    191 ‘My Lord and my God!’ (20:28). John narrates how Jews pick up rocks to stone Jesus (8:58). Yet the readers witness how the crowd is provoked to physical violence by hearing Jesus boast ‘I am the light of the world’ (8:12) and ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (8:58) and engage his opponents in volleys of insults and accusations that build in intensity (8:15, 21, 25, 44, 48). From time to time, a character within the story takes over the narrator’s task of describing furnishings and actions. For example, the bread that Jesus hands Judas comes into being through Jesus’ line, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish’ (13:26a). The reader knows that Mary Magdalene embraces Jesus only because he says, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father’ (20:17). Another aspect of Johannine mimesis lies within deictic language by which characters point to the world in which they dwell and in doing so call it into being. For example, in the dialogue in the Temple, Jesus conjures up the mimetic space by saying ‘take these things out of here!’ (2:15) and ‘Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up’ (2:19). Characters use first and second person pronouns when Greek grammar renders them optional to punctuate their speech in a way that draws the lines of conflict. For example, when Pilate resists complying with the priests’ request that he crucify Jesus, he says, ‘You [hymeis] take him and crucify him; I [egō] find no case against him’ (19:6). The pronouns serve as fingers pointing towards the objects to which they refer. John’s dialogues, by virtue of their length, add a temporal dimension to the mimetic experience. Before the advent of narrative criticism, discussion of time in the Fourth Gospel focused on two features that set it apart from the Synoptic narratives. Jesus’ ministry includes three Passover visits to Jerusalem rather than one and the Temple demonstration occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry rather than in its final week. Conventionally, the first was a unique datum treated as historically accurate and the second as evidence of John’s lack of historicity. While John takes place over 2.5–​3 years, he varies the speed of the narrative so that, in Culpepper’s reckoning, the events of only two months of the story are told (1983: 72). John limits narration of Jesus’ miracles, called signs by John, to the healing of the royal official’s son, turning water into wine, healing an immobile man, multiplying loaves and fishes, walking on water, giving sight to a blind man, and resurrecting Lazarus. This leaves ample space for the leisure of direct speech that brings the pace of narrative proximate to experienced time. Matthew also places long speeches on Jesus’ lips, but John gives them a clearer place in the plot, giving the reader a rich experience of lived time. Johannine narrative anchors events within lived time in a number of ways. The Prologue prepares the reader to jump into a narrative in media res, that is into the thick of a story in progress. John uses clusters of historical present-​tense forms that draw the reader into the narrative as if the story unfolds before his or her eyes. For example, in the scene at Jacob’s well, the narrator puts both Jesus and the Samaritan woman into the action with the verb comes/​erchetai (4:5, 7). In the Footwashing scene, the use of historic present facilitates seeing the action through the disciples’ eyes. Jesus ‘rises from the dinner and lays down the outer garment and . . . puts water into the washbasin . . .’ (13:4–​5).

192   Jo-Ann A. Brant Some aspects of Johannine narration take advantage of the reader’s privileged vantage point of standing outside story time. For example, the narrator frequently employs analepsis (reference to a past act) and prolepsis (reference to a future act). In the search for editorial seams, Raymond Brown takes the prolepsis ‘Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his fee with her hair’ (11:2) with reference to the event in 12:3 as ‘a parenthesis added by an editor’ to harmonize it with Mark 14:3–​ 9 (1966: 423); Dorothy Lee, in contrast, attends to the experience of the reader by discussing the way that the ‘entwining of the two stories’ serves the purpose of narrative anticipation (2002: 199). John has a fondness for temporal markers that fits into a broader proclivity for measurement. The narrator counts the days between the disciples’ first encounter with Jesus and their witness of his glory at Cana (1:43–​2:1). Action happens at daybreak (18:28; 20:1; 21:4), at the sixth (4:6; 19:14), seventh (4:52), and tenth hour (1:39). Jesus initiates healings on the Sabbath (5:9; 9:14), a temporal reference that the narrator delays sharing until after the event. The narrator marks jumps in time with reference to Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem for festivals (2:13, 5:1; 6:4; 7:2; 10:11; 11:55). References to time of day and the progression of days and festivals serve the important narrative function of sequencing. They also remind the reader that the action is moving unrelentingly towards Jesus’ crucifixion which he refers to as ‘my hour’ (2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23–​27) as though time were running out. The Johannine Jesus also creates a sense of eternal time by speaking ‘out of time’. He blends tenses in odd ways: ‘Before Abraham was I am’ (8:59). His frequent use of ‘I am’, as in ‘I am the bread of life’ and ‘I am the living water’, are the words of an eternal being. John’s management of time is not simply about coherence and structure but about creating an experience of the sacred that entails the collapsing of past and future into atemporal eternity. Along with time, space is another feature critical to grounding narrative in lived experience. Scholars such as Mary Coloe (2001) have done a thorough job of establishing the central position of the Temple and its festivals.3 Richard Bauckham counts thirty-​ one place names, seventeen of which are unique to this Gospel, and surveys discussion about their historical accuracy and symbolic value (2007: 96–​8). John’s interest in geography is not limited to names on a map; he also gives topographical details. Action takes place seated at a well (4:6), at a porticoed pool (5:2), on a mountain (6:3), on the sea by the seaside (6:16–​25; 21:1), in front of tombs (11:38; 20:1, 4–​8, 11–​17), in a garden (18:1), in Annas’ courtyard and house (18:15), before and in the Praetorium (18:28), and of course in the Temple, even in the Temple treasury (8:20), and while walking in the Portico of Solomon (10:23). Narrative analysis of space also ought to make sense of John’s many references to measures of weight and distance: Distance of boat from shore: 25–​20 stadia (3–​4 miles) 6:19 Distance of Bethany from Jerusalem: 15 stadia (2 miles) 11:18 3 

See Chapter 23, Bruce G. Schuchard, ‘Temple, Festivals, and Scripture’.

The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama    193 Distance of boat from shore: 200 pēchees (100 yards) 21:8 Capacity of six water jars: 2 or 3 metrētai each (20–​30 gallons) 2:6 Weight of nard Nicodemus brings to Jesus’ burial: 100 lītrai 19:39 Cost of the bread: 200 dēnaria (about 8 months wages) 6:7 Cost of the perfume: 300 dēnaria (a full year’s wage) 12:5 The narrative also contains numerous containers:  six stone jars (2:6), a water jar (4:28), twelve baskets (6:13), water basin (13:5), a dipping dish (13:26), and a jar full of sour wine (19:29). All this detail gives the story the vividness of verisimilitude appropriate to a historical narrative, but references and allusions to odours (11:39; 12:3), taste (2:9; 8:52), and the temperature of the air and the warmth of a fire (18:18, 25) invite exploration of more complicated motives for this Johannine proclivity. Scholars who have noted this propensity for detail have tended to look at it in the context of symbolic narratives (e.g. Zimmerman 2006).4 Scholars of ancient Greek literature, working at the intersection of rhetorical and narrative criticism, have taken a special interest in ekphrasis, a literary description of a visual experience. Ekphrasis is an intermedial phenomenon in which text and image meet and objects tell a story within a narrative. The New Testament, like Hebrew narrative, tends to be sparing in such detail, but John’s manner of ordering the appearance of detail does fall within the realm of ekphrasis insofar as a mimetic experience of physical reality is generated. For example, in the scene with the Samaritan woman, the narrator moves from the region of Samaria, to a particular place, Sychar, to a plot of ground Jacob gave Joseph, to the object upon which Jesus will sit, the well. Thomas Brodie contends that the graphic detail in John 4:4–​26 is part of the realm of inertia in a dualistic landscape and signifies the woman’s lack of understanding (1997: 214). More recently, Kuan-​Hui Wang explores not simply the rhetorical effect of vivid narration but the epistemological assumption that John severs the knowledge of the sense from the understanding of faith. Wang contends that the details point to the reliability of the senses and that the narrative draws the reader into an imaginary physical encounter (2017: 27). While in some ways, John’s tendency towards mimesis contributes to the contrast with the Synoptic Gospels, it is in no way unique within the larger literary milieu of the Greco-​Roman period. The ancient novels frequently allude to the theatricality of aspects of their narrative. George Parsenios notes that the Gospel participates in the broad phenomenon of the ‘theatricalization of ancient culture’ (2010: 27). Socrates criticizes Homer for employing mimesis in his diegesis because he sees within mimesis what might be called a psychological danger in an audience member first thinking of the character as real and then bringing that character to expression in his or her own actions and sentiments (Rep. 395d). John’s use of mimetic content is, perhaps, intended to affect the reader in precisely the way that Socrates feigningly criticizes.


On symbolism see Chapter 16, Dorothy Lee, ‘Symbolism and Signs in the Fourth Gospel’.

194   Jo-Ann A. Brant

Emplotment Scholars tend to agree on a basic five-​fold structure for the Gospel: Prologue (1:1–​18); Jesus’ Public Ministry (1:19–​12:50); Last Supper, Trial and Crucifixion (13:1–​19:41); Post Resurrection Appearances (20:1–​29; 21:1–​25); Epilogues (20:30–​31; 21:24–​25). They have found no consensus about the plot of the Fourth Gospel. The variety of plot outlines offered by scholars is indicative of both the slipperiness of the word ‘plot’, to the degree that some narratologists avoid it, and the intricacy of the patterns and interrelationship of events presented by the author. Fernando Segovia describes the plot of the Gospel as biographic, beginning with origins, continuing through public career in the form of a travel narrative, and ending with death (1991: 35–​6). Historians who have made the narrative turn, however, recognize that biographies and histories are as emplotted as is fiction. Since Jesus’ story culminates in his crucifixion and fulfilment of God’s plan of salvation,5 the emplotment of his life provides causal logic and necessity by drawing a vivid picture of conflict. Influenced by Aristotle’s delineation of plot (Poet. 1432a.13–​ 142b.14) as the product of three sorts of action, recognition, reversal, and pathos, discussion of Johannine plot generally focuses upon either the prevalence of recognition scenes or upon reversal. Jesus repeatedly has encounters with individuals who recognize him to be God’s agent in some form or another. Jesus repeatedly meets opponents who accuse him of being a sinner, but he turns the tables on his opponents by judging them. Scholars often refer to the plot as tragic, noting that the form is subverted by the reversal of the resurrection, but James L. Resseguie argues that the resurrection is not a reversal but rather the resolution of complications in the standard U-​Shape of comedy (2001). The abundance of possible comic elements in the Gospel, including the wedding steward’s confusion about the appearance of an abundance of good wine (2:9–​10) and Nicodemus’ shouldering of copious amounts of unguents to Jesus’ burial (19:39), give substance to his contention. Evaluating the merit of one plot summary over another need not be a matter of judging one right or wrong but rather the recognition that each shines a light on particular aspects of John’s emplotment. Paul Ricoeur translates Aristotle’s term muthos as ‘emplotment’ rather than as ‘plot’ to avoid seeing a narrative as a static structure but instead as the means by which the writer and the reader engage in an activity (1984: 65). Reading John becomes a bit like looking at Ludwig Wittgenstein’s line drawing that looks like both a duck and a rabbit. Andrew Lincoln’s version highlights the forensic language of witness and judgement that runs throughout the Gospel and makes good sense of the development of the conflict from murderous intent to the issue of a warrant to the arrest and trial and execution. Moreover, Lincoln’s delineation of plot situates John’s narrative within the religious world of the implied reader by linking it to a reading of Isaiah 40–​55 and setting it within a first-​century social world (2000). The advantage


See Chapter 20, Jean Zumstein, ‘The Purpose of the Ministry and Death of Jesus in the Gospel of John’.

The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama    195 that Culpepper’s delineation of the action provides is that it makes sense of the episodic structure defined by Jesus’ interactions with the women of the Gospel and the recipients of his healings who either choose to align themselves with Jesus or succumb to the pressure from the establishment to reject Jesus as a sinner (1983). More recently, Kasper Bro Larsen has provided a detailed analysis of recognition-​type scenes that addresses the religious nature of the Gospel by looking at the social and euphoric dimensions of the Johannine scenes that signify the advantages of eternal life (2008). The benefit of Stibbe’s reading is that he highlights how the privileged position of the implied reader can result in a sense of sympathy not just for Jesus’ suffering but for the distress of followers and destruction of opponents (1992: e.g. 109).

The Quality of Character Although the characters in John’s Gospel may all correlate to historical personae, narrative critics pay attention to how the action brings them into being and animates them. With the various responses to moments of recognition, self-​reference to identify, and interior mental states including desire, intent, and deliberation, John provides an abundance of material with which to describe characters. Scholars have drawn some quantifiable observations about the Gospel’s characters. Although often only one secondary character is in view, a recent volume catalogues seventy not including God, Jesus, Spirit, and narrator (Hunt, Tolmie, and Zimmermann 2013). John has significant characters not found in the Synoptic Gospels: Nathaniel, Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and Lazarus. John gives one anonymous character in the Synoptic tradition, the servant who loses his ear at Jesus’ arrest, the name Malchus, but renders at least five significant characters nameless: Jesus’ Mother, the Samaritan woman, the lame and blind men, and the Beloved Disciple. John’s treatment of female characters as vocal is also noteworthy. Women, beyond the birth narratives, have few lines in the Synoptic tradition and are silent in both Matthew and Luke’s resurrection scenes, but John’s women speak out. The Samaritan woman has eleven lines of dialogue. Martha has a total of five lines. This data encourages readers’ interest in the quality of Johannine characters. Readers should also note that John gives some characters their own story line by representing simultaneous action. The Samaritan woman’s conversation with Jesus stretches from 4:7 to 4:26, and the woman leaves when the disciples arrive. After recounting Jesus’ dialogue with the disciples in 4:27–​38, John follows the concurrent action of the woman returning to her city and telling others about her encounter through the use of an analeptic epithet, ‘Many of the Samaritans from that city believed in him on account of the word of the woman who testified that “He said to me all that I did” ’ (4:39). The two storylines then converge into one narrative when the Samaritans go to Jesus and beg him to remain (4:40). After Jesus places mud and spittle on the blind man’s eyes, the narrator follows that man’s story for twenty-​seven verses (9:7b–​34) in an inquisition narrative containing a series of scenes. Meanwhile Jesus moves to the background: the narrator takes no note of where Jesus is or what he has been doing other than to tell us

196   Jo-Ann A. Brant that Jesus hears a report of what the reader has read mimetically as ‘a first-​hand witness’. By seeking the man out in 9:35, Jesus restores himself to the position of protagonist. The narrator picks up Nicodemus’ story beginning in 3:1, allows him to fade from view after his last line in the dialogue (3:9), and pulls him back into the narrative as the Jerusalem authorities conspire against Jesus (7:45–​52), and again as a silent participant in Jesus’ burial (19:39–​42). The narrator leaves gaps that lead readers to construct Nicodemus’ own narrative, wondering how sympathetic he has become to Jesus’ assertions, and what motivates him to participate in Jesus’ entombment, and why he would haul one hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes to prepare the body. Two aspects of the discussion of John’s characters that predate a purely literary treatment of Johannine characterization continue to inform narrative analysis: the role of misunderstanding and character types. In 1968, Herbert Leroy applied folklore studies to the task of understanding the so-​called motif of misunderstanding, but placed the meaning outside the text in the community’s endeavour to separate insiders from outsiders. Historical critics have tended to focus upon characters within John as representatives of constituencies within late Second Temple Judaism and nascent Christianity. Culpepper, in contrast, focuses upon how the motif ‘leads readers to feel a judgmental distance between themselves as “insiders” ’ and the ‘outsiders’ who miss the point (1983: 164).6 His interest lies with the function of the characters within the plot as occasions first to reveal aspects of Jesus’ character and second as types who act as representatives of alternative responses. Culpepper also introduces E. M. Foster’s distinction between flat characters embodying a single idea or quality and round ones ‘complex in temperament and motivation’ (1983:  102). Culpepper provokes three questions that remain at the fore of discussion. Is the reader’s role to judge the adequacy of each character’s response and, if so, with what data does the narrator provide the reader to do so? Should John’s readers be treated as types, and, if so, how should they be delineated? How do we avoid a reductionist model without confusing the figure conjured by the words on the page for the living being? Cornelis Bennema vigorously represents the position that the reader, and hence the scholarly critic, is called to adjudicate the adequacy of the faith of a particular character (2014). The opposing view recognizes any ambiguity in the characters’ response to Jesus as unresolvable and as an indicator of the ambiguities with which real readers contend. Faith then is not about certitude as much as about responding to Jesus positively despite ambiguity. To some extent this debate rests upon two exegetical and hermeneutical factors. Bennema translates 20:31 ‘But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God’, so that the Gospel is a missionary document, and contends that his reading fits into John’s dualistic worldview. He concedes that his reading is not purely narratological and that ultimately the goal is to address historical questions. Those who let the ambiguity stand tend to read 20:31 as ‘may continue to believe’ so that the purpose is to strengthen trust in Jesus as the Messiah in the midst of a


See Chapter 8, Adele Reinhartz, ‘The Jews of the Fourth Gospel’.

The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama    197 reality beset with ambiguities. They draw a distinction between John’s dualistic language and a possible expectation that characters or readers should be able to realize the ideal and resist rendering literary characters as real people. Early work on character types appropriated the methodology of structuralists such as Vladimir Propp and Algirdas Greimas, who focus upon narrative function and predictability, and then semiotic theorists such as Baruch Hochman and Shlomith Rimmon-​ Kenan, who look at the textual codes that allow readers to abstract characters from a text. For example, in her examination of the Johannine construction of gender, Colleen Conway highlights the parallel construction of Nicodemus, a man (anthrōpos) of the Pharisees (3:1) and the woman at the well, ‘a woman (gynē) of Samaria’ (4:7). Nicodemus’ epithet links him to the sort of man to whom Jesus will not entrust himself (2:25), whereas the word gynē becomes a positive signifier within the sign systems of the narrative (1999: 87–​8). Those who have more recently adopted a rhetorical approach isolate processes in the construction of character. In a mimetic process, the text presents recognizable human traits and thereby encourages readers to conceive of the characters as having personalities. In a synthetic process, readers construct the character from types familiar to them from their culture. In the thematic process, characters express the ideas of a broader class of characters. For example, Michael Whitenton (2016) finds that John provides sufficient data to allow the informed reader initially to place Nicodemus within the character type of the dissembler. If one factors in his Pharisaic status, Nicodemus is to be viewed with suspicion. His subsequent actions push the reader to consider whether he has had some sort of ‘change of heart’. The emergence of character then provides the reader with a sense of the forward movement of plot.

A Good Read Narrative criticism of the Fourth Gospel has come to recognize that narratives serve a rhetorical function; therefore, it is appropriate to ask the question to what position does the Gospel seek to persuade the reader. Nevertheless, in order to persuade, the Gospel must also hold the reader’s attention. Two dimensions of the Gospel add dramatic flare to the narrative: suspense and irony. While John gives all away in the Prologue, the narrative is fraught with suspense. Scholars continue to return to the following pattern in analysing how the conflict becomes more intense and the sense of danger increases from episode to episode: Jesus characterizes the actions of others as seeking (1:38; 6:26; 7:11, 34; 8:21; 11:56, 13:33; 18:4; 20:15) Characters describe their action as finding (1:41, 45) The narrator describes Jesus’ action of finding (1:43; 2:14; 5:14, 9:35; 11:17, 12:14) Jesus practises evasion and concealment (5:13; 6:15; 7:1, 4, 10; 8:59; 10:39; 11:54; 12:36)

198   Jo-Ann A. Brant The pattern of deferral and delay also generates suspense. After the Prologue announces the coming of the word into the world, the narrative begins with John (the Baptist) denying that he is the Messiah and then announcing, ‘Among you stands one whom you do not know’ (1:26). Only on the next day does he point to Jesus as the one, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ (1:29). Jesus, however, holds off fulfilling this function by protesting that his hour has not come (2:4). Jesus’ and the narrator’s repeated reference to his hour (4:21, 23; 5:25, 28, 29; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 16:25, 32; 17:1) functions like the hands of a clock slowly moving towards the moment of execution. Anticipation seems also to be the guiding principle in the slow-​paced narration of certain actions, such as the transformation of water into wine, the preparation to wash the disciples’ feet, the revealing of the betrayer, and the two disciples’ race to and cautious investigation of the tomb. Discussion of how the narrative creates suspense appears frequently in Johannine scholarship but has not yet come into focus as the main subject of a study. Irony, in contrast with suspense, receives more pointed attention. The following limited description of Johannine irony focuses upon discrepant awareness, a feature that is particularly prevalent in dramatic irony. The entire telling of the story is an ironic narrative insofar as the principal agents of Jesus’ pathos are shown to be imperfect people trying to solve what they see as a threat to God’s sovereignty and in doing so betray God’s sovereignty. The narrative frame with its self-​reflexive awareness that John is a literary document provides the condition for irony. The Prologue positions the reader at a vantage point from which to view the irony of speech and action so that when characters such as the Samaritan woman say things like, ‘Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob?’ (4:12; see also 7:27, 41), the reader silently answers ‘yes’. In the Cana Wedding episode, the narrator enhances the potential for irony by limiting the witnesses to the miracle to the servants, disciples, and readers. The steward attributes the source of the wine to the bridegroom’s holding back the best (2:9–​10). Some of the more striking examples of ironic speech include when characters speak about Jesus’ death. The crowd respond to Jesus’ allusion to his death by asking, ‘Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?’ (7:35, see also 8:22). Caiaphas prognosticates, ‘If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation’ (11:48), and concludes, ‘It is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed’ (11:50). When Pilate claims, ‘Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ (19:10), his implicit boast points to the discrepancy in his awareness that executing Jesus is God’s plan. Much of the irony in the action also revolves around characters’ lack of understanding of the redemptive nature of Jesus’ death. The priests refuse to enter the Praetorium for fear of defilement that will prevent their eating the Passover lamb (18:28). They rush to obtain Jesus’ conviction as morning turns to afternoon, so that they can return to their duty of slaughtering lambs in preparation for the Passover meal (19:14). They request that the legs of the crucified be broken so as not to interfere with the day of preparation (19:31) for eating the unbroken shank of the Passover lamb. The failure of the Romans to see Jesus’

The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama    199 crucifixion as a victory leads to a number of ironic acts. In an attempt to rub his victory over Jewish nationalism in the face of the Jewish Passover crowds, Pilate writes the first piece of New Testament Scripture, in three languages no less, when he has the inscription ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’ written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek placed on the cross (19:19). The soldiers spear Jesus’ body as a gesture designed to humiliate the corpse of a defeated combatant. Pilate then releases Jesus’ body to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who covertly give Jesus an honourable, albeit hasty, burial because, as the narrator notes, it was the Jewish day of preparation (19:38–​42). Characters are stumbling over each other to avoid Jesus’ death offending God, while the reader has systematically been prepared to view Jesus’ death as a sign of his glory. Another device that contributes to suspense is that of the false start: the first line from Genesis (1:1), characters pursuing John the Baptist as the Messiah (1:19–​28), the first attempt to arrest Jesus in the garden (18:4–​5), and the Beloved Disciple’s hesitation at the tomb (20:5). There is at least one false stop—​Jesus continues his farewell address after saying, let us be on our way (14:13)—​perhaps two if the concluding statement in 20:20–​31 counts. The systematic breaking of the victims’ legs (19:32) is misdirection or a feint that provides a first-​time reader with relief when Jesus’ limbs are spared (19:33) and then a jolt when the soldier skewers his side (19:34). Similarly, Thomas’ demand that he touch Jesus’ wounds (20:25) and Jesus’ subsequent invitation (20:27) provokes the alarming question of whether Thomas will follow through. The narrative leaves this question unanswered. This device perhaps provides the antidote to any arrogance the reader might feel as the beneficiary of irony by producing doubt in one’s own capacity to predict the action.

Trajectories Soon after The Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel began to circulate through the halls of biblical studies, I recall a senior scholar praising the work by saying that Culpepper had exhausted the approach and had left nothing to be done. Instead what has happened is that the discussion has moved from structuralism and the text to the dialectic between the text and reader, making space for a variety of approaches. As new critical theories have come to the fore in departments of literature and philosophy, they have become part of the discourse in Johannine Studies. True to Raymond Brown’s review of Culpepper’s work (1984), the vocabulary and tools of literary criticism have come not to ‘replace or vitiate’ other forms of criticism but to supplement them. History and fiction are no longer discrete terms. Although Johannine studies have moved away from a consensual model about the nature of the Johannine community, many remain optimistic that a literary approach can produce, if not certainty, at least strong possibilities about the history behind the text. At the same time, some works look squarely at the world generated by the text acknowledging the power of narrative to shape communities. As Johannine Studies moves towards the third decade of the twenty-​first century, I cautiously predict that among the forces that push scholarship forward, the following

200   Jo-Ann A. Brant will figure prominently. Future analysis of how John builds dramatic effect will uncover additional Johannine features that factor into the reader’s experience of the dramatic. The recognition that a strict dichotomy between Hellenism and Judaism cannot be sustained will fuel the quest to find the optimal balance of Greco-​Roman and Jewish literary and rhetorical milieux. The engagement with the rhetorical handbooks and conventions of ancient fiction will continue to enrich our readings of the Fourth Gospel. Increased interest in the way that narrative informs cognition and ethics makes it highly probable that early cognitive studies of ‘I am’ statements (Anderson 2011) and the metaphor of the lamb (Nielsen 2006) are merely an overture. As Ruth Sheridan notes at the end of her study of Johannine scriptural citations, the next steps in research into cognitive narratology entail ‘empirical studies on real readers to determine how they empathically engage with characters in fiction’ (2012: 245). Current work in cognitive narrative studies in other corners of academia suggest further possibilities for the study of John’s resemblance to a memory play, Johannine metaphoric and symbolic narrative, use of deixis, perception of time and space, bodily states and emotion, and the production of comedy and tragedy. As more attention is paid to such things as sound mapping of Johannine diction and syntax, performance criticism will perhaps increasingly inform discussions of Johannine narrative and its more dramatic and theatrical aspects. I end with another remembrance from graduate school. One morning, I was greeted by a scholar of modern thought with the sarcastic enquiry, ‘Is there anything new in the Bible today?’ My answer to this question in the 1980s might have been ‘Not today’, but now my answer would be very different. Each new article or book engaged with the shape of Johannine narrative seems to awaken me to subtleties in the contours of the text making each new close and sustained reading a rewarding experience.

Suggested Reading R. Alan Culpepper ‘s Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel:  A Study in Literary Design (1983) and Mark Stibbe’s The Gospel of John as Literature: An Anthology of Twentieth-​Century Perspectives (1993) are excellent places to begin a study of Johannine narrative. For more recent studies, turn to Anatomies of Narrative Criticism: The Past, Present, and Futures of the Fourth Gospel as Literature, edited by Tom Thatcher and Stephen D. Moore (2008). How John Works: Storytelling in the Fourth Gospel, edited by Douglas Estes and Ruth Sheridan (2016), provides a carefully delineated series of chapters examining particular facets of Johannine narrative including time, space, and plot. The Gospel of John as Genre Mosaic, edited by Kasper Bro Larsen (2015), leads its readers into the complexity of the relationship between genre, narrative, and reading experience.

Bibliography Anderson, Paul N., 2011. ‘The Origin and Development of the Johannine Egō Eimi Sayings in Cognitive-​Critical Perspective’, JSHJ 9: 139–​206.

The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama    201 Bauckham, Richard, 2007. The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple:  Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker. Bennema, Cornelis, 2014. Encountering Jesus: Character Studies in the Gospel of John. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. Brant, Jo-​Ann A., 2004. Dialogue and Drama: Elements of Greek Tragedy in the Fourth Gospel. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. Brodie, Thomas, 1997. The Gospel According to John: A Literary and Theological Commentary. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. Brown, Raymond E., 1966. The Gospel According to John: John I–​XII. New York: Doubleday. Brown, Raymond E., 1984. ‘Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design, R. Alan Culpepper’ (Review), Review & Expositor 81: 487–​8. Coloe, Mary L., 2001. God Dwells with Us: Temple Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. Conway, Colleen M., 1999. Men and Women in the Fourth Gospel:  Gender and Johannine Characterization. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Conway, Colleen M., 2002. ‘The Production of the Johannine Community: A New Historicist Perspective’, JBL 121: 479–​95. Culpepper, R. Alan, 1983. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel:  A Study in Literary Design. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Estes, Douglas and Sheridan, Ruth (eds.), 2016. How John Works: Storytelling in the Fourth Gospel. Atlanta: SBL Press. Frei, Hans, 1974. The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Frye, Northrup, 1957. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Hunt, Steven A., Tolmie, D. Francois, and Zimmermann, Ruben (eds.), 2013. Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel:  Narrative Approaches to Seventy Figures in John. Tübingen:  Mohr Siebeck. Larsen, Kasper Bro, 2008. Recognizing the Stranger: Recognition Scenes in the Fourth Gospel. Leiden: Brill. Larsen, Kasper Bro (ed.), 2015. The Gospel of John as Genre Mosaic. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Lee, Dorothy A., 2002. Flesh and Glory: Symbolism, Gender and Theology in the Gospel of John. New York: Crossroad. Leroy, Herbert, 1968. Rätsel und Missverständnis:  Ein Beitrag zur Formgeschichte des Johannesevangeliums. Bonn: Hanstein. Lincoln, Andrew T., 2000. Truth on Trial: The Lawsuit Motif in the Fourth Gospel. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. Martyn, J. Louis, 1968. History and Theology of the Fourth Gospel. New York: Harper & Row. Nielsen, Jesper Tang, 2006. ‘The Lamb of God:  The Cognitive Structure of a Johannine Metaphor’, in Jörg Frey, Jan G. van der Watt, and Ruben Zimmermann (eds.), Imagery in the Gospel of John: Terms, Forms, Themes and Theology of Johannine Figurative Language. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 217–​56. Parsenios, George L., 2010. Rhetoric and Drama in the Johannine Lawsuit Motif. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Parsenios, George L., 2015. ‘Silent Spaces between Narrative and Drama: Mimesis and Diegesis in the Fourth Gospel’, in Kasper Bro Larsen (ed.), The Gospel of John as Genre Mosaic. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: 85–​97.

202   Jo-Ann A. Brant Resseguie, James L., 2001. The Strange Gospel:  Narrative Design and Point of View in John. Leiden: Brill. Ricoeur, Paul, 1984. Time and Narrative, vol. 1, translated by K. McLaughlin and D. Pellaur. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Segovia, Fernando, 1991. ‘The Journey(s) of the Word of God: A Reading of the Plot of the Fourth Gospel’, Semeia 53: 23–​54. Sheridan, Ruth, 2012. Retelling Scripture: ‘The Jews’ and the Scriptural Citations in John 1:19-​ 12:15. Leiden: Brill. Staley, Jeffrey L., 1988. The Print’s First Kiss: A Rhetorical Investigation of the Implied Reader in the Fourth Gospel. Atlanta: Scholars Press. Stibbe, Mark W.  G., 1992. John as Storyteller:  Narrative Criticism and the Fourth Gospel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stibbe, Mark W. G., 1993. The Gospel of John as Literature: An Anthology of Twentieth-​Century Perspectives. Leiden: Brill. Thatcher, Tom, and Moore, Stephen D., 2008. Anatomies of Narrative Criticism: The Past, Present, and Futures of the Fourth Gospel as Literature. Atlanta, GA: SBL. Wang, Kuan-​Hiu, 2014. ‘Sense Perception and Testimony in the Gospel According to John’, doctoral thesis, Durham University, Durham. Wang, Sunny Kuan-Hui, 2017. Sense Perception and Testimony in the Gospel according to John. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Wimsatt, W. K.  Jr. and Beardsley, Monroe C., 1954. ‘The Intentional Fallacy’, in The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press. Whitenton, Michael, 2016. ‘The Dissembler of John 3: A Cognitive and Rhetorical Approach to the Characterization of Nicodemus’, JBL 135: 141–​58. Zimmerman, Ruben, 2006. ‘Imagery in John: Opening up Paths into the Tangled Thicket of John’s Figurative World’, in Jörg Frey, Jan G. van der Watt, and Ruben Zimmermann (eds.), Imagery in the Gospel of John: Terms, Forms, Themes and Theology of Johannine Figurative Language. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 1–​45.

Chapter 13

Ide ol o gical Re a di ng s of t he Fourth  G o spe l Warren Carter

Introduction Contemporary biblical ideological criticism recognizes that every reading of John’s Gospel is ideological. That is, no reading of the Bible is ‘non-​ideological’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995:  303). Every reading is marked by ‘contextualization and perspective, social location and agenda’ (Segovia 1995: 8), constructing ‘meaning in the service of power’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 274), whether an early church reading concerning a contested doctrinal position (Pollard 1956–​57), a contemporary postcolonial reading, or a chapter on ideological readings in a handbook.1 ‘There can never be a pure, ideology-​ free, uninvested encounter between text and reader. There is always bias; on the part of readers, of critical approaches, of texts . . . There is no reading of the Bible that is not political or that does not have political consequences’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 302–​3; Schüssler Fiorenza 1988). The recognition that there are no non-​ideological readings poses a challenge for the parameters of this chapter. If every reading is ideological in effecting ‘meaning in the service of power’, what is this article to engage, or more precisely, what can it omit? Guided by the title adopted, this chapter outlines in section 1 a theoretical framework shaping contemporary ideological criticism. Section 2 identifies several discussions of John that employ this framework. Section 3 sharpens the focus to discuss some prominent postcolonial and political studies; the former explicitly foreground a contemporary 1 

This invites an authorial acknowledgement of location as a male immigrant from an inconsequential (from the perspective of the xenophobic centre) former British colony, Aotearoa/​New Zealand, now living as a marginalized foreigner in the United States, concerned with the various assertions, impacts, and negotiations of imperial power in both the world from which the New Testament documents emerged and in the contemporary world in which it is interpreted.

204   Warren Carter postcolonial optic, whereas the latter (—​what is not ‘political’?—​) focus more specifically on interactions among text, readers, and the ruling structures of the Roman imperial world in which John’s Gospel originated and which it negotiated. It is hoped that the chapter will challenge mainstream scholarship to identify its own subjectivity and commitments in terms of what it deems worthy for discussion and what it excludes, and join the discussion of the political contexts, dimensions, and implications of the Gospel text and its interpretive discourses.

What is Ideological Criticism? The term ‘ideology’ has been variously used, whether in popular thought to refer negatively to extremist views, in Marxist analyses of class relationships and inequitable access to material resources (Eagleton 1991; Jameson 1991), or in literary theory to identify a text’s point of view (Uspensky 1973: 1–​100). Increasingly in biblical studies it has referred to ‘the material and economic conditions that inform the reading of biblical texts’, especially their structures of power (Byron 2008: 7). In this regard the interpreter determines the types of social, political, and economic power structures operative at the time a text was written and the types of power discourses employed by a particular author in producing the text (extrinsic analysis). The interpreter also determines ways in which the text itself assimilates and embodies socioeconomic conditions to generate particular ideologies in its rhetoric, noting the gaps, inconsistencies, and silenced voices (intrinsic analysis) (Byron 2008: 7). Ideological criticism, then, attends to ‘the processes by which meaning is produced, challenged, reproduced, transformed’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 272), to the ‘task of unmasking biases, injustices, privileges, and other oppressive worldviews or structures that are embedded in biblical texts and that similarly circumscribe the interpretation of biblical texts’ (Byron 2008: 7). Text, interpretations, and interpreters are in focus. Ideological criticism has ‘the task of exposing and charting the structure and dynamics of these power relations as they come to expression in language, in the conflicting ideologies operating in discourse, and in flesh and blood readers of texts in their concrete social locations and relationships’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 274). The approach takes historical and cultural locations of text and interpreters seriously. Fernando Segovia sees the central focus of ideological criticism as ‘on contextualization and perspective, social location and agenda, and hence on the political character of all composition and texts as well as reading and interpretation’ (Segovia 1995: 8). Both text and interpreter exhibit perspective. Meaning emerges from ‘an encounter between a socially and historically conditioned text and a socially and historically conditioned reader’ (Segovia 1995: 8; Lozada 2006: 183–​5). Ideological criticism distinguishes itself from historical-​critical and other critical approaches that pursue and employ a ‘singular voice’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 277), and that have claimed an objective pose marked by disinterested inquiry. These approaches

Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel    205 marked by positivism and empiricism seek meaning that is commonly regarded as ‘objective and univocal’, open to ‘scientific retrieval and reconstruction’ (Segovia, 1995: 10–​ 11)’. This pose of objectivity can be sustained only by maintaining a lack of awareness of and inattentiveness to the self-​interests, contexts, and perspectives of the text, interpreter, method, and larger interpretive community/​ties at play in interpretations. The claim to objectivity is itself a value-​laden commitment. Unmasking the ‘biases, injustices, privileges and other oppressive worldviews or structures pervading texts and interpretations’ and attending to structures and inscribings of power give ideological criticism an ethical force that ‘makes an explicit, unabashed appeal to justice’, concerned with ‘the ethical character of and response to the text and to those lived relations that are represented and reproduced in the act of reading’ and seeking ‘what is just and unjust about lived relations . . . and to change those power relations for the better’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 275). It asks questions such as: ‘Does the text or a particular reading of the text liberate? Does the reading bring about positive social change? Does the reading expose injustices of race, class, neo-​ colonialism, gender, and sexuality?’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995:  303). A  two-​sided dynamic is in play, identifying ‘oppressive sociopolitical presence in the text and in the history of its interpretation in the dominant ideology’ and one that identifies ‘the liberating message of the text and the history of interpretations of the text by oppressed readers’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 284). This ethical force recognizes that biblical texts and interpretations are sites of contest. Multiple readings with diverse investments and historical locations create conflict especially in offering ethical critique of other readings and exposing the interests and values served. The authoritative role of the Bible in various cultures along with interpretations that have often replicated points of view have frequently sanctioned unjust structures and practices such as patriarchy, slavery, and colonial subjugation. Ideological reading reads against ‘the grain—​of texts, of disciplinary norms, of traditions, of cultures’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 275). It challenges and resists such readings and the authority and injustices they reinscribe. It thus engages in critique, enacts conflicts with other texts and their readings, exposes systems of power and privilege inscribed in texts and interpretations, and offers alternative readings. It ‘exposes the political stakes of biblical texts and the political uses to which the Bible has been put in contemporary and historical settings’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 303). This challenge to the interests of dominant readings, while asserting commitments to matters of justice, raises important questions for the exercise of ideological criticism. One group’s justice can mean another group’s oppression. ‘Every reading has the potential of becoming dominant and suppressing other readings’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 283), replicating and reinscribing a ‘singular voice’ while resisting another. Ideological readings require considerable self-​awareness in engaging the impact of the readings. Readings that encourage ‘positive social change’ marked by progress towards justice, the acceptance of difference, and the affirmation of the inclusion of all in the human community are deemed to be ‘better’ readings (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 302).

206   Warren Carter Ideological readings challenge two techniques in particular employed by dominant readings that do not embrace these commitments. One strategy, depoliticization, refuses to recognize that New Testament texts like John’s Gospel and their interpretations have anything to do with politics, societal structures, and bodies. Depoliticized readings spiritualize text and interpretations, focusing on supposedly restricted religious matters and individual relationships with God. This approach refuses or marginalizes discussion of socio-​political and systemic dimensions of human existence, and denies that its own restricted and narrow approach enacts political values. The long interpretive tradition of insistence that John’s Gospel yields no ethical address, and certainly no political ethic, enacts this strategy (Zimmermann 2012: 44–​51). A second strategy consists of the politics of omission. This strategy enacts a disciplinary hierarchy that values discussion of some topics, the use of some methods, and the voices of some interpreters, but considers other topics, methods, and voices unworthy of inclusion and engagement. Matters of gender, ethnicity, imperial power, and social status, for example, often have been omitted from mainstream Johannine scholarship. So too have the perspectives and readings of historically underrepresented interpreters. Such intersectionalities offer the possibility to ‘expose racialized discourses, marginalized perspectives, and hidden hegemonic social and cultural assumptions’ (Byron 2008: 7). Ideological readings counter marginalization. Ideological criticism, then, welcomes multiple voices and perspectives, especially those that commonly experience subjugation, in decentring dominant Euro-​American male approaches that have often asserted a ‘singular voice’ over other interpretations (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 277). Fernando Segovia highlights this interaction of ‘texts and readers of texts—​real, flesh-​and-​blood readers’, an interaction shaped by contextualization and perspective, as a distinctive feature of ideological readings (Segovia 1995: 3–​5, 10, 12). This mode of discourse ‘is by no means monolingual but rather quite varied, profoundly polyglot, given the complex nature of social locations and agendas’. The result is that ‘all recreations and reconstructions are productions . . . on the part of real readers’ who are contextualized as individuals within societal structures of power. Since meanings are constructed in the interactions between text and such readers, a ‘plurality of interpretations’ is normal and ‘no final recreation of meaning or reconstruction of history is possible’ (Segovia 1995: 8, 11–​12). These commitments are expressed in the questions that ideological criticism typically asks, namely, ‘Does the reading expose injustices of race, class, neo-​colonialism, gender, and sexuality? Who is represented? Who is excluded? In other words, who is not there? Who is silent or silenced?’ (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 303). In summary, ideological criticism focuses on contextualized and perspectival texts and interpretations, structures of power that pervade both, flesh-​and-​blood readers who are contextualized and perspectival, an ethical concern with lived relations, a recognition of the Bible and its readings as sites of contest (‘meaning in the service of power’), and a commitment to the inclusion of multiple and underrepresented voices. Ideological criticism of the Bible entails the twin effort 1) to read the ancient biblical stories for their ideological content and mode of production and 2) to grasp the

Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel    207 ideological character of contemporary reading strategies. . . . [It] is to be seen as a resistant act, a positive, ethical response. It is a critical action designed to expose cultural systems of power that shape the lived relations not only of readers of the Bible but of vast majority of the world’s peoples who in varying ways have suffered real poverty, oppression and violence. (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995: 277)

Ideological Criticism of the Fourth Gospel: Two Examples A corpus of scholarly analyses of Johannine scenes and interpretive discourse, informed by ideological criticism, is emerging (Culpepper 1996; Ariarajah 2006; Kraus 2006). Since feminist work is explored elsewhere in this Handbook (Levine, 2003),2 what follows offers two examples for discussion that engage other areas of interest. Adele Reinhartz engages the Gospel’s portrayal of and relationships to Jewish traditions and community (1998; 2001). She identifies herself as a contemporary Jewish female New Testament scholar, a child of Holocaust survivors, who is troubled by hostile depictions of Jewish characters in the Gospel and by the dominant scholarly ‘exclusion hypothesis’ that blames Jews in a synagogue for expelling Johannine believers. Using the literary theory of Wayne Booth’s The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction, she sets out to determine whether she can befriend the implied author of the Gospel, the Beloved Disciple. She adopts four reading postures: compliant, resistant, sympathetic, and engaged, with the latter position attractive but ultimately unsatisfactory because the Gospel’s binary discourse prevents acceptance of her difference. Reinhartz’s work, which appeals to John 11–​12 to reject the exclusion scenario, is contextualized and perspectival, recognizing multivalent readings and sites of contest, aware of and resistant to the structures of power that have privileged negative constructions of Jews, and with an ethical focus on the harmful impact of John’s text and interpretations.3 In an insightful article, Colleen Conway examines several reconstructions of the entity known as ‘the Johannine Community’, arguing that every reconstruction is value-​ laden in reflecting contemporary contexts (2002; Tan 2013). Conway argues that J. L. Martyn’s widely used two-​level drama of the Johannine Community, for example, produces ‘an outcast community that appealed especially to the radical sensibilities of the late 1960s and 1970s.4 It played on the desire to align oneself with the marginalized over against the established institutional authorities.’ But it simultaneously encouraged readers to identify ‘the Jews’ as villains, thereby inciting, as Reinhartz recognizes, anti-​Jewish responses from Christian readers. By contrast, in a climate at least among some readers of religious-​ethnic tolerance, Reinhartz’s production ‘of the Gospel that


See Chapter 14, Colleen M. Conway, ‘Gender and the Fourth Gospel’. See Chapter 8, Adele Reinhartz, ‘The Jews of the Fourth Gospel’. 4  See Chapter 5, M. C. de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’. 3 

208   Warren Carter downplays notions of religious intolerance on the part of the synagogue and discourages the demonizing of Judaism becomes more and more attractive’ (Conway 2002: 488, 491). Conway argues that ‘with respect to various productions of the Johannine Community . . . we get glimpses not just of possible Johannine communities but of . . . twenty-​first century communities . . . struggling at the site of the Fourth Gospel in an ongoing process of self-​definition’. Each production produces a view of the world and negates other views. In the relation of history and text and the task of making meaning, literature does not necessarily reflect historical fact but constructs a complex world in a text that participates in its historical moment and ‘the political management of reality’ (Conway 2002: 492–​3). These readings exhibit features of ideological readings—​interpreters identify their location and interests that impact their contextualized and perspectival readings, engage structures of power in contexts, texts, and interpretations, and take up the ethical implications of previous readings as well as of their own.

Postcolonial and Political Readings Ideological discussions of John’s Gospel have embraced a postcolonial optic as an important approach. A groundbreaking volume coedited by Musa Dube and Jeffrey Staley, John and Postcolonialism, offered eleven self-​identified postcolonial readings of aspects of the Gospel and of its scholarship (2002; Segovia 2007b; Lozada 2007). As with Reinhartz’s self-​ identification, these readers and readings often comprise an intersectionality of markers involving, for example, gender, ethnicity, nationality, colonization, and other cultural forces. So Jean Kim, ‘a feminist reader belonging to a postcolonial generation’ and a Korean woman living in the United States, reads the scene in John 7:53–​8:11 concerning the adulterous woman (2002:  113; 2004), as do Leticia A.  Guardiola-​Sáenz, ‘a Mexican woman, born and bred in the bi-​cultural neo-​colonist context of the Rio Grande Valley borderlands, and living now as a resident alien in the US’ (2002:  135), and Hisako Kinukawa a ‘Japanese feminist’ woman (1995: 82). Zipporah Glass, ‘an African American’, reads the vine image in John 15 (2002: 154), while Yak-​Hwee Tan reads as a hybridized or ‘mixed’ or ‘in-​between’ woman ‘whose heritage is Chinese and Confucian  . . .  who became a Christian . . . whose education has been primarily Western, Christian, and Eurocentric’ (2006: 173). Tat-​Siong Benny Liew reads John as constructing community in ‘the context and contest of US (multi)cultural dynamics’ (2002: 195). Warren Carter, an immigrant from the former British colony of Aotearoa/​New Zealand living in the United States, employs postcolonial perspectives to examine the previously neglected or frequently spiritualized ‘blind, lame, and paralyzed’ (John 5:3) as bodies damaged by imperial domination (2011). Especially influential have been the contributions of Musa Dube (1996; 1998; 2002) and Fernando Segovia (2007a). Musa Dube reads John from a hybridized

Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel    209 location, ‘as a post-​colonial subject who inhabits colonial spaces’, a ‘Motswana woman of Southern Africa’, specifically Botswana, who has lived in England and the United States and has been ‘trained in Western schools, Western texts and Western ways of reading’ (1998: 118–​19; 2002: 60). Foundational for her readings of John are recognitions of the embeddedness of the Bible in western imperialism, John’s role ‘in sanctioning Western imperialism’, and ecclesial missions. Biblical scholars have failed to engage the present so that biblical studies ‘are not only colonized but become a colonizing body of knowledge’. Dube’s project is to decolonize ‘the biblical text, its interpretations, its readers, its institutions, as well as seeking ways of reading for liberating interdependence’ (1998: 130–​3). Decolonization comprises ‘awareness of imperialism’s exploitative forces and its various strategies of domination, the conscious adoption of strategies of resisting imperial domination as well as the search for alternative ways of liberating interdependence between nations, genders, economies, and cultures’ (1998: 132; 2002: 52). She posits that the Samaritan woman scene (John 4)  derives from ‘the Johannine community and its missionary vision’ that imitates and reinscribes ‘imperial goals, strategies and values’ (2002: 61, 66). Dube compellingly organizes her reading on the basis of features of imperialism that she finds operative in John’s narrative (2002: 61–​7 1). She sees in the reference in 4:1 to the Pharisees, Jesus, and John the Baptist an inscribing of intergroup rivalries and conflicts typical of colonized contexts with Pharisees/​Moses and John and his followers subordinated to the dominant Jesus. The second section concerns the reference in 4:35 to ‘the fields . . . ripe for harvesting’. Dube points out that ‘the ideology of imperialism typically conceals its interests’ by highlighting its benefits to natives. John’s narrative imitates such disguise, presenting Jesus with no intention of evangelizing Samaria (his real goal is Galilee), and the disciples buying food but not missioning (4:9). Yet Jesus’ task as saviour of the world is imperialistic in exercising unlimited access to any foreign land and people (4:42). His mission is divinely sanctioned; he sanctions his disciples to continue it. Further, Dube identifies Jesus’ comment to the woman that ‘You worship what you do not know . . . we worship what we know’ (4:10, 22) as the imperial ideology ‘of inferior knowledge and invalid faith for those who must be colonized’. Dube underscores the gendered nature of imperialist ideologies of subjugation with the Samaritan woman representing her people. ‘The ideology of the story is that foreign lands are immoral women which await taming by foreign saviors’. In sum, the imperialist ideology exhibited in this narrative ‘suggests a massive inclusion of races, lands, genders, and religions, but not equality’ (2002: 70). Having exposed the scene’s inscribed imperialist ideology, Dube seeks to read ‘for decolonization and for the empowerment of women’ (2002: 71–​5). She employs Mositi Torontle’s reading developed from post-​independent Botswana and apartheid South Africa with its distinctive feature being a female character that replaces Jesus. The reading ‘arrests the oppressive constructions of gender, race, geography and religion’ in John’s mission narrative. Dube concludes by saying, ‘Biblical critical practice must be dedicated to an ethical task of promoting decolonization, fostering diversity, and imagining liberating ways of interdependence’.

210   Warren Carter Dube’s second article offers a ‘post-​colonial reading of John’s construction of space’ (1998:  123). She intends to ‘decolonize Jesus’ highly exalted divinity and his place of origin insofar as they will be shown to express a colonizing ideology’ (1998: 120–​1). She argues that ‘John’s redrawing of spatial maps will be shown to be a quest for power by an oppressed group which seeks power on the same terms (ideology) as its imperial oppressors and their collaborators’. Dube begins the essay with two scenarios from her experience that demonstrate ‘lands or physical bodies are ideological constructs’ (1998: 120–​1). She evokes two colonizing narratives (Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Virgil’s Aeneid) to highlight three dimensions: colonizing subjects are presented as larger than life; they seem to be divine or beyond earthly boundaries; and they imagine that all spaces are universally available to them (1998: 122–​4). In discussing John’s Prologue and c­ hapter  3, she shows that the Gospel inscribes these same imperializing dynamics in presenting Jesus (1998:  124–​9). Jesus’ origin is in heaven, the basis for his claiming power over all space and peoples of the world. The exclusive claim that he alone has seen God (1:18) ‘legitimates a systematic subordination of all other individuals and groups’, including Nicodemus who does not come from above, and all teachers and leaders of Israel including Moses (3:13–​15) and John the Baptist (3:30). Jesus’ origin shows his superiority and power over the world and secures its subordination. Also evident is the conflict and competition that is typical among colonized groups. Imperial power is ‘a catalyst for the vicious competition of local groups’. Dube locates the Johannine community within these conflicts which the text reflects while also propounding ‘imperializing ideologies. Its strategy of elevating Jesus above any other cultural figure . . . is a colonizing ideology.’ Jesus transfers his power over the whole world to his believers (20:21b). Jesus sends them into the world with the same subordinating power, thereby imitating his status as not originating in the world yet being its savior (emperor) (1998: 129). Dube ends by challenging interpreters to examine the role of biblical texts in authorizing imperialism and to develop readings of ‘liberating interdependence’ (1998: 132). Dube’s readings embrace her experience and identity as a postcolonial subject in which the Bible and John’s Gospel have been subjugating weapons. The strength of her readings lies in their exposure of past and present colonizing strategies inscribed by John’s Gospel, which emerges, as she recognizes, from a colonized context and expresses the hopes of a colonized group that often imitate the aspirations and worldview of the colonizer. To the fore is Dube’s crusading refusal to be trapped in the past, urging interpreters to attend in their readings to the ongoing challenge of decolonizing texts and interpretations in relation to the present. Yet there seems to be some unevenness in executing her agenda. For while she calls for decolonized readings that break the imperializing spiral of ‘power over’, these essays, admittedly a limited sample (Dube 2000) are thin in presenting alternative readings. She interestingly justifies the inclusion of her own experience in one essay as ‘meant to contest, subvert and decolonize the master’s text by refusing to give it too much

Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel    211 attention’ and as expressing her ‘discontent with the strategy of reading the colonizer’s canon’ (1998: 119). However, given that the Johannine text has widespread canonical authority for ecclesial communities, the production of alternative readings requires more, not less, attention. Since many Johannine interpreters continue to desist from any of the recognitions that are central to her fine work, the task of decolonizing text and interpretations and developing alternative readings remains incomplete but necessary. Fernando Segovia describes his reading location (2010: 244–​5): Born and raised in Cuba, I experienced life first under a right-​wing dictatorship, then under a left-​wing dictatorship. As someone who emigrated from Latin America to the United States, I experienced life first in the world of the colonized, as a citizen of a dependent country, and then in the world of the colonizer, as a member of what was in the United States a minority ethnic group. . . . My whole life has been a reaction against polarization and ‘othering’ and a search for freedom and justice, dignity and well-​being. Before the Gospel of John, I stand in awe of its highly reassuring vision of enlightenment and love –​and in fear of its deeply unsettling deployment of either or rhetoric and ideology.

He begins his postcolonial commentary by outlining his approach to postcolonial criticism and its implications for writing a commentary on John (Segovia 2007: 156–​63). He sets the ‘geopolitical relationship of domination and subordination’ at the centre arguing that John’s Gospel constitutes a ‘postcolonial’ writing’ since the text ‘reveals critical awareness of geopolitical power within the Roman Empire’, notably the imperial centre (Rome) and the colonized subordinated periphery (Galilee-​Judea) (2007: 163). The Gospel claims to bring down ‘all established dominions and allegiances’, and to substitute ‘an alternative dominion and allegiance’ in the midst of any ‘immensely powerful imperial-​colonial formation’. Segovia identifies himself as a postcolonial ‘reader with critical consciousness of the geopolitical problematic of his own historical and ongoing context’, who offers ‘a reading that highlights such a problematic in the Gospel of John within its own imperial-​colonial context’ (2007: 158). Segovia divides his commentary into three ‘angles of inquiry’. In the first ‘angle of inquiry’ (2007: 165–​8), he outlines the Gospel’s postcolonial proposal that emerges from identifying ‘John’s distinctive foregrounding and problematization of the geopolitical relationship of power within the imperial-​colonial formation of Rome’. Segovia sees John creating a bipolar and divided two-​tiered reality comprising the world above and this world/​the world below. God, along with the word, constitute the world above’s supreme power. Satan and the Judean state as part of Rome’s empire dominate the world below (‘this world’). God sends the word/​son into Satan/​Rome’s world as its saviour. Satan allies with the imperial authorities to reject and execute Jesus. While Satan seems to win, God wins in Jesus’ resurrection and glorification. The conflict continues with Jesus’ missional followers until they are reunited with Jesus at his return. The ‘second angle of inquiry’ discusses the ‘postcolonial alternative’ introduced in the Prologue of 1:1–​18 which comprises ‘a vision of absolute otherness’ (2007: 168–​74). This ‘other world’ in 1:1–​2, 18 is inhabited only by God and the word. By contrast, the imperial

212   Warren Carter heavenly world is populated with numerous deities and emperors; they are absent from John’s vision. John’s other world has political ramifications. Any divine sanction for the imperial centre and leadership of the colonial periphery (Judea) is withdrawn, replaced by an alternative centre, the word. Verses 3–​17 envision this world as all creation, both the imperial centre and colonial periphery, under the word’s power and judgment. Activated by God’s love, the word Jesus enters this world with a radical alternative, either to overcome its alienation (to become children of God) or reinforce its opposition and hostility. The Prologue thus creates a rival and superior system of power that ‘stands, in principle, over against not just the imperial-​colonial framework of Rome but all political frameworks and all human beings’. Within 1:1–​18, Segovia identifies key strategies by which the Prologue deals with the postcolonial problematic. These include ‘displacement and desacralization’, which remove power from all existing structures; ‘replacement and resacralization’, which relocate power in substitute structures; ‘othering’, which portrays the outside as chaos, and ‘inversion’, which portrays the inside as whole and privileged (the children of God) (2007: 173). The Johannine response to imperial geopolitics offers a postcolonial alternative that centres on the supremely powerful word, Jesus, who dispenses power in this world, and on followers of Jesus who continue to assert power. The third angle of inquiry concerns the ‘postcolonial programme’ of the Gospel’s plot, a way of absolute opposition. Segovia traces the plot through three cycles of Jesus’ activity in Galilee and Jerusalem (1:19–​3:36; 4:1–​5:47; 6:1–​10:42) and a fourth section in Jerusalem. Features of the plot as a postcolonial programme include situating Jesus’s life within the imperial-​colonial formation of Rome’s empire; Jesus’ revelation of the kingdom of God in his words and works in this context; his calling into question this world and his promotion of the alternative other world; a progressive confrontation between Jesus and Satan and provincial elites; his crucifixion by the elite and resurrection by God, which condemns the elite; the continuation of his mission by his followers who reveal the kingdom of God in this world until Jesus’ return when the victory achieved in principle becomes a victory in practice (2007: 187–​8). Segovia styles this assertion of the kingdom of God in the present as an ‘outpost’, a space that is ‘at once colonial and imperial’, a ‘site of opposition’ that: comprises a colonial strategy of anti-​imperialism. At the same time, such opposition, rooted in the rule and power of God, replicates in significant fashion the constitution and comportment of its target . . . Such a strategy of absolute opposition, while no doubt reassuring . . . for hard-​pressed believers . . . borrows much too much from its target for its own good. (2007: 191–​2)

Segovia acknowledges the need for interaction between his analysis and other ‘discourses on gender, materialism, sexuality, and race/​ethnicity’. And he urges those who bear the name of Christian to wrestle with the legacy of the Gospel’s postcolonial proposal and programme (2007: 192–​3). It should be added that Segovia’s ‘programme of outright opposition’ needs nuance in recognizing other dimensions of negotiation such as accommodation, survival, ambivalence, and mockery.

Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel    213 Fernando Segovia recognizes that within an ideological-​ postcolonial agenda, postcolonial biblical criticism embraces a huge agenda—​‘analysis of the geopolitical relationship of power in the worlds of antiquity, modernity, and postmodernity’ (2009: 215–​16). These worlds embrace imperial-​colonial formations of the biblical texts, their subsequent use in various forms of imperial-​colonial expansion, and in contemporary globalization. Some studies of John’s gospel have concentrated on a smaller, manageable but distinct part of this larger inquiry, namely the world of antiquity and Rome’s empire. They have employed various methods to examine the Gospel’s engagement with its central imperial-​colonial dynamic of domination and submission. The central question concerns how John’s Gospel, a text created ‘from below’ among the subjugated, negotiates Roman imperial power. Initially, three unsatisfactory proposals can be noted. First, Wayne Meeks’ 1996 chapter on Johannine ethics develops David Rensberger’s argument that John’s Gospel engages the world, first century and the present, ‘as a sect, as a minority opinion, countercultural and antiestablishment’ (Rensberger  1988:  136). Rensberger denies the Johannine community was ‘economically or politically oppressed’, except perhaps sporadically by ‘government officials’, but foregrounds its sense of alienation in ‘their expulsion from the synagogue’ (1988: 110–​11). Meeks argues that this countercultural stance has for the Johannine community, ‘when encountering the agents of the larger society, both Roman and Jewish, quite definite political and social implications’ (1996: 322). He points to the ‘political motifs’ of the passion narrative where the question is one of ultimate loyalty, and confession of Jesus is dangerous (1996: 323–​4). Problematic, though, is that Meeks’ analysis is too monolithic and partial, as well as being inadequately informed by a thorough analysis of the Gospel’s imperial-​colonial context. Richard Cassidy’s 1992 John’s Gospel in New Perspective deserves credit for its pioneering attention to how ‘John consciously responded to the realities of Roman rule’ (1992: 5). Cassidy locates his own awareness in relation to the 1989 martyrdom of six Jesuit priests and two women in El Salvador. His discussion is more wide-​ranging than Meeks’ analysis, but his attempt to locate John’s Gospel in relation to prosecutions under governor Pliny and emperor Trajan, followed subsequently by Richey (2007: xv, xvii, 56), is unconvincing. The dating and provenance of this correspondence (110 ce in Pontus) is too late for the Gospel’s composition and Cassidy fails to show that the Gospel is written in Pontus-​Bithynia: Pliny of course had no jurisdiction beyond that region. Moreover, subsequent scholarship has shown that John’s negotiation of empire is much more extensive and complex than a dynamic of prosecution allows. Also inadequate is Salier’s somewhat narrowly conceived discussion in relation to the ‘imperial cult’ (2006: 285–​90). Salier identifies nine possible points of interaction between Gospel and cult. His discussion, however, exhibits little appreciation for the multiple dynamics beyond the imperial cult by which imperial control was asserted, local populations subjugated, and empire negotiated. Further, Salier’s claim that this interaction with the imperial cult is not ‘a major thrust of the Gospel’s presentation but . . . a minor theme . . .’ fails to evaluate adequately the larger and more complex issues involved (2006: 285).

214   Warren Carter Much more insightful and multivalent is Stephen Moore’s discussion. Locating himself with Musa Dube in recognizing John’s role in European colonialisim, he argues that ‘John is at once the most—​and the least—​political of the canonical gospels’ (2006: 50). It is most political because it presents Jesus as king with a popular following (6:15; 11:48), least political because this king seems to pose no threat to Roman hegemony, at least according to Pilate (18:38) although not according to the Ioudaioi (11:45–​53; 19:12, 15) (2006: 50–​2). Focusing on the passion, Moore challenges the portrayal of ‘the mild-​ mannered Pilate of Christian tradition’ by highlighting Pilate’s scourging of Jesus (19:1) (2006: 58; Carter 2003: 31–​4, 127–​54). Moore emphasizes Pilate’s direct agency in the whipping, designates it as torture that constitutes ‘the central mechanism designed to keep every Roman subject’ in their subjugated place, and interprets John’s inclusion of it ‘as a singularly scathing indictment of the Roman imperial order in general and of Roman justice in particular’ (2006: 56–​63). In a comparison with Revelation where Rome is both an agent of torture, but also the object of torture (by fire), Moore notes the Gospel’s Rome is not ‘represented as the object of divine punishment’ (2006: 64). Instead, Moore sees the key scene as 11:45–​52 (pervaded by irony) explaining Jesus’ crucifixion: it is the politically motivated action of the fearful Ioudaioi who propitiate Caesar, and spare the populace by Jesus’ substitutionary death. Yet, unknowingly, they enact the divine substitutionary programme through Jesus ‘the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (1:29). Moore sees John’s resistance to Rome as ‘an alternative program of colonization yet more ambitious than the Roman: the annexation of the world by non-​military means’. After 70ce, Roman dispossession of Judea is excelled in the fourth century ‘when Christianity becomes Rome’ and possesses both Jerusalem and Rome to the exclusion of wandering Jews (2006: 70). In the final section, Moore observes that John does not, unlike the Synoptics, present Jesus returning in a parousia to destroy Rome. Rather, the Roman Empire, whose torturing imperialism the Gospel has critiqued, survives and flourishes, ‘destined to be transformed by Christianity from within’. With this transformation in which Christianity becomes Rome and Rome becomes Christianity, ‘the Fourth Gospel shows itself to be the charter document of Constantinian Christianity’ (2006: 70–​4). Moore’s non-​parousia, non-​punitive reading of Rome’s destiny provides a significant point of difference with Carter’s book-​length study, John and Empire (2008). Employing a cocktail of methods including postcolonial theory, Carter locates his study in the Roman power structures of domination and subjugation, critiquing and rejecting the dominant individualistic-​spiritualized and sectarian-​synagogal-​separation readings. Without claiming it as the Gospel’s provenance, he constructs a reading in relation particularly to the inscriptional record of Roman Ephesus and draws on recent work on Jewish communities (from which John’s believers have not been excluded) that suggests significant levels of societal participation, even while observing some Jewish distinctive practices. Carter argues that the Gospel addresses a situation that claims Johannine believers are too culturally embedded. The Gospel employs a ‘rhetoric of distance’ to create much more cultural detachment (2008: 1–​89).

Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel    215 Carter’s attention to both synagogues and imperial structures seeks to offer a significant development. Whereas previous scholarly work on John and the Roman empire has largely turned its back on the synagogue, creating a false alternative of either Rome or the synagogue, Carter collapses this binary, complexifying it by recognizing that Jewish communities also negotiated Roman power and that John’s Gospel participates in the same task. The Gospel’s ‘rhetoric of distance’, however, is not monolithic and singularly oppositional. Its negotiation is ambivalent in employing a number of strategies, including relexification that reinscribes and imitates imperial language, vision, and structures. Carter makes this argument not in relation to a few conveniently selected verses but across numerous central aspects of the Gospel: its Prologue, genre, plot, Christology, theology, ecclesiology, the passion narrative, resurrection, and ascension as apotheosis (2008: 93–​334). Carter highlights the Gospel’s eschatology, particularly the notion of ‘eternal life’ or, more literally, ‘life of the age’ (2008: 204–​34).5 Rejecting apolitical, individualized and spiritualized notions, Carter elaborates ‘age-​ly life’ in somatic, material, political, and societal terms embracing both the present and future. He argues that John’s Gospel participates in and utilizes aspects of Jewish eschatological visions (resurrection of the body; fertility and abundant food; physical wholeness; defeat of enemies) along with contesting, imitating, and terminating Roman imperial claims of a golden age and ‘eternal Rome’. In contrast to Moore’s claim that the Gospel announces no destruction of Rome, Carter argues that the Gospel does evoke this scenario (2008: 335–​42). He interprets the Gospel’s language of judgment on the world as judgment on Rome’s empire (3:17–​18; 9:39; 12:31), as well as the future references to Jesus’ return (14:3, 28) in which Jesus will enact judgment on those who have rejected him as revealer (12:48), and will as Son of Man assert God’s rule over all (Dan. 7:13–​14). Carter agrees with Moore that the Gospel includes no dramatic description of Rome’s demise but argues that these references to Jesus’ triumphant-​over-​all return indicate destruction, not infiltration and transformation, as Rome’s destiny. Carter recognizes that in ‘imagining the establishment of God’s life-​giving purposes after the destruction of all enemies, (Johannine) Christianity has become and continues to be imperial Rome, intolerant of, vindictive toward, and heaping destruction upon those who do not fall into line’ (341–​2). He ends the book by urging contemporary readers of the Gospel to abandon its imperial paradigm and reimagine God’s life-​giving purposes as somatic and societal for all people. Carter’s comprehensive analysis of John’s negotiation of the Roman empire critiques individualized/​religious and depoliticized/​spiritualized readings that focus only on a synagogue and create sectarian identities;6 instead it envisages much more multivalent and wholistic interaction across John’s Gospel.



See Chapter 18, Ruben Zimmermann, ‘Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John’. See Chapter 15, Philip F. Esler, ‘Social-​Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John’.

216   Warren Carter

Conclusion The various examples of ideological criticism discussed here have indicated that the Gospel yields political strategies and ethics,7 but also have outlined and evaluated numerous aspects of its imperial negotiation. To the extent that this thriving and insightful discussion of John’s Gospel employing ideological criticism is often ignored by so-​called ‘mainstream’ scholarship with its commitments to depoliticization and omission or marginalization, this chapter invites such scholarship to engage the challenge to own its subjectivity and commitments in terms of what it deems worthy and what it excludes, and calls it to join the discussion of the political dimensions and implications of the Gospel text and its interpretive discourses.

Suggested Reading The commitments and perspectives of Ideological Criticisms are well delineated in Schüssler Fiorenza (1988), Segovia (1995, 2007a, 2007b), the Bible and Culture Collective (‘Ideological Criticism’ 1995), Lozada (2006), and Byron (2008). Postcolonial approaches are elaborated by Segovia (2007a), by Dube in several very insightful articles (1998, 2002), and by contributors to the edited collection of Dube and Staley (2002). Political readings especially attentive to the Gospel’s negotiation of Roman power are developed by Moore (2006), Carter (2008), and Thatcher (2009). Ideological perspectives employing a range of intersecting markers (postcolonialism, ethnicity, gender, disability, power etc.) engage various aspects of Johannine scholarship including, for example, scholarly constructions of the Johannine Community (Conway 2002), depictions of women characters (Kim 2004), anti-​Jewish readings (Reinhartz, 1998, 2001), disabled characters (Carter 2011), ethics (Zimmermann 2012; Carter, 2016), and numerous Johannine texts in collections edited by Segovia and Tolbert (1995), Dube and Staley (2002), Lozada and Thatcher (2006), Thatcher (2007), and Lozada and Carey (2013).

Bibliography Ariarajah, S. Wesley, 2006. ‘Interpreting John 14:6 in a Religiously Plural Society’, in R. S. Sugirtharajah (ed.), Voices From the Margin:  Interpreting the Bible in the Third World. Revised and Expanded Third Edition; Maryknoll: Orbis: 355–​70. Byron, Gay, 2008. ‘Ideological Criticism’, in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press: vol. 3: 7. Carter, Warren, 2003. Pontius Pilate: Portraits of a Roman Governor. Collegeville: Liturgical. Carter, Warren, 2008. John and Empire: Initial Explorations. New York: T.&T. Clark. Carter, Warren, 2011. ‘ “ The blind, lame, and paralyzed” (John 5:3): John’s Gospel, Disability Studies, and Postcolonial Perspectives’, in Candida R. Moss and Jeremy Schipper (eds.), Disability Studies and Biblical Literature. New York: Palgrave MacMillan: 128–​50. 7 

See Chapter 22, Jan van der Watt, ‘Ethics in Community in the Gospel and Letters of John’.

Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel    217 Carter, Warren, 2016. ‘Are John’s Ethics Apolitical?’, NTS 62: 488–​93. Cassidy, Richard, 1992. John’s Gospel in New Perspective: Christology and the Realities of Roman Power. Maryknoll: Orbis. Republished Eugene: Wipf and Stock. Conway, Colleen, 2002. ‘The Production of the Johannine Community:  A New Historicist Perspective’, JBL 121: 479–​95. Culpepper, R. Alan, 1996. ‘The Gospel of John as a Document of Faith in a Pluralistic Culture’, in Fernando F. Segovia (ed.), ‘What is John?’ Readers and Readings of the Fourth Gospel. Atlanta: Scholars Press: 107–​27. Dube, Musa W., 1996. ‘Reading for Decolonization (John 4:1-​42)’, in Laura Donaldson (ed.), Postcolonialism and Scriptural Readings. Semeia 74; Atlanta:  Society of Biblical Literature: 37–​59. Dube, Musa W., 1998. ‘Savior of the World but Not of This World: A Post-​Colonial Reading of Spatial Construction in John’, in R. S. Sugirtharajah (ed.), The Postcolonial Bible. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press: 118–​35. Dube, Musa W., 2000. ‘Batswakwa: Which Traveler Are You (John 1:1-​18)?’, in Gerald West and Musa Dube (eds.), The Bible in Africa. Leiden: Brill: 150–​62. Dube, Musa W., 2002. ‘Reading for Decolonization (John 4:1-​42)’, in Musa Dube and Jeffery Staley (eds.), John and Postcolonialism: Travel, Space and Power. London: Sheffield Academic Press: 51–​75. Dube, Musa W. and Staley, Jeffrey L. (eds.), 2002. John and Postcolonialism: Travel, Space and Power. London: Sheffield Academic Press. Eagleton, Terry, 1991. Ideology: An Introduction. London: Verso. Glass, Zipporah G., 2002. ‘Building Toward “Nation-​ness” in the Vine: A Postcolonial Critique of John 15:1-​8’, in Musa W. Dube and Jeffrey L. Staley (eds.), John and Postcolonialism: Travel, Space and Power. London: Sheffield Academic Press: 153–​69. Guardiola-​Sáenz, Leticia A., 2002. ‘Border-​Crossing and its Redemptive Power in John 7:53-​ 8:11: A Cultural Reading of Jesus and the Accused’, in Musa W. Dube and Jeffrey L. Staley (eds.), John and Postcolonialism: Travel, Space and Power. London: Sheffield Academic Press: 129–​52. ‘Ideological Criticism’, 1995. The Postmodern Bible.The Bible and Culture Collective; New Haven: Yale University Press: 272–​308. Jameson, Fredric, 1991. Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. London: Verso. Kim, Jean K., 2002. ‘Adultery or Hybridity?:  Reading John 7:53-​8:11 from a Postcolonial Context’, in Musa W. Dube and Jeffrey L. Staley (eds.), John and Postcolonialism:  Travel, Space and Power. London: Sheffield Academic Press: 111–​28. Kim, Jean K., 2004. Woman and Nation: An Intercontextual Reading of the Gospel of John from a Postcolonial Feminist Perspective. Boston, Leiden: Brill. Kinukawa, Hisako, 1995. ‘On John 7:53-​8:11; A Well-​Cherished but Much-​Clouded Story’, in Fernando F. Segovia and Mary Ann Tolbert (eds.), Reading From This Place: Volume 2; Social Location and Biblical Interpretation in Global Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress: 82–​96. Kraus, Matthew, 2006. ‘New Jewish Directions in the Study of the Fourth Gospel’, in Francisco Lozada and Tom Thatcher (eds.), New Currents Through John:  A Global Perspective. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature: 141–​66. Levine, Amy-​Jill Levine with Marianne Blickenstaff (eds.), 2003. A Feminist Companion to John. 2 vols. London: Sheffield Academic Press. Liew, Tat-​ Siong Benny, 2002. ‘Ambitious Admittance:  Consent and Descent in John’s Community of “Upward” Mobility’, in Musa W. Dube and Jeffrey L. Staley (eds.), John and Postcolonialism: Travel, Space and Power. London: Sheffield Academic Press: 193–​224.

218   Warren Carter Lozada, Francisco, 2006. ‘Social Location and Johannine Scholarship:  Looking Ahead’, in Francisco Lozada and Tom Thatcher (eds.), New Currents Through John:  A Global Perspective. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature: 183–​97. Lozada, Fransisco, 2007. ‘Toward an Interdisciplinary Approach to Johannine Studies’, in Tom Thatcher (ed.), What We Have Heard From the Beginning: The Past, Present, and Future of Johannine Studies. Waco: Baylor University Press: 307–​9. Lozada, Francisco and Greg Carey, (eds.), 2013. Soundings in Cultural Criticism: Perspectives and Methods in Culture, Identity, and Power in the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress. Lozada, Francisco and Tom Thatcher (eds.), 2006. New Currents Through John:  A Global Perspective. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Meeks, Wayne, 1996. ‘The Ethics of the Fourth Evangelist’, in R. Alan Culpepper and C. Clifton Black (eds.), Exploring the Gospel of John. Louisville; Westminster John Knox: 317–​26. Moore, Stephen, 2006. ‘  “The Romans Will Come and Destroy Our Holy Place and Our Nation”:  Representing Empire in John’, in Stephen Moore, Empire and Apocalypse: Postcolonialism and the New Testament. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press: 45–​74. Pollard, T. E., 1956–57. ‘The Exegesis of John 10.30 in the Early Trinitarian Controversies’, NTS 3: 334–​49. Reinhartz, Adele, 1998. ‘The Johannine Community and Its Jewish Neighbors: A Reappraisal’, in Fernando Segovia (ed.), What is John? Volume II:  Literary and Social Readings of the Fourth Gospel. Atlanta: Scholars Press: 111–​38. Reinhartz, Adele, 2001. Befriending the Beloved Disciple: A Jewish Reading of the Gospel of John. New York: Continuum. Rensberger, David, 1988. Johannine Faith and Liberating Community. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Richey, Lance Byron, 2007. Roman Imperial Ideology and the Gospel of John. CBQMS 43; Washington: Catholic Biblical Association of America. Salier, Bill, 2006. ‘Jesus, the Emperor, and the Gospel According to John’, in John Lierman (ed.), Challenging Perspectives on the Gospel of John. WUNT 219; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 284–​301. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth, 1988. ‘The Ethics of Biblical Interpretation: Decentering Biblical Scholarship’, CBQ 107: 3–​17. Segovia, Fernando, 1995. ‘Cultural Studies and Contemporary Biblical Criticism: Ideological Criticism as Mode of Discourse’, in Fernando F. Segovia and Mary Ann Tolbert (eds.), Reading From This Place:  Volume 2; Social Location and Biblical Interpretation in Global Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress: 1–​17. Segovia, Fernando (ed.), 1998. What is John? Volume II: Literary and Social Readings of the Fourth Gospel. Atlanta: Scholars Press. Segovia, Fernando, 2007a. ‘The Gospel of John’, in Fernando F. Segovia and R. S. Sugirtharajah (eds.), A Postcolonial Commentary on the New Testament Writings. London: Continuum: T.&T. Clark: 156–​93. Segovia, Fernando, 2007b. ‘Johannine Studies and the Geopolitical: Reflections Upon Absence and Irruption’, in Tom Thatcher (ed.), What We Have Heard From the Beginning: The Past, Present, and Future of Johannine. Waco: Baylor University Press: 281–​306. Segovia, Fernando, 2009. ‘Postcolonial Criticism and the Gospel of Matthew’, in Mark Allan Powell (ed.), Methods in Matthew. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 194–​237. Segovia, Fernando, 2010. ‘The Gospel According to John’, in Curtiss Paul DeYoung et al. (eds.), The People’s Companion to the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress: 244–​5.

Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel    219 Staley, Jeffery L., 1995. Reading with a Passion: Rhetoric, Autobiography, and the American West in the Gospel of John. New York: Continuum. Tan, Yak-​Hwee, 2006. ‘The Johannine Community: Caught in “Two Worlds” ’, in Francisco Lozada and Tom Thatcher (eds.), New Currents Through John:  A Global Perspective. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature: 167–​79. Tan, Yak-​Hwee, 2013. ‘The Johannine Community:  Power and Identity as a New Lens of Interpretation’, in Francisco Lozada and Greg Carey (eds.), Soundings in Cultural Criticism: Perspectives and Methods in Culture, Identity, and Power in the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress: 83–​95. Thatcher, Tom (ed.), 2007. What We Have Heard From the Beginning: The Past, Present, and Future of Johannine Studies. Waco: Baylor University Press. Thatcher, Tom, 2009. Greater Than Caesar:  Christology and Empire in the Fourth Gospel. Minneapolis: Fortress. Uspensky, Boris, 1973. A Poetics of Composition. Berkeley: University of California Press. Zimmermann, Ruben, 2012. ‘Is There Ethics in the Gospel of John? Challenging an Outdated Consensus’, in Jan van der Watt and Ruben Zimmermann (eds.), Rethinking the Ethics of John. WUNT 291; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 44–​80.

Chapter 14

Gender a nd t h e Fourth G o spe l Colleen M. Conway

Introduction The Fourth Gospel invites a gender-​critical analysis. Among the canonical Gospels, only the Fourth Gospel features female and male individuals in extended dialogues with Jesus. In addition, the frequent use of gendered language and symbolism, such as allusions to childbirth and betrothal, contribute to the impression that gender matters in the composition of the narrative. Further, the way the Gospel draws on ancient genres like Greek drama and romance, in which gender identities play a major role, reinforces the notion that gender categories play a significant role in the narrative. That said, an overview of gender-​critical work on the Gospel from the past few decades suggests that the narrative challenges a straightforward assessment of how and what gender contributes to its meaning. Indeed, although the study of gender is a relatively new undertaking in Johannine studies, results from this work so far indicate that gender should be added to the list of Johannine scholarly puzzles. The aim of this article is to explore this Johannine gender puzzle by tracing the development and conflicting results of gender-​critical analyses of the Gospel, while also highlighting new insights gained from these studies. Along the way, the article will demonstrate how work on gender in the Gospel is shaped by shifting cultural conversations, as well as by differing approaches of interpreters.1

1  This article will not address gender implications for the Johannine Epistles. Compared to the Gospel narrative, there is far less to examine in the Epistles. One might consider the implications of the addressee of 2 John. Is ‘the elect lady and her children’ an actual figure or a metaphorical reference to the community? Note the named male addressee, Gaius, of 3 John.

Gender and the Fourth Gospel    221

Early Days: On ‘Roles of Women’ in the Fourth Gospel Johannine scholars noticed the prominence of women in the narrative well before the term gender began to appear in biblical studies. Jesus converses with individual women throughout the Gospel: first with his mother (2:3–​4), then with an unnamed Samaritan woman (4:7–​26), then with Martha of Bethany (11:20–​27), and finally with Mary Magdalene (20:14–​17). Not only the number of these encounters is remarkable, but also the indicators in the narrative which call attention to the presence of women. For instance, the disciples are surprised to find Jesus talking to a woman, but do not ask him why he is doing so (4:27). The Johannine Jesus himself brings attention to the gender of his conversation partners by repeatedly addressing them with the term, gynai, ‘woman’. Oddly, the term is used even for his own mother (see 2:4; 4:21; 19:26; 20:13, 15). In the context of the women’s movement of the 1970s and the emergence of feminist criticism in biblical studies, this prominence of women in the Gospel took on historical and contemporary importance. For some scholars, it was taken to mean that actual women must have held significant roles in the life of a hypothesized early Christian community.2 From this perspective, the women in the Gospel became a resource for commenting on the roles of women in the contemporary twentieth-​century church. The first sustained discussion of this type came from renowned Johannine scholar and Roman Catholic priest, Raymond Brown. In his study of the role of women in the Fourth Gospel, he argued for the ‘quasi’ apostolic status of the Samaritan woman and Mary Magdalene and pointed to the intimate discipleship reflected in Mary and Martha of Bethany and the mother of Jesus. Overall, Brown concluded that ‘in the things that really mattered in the following of Christ’ men and women were equal (Brown 1975: 688–​99). With this article, the path was set for continued discussion on the ‘equal’ discipleship of men and women in the Fourth Gospel, a discussion that corresponded to the push for women’s equality in the twentieth-​century women’s movement. A proliferation of articles through the 1980s and 1990s on roles of women produced only slightly varied conclusions regarding women’s place as equal disciples in a hypothesized Johannine community (e.g. Schneiders 1982; Rena 1986).3 One exception is an article by Turid Karlsen Seim, in which she signalled caution about presupposing that ‘the roles of women [in the Gospel] correspond to or mirror without reservation a practical function in a specific historical situation’ (1987:  57). Seim sees her own work as descriptive and focused on patterns in the presentation of women that can be found within to the narrative. In other words, she studies the world

2  3 

See Chapter 5, Martinus C. de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’. For a review of twentieth-​century ‘roles of women’ scholarship see Conway 1999: 18–​36.

222   Colleen M. Conway in the text without making assumptions about its relationship to the world outside of the text. Seim’s focus on the function of female characters in the narrative, rather than their potential representational status with respect to a historical situation, is in keeping with the emergence of literary critical approaches in the late twentieth century, approaches which also had an impact on gender critical questions.

Literary Criticism, Gender Criticism, and the Gospel of John When R.  Alan Culpepper first introduced literary criticism to gospel analysis with his groundbreaking Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel (1983), he did not include gender as an analytical category. The closest he comes is in a chapter on characters. Here Culpepper discusses all of the female characters alongside male minor characters such as Nicodemus, the man born blind, and Pilate. There is some awareness of gender, however, in his claim that Martha and Mary of Bethany, along with the Samaritan woman are candidates for ‘the ideal of female discipleship in John’ (136–​7, 140–​1). Meanwhile, the male disciples are categorized as ‘disciples’. Nevertheless, even if Culpepper did not consider gender a factor in the narrative, the shift to a literary rather than strictly historical assessment of the Gospel marked by his work opened the door to considering gender categories in the Gospel a new way. Outside of biblical studies, feminist literary criticism was shifting from an emphasis on the study of women to consideration of the relational aspects of gender identity. Increasingly, gender critics argued that the categories of male/​female or man/​woman could only be defined in relation to one another. For study of the Fourth Gospel, this development meant that male characters should no longer be assumed to be the unmarked category against which female characters were measured (as in whether they are ‘equal’ disciples). Rather the characters should be studied on their own terms in relation to one another to determine how gender identity plays a role in the narrative.4 This was the approach taken in the present author’s Men and Women in the Fourth Gospel: Gender and Johannine Characterization (Conway 1999). The book undertakes a literary analysis of five female and five male characters in order to discern whether there is a difference in the presentation of men and women in the Gospel. It concludes that rather than being portrayed as equal to male disciples, the women in the Gospel often play a more prominent role than comparable male characters at key places in the narrative. The mother of Jesus acts as a catalyst for the Jesus’ first sign (2:3–​5), which then brings the male disciples to belief (2:11). Jesus reveals himself to the Samaritan woman as the messiah. She then witnesses to her people about him and many are brought to belief (4:26–​30, 39). Martha, not Peter, offers a full, and unequivocal confession of faith 4 

See further on narrative, Chapter 12, Jo-​Ann Brant, ‘The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama’.

Gender and the Fourth Gospel    223 in Jesus that corresponds to the express purpose of the Gospel (11:27; cf. 20:31). Mary Magdalene, not Peter or the Beloved Disciple, is the first to witness the post-​resurrection Jesus. And it is Mary who is asked to witness to the male disciples about the resurrected Jesus (20:11–​18). Still, this difference based on revelatory moments is not neatly divided down gender lines. The man born blind in chapter nine is brought to belief on the basis of Jesus’ self-​revelation (9:37–​38) and the beloved disciple shares a place of intimacy with Jesus matched only by Jesus’ intimate position vis-​à-​vis God (13:23; cf. 1:18). Perhaps, given the fact that both of these male characters stand apart from the tradition of the twelve, the point is to distance the Johannine Jesus from traditional figures of authority in the emerging Christian community. In this case, female characters could be useful insofar as they ‘naturally’ were not part of such authority structures in the ancient world. (For more extended discussion see also Conway 2003b.) But there may be other dynamics at work that only become apparent when such a strictly literary analysis is further informed by situating the Gospel in its ancient cultural and literary contexts.

Gender and the Johannine Jesus The focus on male and female characters in the Gospel is further complicated when attention shifts to the Johannine Jesus. Indeed, gender analysis of this character has produced wide-​ranging results, including seeing in the Johannine Jesus an image of the divine feminine, a model of ideal Greco-​Roman masculinity, and as a transvestite cross dresser! These differences are attributable in part to different goals for a gender-​ critical reading of the figure of Jesus as well as different audiences for whom the analysis is intended. Still, the Gospel itself offers material to support these widely varied interpretations.

The Divine Feminine? Jesus and Wisdom traditions The Hebrew Bible and Second Temple literature contain multiple references to traditions about God’s wisdom, often spoken of as the creative, generative capacity of the God of Israel. Sometimes this aspect of God is personified so that it appears to take on an identity distinct from God. Moreover, when this personified figure speaks, it is with a female voice. This may be, in part, because the Hebrew word for wisdom, hokmah, is feminine, as is the Greek term sophia. But this female figure in the biblical tradition may be influenced by the wisdom goddesses of Egypt, Ma’at, and later, Isis. In any case, literature such as the Proverbs, Sirach, and the Wisdom of Solomon all feature a personified female wisdom figure urging her listeners to seek her out, learn from her, eat and drink from her (see for example, Prov. 8, Si. 24, also Wisd. 7–​8). For New Testament writers, linking this tradition about female wisdom to Jesus was one important way to represent the relationship between Jesus and God.

224   Colleen M. Conway This is certainly evident in the Fourth Gospel, especially in the opening Prologue (1:1–​18). When the Gospel opens with a reference to the Word (logos) existing ‘in the beginning’, it not only echoes Gen. 1:1, it also evokes language of God’s wisdom being established ‘in the beginning’ and sharing a creative capacity with God (see, for example, Prov. 8:22–​31; Sir. 1:4; 24:9; Wisd. 9:9). Like Wisdom, the logos is associated with light and life. As with the logos incarnate, Wisdom comes into the world to dwell among humans but ultimately is rejected and returns to the heavens (see especially 1 Enoch 42:1–​2). In the late twentieth century, many feminist biblical theologians were in search of a feminine dimension of the divine to counteract the weight of centuries of heavily androcentric and patriarchal theological traditions. Many found this feminine dimension in the figure of personified wisdom from the Jewish scriptures. For feminist readers of the Fourth Gospel, the associations between Jesus and wisdom challenged the traditional image of a masculine God. Indeed, for Joan Chamberlain Engelsman, allusions to wisdom in the Fourth Gospel make it ‘the most feminine of the gospels’ (1979: 199). Martin Scott argued that the Gospel’s Christology is primarily influenced by the figure of Sophia, so that Jesus should be viewed as Sophia incarnate. Scott looked even more explicitly at the gendered aspects of sophia and logos, suggesting that the Gospel writer likely was aware of the problem of associating a female figure with the male person of Jesus. He posited that the evangelist may have introduced the term logos because the term satisfies ‘both the requirements of the maleness of the human Jesus and the equivalence to the female Sophia’ (1992:  244). Overall, in Scott’s view, ‘The point of John’s wisdom Christology is precisely that Jesus Sophia is not mere man but the incarnation of both the male and female expressions of the divine, albeit within the limitations of human flesh’ (172). Other interpreters from this period, looking at the same Gospel, were not impressed by its feminine elements. For example, Wayne Meeks argued that ‘there is no trace of the usual feminine Sophia’ in the Gospel’s evocation of the masculine Logos (1972: 72). Similarly, Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza argued that the Gospel makes the metaphorical language of son (to the divine father) and logos congruent with the biological sex of the male Jesus. In so doing, the text ‘marginalizes and silences the traditions of G*d as represented by Divine Woman wisdom’ (1994: 153). In contrast, Judith Lieu expressed scepticism about the idea of a feminine wisdom Christology in the Gospel, marginalized or otherwise. She contended that the author actually has no interest in wisdom motifs with its use of logos for Jesus. In any case, not every use of wisdom imagery is consciously gendered, and this seems particularly true of John’s Gospel. From Lieu’s perspective, the Gospel ‘cannot be blamed for deliberately and specifically suppressing the wisdom Christology . . . of an earlier tradition’, since it is focused on individual responses to Jesus and because it redefines a wide range of earlier traditions (1996: 229).5 These differing perspectives demonstrate just one instance of scholars struggling to interpret the gender tension created by the Gospel. In this case, the issue is a perceived


For a more detailed discussion of wisdom and gender in the Gospel see Conway 2003: 175–​9*.

Gender and the Fourth Gospel    225 tension between the associations of Jesus with (possibly) feminine Jewish wisdom traditions and the use of unequivocally masculine language for Jesus. The latter includes not only the masculine logos, but also dozens of references to Jesus as the ‘son’. What one does with this tension depends largely on one’s own interpretive goals and intended audience. Feminist biblical theologians developing resources for contemporary Christians might emphasize the potential presence of feminine imagery. Historical critics looking to understand how the Gospel was understood in its ancient context might look to how other ancient writers interpreted the wisdom traditions. For example, the first century Jewish philosopher Philo acknowledges a tension between feminine wisdom and what he understands to be the perfect masculinity of the Divine. He resolves the tension by arguing that it is appropriate to use a feminine title for God’s wisdom only in relation to God. Otherwise, God’s wisdom should be understood as masculine compared to every other created being (see Flight 51–​2). Philo’s logic points to the malleability and hierarchal nature of gender categories in the ancient world in which gender identities were determined more by status and power in relation to others than by biology. This consideration of ancient constructions of gender brings us to another area where gender theory has informed study of the Fourth Gospel.

A Manly Jesus? Masculinity Studies and the Johannine Jesus Masculinity studies, especially as these have developed in classical studies, have provided many of the more recent insights into gender dynamics in the Fourth Gospel. In classical scholarship, the late 1990s and 2000s saw a surge in interest in depictions of ancient masculinity motivated in large part by theorists Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. One particularly influential book by Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud stimulated much rethinking about how gender and sex were conceived in the ancient world (1990). Laqueur argued that beginning with the ancient Greeks and lasting until sometime in the eighteenth century, writers assumed a ‘one-​sex model’ of humanity. In this model, woman was understood as an inferior, incomplete type of man, instead of a different, opposite type altogether. The gender schema was thus vertical rather than horizontal with masculinity at the top and other lesser forms of masculinity populating the vertical axis beneath. Although Laqueur’s one-​sex model has since been critiqued by some as reductionist, his work helpfully unsettles assumptions about sex and gender in the ancient world (see especially Park and Nye 1991). Moreover, his book is only one among several studies by classical scholars that have contributed to readings of masculinity in New Testament writings (see, for example, Gleason 1995; Foxhall and Salmon 1998a and 1998b; Williams 1999. For further discussion see Conway, forthcoming). When this work is brought to study of the Fourth Gospel, one finds notable overlaps between the Johannine Jesus and the virtues associated in Greek and Latin texts with an ideal man. Perhaps most striking is the shared emphasis on self-​mastery over

226   Colleen M. Conway the passions. In Greek and Roman texts, ideal masculinity means exhibiting control of oneself and one’s body as a prerequisite for holding authority over others. Jesus exhibits this type of control in the Fourth Gospel, paradoxically in spite of the fact that he is crucified. Even though he dies at the hands of the Romans, the Johannine Jesus announces that he ultimately is in control of his destiny. Speaking of his own life, he claims, ‘No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father’ (10:18). As the Johannine narrative unfolds, it appears that laying down his own life on his own accord is just what Jesus does. At the arrest scene, Jesus steps forward to identify himself, and although the group of soldiers and police have come to arrest him, they are brought to the ground by his theophanic announcement, ‘I am’ (18:4–​6). The point appears to be that Jesus has ultimate (and divine) power over his opponents, but nevertheless will allow them to arrest him. Before dying on the cross, Jesus is shown to be fully in control of the situation as he manages his family affairs, takes care to fulfil scripture, and finally, when he knows that all is finished, gives up his spirit (19:26–​30). Other elements of the Gospel’s presentation of Jesus also suggest a display of masculinity: his intimate relationship to the divine father as God’s son, his extended discourses in the Gospel as a rhetorical display of his masculine power, and indications of the power and authority that he wields in relation to others (1:12; 14:30; 19:11) (see further Conway 2003a and 2008). Together, these aspects of the Gospel point to a presentation of Jesus as exemplifying the ideals of the dominant ideology of masculinity of the broader Greco-​Roman culture. Or at least, that is one way of reading the masculinity of the Johannine Jesus.

Complicating the Gender of Jesus: the Not-​so-​Manly Man? In the same way that not all were convinced about the feminine dimension of the Johannine Jesus, so too, some challenge the notion that he is uniformly presented as manly in terms of Greco-​Roman gender standards. According to Alicia Myers, Jesus’ displays of masculine deportment in the Gospel are only one part of his gender performance. Another part includes what Myers identifies as Jesus’ ‘often off-​putting, feminizing behavior’ (Myers 2015: 207). She finds evidence of this effeminacy inside the narrative world, suggesting that from the perspective of Jesus’ opponents, his conduct does not produce masculine order but rather feminine chaos. Likewise, Jesus’ words do not evoke honour from the crowd, but divisiveness. His friends are not among the educated, masculine elite, Myers points out, and his most faithful companions are not even men, but are rather women of diverse backgrounds. Most problematic for a display of manliness is that Jesus’ body is penetrated, both with the nails of crucifixion before his death and with a soldier’s spear afterward (19:34; 20:20, 25–​27). Moreover, there are lingering feminine elements even after Jesus’ resurrection—​he maintains the marks of penetration even after he has risen from the dead (see John 20:20, 27). This sort of

Gender and the Fourth Gospel    227 bodily violation would potentially undermine claims that Jesus possessed masculine autonomy and self-​control. Myers attempts to makes sense of the complexity of the evidence—​the masculine and feminine conduct displayed by the Johannine Jesus—​by suggesting that he presents a unique, new, and redefined masculinity. By reinforcing certain feminine aspects of Jesus’ death, the Gospel ‘refuses to dismiss Jesus’ femininity as only apparent to those unable to recognize him, but retains it as actual femininity that is an integral part of Jesus’ identity and mission as God’s λόγος’ (212). Myers’s work is helpful in unsettling overly stable readings of the Johannine Jesus’ gender. Nevertheless, it is unclear what ‘actual’ femininity means in the context of performative theories of gender. There is nothing ‘actual’ about either the masculine or potentially feminine construction of this textual Jesus. The character is a literary configuration by a writer who may or may not have had gender concerns in mind, but certainly does have the peculiar claim of a crucified saviour to convey to his audience. For this reason, from a historical-​cultural perspective, becoming ever clearer on how gender ideologies function in the broader culture remains crucial to such investigations. If we are going to argue that the Gospel writer accentuates feminine elements, can we explain why? Are there examples from the Greco-​Roman world where authors are promoting femininity for the sake of femininity itself? Or, does the evidence suggest that, at times, certain emasculating acts can be redefined as masculine for the sake of maintaining a gender hierarchy where masculinity remains on top? If the Gospel offers a ‘new, redefined’ masculinity, is it competing with other newly emerging masculinities? These are gender-​critical questions about the Gospel that need further examination.

Further Complications: a Transgender Johannine Jesus? No doubt debate about the gendered identity of the Johannine Jesus will continue, but it is also the case that arguments regarding the masculinity vs. femininity of Jesus are out of sync with current trends in gender studies. In the same way that the introduction of masculinity studies coincided with changes in gender theory that addressed the heretofore-​unmarked category of ‘masculinity’, so queer theory has emerged to query the binary division of sexuality and gender. Moreover, queer theorists, like feminist theorists, typically read the biblical text with a goal toward liberation, which in this case means unsettling gender determinism. Benny Liew brings this unsettling of gender to the Fourth Gospel by adopting what he calls a transgender reading position (Liew 2009). He begins with the gender problem of Jesus as Wisdom discussed earlier, noting the tendency by some to read an erasure of the feminine sophia by the masculine logos in the Gospel. He moves past this issue with the claim that the real problem stems from reading the Gospel with an overly rigid view of gender. Looking for either masculine or feminine in the character of Jesus, Liew argues, results in ‘an inability to see and read John’s transgendering dynamics’ (261).

228   Colleen M. Conway Liew’s transgender interpretation attends to such dynamics. He queries the performance of masculinity by the Johannine Jesus, noting that ‘there is something quintessentially queer’ about it. Focusing on the depiction of the crucifixion, he notes that, ‘Oddly, John defines masculinity with a body that is being opened to penetration’ (2009: 266). Liew also points to other behaviours of Jesus that might be tagged feminine, such as Jesus’ ‘beguiling speech’, by which he means his tendency for speaking with double meanings, or misleading others about his intentions (e.g. John 7:1–​10). Significantly, Liew contends that none of this means that Jesus is ‘really’ female, or androgynous, or represents a failed masculinity. Rather, the gender complexity of the Johannine Jesus points to the Gospel as a ‘truly porous and polysemous site/​sight in which a collection or a range of gender meanings converge, collude, collide, and compete with each other’ (260). Liew states explicitly that with his queer reading of the Gospel he is not concerned with authorial intention. Rather, the aim of his selective reading and interpretation is ‘to redress the wrongs that have been suffered by people who have not been gendered strictly as either male or female’ (261). In this way, much like feminist theological interpretation intended for confessing communities, Liew’s politically motivated queer interpretation is intended to lend support to a particular contemporary audience. In both cases, the historical question of how an ancient audience might have understood the gendered presentation of Jesus is of less concern to the interpreter. In other words, politically motivated readings intended for particular audiences may well produce different interpretive results from those readings which attempt to situate the Gospel in its ancient cultural context. Similarly, theologically motivated readings compared to historically oriented interpretations, even if both are critically attuned to gender, may arrive at quite different conclusions, as will be apparent in the next section.

Gender and Symbolic Language in John: Begetting and Birth Although much of the discussion of gender in the Fourth Gospel concerns the presentation of male and female characters, including the gendered identity of the Johannine Jesus, the symbolic language of the Gospel also lends itself to gender-​critical analysis. For example, the Gospel contains a cluster of terms and metaphors related to the theme of reproduction. The opening verses tell of believers born of God who thus became children of God (1:12) and of the divine logos becoming flesh (1:14). Both signal the importance of divine generation as a theme in the Gospel, especially since the birth of these children is not ‘of blood, or of the will of the flesh or of man’ (1:13). Later, Jesus teaches Nicodemus that to enter the kingdom of God, a person must be begotten from above (γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν 3:3). Later still, Jesus uses a parable about the pain of childbirth to assure his disciples that the pain of his departure will turn to the sort of joy experienced by

Gender and the Fourth Gospel    229 a new birth (16:20–​22). In 19:31–​37 blood and water issue forth from the body of Jesus, which suggests birth imagery to some readers. How does such language relate to gender in the Gospel? The answer depends on one’s approach to the text. For some, much of this language suggests maternal images and thus another opportunity for seeing a feminine dimension in the Gospel, in this case in the association of maternal imagery with the divine. Dorothy Lee has undertaken the most extensive study to date on gender and Johannine symbolism (2002).6 Lee positions her work as an intervention to feminist interpretations that engage in an ‘almost mechanistic account’ of ‘the presence and absence of women, the ratio of women to men, their political status compared to men, and so forth’. Instead, she advocates a ‘sensitive and theological and symbolic mode of reading’ (2002: 13). From her perspective, while she acknowledges the paternal image of God the father, much of the language outlined previously evokes maternal images. For example, the Prologue suggests that God gives birth to believers, contrasting divine generation with human generation. Likewise, the flow of water and blood from the crucified Jesus evokes an image of the motherhood of Jesus who gives birth to a community of believers (2002: 142, 158). All of this introduces feminine aspects to the Gospel, according to Lee (see also Ford 1997). But this same language of begetting and birth is seen in a much different light by those who situate the Gospel in its broader cultural context. Both Adele Reinhartz and Turid Karlsen Seim argue that the terminology in the Prologue most likely indicated the male generative role in the first century ce, and in a quite literal way (Reinhartz 1999; Seim 2005). According to Reinhartz, terms like αρχή, λόγος, μονογενής and forms of the verb γίνομαι coincide closely with Aristotle’s theory of generation which was the dominant reproductive theory up until the sixteenth century. According to his theory, known as epigenesis, the male sperm, referred to as logos, carries the pneuma (the male life-​ breath), which provides the potential form of the offspring. Thus, the male provides the form and essence of the offspring. Meanwhile the female provides the raw material. If the author of the Gospel had a general sense of this theory, which Reinhartz argues is quite possible, the Gospel’s repeated reference to Jesus ‘coming from’ God may be a literal reference to his being begotten from the male seed. In support of this reading, she points to 1 John 3:9, ‘Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God’ (NRSV). This generative process of a divine seed coming from God the father then extends also to believers who become children of God (1:13). In further support of her reading, Reinhartz also notes the heavy emphasis on the father/​son relationship in the Gospel, as well as a noticeable distancing from the mother of Jesus. On this last point, Turid Karsen Seim builds on Reinhartz’s interpretation to explore what this means for the presentation of Jesus’ mother. She asks, ‘Does Jesus’ mother in John have a place also in the discourse of divine origin and begetting from above?’


See also Chapter 16, Dorothy Lee, ‘Symbolism and Signs in the Fourth Gospel’.

230   Colleen M. Conway (2005: 364). Seim concludes that even at the cross, the mother of Jesus serves as a reminder of his kinship in the flesh but little more. Instead, it is Jesus who takes on the generative role. His exaltation and resurrection appearance to the disciples shows him ‘in process of giving birth from above to children begotten of God’. But in stark contrast to those who would associate the maternal role with the Gospel’s birth language, Seim reminds the reader that in the ancient Greco-​Roman world ‘giving birth was not necessarily giving life’ because life came from the father. In short, she argues, ‘there is no female principal involved in the divine begetting and birth giving’ (375).7 Alicia Myers further extends this conversation about reproductive and maternal imagery by focusing on John 1:18, which describes Jesus as eis ton kolpon tou patros (2014). Typically, this phrase is translated to communicate Jesus’ intimacy with the father, as in the NRSV’s rendering ‘close to the father’s heart’. But kolpos more literally means bosom or breast. Given this, Myers argues that coming in the context of the Prologue, the term conjures images of symbolic breastfeeding, with Jesus being nurtured by the father. Once again, the male seed plays a significant role since Aristotle (and others) thought that breast milk was produced by the heating of menstrual blood by male semen. As Myers puts it, the same animating pneuma and patterning logos transmitted by the male ‘continued to be communicated through a woman’s breast milk and likewise continued its life-​giving and formative function on an infant. The source of the milk, therefore, necessarily contributed to the identity and character of the infant who nursed and was shaped by this nourishment’ (486). From Myers’s perspective, this reading also fits with the distancing between Jesus and his mother, as well as the general lack of attention given to human mothers (and fathers) in the Gospel. ‘Instead of concentrating on biological birth and nurture, the Gospel encourages its audience to seek a second birth from above and a time of being symbolically suckled by a community that has been nursed by the Father’s nursling’ (497). Myers does not draw out the implications of this gendered language for the divine, beyond distinguishing divine birth and nurture from human biology. One could read it in the same vein as Reinhartz and Seim, confirming the close association between masculinity and generativity in the Greco-​Roman world, and an eclipsing of the maternal role in the Gospel of John. Or, with Lee, one could see the theological potential of this symbolic breastfeeding to convey an image of a female, nourishing deity. One might even see in this breastfeeding father God a queer deity, the image of which blurs the distinction between masculine and feminine. As stated at the outset of the article, conclusions from gender-​critical work ultimately are shaped by the purpose and intentions of the

7  It seems, however, that even the application of ancient theories of generation is a matter of debate with respect to the Gospel. Clare Rothschild argues that the language of wind/​spirit and seed in the Gospel suggests not so much epigenesis but parthenogenesis, which concerns plant embryology. In this case, it is not the female role, but the male which is bypassed because parthenogenesis is a form of generation without the need of male semen implanted in the woman. The wind carries the seed from a female plant where it settles in the earth (Rothschild 2010).

Gender and the Fourth Gospel    231 interpreter who is engaging the complex mix of gendered categories offered up by the Fourth Gospel.

Gender and Symbolic Language in John—​Betrothals and Bridegrooms Adding to this complex mix is the Gospel’s use nuptial imagery to describe the Johannine Jesus and those associated with him. In John 2, Jesus attends a wedding and behaves as a bridegroom would by supplying guests with abundant fine wine. This early allusion to Jesus as bridegroom is soon reinforced with an explicit reference at 3:29. There, John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the bridegroom who has the bride while John himself is the ‘friend of the bridegroom’ who ‘rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice’. Many see the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan women in John 4 to be patterned on betrothal scenes from the Hebrew Bible, where a man meets his future wife at a well (Gen. 24; 29; Exod. 2:15–​21). Similarly, readers have detected allusions to the Song of Songs in Mary of Bethany’s anointing of Jesus’ feet and in Mary Magdalene’s search for Jesus’ body in John 20 (see, for example, Winsor 1999). Once again conclusions differ as to how the image of Jesus as bridegroom informs a gender-​critical analysis of the Gospel. In her 1996 article, Jo-​Ann Brant suggests that an awareness of male/​female dynamics in the context of ancient literary parallels would have certainly implied romance and marriage in scenes between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, as well as Mary of Bethany. She argues that both women display erotic responses to Jesus, acting ‘like women desirous of marriage’ who ‘see Jesus as a potential lover or mate’ (1996: 205–​6). In their eyes, according to Brant, Jesus is a ‘real man’ who evokes a loving response. Although Brant does not claim to be doing a gender analysis, her observations imply that ancient assumptions about gender play a significant role in these scenes. Because she draws on ancient Greek romances to make her case, I offer a more detailed discussion of her article in the next section on gender and genre in the Fourth Gospel. In a longer study, Adeline Fehribach also examines scenes between women and the Johannine Jesus with attention to betrothal imagery (1998). Like Brant, she argues that the depiction of the women in the narrative supports the characterization of Jesus as bridegroom. But from Fehribach’s perspective, the point is more that Jesus is a messianic bridegroom (rather than a ‘real man’). Moreover, she sees the female characters as firmly embedded in an androcentric world. They merely advance the portrayal of the male hero and then disappear from the narrative once their function is accomplished. In this sense, they offer no picture of liberating independence, nor do they demonstrate equal discipleship with the male disciples in the Gospel. Offering yet a different reading, Jocelyn McWhirter agrees that the bridegroom imagery is linked to messianic themes but contends that it does not carry any gender

232   Colleen M. Conway implications. She explores the allusions to Jesus as bridegroom by way of scriptural allusions, including Song of Songs, Genesis 29:1–​20, and Jeremiah 33:10–​11. (Unlike Brant and Fehribach, she does not include consideration of generic parallels in Greek romances.) For McWhirter, the Gospel writer does not draw on these scriptures to evoke the male/​female marriage relationship. The echoes of marriage texts do not emphasize gender roles at all, but rather signal the joy of the church celebrating the messianic coming of Jesus (McWhirter 2006: 142).

Gender and Genre Bending in John Both Brant’s article and Fehribach’s study draw on parallels with literary genres in the ancient world, especially Greek romances and dramas. Their work suggests that looking more closely at the intersection of genre and gender may be a productive line of inquiry to develop further in Johannine studies. There is extensive research on the subject of the Fourth Evangelist’s use of ancient genre codes in his Gospel composition, but little attention has been given to the function(s) of gender in these ancient genres.8 For instance, if the Fourth Gospel most resembles other ancient biographies of famous men, as many scholars claim, then we might expect to find the same type of gender construction in the Gospel as we do in the biographies. The majority of ancient biographies are encomiums, written to praise their male subjects for, among other things, their extraordinary display of manliness made evident through their self-​control and sexual restraint. To some extent, this is what we find to be the case in the Gospel, insofar as the Johannine Jesus also exhibits traits of self-​control and sexual restraint. Even if the Gospel is largely patterned on ancient biographies, it is clear that the author drew on other genres as well to tell his story of Jesus. For instance, scholars have long noticed the dramatic elements of the narrative. To this end, both Jo-​Ann Brant and George Parsenios have made a strong case for the influence of Greek tragedy on the Gospel’s composition (Brant 2004; Parsenios 2005, 2010).9 Brant and others have also seen generic similarities between the Gospel and first century Greek romance novels. The question from a gender-​critical perspective is what does awareness of such generic parallels teach us about how gender functions in the Gospel? The promise of such an approach is apparent in several studies that explore the interaction in the Gospel between Jesus and female characters compared to the interplay of Eros-​driven couples in ancient Greek romances. In his 1993 book, Imaginative Love in John, Sjef Van Tilborg concludes that the women in the Gospel are similar to the women in the romances insofar as they exhibit a degree of autonomy and freedom. Unlike the Greek heroines, however, he argues ‘eroticism is absent in the Johannine women’



The following discussion draws on ideas proposed in Conway 2015. See Chapter 12, Jo-Ann Brant, ‘The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama’.

Gender and the Fourth Gospel    233 (1993: 177). In contrast, Brant, whose article was introduced earlier, sees the meetings between Jesus and the Samaritan woman (4:1–42) and Mary of Bethany (12:1–​8) as erotically driven. The first scene, she suggests, follows a standard pattern from the classical romances, ‘the suitor encounters obstacles to his goal: in this case, the woman spurns her suitor, he courts her, and she relents’ (1996: 215). The second scene with Mary of Bethany is replete with allusions to a pre-​nuptial ritual (fragrant oils, unbound hair, anointing of feet). In both cases, Brant argues, an ancient audience would be led to anticipate an erotic encounter between Jesus and the woman. Drawing also on literary critical theories of characterization, Brant concludes that these secondary characters contribute to a view of Jesus as a character who is capable of giving and receiving love. For his part, van Tilborg also acknowledges the Johannine Jesus’ capacity for showing intimacy but sees the primary model of love in the Gospel as one of the male teacher’s love for his students, as well as the ancient model of intimacy between male friends. Indeed, he observes the same diminished role for women (once their role in the narrative is accomplished) as Fehribach does. Both of these works, although not explicitly intended as gender-​critical readings, show the potential for exploring the intersection of gender and ancient romances. Perhaps even more might be learned from examining the function of female characters vis-​à-​vis male characters in ancient Greek drama given the prominence of dramatic elements in the Gospel. Classicists Froma Zeitlin (1996) and Helen Foley (2001) have both argued that women in Greek tragedies offer dramatic opportunities to explore male selfhood, or to try out challenging ethical or moral perspectives. Perhaps the Fourth Gospel is putting gender to use in similar ways. For instance, having Jesus appear completely unmoved by erotic desire, even in the settings that evoke erotic encounters, may be a comment about his own masculine self-​restraint. Such encounters may invite a male audience to consider their own male self​h ood in light of the masculine deportment of Jesus, a protagonist who also teaches that ‘the flesh is useless’ (6:63). And while the women in the Gospel do not necessarily try out ethically challenging positions as they do in plays like Antigone or Medea, they are present at theologically challenging moments of revelation. Indeed, the reaction of many in the Gospel narrative to the claims of the Johannine Jesus suggest that the author and audience perceive that embracing the Christological claims of Jesus is a dangerous proposition, at least in terms of their position in the world (see, for example, 15:18–​21). These are tentative suggestions and perhaps there are other ways that understanding the author’s use of genre conventions that can illumine the function of gender in John.

Concluding Reflections In some ways, the history of gender criticism of the Fourth Gospel reflects the unstable nature of gender construction itself. The focus and results of this work shift over time, often mirroring contemporary conversations about gender. Similarly, the goals of the

234   Colleen M. Conway study make a difference, as does the intended audience. Clearly, there are no hard and fast conclusions to be reached about how gender is at work (or at play) in the narrative. While the author of the Gospel was certainly influenced by the hierarchical views of gender of his time, it is also the case that the narrative allows for readings of gender that may be more palatable to twenty-​first-​century readers. In this way, the gender puzzle of the Johannine narrative may be solved in multiple ways.

Suggested Reading Brown (1975) provides a starting point for still ongoing conversation about the function of female characters in the Gospel. Conway (1999, 2003b) offers an overview of ensuing scholarship and shifts the focus to analysis of male and female characters. For alternative views of the masculinity of Jesus see Conway (2003a, 2008) and Myers (2015). Lee (2002) offers a richly theological, gender inclusive reading of the Gospel.

Bibliography Brant, J.-​A. A., 1996. ‘Husband Hunting: Characterization and Narrative Art in The Gospel of John’, BibInt 4: 205–​23. Brant, J.-​A. A., 2004. Dialogue and Drama: Elements of Greek Tragedy in the Fourth Gospel. Peabody, Mass., Hendrickson Publishers. Brown, R. E., 1975. ‘Roles of Women in the Fourth Gospel’, TS 36: 688–​99. Conway, C. M., 1999. Men and Women in the Fourth Gospel:  Gender and Johannine Characterization. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Conway, C. M., 2003a. ‘ “Behold the Man!” Masculine Christology and the Fourth Gospel’, in S. D. Moore and J. C. Anderson (eds.), New Testament Masculinities. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature: 163–​80. Conway, C. M., 2003b. ‘Gender Matters in John’, in A.-​J. Levine (ed.), A Feminist Companion to John. London/​New York: Sheffield Academic Press. 2: 79–​103. Conway, C. M., 2008. Behold the Man:  Jesus and Greco-​ Roman Masculinity. Oxford/​ New York: Oxford University Press. Conway, C. M., 2015. ‘John, Gender and Genre:  Revisiting the Woman Question after Masculinity Studies’, in K. B. Larsen (ed.), The Gospel of John as Genre Mosaic. Göttingen/​ Bristol, CT: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: 69–​84. Conway, C. M., forthcoming. ‘Masculinity in the New Testament’, in B. Dunning (ed.), Handbook of Gender and Sexuality in the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press. Culpepper, R. A., 1983. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel:  A Study in Literary Design. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Engelsman, J. C., 1979. The Feminine Dimension of the Divine. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Fehribach, A., 1998. The Women in the Life of the Bridegroom: A Feminist Historical-​Literary Analysis of the Female Characters in the Fourth Gospel. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. Foley, H. P., 2001. Female Acts in Greek Tragedy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Ford, J. M., 1997. Redeemer—​Friend and Mother: Salvation in Antiquity and in the Gospel of John. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Gender and the Fourth Gospel    235 Foxhall, L., and Salmon, J. B., 1998a. Thinking Men: Masculinity and its Self-Representation in the Classical Tradition. London/​New York: Routledge. Foxhall, L. and Salmon, J. B., 1998b. When Men were Men: Masculinity, Power, and Identity in Classical Antiquity. London/​New York: Routledge. Gleason, M. W., 1995. Making Men: Sophists and Self-​presentation in Ancient Rome. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Laqueur, T., 1990. Making Sex:  Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Lee, D. A., 2002. Flesh and Glory:  Symbol, Gender, and Theology in the Gospel of John. New York: Crossroad. Lieu, J. 1996. ‘Scripture and the Feminine in John’, in A. Brenner (ed.), A Feminist Companion to the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press: 225–​40. Liew, T.-​S. B., 2009. ‘Queering Closets and Perverting Desires:  Cross-​Examining John’s Engendering and Transgendering Word Across Different Worlds’, in R. C. Bailey, T.-​S. B. Liew and F. F. Segovia (eds.), They Were All Together in One Place? Toward Minority Biblical Criticism. Leiden/​ Boston: Brill: 251–​88. McWhirter, J., 2006. The Bridegroom Messiah and the People of God: Marriage in the Fourth Gospel. Cambridge/​New York: Cambridge University Press. Meeks, W. A., 1972. ‘The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism’, JBL 91: 44–​72. Myers, A. D., 2014. ‘ “In the Father’s Bosom”: Breastfeeding and Identity Formation in John’s Gospel’, CBQ 76: 481–​97. Myers, A. D., 2015. ‘Gender, Rhetoric and Recognition: Characterizing Jesus and (Re)defining Masculinity in the Gospel of John’, JSNT 38: 191–​218. Park, Katharine with Robert A. Nye, 1991. ‘Destiny is Anatomy’, essay review of Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex:  Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (1990), The New Republic: 53–​7. Parsenios, G. L., 2005. Departure and Consolation: The Johannine Farewell Discourses in Light of Greco-​Roman Literature. Leiden/​Boston: Brill. Parsenios, G. L., 2010. Rhetoric and Drama in the Johannine Lawsuit Motif. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Reinhartz, A., 1999. ‘ “And the Word was Begotten”: Divine Epigenesis in the Gospel of John’, in A. Reinhartz (ed.), God the Father in the Gospel of John, Semeia 85: 85–​103. Rena, J., 1986. ‘Women in the Gospel of John’, Église et Théologie 17: 131–​47. Rothschild, C. K., 2010. ‘Embryology, Plant Biology, and Divine Generation in the Fourth Gospel’, in S. P. Ahearne-Kroll, P. A. Holloway. J. A. Kelhoffer (eds.), Women and Gender in Ancient Religions: Interdisciplinary Approaches. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck: 125–​51. Schneiders, S. M., 1982. ‘Women in the Fourth Gospel and the Role of Women in the Contemporary Church’, BTB 12: 35–​45. Schüssler Fiorenza, E., 1994. Jesus: Miriam’s Child, Sophia’s Prophet: Critical Issues in Feminist Christology. New York: Continuum. Scott, M., 1992. Sophia and the Johannine Jesus. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. Seim, T. K., 1987. ‘Roles of Women in the Gospel of John’, in L. Hartman and B. Olsson (eds.), Aspects on the Johannine Literature. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International: 56–​73. Seim, T. K., 2005. ‘Descent and Divine Paternity in the Gospel of John:  Does the Mother Matter?’, NTS 51: 361–​75. Van Tilborg, S., 1993. Imaginative Love in John. Leiden/​New York: Brill.

236   Colleen M. Conway Williams, C. A., 1999, (rev. ed., 2010). Roman Homosexuality:  Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity. Oxford/​New York: Oxford University Press. Winsor, A. R., 1999. A King is Bound in the Tresses: Allusions to the Song of Songs in the Fourth Gospel. New York: P. Lang. Zeitlin, F. I., 1996. Playing the Other:  Gender and Society in Classical Greek Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Chapter 15

S o cial-​S ci e nt i fi c Re adings of th e G o spe l and Let ters of J oh n Philip F. Esler

The Beginnings: the Sociology of Knowledge and Sectarianism The inauguration of social-​scientific readings of the Gospel and Letters of John, in the form of Wayne Meeks’ 1972 article ‘The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism’, coincides with the beginnings of the social-​scientific interpretation of the Bible itself. Indeed, Meeks’ essay provided a crucial impetus for and justification of the whole enterprise. By ‘social-​scientific readings’ in this chapter are meant efforts of interpretation that expressly and significantly deploy social-​scientific ideas and perspectives. Particular features of this process will be raised in the discussion to follow, but the social-​scientific readings of the Johannine corpus referred to will, given their number, be necessarily selective. The 1960s and early 1970s were a time of social and political ferment. The widespread protests on both sides of the Atlantic in 1968 were perhaps the most visible sign of this. Nor was the academic world immune from such influences. Within biblical scholarship there was widespread dissatisfaction with the predominantly ideational and theological approaches that had thitherto dominated the interpretation of biblical texts. In particular, a strong interest in exploring their social dimensions was developing, together with an increasing impatience with the objection that to do so was inevitably Marxist. In 1966 a very powerful, non-​Marxist means to take social issues seriously appeared in the form of The Social Construction of Reality by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann. A year later Berger published The Sacred Canopy, a specific application of the theory to the realm of religion. The central proposition of the sociology of knowledge is that ideas

238   Philip F. Esler have social foundations and that such ideas then impact the social groups that produced them, with the relationship between the two always dialectical. Into this framework Berger and Luckmann introduced ideas such as ‘legitimation’, the process of explaining and justifying a social institution to its members, and ‘symbolic universe’, essentially a set of beliefs developed by a social institution that integrates its various facets and assures the members that their lives make sense within it. In his 1972 article Meeks set himself the task of exploring and explaining the pattern of the descending and ascending redeemer in the Fourth Gospel. Before doing so he had absorbed The Social Construction of Reality, which had appeared only six years previously. Having considered and found wanting earlier attempts to explain this Johannine theme, including Bultmann’s postulation of a Gnostic redeemer myth, particularly because of their excessively ideational character, Meeks called for attention to the ‘social function’ of myths such as these (1986 [1972]: 145; emphasis original). His debt to Berger and Luckmann, whom he appears to be citing for the first time in New Testament criticism, is clear when, having just used the expression ‘symbolic universe’ in relation to the community or group of communities for whom the Gospel was written, he stated: . . . there must have been a continuing dialectic between the group’s historical experience and the symbolic world which served both to explain that experience and to motivate and form the reaction of group members to the experience (1986 [1972]: 145).

He then undertook a close analysis of the data in John’s Gospel on the descending and ascending Son of Man theme, at the end of which he briefly mentioned The Social Construction of Reality and The Sacred Canopy that had really been influencing him all along (1986 [1972]: 172). Yet Meeks’ use of sociology did not stop there. In the context of this magnificent practical demonstration of the sociology of knowledge, he also introduced the sociology of sectarianism to allow him to sharpen his focus. In this regard he cited an earlier work by Peter Berger on the subject (Berger 1954). Both perspectives came together in a brilliant explanation of the Fourth Gospel: In telling the story of the Son of Man who came down from heaven and then re-​ ascended after choosing a few of his own out of the world, the book defines and vindicates the existence of the community that evidently sees itself as unique, alien from its world, under attack, misunderstood, but living in unity with Christ and through him with God. (163)

Meeks’ pioneering use of the sociologies of knowledge and sectarianism was to pave the way for much later work employing these perspectives. In 1975 John Gager published his wide-​ranging application of the social sciences to early Christianity and Robin Scroggs published an essay on the sectarian nature of early Christianity. In 1981 John H. Elliott published Home for the Homeless, on 1 Peter. Elliott significantly enhanced the sociological resources for studying sectarianism by introducing the ideas of British

Social-Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John    239 sociologist Bryan Wilson (1973), who moved away from the older views tying a sect to a breakaway movement from another religion to assessing the various ways a new religious movement stood in tension with the world. Wilson developed a seven-​part typology of the various types of sectarian movement within his purview: conversionist; revolutionist; introversionist; manipulationist; thaumaturgical; reformist; and utopian (1973: 22–​6). A typology is a tool used for comparative purposes; it is not a system of classification or a set of pigeon holes, and a religious phenomenon may be comparable with more than one type. A broad acceptance of sectarianism in general and Bryan Wilson’s approach in particular found application in Johannine scholarship in 1988 with David Rensberger’s work Overcoming the World: Politics and Community in the Gospel of John.1 Rensberger introduced sectarian ideas toward the end of his first chapter, in which he reviewed ‘a new era in Johannine interpretation’. Having noted that some scholars, like Wayne Meeks (in his 1972 ‘Man from Heaven’ article) found the term ‘sectarian’ appropriate for John, while others (such as Raymond Brown) did not, he stated his preference for the former option: ‘it is the attitude toward Judaism and the outside world as a whole that seems most sectarian in John’s gospel’. He then proceeded to adopt Bryan Wilson’s typology (although wrongly calling it a ‘model’), drawing on Wilson’s description of the introversionist type: In Wilson’s terms, Johannine Christianity would probably be classified as an introversionist sect in that it ‘sees the world as irredeemably evil’ and seeks to renounce it and establish a separated community. Clearly, . . ., ‘the community’ in John ‘itself becomes the source and seat of all salvation. Explicitly, this prospect of salvation is only for those who belong’. (1988: 27)

While thus broadly supportive of the introversionist comparison (which he erred in thinking was a classification), Rensberger rowed back a little by suggesting that John may not have seen the world beyond the community as irredeemably evil or thought it was necessary to be completely isolated from it (1988: 27). This is a valid point, especially when there are some (such as Brian Capper 2011: 94) who wrongly insist that describing a movement as sectarian entails that it is ‘uniformly negative’ towards the world; on the Bryan Wilson approach a sect can be in tension with the world in a variety of ways. A notable and attractive feature of Rensberger’s book was that he did not merely employ introversionsist sectarianism to explain the meaning of the Fourth Gospel for its original audience but also vectored that dimension into his understanding of how this Gospel might fruitfully function in the world today. In 1994 the present author published an essay that compared the Fourth Gospel and the Community Rule from Qumran, arguing that both documents were the product of introverted sectarian communities. Both groups existed in a similar social context, 1 

Rensberger does not cite John H. Elliott’s earlier use of Wilson’s typology and presumably came across it independently.

240   Philip F. Esler in which they found themselves deeply alienated from the surrounding world and set against it. Such a situation of profound ingroup/​outgroup tension provided an explanation for the pronounced dualism that characterized each group: the communities for whom these two texts were written both exhibited, although in very different ways, a form of sectarianism which was powerfully introversionist and which, feeding on similar scriptural and even cultural traditions, produced dualistic outlooks having some elements in common. (Esler 1994: 91)

This seemed a better explanation than that the Johannine group had somehow been influenced by contact with the people at Qumran.2 It was always possible that the social-​scientific interpretation of the Johannine Letters would be influenced by the interpretation of the Fourth Gospel as a sectarian text. This was more likely to be the case among those who postulated a close relationship between the community of the Gospel and that of the Letters. The relationship between the two, however, remains hotly contested. The main questions in the discussion concern whether the Gospel or the Letters were earlier, whether they reflected a similar context (including the addressees of both), whether their authorship was common, and whether their purposes were similar or not (see Culpepper and Anderson 2014: 1). Yet while sectarian interpretations of the Johannine Letters were occasionally mentioned, they were not a very prominent theme. In her book on the Johannine Letters Ruth Edwards used the word ‘sect’ but only via a definition from the Concise Oxford Dictionary (1996: 109). In 1997, as one might expect, David Rensberger did utilize sectarianism in explaining various aspects of the letters in his Abingdon Commentary on 1, 2, and 3 John. He noted in relation to the Johannine injunction ‘love one another’ that there ‘is no avoiding the dilemma created by this typically sectarian limitation of love to other members of the community’ (1997:  37). On the other hand, however, within Johannine sectarianism there was a positive side to this since ‘mutual love provides the internal solidarity necessary to defend the community’s identity against a hostile world and, in the case of 1 and 2 John, against division within’ (38). He was also of the view that, like the Qumran community, ‘the epistles’ dualism is strongly colored by the sectarianism of the community’ (40), thus reaching a view similar to my own for the Gospel. In addition, in relation to the statement in 1 John 2:15–​17 that the world, focused on itself, cannot know God or the children of God, Rensberger reasonably suggested that ‘This self-​understanding is typical of sectarian and countercultural groups’ (89). More recently, however, in a work on the history lying behind 1 John, Daniel Streett has shown very little interest indeed in the


This view found support from Timothy H. Lim (2001: 155–​6). Timothy J. M. Ling (2006: 151–​60) subjected my essay to a lengthy critique, mistakenly suggesting (153) that I argued the Johannine Community perceived Judaism as ‘irredeemably evil’. While using that phrase (from Bryan Wilson) as part of an initial question of the data, I did not conclude that it stated the Johannine view of Judaism in the Gospel, but wrote rather of strained relations between the Johannine Community and Judaism.

Social-Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John    241 use of sectarian theory, despite the fact that he sees similar settings for the Gospel and the Letters (Streett 2011).

Further Developments in the 1980s and 1990s During the 1980s Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey began exploring ideas that would prove highly fertile in opening up John’s Gospel to social-​scientific exploration.

Anti-​Society and Anti-​Language In 1968 Herbert Leroy published Rätsel und Missverständnis (‘Riddle and Misunderstanding’). It was a form-​critical study in which Leroy argued that the form of the dialogue-​with-​misunderstanding in John’s Gospel was a ‘hidden riddle’ and, moreover, one that presupposed a tightly knit community with a Sondersprache (‘special language’) unintelligible to outsiders. This work did not employ a social-​scientific approach but, as Wayne Meeks noted in his ‘Man from Heaven’ article, was closely convergent with his approach that did (1986 [1972]: 167). Even without the benefit of Leroy’s perceptive form-​critical analysis, it should have been clear to all (although, in fact, it was and still is not) that John’s language is at times highly unusual and, very much indeed, a Sondersprache. To take one example from an abundance of data, John 17:11–​28 demonstrates the distinctiveness of Johannine language: such language has a characteristic, highly repetitive and discursive character that is unlike anything in the Synoptic Gospels. It forms part of the Johannine Sondersprache. While both Leroy and Meeks correctly related it to a strong ingroup identity, it was Bruce Malina who first marshalled a social-​scientific resource capable of offering a powerful explanation for it. Sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s Bruce Malina became acquainted with the ideas of sociolinguist Michael Halliday in relation to ‘anti-​society’ and ‘anti-​language’. Halliday theorized that ‘anti-​societies’ often develop in societies. ‘An anti-​society is a society that is set up within another society as a conscious alternative to it. It is a mode of resistance, resistance which may take the form either of passive symbiosis or of active hostility and even destruction’ (1976: 570). Examples include street gangs, prison populations, the drug culture, the underworld, and banned political groups. Very commonly anti-​societies generate anti-​languages. The anti-​language is a vehicle for the resocialization of the members of the anti-​society into its values and beliefs. It creates a form of anti-​reality, by a process not of construction but reconstruction (575). The simplest form of anti-​language is that of relexicalization, which means using new words for old. Very often these are existing words used in a new sense. For example, most of the copious instances of relexicalization among the gangs in Omaha in the late 1990s were

242   Philip F. Esler of this type, such as ‘road dog’, meaning ‘friend’, and ‘snow bunny’, meaning ‘white female’ (Malina and Rohrbaugh 1998: 8); but ‘dissin’, ‘being disrespectful’, was a new word (Malina and Rohrbaugh 1998: 7). Typically the relexicalizsation is partial, not total, and the grammar of the wider language does not change (Halliday 1976: 571). In his 1978 work Halliday developed the idea of overlexicalization, which essentially refers to using an excess of words for the same area of experience, that is, to having many words for one area of concern. Beginning with an essay in 1985 Malina applied Halliday’s insights with great effect to John’s Gospel.3 He noted in this essay that there was in John ample evidence of distinctive conversations with Jesus that served a resocialization function (John 3:1–​4:42; 5:10 ff.; 6:26 ff.; 10:1–​42; 11:1–​44; 12:1–​36a; 13–​17) typical of language use in an anti-​ society and pointed to phenomena that reflected relexicalization and overlexicalization. He explored such phenomena at greater length in The Social-​Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, co-​authored with Richard Rohrbaugh and published in 1998. Here the authors adopted Halliday’s notions of anti-​society and anti-​language as the dominant theoretical framework. They reasonably proposed that ‘John’s relexicalizations derive from the interests and activities of John’s group’. John develops a distinctive vocabulary with the express aim ‘that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:31). John uses a vocabulary adapted to spelling out this reality to his audience and in fostering their ‘emotional anchorage’ in Jesus (Malina and Rohrbaugh 1998: 5). Thus, he speaks of ‘believing into Jesus’ and he has recourse to expressions such as ‘following him’, ‘abiding in him’, ‘keeping his word’, ‘receiving him’, ‘having him’, ‘seeing him’, and ‘loving him’ (1998: 4). But John also engages in overlexicalization with these expressions since, according to Malina and Rohrbaugh, they have ‘very little appreciable difference in meaning’. Also there is redundancy (very evident in John 17:11–​28) in the way John repeatedly deploys a variety of expressions to express the ‘contrasting spheres of existence, opposing modes of living and being’ that he adumbrates in his Gospel: on the one hand we have ‘spirit, above, life, light, not of the/​this world, freedom, truth, love’ and, on the other hand, there are their opposites: ‘flesh, below, death, darkness, the/​this world, slavery, lie, hate’ (1998: 6). In the following statement of their position we see a view not dissimilar to that of Meeks from a sectarian perspective: . . . what is significant in John’s antilanguage is not its distance from the language of Hellenistic Judea, but the tension between the two. Both Judean society and the Johannine group share the same overarching system of meaning, just as both are part and parcel of the same overarching social system. Yet they stand in opposition to and in tension with each other . . . Antisociety makes no sense without the society over against which it stands. . . . John’s group and the story that held it together make sense only in the Judean society in which it originated. (1998: 11)


See Malina 1985 and the later expression of this approach in Malina 1994.

Social-Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John    243 This approach is still the only one that systematically addresses the reality of Johannine discourse as a Sondersprache. It is also well adapted to more recent attempts to bring into play the ethnic identity of the group with which the Johannine group were in tension. Perhaps it would have been better if Malina and Rohrbaugh had called this book a reading rather than a commentary, since many of the usual features of commentaries are not found in it and there is very limited engagement with other biblical scholarship. Nevertheless, the enterprise is a successful one, since we see how taking the distinctive Johannine language seriously in exegesis through a soundly based social-​scientific theory leads to numerous fresh insights throughout the course of the book, insights that are well worth taking into account in the ongoing effort to understand this text. Although criticized by Fernando Segovia in a Journal of Biblical Literature review for ‘the impression of dogmatism’ he finds in the book (2000), there must surely be room in scholarship for the freedom to seek on occasion to interpret a biblical text in the light of powerful new perspectives relatively untrammelled by what others have said about it before. The application of anti-​society and anti-​language to the Johannine group has not gone unchallenged, most notably by David Lamb in 2014 in Context and the Johannine Community:  A Sociolinguistic Analysis of the Johannine Writings, in which he challenges the use of anti-​language by Bruce Malina, Jerome Neyrey, Tom Thatcher, Richard Rohrbaugh, Ron Piper and myself, and David Reed (Lamb 2014:  103–​44). However, Lamb’s critique is rather less than watertight: for example, critiquing a 2004 essay by Richard Rohrbaugh, he claims Rohrbaugh misinterprets Halliday’s understanding of relexicalization to include the new use of existing words, when Halliday had spoken of ‘same grammar, different vocabulary’, and that he fails ‘to provide empirical evidence to support the claim that antisocieties give new meanings to existing words’, since countercultures ‘formed new words to set themselves apart from wider society’ (Lamb 2014: 133; emphasis added). Three factors fatally undermine Lamb’s understanding of anti-​language and his critique of other scholars. Firstly—​indicating misinterpretation by Lamb —​in Halliday’s original 1976 American Anthropologist essay it is clear that when he refers to ‘different vocabulary’ he himself includes existing words with novel meanings. Such is the case with some of the expressions he cites as used by vagabonds of themselves in the Elizabethan period:  ‘upright man’, ‘counterfeit crank’, and ‘bawdy basket’ (1976:  571). Secondly, there is abundant evidence in addition to that which Halliday mentions that anti-​societies generate much of their anti-​language by attributing new meanings to existing words and not just by creating new words. For example, in the list of slang from gangs in Omaha previously mentioned there are forty-​six terms, of which only one is a new word (Malina and Rohrbaugh 1998: 7–​8). Thirdly, social-​scientific interpretation has never been wedded to the unchanging use of a social-​scientific perspective in its original formulation; it has always been open to the need to modify ideas in the light of the data. Even if Halliday’s ‘different vocabulary’ meant only ‘new words’ (which it does not), to interpret it as also including existing words with different meanings would represent a very modest exercise of this type.

244   Philip F. Esler

Mediterranean Culture Bruce Malina’s 1981 work, The New Testament World (now in its third edition, 2001), introduced to biblical scholarship features of Mediterranean culture garnered from social anthropology in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s: honour and shame, group-​oriented personality, the notion of the limited good, patron and client relationships, kinship and marriage, and purity. Although regularly forgotten by his detractors, Malina was writing at a high level of generality and such an approach always left open the possibility of the world looking more complex and variegated at lower levels of generality. Malina offered a more focused application of Mediterranean anthropology to a particular New Testament text, 3 John, in 1986 (Malina 1986a). He framed the entire essay as a defence of social-​scientific method against what he presented as the very different ‘received view’, here represented by an essay by Abraham Malherbe (1977). Using ideas on hospitality from Julian Pitt-​Rivers and on patron-​client relations from S. N. Eisenstadt, L. Roniger and C. H. Lande, and data from other biblical texts, Malina built up a socially informed view against which he then interpreted the views of the Elder and of Diotrephes. Although there is certainly much more that could be said about 3 John, this essay represents a fresh and original understanding of it. Malina and Rohrbaugh’s 1998 Social-​Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, while employing notions of anti-​society and anti-​language, also explores the text in the light of such cultural features. In virtually every section of the text Malina and Rohrbaugh generate new insights that come from taking seriously the distinctive features of Mediterranean culture.

Mary Douglas’ Grid and Group Mary Douglas first broached the idea of grid and group in Natural Symbols in 1970. She refined and systematized the idea in a paper in 1978 and in 1982 edited a volume containing essays by various scholars interested in the typology. Her typology was intended to be an attempt to systematize cultural constraints, meaning the way in which anything we perceive must pass through such constraints. During this process, under the influence of the cultural conditioning we have received, we seek to make an event cognizable by admitting some things, rejecting them or supplementing them (1982: 1). She was careful, however, to allow for the possibility that some persons might disregard, and act in defiance of, such cultural constraints, otherwise, for example, revolutions would never occur (1982: 3). She formulated a typology consisting of a horizontal axis, called ‘group’, and a vertical axis, called ‘grid’. Group refers to the degree to which an individual experiences social pressure to conform to the demands of wider society, from weak (pressure) on the left to strong (pressure) on the right. Grid refers in essence to the extent to which an individual’s social role is defined by and within frameworks of social privileges, claims and obligations; or, to put it another way, ‘to the degree of socially constrained adherence normally given by members of a society to the prevailing social

Social-Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John    245 system’ (Neyrey 1988: 119). Grid ranges from maximum constraint at the top (= ‘high grid’), where individuals mostly adhere to their culture’s range of conceptions, to maximum freedom at the bottom (= ‘low grid’), where individuals waver in their allegiance to socially shared conceptions. In 1985 Bruce Malina applied Douglas’ group/​grid typology to John’s Gospel in a general way, arguing that this Gospel derived from a weak group/​low grid social script. He took the view, although without detailed engagement with the Gospel in an essay devoted largely to theory, that John was different from the Synoptic Gospels in that his Gospel aligned with the weak group/​low grid quadrant, while they aligned with the strong group/​ low grid quadrant. In 1986 he set out more systematically how Douglas’ typology could be applied to a range of data from the New Testament and its social context (1986b: 13–​93). In 1988 Jerome Neyrey published An Ideology of Revolt: John’s Christology in Social-​ Science Perspective. While acknowledging his debt to Wayne Meeks’ 1972  ‘Man from Heaven’ article as demonstrating ‘a dialectical relationship between Christology and experience’ (1988: 116), he brought to the question of Johannine Christology a more focused social-​scientific theory in the form of Mary Douglas’ group/​grid typology. The first half of the book was a traditional exegetical discussion of various Christological phenomena. In the second half he introduced the group/​grid typology and applied it to this data. He explained the high Christology of the Fourth Gospel, a form of rebellion against previously established values and structures, in terms of a three-​stage development. The first stage was a reform posture, where Jesus’ legitimacy in relation to competing synagogue leaders was argued for; this corresponded to strong group/​weak grid. Jesus positions himself within Judaism (strong group), yet he stands outside the mainstream of power and legitimation, claiming to be the Lord’s messiah, prophet, and king, indicating a situation of challenge and reform (low grid). The second stage was a much stronger reform posture, in which Jesus claimed that his person and rites replaced Israel’s patriarchs and prophets, its feasts and ritual; this corresponded to strong group/​rising grid. A reform programme is being announced, with Jesus greater even than Moses and Abraham (= rising grid). The third stage consisted of a posture of revolt against the synagogue, which had expelled the Johannine group, and against certain other Christ-​followers whose faith was regarded as inadequate by the group (= weak group). Johannine Christ-​ followers no long considered themselves constrained by Judaism and had moved towards a high Christology (= low grid). Accordingly, Neyrey’s understanding of the final position of John’s Gospel was the same as Malina’s: weak group/​low grid.

Developments Since 2000 Sectarianism and Religious Virtuosity Sectarian approaches to John are continuing. Two more recent efforts to explore the Johannine Gospel from the perspective of the sociology of sectarianism and other

246   Philip F. Esler new religious movements have come from Jaime Clark-​Soles in 2003 and Kåre Sigvald Fuglseth in 2005. Both are reasonably sympathetic to the use of sectarian theory and both employ Stark and Bainbridge’s The Future of Religion (1986). Clark-​Soles, however, is more positive towards a sectarianism approach (and Meeks’s inauguration of it) than Fuglseth. In her view, there is much to be said for ‘sectarian’ interpretations of John, and she exhibits considerable sympathy for John H. Elliott’s use of Wilson’s typology (while suggesting that John is introversionist and reformist). Ultimately, however, she prefers to follow Raymond Brown in seeing John as ‘semi-​sectarian’ and in preferring a ‘cult’ model derived from the work of Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge as more helpful than that of ‘sect’. In a valuable recent essay on Johannine sectarianism, Ruth Sheridan (2016) has offered a critique of the use Stark and Bainbridge’s theory in the research of Clark-​Soles and Fuglseth that notes the way this sociology is tied to secularization in the modern period and employs rational choice theory in a manner inappropriate for the ancient Mediterranean. Another problem is that Stark and Bainbridge regard cults as not normally in an antagonistic relationship with the world; although there may be some Johannine statements that portray world positively, the world, including the Ioudaioi, is viewed in a rather negative light. Timothy Ling has recently offered a version of the sectarian model, in the form of Max Weber’s ideas of religious virtuosity (2006). Ling’s notions of virtuosity derive especially from a work by M. Hill on the Church of England in the nineteenth century, The Religious Order: A Study of Virtuoso Religion in the Nineteenth-​Century Church of England (1973). Ling argues that the many references to ‘the poor’ in the Fourth Gospel can be better understood in the context of the ‘alternative’ ideologies that tend to be found among pietistic religious groups which practised asceticism, renunciation, and other forms of ‘virtuoso religion’ in first-​century Judaea. This is a worthwhile new approach, marred somewhat, however, by his spending so much space seeking to hammer the writings of the Context Group when he could have been spending more time on his own creative new ideas.4

Mediterranean Culture In 2001 Ron Piper published an essay that sought to make sense of the doxa being given to the disciples in John 17:22 in terms of honour and patronage in ancient Mediterranean culture. The first aspect of this argument was that when the word doxa was used in John’s Gospel in connection with a human giver or recipient it had the meaning of ‘honour’, as opposed to the common interpretation of ‘(divine) glory’. Piper demonstrated this by close attention to various instances in the text, for example, John 9:24, where the leaders in the synagogue urge the healed blind man to ‘Give doxa to God’. The alternative


Sheridan (2016: 163), has noted that his criticism of the Context Group for anachronism ‘is odd, since his own solution (the Virtuoso model) relies on a modern Weberian formulation’.

Social-Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John    247 presupposed here is giving honour to Jesus, and there is no sense in which they believe the blind man is able to impart divine glory. The second aspect was to link this result to the patron-​broker-​client model previously developed by Malina and applied with great effect to Luke-​Acts by Halvor Moxnes (1991). Piper proposed that when John referred to the doxa given to the disciples in John 17:22, the last and climactic mention of doxa in the Gospel, he did so in the context of patron-​client relations. In brief, in presenting a petition, the Farewell Prayer, to God Jesus performs the role of broker between the disciples and the Father. In John 17:1–​5 John had established Jesus’ ‘credit’ as a broker, which is consonant with the way that John elsewhere in the text describes Jesus as replacing Judean means of access to God such as the Torah, Abraham, and the Temple. In 17:22 the honour he is giving the disciples is something that they appear to possess already. This is unlikely to be revelation or divine life. It is tied more to the public recognition of their special association with God (‘that you have loved them’), the ultimate patron, including from the world that ‘hates’ them. As clients the disciples owe a number of reciprocal duties to their divine patron: obedience; demonstration of loyalty; rendering him honour; and serving in designated tasks. Tricia Gates Brown published a detailed and sophisticated social-​scientific study of the Spirit in the Johannine Gospel and Letters in 2003.5 In a manner redolent of Meeks’ insistence in 1972 on the necessity of exploring the social dimensions of phenomena cast largely as ‘theological’, Brown focused her efforts on investigating the socio-​cultural context in which John’s notions of Spirit developed and were understood. The model she employed was that of patron-​broker-​client from Mediterranean cultural anthropology. In broad terms, she argues that the Spirit signifies that which belongs to the world of God and ‘identifies Jesus as the ‘Son of God’ and as the representative of the spirit realm who will bestow spirit on his followers that they might become members of God’s family’ (2003: 261). Jesus is the unique broker, far superior to those in the Judean tradition, since he alone has the ability to mediate eternal life for those who were faithful to God. Gates also argues that the notion of the Paraclete whom Jesus would send came into the Johannine tradition and arose at some point when doubt had arisen about Jesus being able to broker access to the Father when he was no longer on earth. In this respect the Paraclete too performs the role of broker: The Evangelist fashions this characterization of the Paraclete as a broker figure in order to address concerns about Jesus’ continued efficacy as a broker and to inculcate continuing loyalty to Jesus despite the threat of synagogue expulsion or even martyrdom. (2003: 262)

In relation to the Johannine Letters, Brown argues that the author of 1 John does not want to portray the Spirit as a broker and is in conflict with those who do, but does


This book was an edited version of her doctorate undertaken the University of St Andrews under the supervision of Ron Piper.

248   Philip F. Esler depict Jesus as a broker (1 John 2:1): Jesus is called a Paraclete in this letter in order to re-​ affirm his role as the ultimate broker. A notable feature of Brown’s investigation is her willingness to indicate where the Johannine data diverge from what the model suggested; this recognition that social-​ scientific models are tools, and are useful or not, so that they can be modified or jettisoned if necessary, is an important and at times overlooked aspect of this type of interpretation. She acknowledges, for example, that in the Farewell Discourses the Spirit is not conceptualized as a broker.6

Identity Social Identity Theory One of the major areas in which the social sciences have had an impact in New Testament studies in the last fifteen years has been in the area of identity. In so far as we are individuals, identity is what makes us distinctive. In as far as we belong to a group, the identity that we derive from it really consists of what the members have in common, but very likely in contradiction to other groups who do not share, or are perceived by other group members not to share, those characteristics. The area of the social-​scientific understanding that has proven most productive in terms of New Testament interpretation has been social identity theory, a branch of social psychology developed by Henri Tajfel and John Turner at the University of Bristol in the 1970s and 1980s. The core of the theory is that individuals obtain ‘social identity’ by belonging to a group. Social identity has a cognitive dimension (the recognition of belonging and the beliefs entertained by the members), an emotional dimension (how we feel about belonging to a group like this) and an evaluative dimension (how we rate ourselves by belonging to this group vis-​à-​vis others). In his very early ‘minimal group experiments’ Tajfel showed that merely being categorized into a group—​even with people one did not know—​led to forms of discriminatory behaviour against outgroup members. The mechanism by which members assimilate group values and beliefs has been explained in John Turner’s notion of self-​categorization. The theory is widely used to investigate such processes in contemporary groups, while also being employed to assist with the resolution of intergroup conflict and violence.7 Social identity theory and the closely related self-​categorization theory are extremely helpful in relation to the importance of groups in conflict in the formation of the early Christ movement. The first developed application of the theory to New Testament theory seems to have been published in 1996 in relation to Paul’s letter to the Galatians.8 6 

See Chapter 21, Catrin H. Williams, ‘Faith, Life, and the Spirit in the Gospel of John’. For a recent outline of social identity theory, see Esler 2014a. 8  See Esler 1996, with further development of the approach in Esler 1998. An oral presentation of the theory, as applied to the Matthean Beatitudes, had previously been made in 1994 at the British New Testament Society meeting in Nottingham but not published (in revised form) until 2014: Esler 2014b. 7 

Social-Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John    249 A recent volume (Tucker and Coleman 2014) discusses every text of the New Testament in relation to social identity, although not always with specific reference to the ideas of Tajfel and Turner.

Ethnic Identity Running roughly parallel in the last two decades with an interest in social identity has been a concern with ethnic identity.9 Tajfel himself realized that social identity theory could apply to many different types of group, including ethnic groups.10 It is not surprising, therefore, that it is an uncomplicated task to integrate the recent discussion of ethnic identity (especially stemming from Fredrik Barth’s justly famous 1969 essay) into social identity theory. Barth argued that an ethnic group’s sense of itself as a group (a self-​ascriptive process) came first and that it created a boundary between itself and other groups by the selection of certain cultural features that could change over time. Boundaries were a mixture of proscriptions, where interchange with outsiders was forbidden, and prescriptions, where it was allowed. This left undefined what made a particular group and its boundary ethnic, in relation to which Barth provided only limited assistance with his suggestion that a social category was ethnic in character ‘when it classifies a person in terms of his basic, most general identity, presumptively determined by his origin and background’ (1969: 13; emphasis added). In 1996 John Hutchinson and Anthony Smith provided a more useful array of indicators (which must be diagnostic and not essentialist to accord with Barth’s processual and self-​ascriptive approach): (a) a common proper name to identify the group; (b) a myth of common ancestry; (c) a shared history or shared memories of a common past, including heroes, events, and their commemoration; (d) a common culture, embracing such things as customs, language, and religion; (e) a link with a homeland, either through actual occupation or by symbolic attachment to the ancestral land, as with diaspora peoples; and (f) a sense of communal solidarity (1996: 6–​7). In about 2006 the present author argued that the Contra Apionem of Josephus provided solid evidence of an understanding of first-​century Judeans (along with other groups in their world) as recognizably ethnic in these terms (Esler 2009).11 Influenced by this result, I approached John’s Gospel from a similar perspective in 2007 and argued

9  See Esler 1996 an early example of an integration of the two perspectives. Also see Esler 2003 and, for an excellent recent treatment, Kuecker 2014. 10  See Esler 2014a. 11  The essay appeared in a book that was some years in preparation (Esler 2009).

250   Philip F. Esler that John’s Gospel revealed the development of a non-​ethnic identity for that form of the Christ-​movement to which he was writing that at times clearly subverted aspects of the Judean ethnic identity contemporary with him. Thus, when in the Prologue (John 1:12–​13) he declared that ‘to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God’ (RSV), he was consciously rejecting physical descent (Indicator [a]‌), which, tied to Abraham, was a central means of Judean self-​ designation in the first century ce, in favour of something very different. Similarly, when Jesus says to the Samaritan woman, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father’ (John 4:21), we observe the relegation of Indicator (e), a link with a homeland, to irrelevance in the new era. The process is at its most extreme in John 8:31–​59 when the Evangelist again returns to the question of physical descent from Abraham and re-​interprets his Judean interlocutors as descended from the Devil instead, making this a troubling passage that must be kept very firmly within the boundaries of its ancient historical context. There have been some applications of social identity theory to the Johannine literature. Ron Piper and I have sought to interpret John 11–​12 in light of social identity theory, especially (but not exclusively) that area of it that explores the roles of exemplars and prototypes in the maintenance of group identity (Esler and Piper 2006). Self-​ categorization refers to the way in which the members of groups categorize (that is, describe, define, and evaluate) themselves in terms of social categories that reflect the identity of the group. Often those categories are embodied in real persons (= ‘exemplars’) or imagined or constructed figures (= ‘prototypes’) who are thought to represent the values of the group to the highest degree. In other words, as social identity becomes salient for the members of a group, they see themselves less as individuals and more as similar to its exemplars and prototypes. This cognitive re-​definition of the self is a form of depersonalization. The book argues that John wanted his audience to view Lazarus, Mary, and Martha as exemplars of Johannine Christ-​movement identity, especially in as much as they were loved by Jesus, loved one another, and loved Jesus. In addition, in a context where the death of believers was causing anxiety, the raising of Lazarus from the dead was intended as being prototypical of the fate of the believer, not as an intimation of the resurrection of Jesus. While the Lazarus narrative strongly affirms the reality of death, it also offers ‘a prototype of the destiny awaiting group members who have died’ (2006: 111). A few years later Raimo Hakola also employed the notion of prototypes from social identity theory, in this case in relation to the figure of Nicodemus in the Fourth Gospel (Hakola 2009). Hakola regards Nicodemus as representing an unbelieving, even hostile, world who, nevertheless, does not reject Jesus. There is an unpredictability, and inconsistency, in short, an ambiguity about his character and commitment. Hakola’s point is that such ambiguity may have helped the Johannine audience negotiate the ambiguities and uncertainties in their own context without abandoning the basic thrust of the Johannine message (2009: 455).

Social-Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John    251 In 2014 Warren Carter made an interesting new use of social identity theory in relation to John 18:28–​19:16. He uses two aspects of the theory. First, he refers to research in which social identity theorists have noted the possibility of contested identities and divisions within a group and argued that to maintain an overarching group identity it is necessary not to threaten subgroup identities, lest the process produce such strong countervailing pressures that the group is torn apart.12 The same theory has previously proved useful in explaining how Paul tries to bring together Judean and Greek Christ-​ followers in Rome under a superordinate in-​Christ identity but without seeking to eliminate either Judean or Greek subgroup identities.13 Secondly, Carter makes use of the notion of prototypes in social identity theory: he argues that John presents Jesus before Pilate (John 18:28–​19:16a) as a ‘prototype of distance from and disengagement with imperial society’ in six respects: antithetical relation to imperial society; exclusive commitment to God’s rule; non-​violence; bearing witness to truth; listening to Jesus’ voice; and awareness of God’s superior power. The core of his proposal is that Jesus is so uncompromising in his opposition to the Roman Empire that this portrayal would reinforce divisions among Johannine subgroups who were more amenable to working with the empire, rather than bringing people together. Carter might perhaps be thought to undermine the value of this suggestion by his arguably inconsistent earlier criticism of other scholars who move ‘with little hesitation from textual constructions of identity to social situations whereby the two are understood to correlate with each other’.14 For this is precisely what he himself does, when—​ on the basis of John 18:28–​19:16a—​he opines that ‘some, such as the Gospel’s author’ (2014: 250), perceived a threat to accommodation with Rome, while assuming disagreement with this position among the Evangelist’s audience. Nor does he have any evidence in the text for such disagreement, but has to rely on the complex interactions with Rome he believes characterized diaspora Judean synagogues. More recently, and in significant demonstration of the continuing viability of the approach, Raimo Hakola has applied social identity theory to the Gospel and Letters of John as a whole (2015; and see Hakola 2016). His argument is rooted in a careful consideration of ongoing issues in Johannine scholarship. While not disposed to take a position on whether the Gospel or the Letters came first, he does argue for the following view, after scrutinizing the primary linguistic and conceptual data: That the Epistles are, at the same time, closely related to and yet different from the Gospel suggests that these writings represent two different forms of the shared tradition. This reinforces the scholarly consensus that sees them as emerging from a distinctive circle or community. (2015: 79)

12  On the former point he cited Sani and Reicher 2000 and, on the latter, principally Hornsey and Hogg 2000. 13  This is the central argument in Esler 2003. 14  Carter 2014: 237. His critique is directed to Esler and Piper 2006 and Hakola 2009.

252   Philip F. Esler He is very wary, however, of too easily relating aspects of the Gospel or Letters to the actual situation of the Christ-​movement contemporaneous with the Evangelist. By and large (there are some exceptions) he prefers instead to presuppose that John may have been creating or imagining a world rather than reflecting the real one (of the sort that was popularized by J. Louis Martyn).15 Thus the dualism in the Johannine corpus does not reflect the actual alienation of the community but the attempt by the author to defend or even construct their sense of separation. Social identity theory is then brought into play to explain how this may have occurred. Hakola thus reconfigures the discussion of the idea that the Johannine Community were persecuted or ‘excommunicated’ by Judeans, for which he sees no evidence, to argue that the data in John that have suggested such a context may reflect single or isolated events in the past magnified by what social identity theorists call ‘a negative dispositional inference’. This term refers to a phenomenon that takes place when people understand that an individual member of an outgroup has carried out an act of aggression against a member of their group and begin to frame the meaning of this act in intergroup terms. They quite easily conclude that ‘other outgroup members share the same blameworthy qualities that define the provocateur’. (2015: 61–​2; citing Lickel et al. 2006: 380)

Another way to approach the image of persecution is by the notion of ‘collective victimhood’. Such a group-​wide sense of victimhood ascribed to an outgroup can arise where only a few members of the group have experienced harm and where that may even have occurred in the past (2015: 112). Hakola considers the Judeans who believed in Jesus (John 8:31–​47) in relation to social identity ideas on the ways in which a fundamental similarity between groups can lay the foundation for their claims to be distinctive. In such a context, ‘there was a possibility for various kinds of interactions between those Jews who believed in Jesus and other Jews’ (2015: 126; Lickel et al. 2001).16 According to Hakola, the ‘surprising appearance of believing Jews in John’s narrative suggests that the appeal for contacts across these categories never disappeared’, that there was a continuing possibility for intersecting lives (2015: 126). But it is worth asking whether such openness is credible in view of the savage diminution of Judean ethnic identity in this passage (which is comparable only with Matthew 23) in comparison with the new identity as God’s children it presents. That is, there is always the over-​arching question of whether the actual realities pressing upon the Evangelist can be quite so easily replaced by those that are imagined. Hakola’s view that there was no great division between Judeans and the Johannine group is tied to his denial of ‘clear and strict boundaries’ between ‘between Jews and non-​Jews’ (2015: 46) and his insistence (as if it were denied) that such boundaries ‘remained crossable’ (2015: 47). This is problematic: Fredrik Barth understands any ethnic 15 


See Chapter 5, Martinus C. de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’. See Chapter 8, Adele Reinhartz, ‘The Jews of the Fourth Gospel’.

Social-Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John    253 boundary as a mixture of prescriptions and proscriptions, so that while first century ce Judeans allowed non-​Judeans into their synagogues and traded with them (= prescriptions), they were against engaging in inter marriage or commensality with them (= proscriptions). Some interaction between Johannine Christ-​followers and Judeans does not mean there was not a strong boundary separating them. Finally, for Hakola the opponents in 1 John represent not features in the world of the author but, in social identity terms, outgroup stereotypes forming part of his rhetoric of differentiation ‘that strives to reinforce the collective identity of the writer and his audience’ (2015: 89). In spite of the reservations expressed, Hakola’s social identity work on the Johannine corpus is a fine and creative achievement and provides confidence in further attempts to approach the Johannine Gospel and Letters from this perspective.

Memory Over the last few decades there has been a rapid rise in popularity, across several disciplines, of ideas concerning ‘collective’ or ‘social’ memory, especially those first enunciated by Maurice Halbwachs (1877–​1945). A French sociologist, Halbwachs published some work on collective memory before the World War II but this was republished, and other work published in French posthumously, in the early 1950s. Recent interest in his ideas was fired by the publication of translations of his work in the 1980s and 1990s (Halbwachs 1980 and Coser 1992). The central idea is that many of the memories we possess are derived from the groups to which we belong, even if the events occurred before we were born; they are collective memories. Accordingly, it is difficult to have any memory that is purely personal. Collective memory covers a range of phenomena, including situations in which memory is mobilized, the processes through which this happens, and the contents of that which is remembered. Efforts to control the past often involve a struggle for the possession and interpretation of collective memory. New Testament critics, several of whom came upon Halbwachs’ work independently of one another in the early 2000s, have published works that draw upon his ideas, not least in relation to the Johannine Gospel and Letters. Tom Thatcher’s Why John Wrote a Gospel:  Jesus—​Memory—​History from 2006 is a good example of the creative new ideas that can be generated by this process. Thatcher’s starting point is why John wrote a Gospel. Why was it necessary, for example, when the Gospel itself announces that the Holy Spirit will come to lead the Johannine group into all truth (John 16:13)? Thatcher rejects older views that the Gospel was produced as an aide memoire, a storage bin for the Jesus tradition. Instead, he utilizes the insights of Maurice Halbwachs in this book, especially in explaining how the characteristics of collective memory, its fluidity for example, are transformed in the interests of presenting a past that has been solidified to reflect John’s own communicative intentions. Four influential aspects of Halbwachs’ ideas may be noted: (i) the ways in which we interpret, remember, and later communicate our own personal experience in terms of group understanding, language, and values, so that every act of recall is shaped by social frameworks, even when the individual is unaware of them (2006: 56–​7, 60); (ii) the manner in which in a new period it may become

254   Philip F. Esler necessary to rethink the past, to modify our memories of it, in a way that accords with present experience, a process that includes reworking old memories and traditions, not just inventing new ones (2006: 78–​80); (iii) the distinction between the ‘dogmatic mode’ of religious memory, namely the maintenance of a theological tradition in discursive and propositional form, and the ‘mystical mode’, namely the use of something akin to an inner light to recover the meaning of texts and liturgies (2006: 87); and (iv) that while the memories of a group are not ‘collective’ in that they include many tiny, individual pieces of memory of a larger puzzle, they are ‘collective’ in the sense ‘that the people remembering use a common framework to recreate the past’ (2006: 109). Armed with insights such as these and in reliance on the evidence of the Letters (which he thinks preceded the Gospel or indicate pre-​existing trends even if they were written later), Thatcher suggests, in a subtle analysis of the Johannine texts, that John was opposing a rival group (the ‘anti-​Christs’ of 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7) who had a different interpretation of the memory of Jesus. On this view, John wanted to capitalize on the rhetorical value that came from writing in a culture where most people were illiterate by converting what had been a fluid memory of Jesus into a fixed history book. This was ‘a move that would at once preserve his unique vision of Jesus, freeze that vision in a perpetually non-negotiable medium, and assert the special authority of that vision against competing claims’ (2006: 145). However, memory does not exist on its own: a sense of identity that any individual possesses is very much tied to his or her memory—​our sense of who we are is moulded by what we remember of our past, and the people and events which have influenced it. Groups are also shaped by their members’ memories of its experience in the past. In addition, the social identity we derive from belonging to a group is deeply influenced by what we recall of its prior existence. Thus, group memories are likely to play an important role in understanding intra-​and inter-​group dynamics. Since 2003 New Testament scholars have begun to integrate notions of collective memory into research on group and social identities represented in New Testament texts.17 This would be possible for the Johannine corpus. Unfortunately, Thatcher does not use social identity theory in his 2006 monograph, nor does Hakola use collective memory theory in his 2015 work. Some work, however, has been done. In our study of John 11–​12, Ron Piper and I integrated social identity theory, including its temporal dimensions, and collective memory theory in our methodology (2006: 29–​33). John provided his readers with a past, present, and future and by composing the text supplied his group with the material from which collective memories are made: He was equipping them with a permanent aide-​memoire of their first predecessors in the group and their experience, which would be available to nourish the life of the community in the present and the future. He was shaping and mobilizing their collective memory for particular purposes relevant to their ongoing experience and to their understanding of who they were and would become. (2006: 41)

Part of this process involved John’s contesting memories (2006: 45–​7). 17 

See Esler 2003: 171–​94 (on the way the Judean collective memory of Abraham is treated in Romans 4).

Social-Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John    255

Conclusion Ruth Sheridan has recently concluded that much of the social science that has been applied to John still has a future before it: The dialectical and sociolinguistic approaches of Malina, Rohrbaugh, Meeks, and others, can complement literary-​critical theories on the social and rhetorical functions of texts, and lead into a holistic reading of John’s literary features and his social situation. This would then lead away from the less suitable positivistic and reductionist economic theories at the heart of Stark and Bainbridge’s sociology. (2016: 164)

Certainly, research focusing on social identity, ethnic and non-​ethnic identities, and collective memory retains its potential to produce fruitful results, while yet further new social-​scientific ideas and perspectives may be brought to bear on the Johannine literature in the future.

Suggested Reading Still essential is Meeks 1972 on the descending and ascending figure in the Fourth Gospel. Sheridan 2016 well surveys notions of sectarianism in understanding John and their continuing importance. Malina and Rohrbaugh 1998 offer creative new suggestions for most parts of the Johannine Gospel that include features of Mediterranean culture and the sociolinguistic dimensions of John’s anti-​society and anti-​language. Esler and Piper 2006 integrate a social identity reading of John 11–​12 in the wider context of the Gospel with theological implications of their exegesis. Thatcher 2006 and Hakola 2015 offer stimulating new readings of John built upon well-​articulated social-​scientific perspectives.

Bibliography Barth, Fredrik, 1969. ‘Introduction’, in Fredrik Barth (ed.), Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference. London: George Allen and Unwin: 9–​38. Berger, Peter L., 1954. ‘The Sociological Study of Sectarianism’, Social Research 21: 467–​85. Berger, Peter L., 1967. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Berger, Peter L. and Luckmann, Thomas, 1966. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Brown, Tricia Gates, 2003. Spirit in the Writings of John: Johannine Pneumatology in Social-​ Scientific Perspective. JSNTSup 253; London and New York: T&T Clark International. Capper, Brian J., 2011. ‘John, Qumran, and Virtuoso Religion’, in Mary J. Coloe and Tom Thatcher (eds.), John, Qumran, and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Sixty Years of Discovery and Debate. Atlanta, GA: SBL: 93–​116. Carter, Warren, 2014. ‘Social Identities, Subgroups, and John’s Gospel: Jesus the Prototype and Pontius Pilate (John 18.28–​19.16)’, in J. Brian Tucker and Coleman A. Baker (eds.), T & T Clark Handbook to Social Identity in the New Testament. London: Bloomsbury/​T & T Clark/​ Continuum: 235–​51.

256   Philip F. Esler Clark-​Soles, Jaime, 2003. Scripture Cannot Be Broken. The Social Function of the Use of Scripture in the Fourth Gospel. Leiden: Brill. Coser, Lewis A. (ed.), 1992. Maurice Halbwachs on Collective Memory. Edited, translated, and with an Introduction by Lewis A. Coser. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Culpepper, R. Alan and Anderson, Paul N., 2014. ‘Introduction’, in R. Alan Culpepper and Paul N. Anderson (eds.), Communities in Dispute: Current Scholarship on the Johannine Epistles. Atlanta: SBL: 1–​2. Douglas, Mary, 1970. Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology. London: Barrie & Rockliff. Douglas, Mary, 1978. ‘Cultural Bias’, Occasional Paper, 35. London:  Royal Anthropological Institute, 1978. Douglas, Mary (ed.), 1982. Essays in the Sociology of Perception. London:  Routledge & Kegan Paul. Edwards, Ruth B., 1996. The Johannine Epistles. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. Elliott, John H., 1981. A Home for the Homeless: A Sociological Exegesis of 1 Peter, Its Situation and Strategy. Philadelphia: Fortress. Esler, Philip F., 1994. The First Christians in Their Social Worlds: Social-​Scientific Approaches to New Testament Interpretation. London: Routledge. Esler, Philip F., 1996. ‘Group Boundaries and Intergroup Conflict in Galatians: A New Reading of Gal. 5:13-​6:10’, in Mark G. Brett (ed.), Ethnicity and the Bible. Leiden: E J Brill: 215–​40. Esler, Philip F., 1998. Galatians. London and New York: Routledge. Esler, Philip F., 2003. Conflict and Identity in Romans:  The Social Setting of Paul’s Letter. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Esler, Philip F., 2007. ‘From Ioudaioi to Children of God: The Development of a Non-​Ethnic Group Identity in the Gospel of John’, in Anselm C. Hagedorn, Zeba A. Crook and Eric Stewart (eds.), In Other Words: Essays on Social Science Methods and the New Testament in Honor of Jerome H. Neyrey. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press: 106–​37. Esler, Philip F., 2009. ‘Judean Ethnic Identity in Josephus’ Against Apion’, in Zuleika Rodgers, with Margaret Daly-​ Denton, and Anne Fitzpatrick McKinley (eds.), A Wandering Galilean: Essays in Honour of Sean Freyne. Leiden: Brill: 73–​91. Esler, Philip F., 2014a. ‘An Outline of Social Identity Theory’, in J. Brian  Tucker and Coleman A. Baker (eds.), T & T Clark Handbook to Social Identity in the New Testament. London: Bloomsbury/​T & T Clark/​Continuum: 13–​39. Esler, Philip F., 2014b. ‘Group Norms and Prototypes in Matt 5:3-​12:  A Social Identity Interpretation of the Matthean Beatitudes’, in J. Brian Tucker and Coleman A. Baker (eds.), T & T Clark Handbook to Social Identity in the New Testament. London: Bloomsbury/​T & T Clark/​Continuum: 147–​7 1. Esler, Philip F. and Piper, Ronald A., 2006. Lazarus, Mary & Martha: A Social-​Scientific and Theological Reading of John. London: SCM Press. Fuglseth, Kåre Sigvald, 2005. Johannine Sectarianism in Perspective: A Sociological, Historical, and Comparative Analysis of Temple and Social Relationships in the Gospel of John, Philo and Qumran. Leiden: Brill. Gager, John G., 1975. Kingdom and Community:  The Social World of Early Christianity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-​Hall. Hakola, Raimo, 2009. ‘The Burden of Ambiguity: Nicodemus and the Social Identity of the Johannine Christians’, NTS 55: 438–​55. Hakola, Raimo, 2015. Reconsidering Johannine Christianity:  A Social Identity Approach. Bibleworld. London and New York: Routledge.

Social-Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John    257 Hakola, Raimo, 2016. ‘The Johannine Community as a Constructed, Imagined Community’, in Samuel Byrskog, Raimo Hakola, and Jutta Jokiranta (eds.), Social Memory and Social Identity in the Study of Early Judaism and Early Christianity. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht: 211–​40. Halbwachs, Maurice, 1980. The Collective Memory. ET (of 1950 French original) by Francis J. Ditter Jr. and Vida Yazdi Ditter, with an introduction by Mary Douglas. New York: Harper. Halliday, Michael A. K., 1976. ‘Anti-​Languages’, American Anthropologist 78: 570–​84. Halliday, Michael A. K., 1978. Language as Social Semiotic: The Social Interpretation of Language and Meaning. Baltimore: University Park. Hill, M., 1973. The Religious Order:  A Study of Virtuoso Religion in the Nineteenth-​Century Church of England. London: Heinemann. Hornsey, Matthew J. and Hogg, Michael A., 2000. ‘Assimilation and Diversity: An Integrative Model of Subgroup Relations’, Personality and Social Psychology Review 4: 143–​56. Hutchinson, John and Smith, Anthony, 1996. ‘Introduction’, in John Hutchinson and Anthony Smith (eds.), Ethnicity. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 3–​14. Kuecker, Aaron, 2014. ‘Ethnicity and Social Identity’, in J. Brian Tucker and Coleman A. Baker (eds.), T & T Clark Handbook to Social Identity in the New Testament. London: Bloomsbury/​ T & T Clark/​Continuum: 59–​77. Lamb, David A., 2014. Text, Context and the Johannine Community: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of the Johannine Writings. LNTS; London: Bloomsbury T.&T. Clark, Leroy, Herbert, 1968. Rätsel und Missverständnis:  Ein Beitrag zur Formgeschichte des Johannesevangeliums. Bonn: Peter Hanstein. Lickel, Brian, Miller, Norman, Stenstrom, Douglas M., Denson, Thomas A., and Schmader, Ton, 2006. ‘Vicarious Retribution: The Role of Collective Blame in Intergroup Aggressions’, Personality and Social Psychology Review 10: 372–​90. Lim, Timothy H., 2001. ‘The Qumran Scrolls and Paul in Historical Context’, in James R. Davila (ed.), The Dead Sea Scrolls as Background to Postbiblical Judaism and Early Christianity: Papers from an International Conference in St Andrews in 2001. Leiden: Brill: 135–​56. Ling, Timothy J.  M., 2006. The Judaean Poor and the Fourth Gospel. SNTSMS 136; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Malherbe, Abraham J., 1977. ‘The Inhospitality of Diotrephes’, in Jacob Jervell and Wayne A. Meeks (eds.), God’s Christ and His People:  Studies in Honour of Nils Alstrup Dahl. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget: 222–​32. Malina, Bruce J., 1985. The Gospel of John in Sociolinguistic Perspective. Protocol of the Colloquy of the Center for Hermeneutical Studies in Hellenistic and Modern Culture 48. Berkeley, CA: Center for Hermeneutical Studies. Malina, Bruce J., 1986a. ‘The Received View and What It Cannot Do: III John and Hospitality’, in John H. Elliott (ed.), Social-​Scientific Criticism of the New Testament and Its Social World. Semeia 36; Atlanta: The Society of Biblical Literature: 171–​89. Malina, Bruce J., 1986b. Christian Origins and Cultural Anthropology:  Practical Models for Biblical Interpretation. Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press. Malina, Bruce J., 1994. ‘John’s: The Maverick Christian Group: The Evidence of Sociolinguistics’, BTB 24: 167–​82. Malina, Bruce J., 2001. The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology. 3rd edition. Louisville: Westminster John Knox (1st edition 1981). Malina, Bruce J. and Rohrbaugh, Richard L., 1998. Social-​Science Commentary on the Gospel of John. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

258   Philip F. Esler Meeks, Wayne E., 1986 (1972). ‘The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism’, in John Ashton (ed.), The Interpretation of John. Issues in Theology and Religion 9. Philadelphia and London: SPCK: 141–​73 (= JBL 91: 44–​72). Moxnes, Halvor, 1991. ‘Patron-​Client Relations and the New Community in Luke-​Acts’, in Jerome H. Neyrey (ed.), The Social World of Luke-​Acts: Models for Interpretation, Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers: 241–​68. Neyrey, Jerome H., 1988. An Ideology of Revolt: John’s Christology in Social-​Science Perspective. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Piper, Ronald A., 2001. ‘Glory, Honor and Patronage in the Fourth Gospel: Understanding the Doxa Given to Disciples in John 17’, in John J. Pilch (ed.), Social Scientific Models for Interpreting the Bible:  Essays by the Context Group in Honor of Bruce J.  Malina. Atlanta: SBL: 281–​309. Rensberger, David, 1988. Overcoming the World: Politics and Community in the Gospel of John. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, (published by SPCK in the UK in 1989). Rensberger, David, 1997. 1 John, 2 John, 3 John. Abingdon New Testament Commentaries. Nashville: Abingdon Press. Rohrbaugh, Richard L., 2004. ‘What’s the Matter With Nicodemus:  A Social-​ Science Perspective on John 3:1-​ 21’, in Holly E. Hearon (ed.), Distant Voices Drawing Near. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press: 145–​58. Sani, Fabio and Reicher, Steve, 2000. ‘Contested Divisions and Schisms in Groups: Opposing the Ordination of Women as Priests in the Church of England’, British Journal of Social Psychology 39: 95–​112. Scroggs, Robin, 1975. ‘The Earliest Christian Communities as Sectarian Movement’, in Jacob Neusner (ed.), Christianity and other Greco-​Roman Cults: Studies for Morton Smith at Sixty. 4 volumes. SJLA 12. Leiden: E. J. Brill: 2, 1–​23. Segovia, Fernando, 2000. ‘Social-​Science Commentary on the Gospel of John’, JBL 119: 368–​70. Sheridan, Ruth, 2016. ‘Johannine Sectarianism: A Category Now Defunct?’, in Stanley E. Porter and Hughson T. Ong (eds.), The Origins of John’s Gospel. Leiden: Brill: 142–​66. Stark, Rodney and Bainbridge, William S., 1986. The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival and Cult Formation. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Streett, Daniel R., 2011. They Went Out From Us: The Identity of the Opponents in First John. BZNW 177; Berlin: de Gruyter. Thatcher, Tom, 2006. Why John Wrote the Gospel:  Jesus—​ Memory—​ History. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. Tucker, J. Brian and Baker, Coleman A. (eds.), 2014. T & T Clark Handbook to Social Identity in the New Testament. London: Bloomsbury/​T & T Clark/​Continuum. Wilson, Bryan R., 1973. Magic and the Millennium: A Sociological Study of Religious Movements of Protest Among Tribal and Tribal-​World Peoples. London: Heinemann.

Chapter 16

Sym b olism and ‘ Si g ns ’ i n the Fourth  G o spe l Dorothy A. Lee

Introduction The Gospel of John is replete with symbols and is, indeed, the most symbolic of all the Gospels. Because John’s worldview is essentially a symbolic one, it is necessary to appreciate the symbolism in order to understand the Gospel as a whole. Significant scholarly work has been done in the area of symbolism, as part of wider explorations into John’s literary techniques (Culpepper 1983; Frey, van der Watt et al. 2006; Thatcher and Moore 2008). These studies have shown that the symbols of the Gospel are tied in the closest possible way to the narrative to which they belong, not as decorations but to serve a more basic function (Lee 1994). Far from being peripheral, Johannine symbolism has a crucial role in articulating the Gospel’s theological purpose and meaning: through its images and metaphors, narrative structures, and miracles (‘signs’). In general terms, symbolism is a mode of communication that deals in representation, in art, music, drama, film, and dreams, as well as literary compositions. Such symbols may—​and often do—​possess a universal appeal that crosses cultures and other divides, but their location within specific communities and traditions is equally important in defining them. Because they appeal to the imagination and the mind, symbols require both an intuitive and an intellectual grasp, speaking equally to the affective and the cognitive. They are by nature multivalent: that is, they are capable of more than one meaning that cannot easily be captured. In literary works, symbols appear as words on a page that appeal to the imagination of the reader to conjure up a corresponding picture in the mind. The symbolism found in a religious text such as the Gospel of John is particularly concerned to convey a sense of transcendence, using figurative language drawn from nature and human experience (Tillich 1962: 301–​3). These symbols involve truth claims and convey a sense of divine mystery that has the capacity to make sense of human

260   Dorothy A. Lee experience. Religious symbols describe a realm that is, by definition, indescribable, beyond the capacity of everyday language to articulate. They seek to make theological connections between the heavenly and the created worlds, so that the one gives meaning to the other: the heavenly embracing the earthly. Because symbolism has the capacity to make connections between divine and human, Rahner argues that all theology is by definition a theology of symbol (1973: 244–​5). This perspective captures well the Johannine symbolic worldview.

Symbolism, Image, and Metaphor In the Gospel of John, the symbolism arises from specific images that communicate theological meaning. The meaning emerges from the influence of the evangelist’s background, culture, and context, in interaction with Jewish traditions, the Greco–​Roman world, the early church, and the Synoptic Gospels (Anderson 2007). Many of the images in the Fourth Gospel derive from common human experience (bread, water, wine, light, farming, viticulture), while others emerge from the religious experience of the Old Testament and Judaism (Temple, feasts, Law). In each case they take on symbolic value (Lee 2016). Other images are original and unexpected, counter-​intuitive in the symbolic quality given them; the cross is perhaps the best example. These Johannine symbols are not separate but closely interconnected like a multi-​coloured cloth or tapestry. Their interactions are intuitive rather than logical, and they weave in and out of the Johannine narrative with repetitions, echoes, and ambiguities, in a way that defies linear logic. Zimmermann describes John’s imagery as a ‘tangled thicket’, a metaphor that indicates the complexity and density of the symbolism within the Gospel (2006: 1). John’s symbolism displays itself frequently through metaphor, which is the linguistic form of symbol. A metaphor, in other words, is a distinct image located within the structure of a sentence; it is a ‘figure of speech whereby we speak about one thing in terms which are seen to be suggestive of another’ (Soskice 1987: 15). In this sense, metaphors have cognitive content as well as intuitive power, engaging and enlarging the reader’s understanding as well as the imagination. A number of different but related metaphors can even combine to form a ‘metaphorical field’; van der Watt, for example, explores the metaphor of believers belonging to ‘the family of the King’ as one such metaphorical field (2000). As an aspect of symbol, metaphor is created by the bringing together of two different elements to create new meaning, the object itself and the image (Ricoeur 1977: 80–​1). For example, in the metaphorical statement, ‘I am the bread of life’ (6:35), which is the first of the seven metaphorical ‘I am’ sayings of the Gospel, the Johannine Jesus is the object of the metaphor while ‘bread’ is the image. The metaphor in this sense possesses both an ‘is not’ and an ‘is’ dimension, and the reader needs to acknowledge the first before moving onto the second: Jesus is not literally bread but is bread in a representative sense. Yet, in order to grasp the metaphor, the reader needs to retain some grasp on the

Symbolism and ‘Signs’ in the Fourth Gospel    261 literal meaning of bread to perceive that Jesus gives spiritual nourishment to believers, just as bread gives nourishment to the body. This dynamic has been called ‘stereoscopic vision’: that is, the ability to see at the same time both the image and the figurative sense (Ricoeur 1977: 247–​56).1 Thus the implied reader has the capacity to picture ‘Jesus’ and ‘bread’ at the same time, allowing the two pictures to converge. The convergence creates new meaning, a new and vivid understanding of Jesus. The same process is required to grasp the other ‘I am’ sayings of the Gospel (Ball 1996). Here too the implied reader allows the specific image to converge simultaneously with the object, Jesus. The metaphorical focus is on the saving significance of a relationship with the Johannine Jesus. Thus Jesus is metaphorically depicted as the light illuminating the darkness and struggles of believers’ lives (8:12 and 9:5); as the gate leading to pasture and security for the community of faith (10:7); as the protective and life-​giving shepherd for this community and for others (10:11, 14); as the sap-​ bearing vine enabling growth and fecundity in love (15:1, 5); and as the only pathway to God (14:6). In each case, the reader with stereoscopic vision sees clearly both the basic image and its transferral to Jesus, creating a new apprehension of Jesus’ identity and role for believers. In addition to the ‘I am’ sayings, another feature of Johannine symbolism is the use of images drawn from the senses (Lee 2010a). The senses are overt in the metaphorical structure of the Gospel, and they engage the reader at a physical level. In this case, they act as metaphors to address the religious experience of the reader. The most important are the senses of seeing and hearing, which are frequent Johannine metaphors for believing and the life of faith. To see and hear in the symbolic sense is to apprehend Jesus with the eyes and ears of faith: to recognize and to heed. Characters may see Jesus with physical eyes and ears but only those with faith truly see and hear him, since to see him, in the Gospel, means to encounter the glory of God (12:45; 17:24) and also to heed and obey his word, even on the other side of death (5:25, 28; 10:3, 27; 11:43–​44). Images of taste and touch are also used as metaphors in the Johannine narrative. Taste is present in the symbolic language of eating and drinking, in the sharing of food and the offer of ‘living water’ (6:31–​58; 4:10–​14; 7:37–​39). Jesus nourishes believers with his life (6:51) and his physical touch gives healing (9:6–​7). The anointing at Bethany and the Footwashing are further examples (12:3; 13:4–​5), pointing metaphorically to cleansing and union. Even the sense of smell is present metaphorically in the Gospel narrative, in the stench of the dead Lazarus (11:39), in the odour of the nard filling the house (12:3b), and in the overpowering smell of a hundredweight of spices at the tomb (20:39). In each case, the metaphors speak of a new life in and beyond death (Lee 1994: 222; O’Day 1998: 299). In addition, imagery of place and movement is used metaphorically in the Gospel narrative. Certain verbs convey a figurative sense of discipleship (Lee 2010b: 133–​66),


A substantial simile operates in the same way as metaphor; it too takes on symbolic meaning within the Fourth Gospel (e.g. 1:14; 3:14).

262   Dorothy A. Lee located in images of abiding (1:38–​39, 6:56, 15:4–​10) and following (1:43; 12:26; 13:36–​37; 21:19–​22). It is visible in nouns that evoke a sense of place, destiny, and home—​rooms, the path, the way, the door—​as well vertical images of ‘above’ and ‘below’. Metaphors of growth are also part of this sense of movement, in the fields ripe for harvest (4:35–​ 38) and the clustering grapes on the vine (15:5). Koester, for example, speaks of four ‘word pictures’ that John uses to depict the restful yet dynamic life of faith: walking in the light, seed falling into the earth, washing one another’s feet, and abiding in the vine (2008: 188–​96). Other metaphors, grounded in sensory experience, are apparent in the arena of human relationships: birth as a metaphor of new life (1:12–​13; 3:3–​8), the relationship between brothers and sisters signifying the deep bonds of connection within the household of faith (19:20:17), the profound link between parent and child (1:14–​18; 5:18–​23; 14:8–​13; 17:1–​5, 25–​26; 19:25–​27), the intimacy among friends (15:13–​15). These become metaphors of affiliation and society in the community of faith. Here too traditional kinship imagery is employed to depict the connection between Jesus and disciples (van der Watt 2000). Other, more public, relationships are employed metaphorically, often in a deconstructive sense that re-​shapes basic power relationships: the affinity between monarch and citizens (1:49; 6:1–​15; 10:11–​15; 12:13–​15; 18:37; 19:19–​20), master and servants (15:12–​17, 20; 20:16), teacher and students (1:38–​39; 13:12–​16).

Symbolism and Narrative In the Gospel, the symbolism is closely tied to the narrative and operates on two levels. The first is the literal level of the image, while the second level is the symbolic level which the evangelist entices the reader to grasp. In some narratives, the main character grasps the symbolism and achieves a distinct level of faith and understanding. For example, the Samaritan woman moves through initial misunderstanding and cynicism to a deep level of faith and understanding through her conversation with Jesus—​in the process, bringing an entire village to Jesus (4:1–​42). The key image, around which the narrative turns, is that of the water of the well which takes on symbolic value, pointing to the gift of the Spirit which Jesus bestows (7:37–​39). In other narratives, the symbolism is opaque and the character remains frozen, unable to choose between belief and unbelief. Nicodemus, for example, fades from the narrative, since (at this stage in the Gospel) he is unable to grasp the symbolism of birth which Jesus presents to him (3:1–​21). In still other narratives, the symbolism is misunderstood by the main character or group, leading to rejection. The long feeding narrative, for example, depicts an initial burgeoning of faith, around the symbolism of bread, but ends up with the crowd’s defiant rejection of Jesus as the ‘Bread of life’ (6:1–​7 1). In most examples, this movement to and from faith occurs in direct dialogue with Jesus. The movement from misunderstanding to understanding takes place in a number of narrative stages, generally involving misunderstanding on the part of the main

Symbolism and ‘Signs’ in the Fourth Gospel    263 character (or group) and clarification on the part of Jesus (Lee 1994). The debate moves in one direction or another as Jesus unfolds the meaning through the narrative. A notable exception is the story of the man born blind, whose rise to faith occurs mostly in Jesus’ absence and under interrogation by increasingly hostile authorities. In this painful process, the man’s whole life, as well as his body, becomes ‘illuminated’ by Jesus until he finally encounters him and sees him with the eyes of faith (9:1–​41). The stages in this and other narratives represent the movement, in literary terms, from the literal to the symbolic meaning which, for John, signifies the movement from unbelief or ignorance to faith. Many of these Johannine characters have their own, complex characterization, a feature of John’s Gospel that has led to considerable investigation (Skinner 2013; Hunt et al. 2013; Bennema 2014).2 The characters of the Fourth Gospel may also serve a representative function in relation to the Johannine narrative and its key themes. In this sense, the characters take on a symbolic role in addition to the specific shape and form of their characterization. To take one example, Martha and Mary of Bethany are portrayed as distinct characters in the central Johannine narrative of Jesus raising their brother, Lazarus, to life (11:1–​12:11):  the older sister an outgoing personality of initiation and courage, and the younger woman portrayed as quiet, intense, and introspective. At the same time, each woman plays a symbolic role in the Gospel, acclaiming the identity and destiny of Jesus on behalf of the believing community in both word (Martha) and deed (Mary). They symbolize the authentic response of faith. John’s symbolic worldview thus interacts with the narrative and its characters who shape its form, broaden its content, and deepen its meaning. The symbolism is not easily extracted from its narrative context and from the characters of the Gospel and the roles they play. Together they create a sense of dynamic movement and engagement, in which the implied reader is invited to participate. To understand the symbolism requires the narrative which forms it and is in turn formed by it. In the end, although some of the narratives of the Gospel display most markedly this interdependence of symbol and narrative, John’s entire Gospel from beginning to end can be deemed, in the deepest sense, a ‘symbolic narrative’.

Core Johannine Symbols It is important to note that not all symbols have equal weight in the Gospel of John. Culpepper, whose pioneering work on the literary qualities of the Gospel is unparalleled, draws a careful distinction between different types of images (1983: 189–​97; van der Watt 2000: 101). Some symbols have core status within the Gospel, he argues, while others have only peripheral significance. The core symbols expand throughout the


On character, see also Chapter 12, Jo-​Ann Brant, ‘The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama’.

264   Dorothy A. Lee narrative and take on added meanings. Koester also distinguishes between ‘core’ and ‘supporting’ images in the Johannine narrative, using the example of the water which becomes wine at the wedding at Cana as opposed to the stone jars in which it is contained: the one a core Johannine symbol, the other a supporting symbol that does not appear elsewhere in the Gospel (2003: 3–​15). The two main personal symbols of the Gospel are that of Father and Son (Akala 2014:  127–​213), and flesh and glory (Lee 2002:  29–​64). Both are christological, unfolding Jesus’ complex identity, the unique relationship he shares with God, and his self-​revelation in the incarnation. The Father-​Son symbolism arises from the language of the prologue which is initially somewhat abstract and bewildering (Lee 2010c: 713). Here ‘word’ and ‘God’ exist in a complex web of identity and difference in which the Word is described as being both ‘with God’ and also ‘God’ (1:1–​2). The inter-​relationship becomes comprehensible only in the symbol of Father and Son (1:14) where it becomes clear that the Son is in communion with the Father while also sharing the divine nature. The symbol is further clarified in the picture of a son working as an apprentice in his father’s workshop (Dodd 1968: 30–​40), in one of the clearest statements of the authority and life donated from Father to Son (5:19–​30). The symbolism also has an additional function in that it expands to include the community of believers: they regain their status as ‘children of God’ through relationship and identification with the Son, entering into his filiation, his relationship with God as Father (17:20–​24; 20:17). This is the symbolic sense in which divine glory is shared by the community of faith (17:22). The second core personal symbol is that of flesh and glory which expresses John’s understanding of the incarnation:  the Word revealed in and through material flesh (Schnelle 2009: 599–​676). Flesh becomes the symbol of God’s radiant, life-​giving presence. The two are oppositional by nature: spiritual and material, divine and human, heaven and earth. But the latter become symbolic of the former, conveying celestial reality in and through the terrestrial, portraying the divine word, revealed in the Old Testament (in creation, Torah, prophets, and wisdom), now crossing the gulf between Creator and creation. Within the Prologue there is a careful distinction drawn between the flesh which is ineffective and the flesh which is effective, mending the tear in creation and revealing divine glory (Bauckham 2015: 43–​62). The first reference is to flesh that cannot bring about new birth: ‘who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God’ (1:13). The second reference to flesh is the incarnation: what mortal flesh cannot achieve, the creative power of the enfleshed Word can (1:14), a statement that is ‘the key to the twenty-​one chapters that follow’ (Hengel 2008: 268). A similar contrast is drawn in the dialogue on the bread of life, where Jesus compares the two different kinds of flesh. Jesus’ flesh and blood are, on the one hand, necessary—​‘unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’ (6:53)—​yet flesh, on the other hand, is of no avail compared to the Spirit: ‘It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless’ (6:63). Of itself, flesh cannot cross the abyss or mend the broken links that connect Creator to creation; only the flesh of the Son is capable of this role.

Symbolism and ‘Signs’ in the Fourth Gospel    265 In addition to these personal symbols, two of the core impersonal symbols throughout the Gospel also emerge from the Prologue: light and witness. Light is the primary symbol of life, recalling the first account of creation where light is created on the first day (Gen. 1:3) before the sun and moon (Gen. 1:14–​19), and revealing the close link between creation and the Johannine Prologue (Endo 2002: 182–​248; Coloe 2011). Light will become a major symbol throughout the Fourth Gospel. The imagery takes on symbolic meaning for the evangelist almost at once, with darkness symbolizing unbelief, rejection, and death, and standing over against the life and goodness of God and God’s creation. Later in the Gospel, darkness and light will connect to the symbolic opposition of blindness and sight (9:1–​6, 39–​41). More fundamental for John is that light signifies the Word himself (1:9), a major christological symbol that emerges again in the Gospel narrative (8:12; 9:3). The witness theme in the Fourth Gospel is also a dominant metaphorical construct (Lincoln 2000: 21–​35, 57–​138). John the Baptist is the first such witness (1:7, 15, 19) and the Beloved Disciple is the last (19:35–​21:24), the two standing in parallel at the beginning and end of the Gospel (Lee 2013: 1–​17). Although there is no literal trial until the end of the Gospel in the Passion Narrative, the court-​room symbolism emerges throughout the preceding narrative. John reveals that the ‘world’ puts Jesus on ‘trial’ during his ministry, a trial that becomes actual in the confrontation with Pilate (18:28–​19:16a), and continues in the post-​Easter experience of the disciples (15:18–​16:4a). At a deeper level it is really God who puts the world on trial, overturning the hostile world’s attempts to deny the light of truth. The courtroom imagery is also linked to the symbolism of light: Jesus as Light of the world is also its judge, shining the light of truth onto the injustice and untruthfulness of the world, uncovering its evil and throwing its darkness into relief (3:19–​21). In the end, for John, the revelation embodied in the Light of the world displays the truth about God and about the unbelieving world which lies under the power of ‘the ruler of this world’ (12:31; 14:30; 16:11).3 In this realm, the authentic witness testifies to the truth, and truth lies at the heart of the witness symbolism.

Symbolism and Signs Strange as it may seem, the miracles also act as symbols in the narrative of the Fourth Gospel (Lee 1994). John calls these miracles ‘signs’ but does so in a distinctive sense. In the general understanding, we distinguish between signs and symbols. Whereas a sign is only a signpost pointing us in the right direction, a symbol does more than that: it is both the signpost and the vehicle that takes us there. Signs, in common parlance, do not have the capacity to communicate a transcendent reality as symbols can (Schneiders


The term ‘world’ is ambiguous in the Gospel, mostly positive but at other times signifying the realm of sin and death (e.g. 3:16–​17; 17:14–​16; Moloney 2013: 207–​9).

266   Dorothy A. Lee 1999: 65–​9). In the Johannine sense the miracles are much closer to symbols and function in a similar way. This is an important distinction in the discussion which follows. The ‘signs’ (sēmeia) of the Fourth Gospel are evident in the miracles stories which form the backbone of Jesus’ public ministry. John has fewer but longer miracles than the Synoptic Gospels and they include nature episodes (2:1–​11; 6:1–​13; 16–​21; 21:1–​14), healings of the sick and disabled (4:45–​54; 5:1–​9; 9:1–​7), and raising of the dead (11:1–​44). These Johannine miracles are remarkably dramatic in scope, particularly compared with the Synoptic miracles (Lee 2015): over 150 gallons of water turned into wine at a wedding (2:6); someone disabled for 38 years made whole(5:5), or healed after being born blind (9:1–​3), or raised after being dead for four days (11:17); loaves made from the poorest quality bread (barley) to feed 5,000 people, with twelve baskets of leftovers; and a spectacular number of fish caught in a net after a night of fruitless toil (21:11). Apart from one accusation of Jesus being demon-​possessed (John 8:48), John’s narrative includes no exorcisms. The Johannine ‘signs’ are connected to images or feasts and sometimes involve extended dialogue with a specific character or group, a dialogue that discloses their true meaning and significance. There are two distinctive features of John’s accounts that make his narrative unique. In the first place, while the evangelist invariably uses the term ‘sign’ (sēmeion) of the miracles, Jesus himself has a preference for the synonymous term ‘work’ (ergon), a noun that has links to the verb, ergazomai (‘I work’).4 Behind this lies John’s christological understanding of Jesus as carrying out the work of God, the uniquely divine work of giving life and exercising judgement: ‘My Father is working until now and I also am working’ (5:17; Lee 2002: 116–​18). The Johannine Jesus sees his ministry, including the ‘signs’, as fulfilling the mission of God for which he has been uniquely sent and has been given the Father’s authority (5:19–​30). Both the sēmeia and the erga, the ‘signs’ and works, are ways of describing the miracles, but the latter term sets them within the mission of God and the ethical work which Jesus is called to do (Karakolis 2012: 196–​200). This sense of mission contrasts with the one ‘work’ which human beings are called to perform: that of faith (6:28–​29). Secondly, in John’s use of the word sēmeion something more than the miracle itself is indicated. In the dialogue with the crowds following the feeding, Jesus makes a distinction between the miracle itself and its true meaning as ‘sign’, sēmeion: ‘you are looking for me’, he says, ‘not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves’ (6:26). This redirection of the crowds’ seeking parallels Jesus’ unexpected rebuke of the royal official in his request for healing for his son: ‘unless you [plural] see signs and wonders [sēmeia kai terata], you will not believe’ (4:48). Faith in Jesus’ identity is more important for the Johannine evangelist than belief in Jesus’ ability to produce spectacular wonders. John uses the ‘signs’ symbolically to unfold an understanding of Jesus’ identity and the meaning of discipleship. The point of the hyperbole apparent in the miracles is 4  The word sēmeion appears in the Gospel at 2:11, 18, 23; 3:2; 4:48, 54; 6:2, 14, 26, 30; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18, 37; 20:30. The word group ergon appears at 4:34; 5:17, 20, 36; 6:27–​30; 7:3, 21; 9:3–​4; 10:25, 32, 37–38; 14:10–​11; 15:24; 17:4.

Symbolism and ‘Signs’ in the Fourth Gospel    267 not so much to stress the power of action but rather to disclose more fulsomely the identity of Jesus. Elsewhere, John makes the same point about the limitations of a faith based on ‘signs’ without symbolic understanding of their significance. Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, impressed by the signs which attest to God’s presence, yet fails to reach a deeper apprehension of them (3:2). The evangelist sets the coming of Nicodemus in the context of Jesus’ own scepticism about a faith based on ‘signs’: a faith that is impressed by them without grasping their theological significance (2:23–​25). In the same way, people at times request a ‘sign’ as proof of Jesus’ authority and claims, but they reject what they are given or they fail entirely to perceive it (2:18; 6:30). In John’s Gospel, the ‘signs’ are symbolic, revealing glory in the unfolding of Jesus’ identity (Schnackenburg 1968: vol.1, 521–​5). The narratives of Jesus’ ministry, particularly in the first half of the Gospel, enable the ‘signs’ to take on symbolic value, unfolding divine glory and giving rise to faith. Brown names the first half of the Gospel, ‘the Book of Signs’, in order to draw out their significance (1966). The sēmeia point to the central Johannine theology of glory revealed in the flesh, and they lead to faith. While the category of ‘symbol’ seems most apt for understanding John’s images and metaphors, it is equally applicable to the ‘signs’ of the narrative which take on symbolic value in their narrative context. John makes this point clear at the end of the first sign, the wedding at Cana (2:1–​12). The imagery draws on powerful Old Testament associations of the messianic reign and the abundance and quality of wine as a feature of the final, eschatological banquet (e.g. Isa. 25:6). It also draws on Jewish cleansing practices, with the reference to ‘stone jars of purification for the Jews’, a water that is transfigured into wine, symbolizing both the advent and superiority of the new order. The real focus, however, emerges as christological: the ‘good wine until now’ turns out to be Jesus himself (2:10), and the transfigured wine symbolizes his messianic, eschatological presence in the revelation of glory. For the evangelist, the appropriate response of the disciples to the revealing of this glory is faith (2:11). The healing of the royal official’s son parallels the wedding miracle within the ‘Cana-​ to-​Cana’ cycle (2:1–​4:54), and is likewise designated a sēmeion (4:45–​54). Sharing some of the characteristics of the wedding story, this healing also has links with that of the disabled man (5:1–​11). Though the healing of the man at the pool is designated a ‘work’ rather than a ‘sign’, it shares the same characteristics and, in particular, the same emphasis on Jesus’ identity which is unfolded in the ensuing dialogue. Significantly, the man himself displays little, if any, faith (5:19–​47), which perhaps explains Jesus’ stern rebuke at their second meeting (5:14), a rebuke that is confirmed by the man’s divulging of Jesus’ identity to the hostile authorities (5:15). The story of the feeding is set within the context of the ‘signs’ ministry of Jesus and the Passover festival (6:2, 4). The long and meandering conversation between Jesus and the crowds over the meaning of the ‘sign’ (6:22–​59) seems at first to represent a movement towards faith, but it soon turns in the opposite direction with increasing levels of alienation and finally rejection (6:66). Yet in and through the dialogue, whether sympathetic

268   Dorothy A. Lee or hostile, John unfolds the inner meaning of the ‘sign’ as christological: Jesus is the Bread of life, the giver of the bread and the food itself (6:35, 48, 51). In the end, Jesus is left with the twelve who alone show faith (6:66, except Judas Iscariot). This is, ultimately, a tragic narrative (Lee 1994: 126–​60). The narrative of the man blind has a number of parallels with the healing of the disabled man at the pool (Schneiders 1999: 149–​70), not least of which is the explicit language of works rather than ‘signs’ (9:3–​4). The inner meaning of the ‘sign’ is once more christological, embodied in the second of the ‘I am’ sayings of the Gospel, ‘I am the light of the world’ (8:12; 9:6), with its background in the feast of Tabernacles. The miracle itself is far more than a healing; the man has never had sight to be restored, but rather his sight is created for the first time. This aspect of the narrative is underlined in Jesus’ use of dust to create a paste recalling, as Irenaeus points out, the creation of Adam (9:6; see Gen. 2:7; Elowsky 2006: 324). A particular feature, as we have noted, is that Jesus himself is absent for the middle scenes of the narrative and the man’s movement from ignorance to faith occurs mostly through alienating interrogations by the authorities who unwittingly push the man towards faith (9:13–​34). Christology and faith work together in this ‘sign’, the symbolic meaning arising from the water, the clay, and the physical access to sight and light: the bodily restoration symbolically conveying an inner and spiritual wholeness which the man finally achieves in his second encounter with Jesus (9:35–​38). Conversely, lack of faith and rejection are embodied in the harsh and unbelieving response of the authorities, who are erroneously convinced they possess sight (9:39–​41). The last ‘sign’, the raising of Lazarus, concludes Jesus’ public ministry, bringing it to a climax and setting in motion the second half of the Gospel, with its focus on Jesus’ departure (11:1–​12:11). This, the greatest of the Johannine ‘signs’, symbolizes Jesus’ identity as ‘resurrection and life’ (11:25–​26). Following Lazarus’ emergence from the tomb, explicit sign language is used of this event (11:47; 12:8). The narrative is tied to Jesus’ own paschal story, and he is depicted as the one who brings life from death, precisely through his own journey through life and death (Byrne 2014: 183–​206). The faith in this story is shown by Martha and Mary, as has already been noted, the sisters confessing their faith in word and deed (Sturdevant 2015: 133–​55). In this climactic Johannine ‘sign’, believers find life in connection to the one who is life, beyond the bounds of death. In each case, the Johannine ‘signs’ point to the identity of Jesus and the life bestowed in relationship with him. Readers have traditionally spoken of seven signs in the Gospel of John, but the numbering is difficult to define. It is not clear, for example, that Jesus’ epiphany on the Sea of Galilee qualifies as a Johannine ‘sign’ (6:16–​21), apart from the feeding of the 5,000. The disciples’ large catch of fish in the second resurrection story, though not designated a ‘sign’ or work, is indeed miraculous in nature and would bring the number to seven, but many dispute the place of John 21 in the original Gospel and see it as additional or as an epilogue (Moloney 2008). An alternative is that the final chapters of the Gospel constitute the last, and seventh, of the Johannine ‘signs’. The summary at the end of the first resurrection narrative makes reference to the ‘many other sēmeia’ of Jesus’ public ministry, suggesting a connection

Symbolism and ‘Signs’ in the Fourth Gospel    269 between the resurrection and the earlier miracles of the Gospel (20:31). Furthermore, the appearance narratives have a similarly sensual quality to the earlier ‘signs’ (Schnelle 1998: 310–​13). On the other hand, the dramatic high point of the Gospel narrative is the crucifixion rather than the resurrection, where the glory of God in Jesus most fully and paradoxically shines, but which is not by itself a Johannine ‘sign’. If the death and resurrection, however, are taken together as the one theological event, the cross itself surely belongs among the ‘signs’ (Salier 2004: 142–​70). In this sense, the cross, meaning Jesus’ death and implying also his resurrection, is a major symbol of the Gospel (Wright 1994: 34–​5), the most unlikely and paradoxical of all the Johannine symbols. It is not merely a counter-​cultural ‘sign’, but more importantly the fulfilment of all the ‘signs’ in the revelation of glory and the summons to faith (Moloney 1998: 544; Barrett 1978: 78).

Symbolism and Theology Within its symbolic framework and the portrayal of the ‘signs’ of Jesus’ ministry, the theology of the Gospel emerges. Because they possess substantial content, the Johannine symbols are rich in theological meaning. At the heart of this theology lies the Johannine belief in the incarnation, symbolizing God’s advent in the world, not as an external (if heavenly) visitor, but rather as intrinsic to the world itself: in the same shape and form, made of the same substance, sharing the same ingredients. In this advent, God enters flesh, becomes flesh, and redeems flesh by flesh. On this theological point, the symbolism of the Gospel turns (Lee 2010c: 709). As a consequence of the incarnation, creation itself, already the work of God, is now able to symbolize God’s glory within its own framework: ‘God can no longer be conceived apart from the incarnation of the Logos’ (Weder 1996: 331). This is the theological basis of the Gospel, explicit in Prologue and implicit in the symbolism and ‘signs’ of Jesus’ ministry. John uses symbols because of the incarnation, because flesh now has the capability of symbolizing God. The incarnate Symbol makes possible the symbols (Schneiders 1999: 70–​1). The goal of the Fourth Gospel is that, in grasping the symbolism in its narrative context, the reader will enter imaginatively into the symbolic world of the text and so come face-​to-​face with divine glory. The symbols enable this movement, not just at an affective level but also cognitively. The images take on symbolic meaning as they draw readers into their dynamic through the progress of the narrative, based on shared experience and common human need. The symbolism enables the implied reader to be transformed, a transformation that is grounded in love, a major theme of the Fourth Gospel that underlies all the symbols and ‘signs’ of the narrative (Moloney 2013). In the Johannine worldview, the potential for symbolic meaning already exists intrinsically in creation, since ‘all things came into being through him’ (1:3). In the Johannine sense, ‘every finite phenomenon is at some level a carrier of divine significance’ (Williams 2014: 120). The incarnation does not give ‘flesh’ its symbolic meaning, for John; rather, it draws out a meaning that is already implicit. When John speaks of

270   Dorothy A. Lee ‘flesh’ that ‘profits nothing’ (6:63), he is speaking of the incapacity of human beings to recognise the Creator in all things and their inability to repair the blindness (1:10). This incapacity is what the Word comes to remedy—​to reignite the capacity to connect, communicate, recognize through the imagination. To know Jesus and to know God, in Johannine terms, means to enter into the ‘imaginary’ world of the text, apprehending its symbolism by faith. An important question in interpreting the Gospel theologically is the question of the limits of symbolism in interpreting the text (Anderson 2006: 157–​94). How far can we go and what, if any, are the restraints on symbolic interpretation? For example, is the garden image at the beginning and end of the passion narrative a symbol of Eden restored or is it only a geographical reference without deeper significance (18:1; 19;41; Zimmermann 2008:  221–​35)? Given that symbolism is multivalent, with more than one meaning, it is hard to draw boundaries around it. Awareness of the Old Testament and the Jewish and Roman-​Hellenistic contexts of the Fourth Gospel are helpful in unveiling the meaning, but they can be in themselves ambiguous. More important is the theological unity of the text itself. Symbolism may be multiple in its associations but it is not infinite and, while interpreters need to leave open the extent of the meaning, there are interpretations that can be excluded by reading the text as a whole. For example, a reading that is used to support antisemitism would be an illegitimate use of the term ‘the Jews’ and its symbolic significance in this gospel (Motyer 2008: 143–​67; Lieu 2008: 168–​82).5

Conclusion The symbolism of the Fourth Gospel is not primarily decorative or ornamental, but seeks to communicate what John sees as religious truth; it is concerned, in other words, with salvation. This perspective is essential in reading the Gospel with its explicitly symbolic framework. In the act of reading, the implied reader engages with another and deeper level of reality. Within this context, the symbols of the Gospel are not signposts pointing elsewhere, but vehicles of the revelation. The core Johannine symbols function to bridge the gulf between heaven and earth. In the Gospel of John, the symbolism functions to give imaginative entry for the reader into the realm of life, eternal life as John understands it: a rich quality of life in the present moment that ultimately transcends death (10:10). It is the only way, for John, in which the transcendent God can be apprehended (Hirsch-​Luipold 2006). In the biblical imagery of the four living creatures around the throne of God (Ezek. 1:4–​10; Rev. 4:6–​8), the symbol for the Fourth Gospel has traditionally been that of the eagle, soaring high above the earth into the heavens (Burridge 2005: 132–​63). This 5 

See Chapter 8, Adele Reinhartz, ‘The Jews of the Fourth Gospel’.

Symbolism and ‘Signs’ in the Fourth Gospel    271 powerful image reinforces the symbolic nature of this Gospel, where the symbolism displays its theological understanding, not in a series of abstract propositions, but in the literary language of image, metaphor, and narrative. The Gospel of John employs its symbolism to speak both christologically and eschatologically of the re-​creating presence of God revealed in the Johannine Jesus. The ‘signs’ of the Gospel also share this symbolic quality, pointing to another order of reality (‘from above’) invading and transfiguring the present (‘from below’). For John, the symbols and signs of the narrative communicate the identity of Jesus as Word and Son, who possesses unique authority over life and death, and whose life and ministry demonstrate divine love and glory.

Suggested Reading The most basic study in the Gospel of John from a literary perspective is Culpepper (1983), on which key works by Lee (2002), Koester (2003), and Burridge (2005) draw, developing further understandings of John’s symbolism. Two further studies provide excellent introductions to the Gospel from a narrative and thematic viewpoint:  Schneiders (1999) on the Gospel’s Christology and Moloney (2013) on love. A good, accessible commentary on John’s Gospel is Byrne (2014).

Bibliography Akala, A. J., 2014. The Son-​Father Relationship and Christological Symbolism in the Gospel of John. London: Bloomsbury. Anderson, P. N., 2007, The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus. Modern Foundations Reconsidered. London: Bloomsbury. Anderson, P. N., 2006, ‘Gradations of Symbolization in the Johannine Passion Narrative’, in J. Frey, J. van der Watt, and R. Zimmermann (eds.), Imagery in the Gospel of John. Terms, Forms, Themes, and Theology of Johannine Figurative Language. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 157–​94. Ball, D. M., 1996. ‘I am’ in John’s Gospel:  Literary Function, Background and Theological Implications. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. Barrett, C. K., 1978. The Gospel according to St. John: an introduction with commentary and notes on the Greek text. 2nd ed. London: SPCK. Bauckham, R., 2015. God of Glory. Major Themes in Johannine Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. Bennema, C., 2014. Encountering Jesus. Character Studies in the Gospel of John. 2nd edition. New York: Fortress Press. Brown, R. E., 1966. The Gospel according to John, 2 vols. New York: Doubleday. Burridge, R., 2005. Four Gospels, One Jesus? A  symbolic Reading. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Byrne, B., 2014. Life Abounding. A Reading of John’s Gospel. Collegeville: Liturgical Press. Coloe, M., 2011. ‘Theological reflections on creation in the Gospel of John’, Pacifica 24: 1–​12. Culpepper, R. A., 1983. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel:  A Study in Literary Design. Philadelphia: Fortress.

272   Dorothy A. Lee Dodd, C. H., 1968. ‘A hidden parable in the fourth gospel’, in More New Testament Studies. Manchester: Manchester University Press: 30–​40. Elowsky, J. C. (ed.), 2006. John 1-​10. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. Endo, M., 2002. Creation and Christology. A Study on the Johannine Prologue in the Light of Early Jewish Creation Accounts. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Frey, J., van der Watt, J., and Zimmermann, R. (eds.), 2006. Imagery in the Gospel of John. Terms, Forms, Themes, and Theology of Johannine Figurative Language. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Hengel, M., 2008. ‘The prologue of the Gospel as the key to christological truth’, in R. Bauckham and C. Mosser (eds.), The Gospel of John and Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 265–​94. Hunt, S., Tolmie, D. F. and Zimmermann, R. (eds.), 2013. Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel: Narrative Approaches to Seventy Figures in John. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Hirsch-​Luipold, R., 2006. ‘Klartext in Bildern’, in J. Frey, J. van der Watt, and R. Zimmermann (eds.), Imagery in the Gospel of John. Terms, Forms, Themes, and Theology of Johannine Figurative Language. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 61–102. Karakolis, C., 2012. ‘Sēmeia Conveying Ethics in the Gospel of John’, in J. van der Watt and R. Zimmermann (eds.), Rethinking the Ethics of John: ‘Implicit Ethics’ in the Johannine Writings. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 192–​212. Koester, C., 2003. Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community. 2nd edition. Minneapolis: Fortress. Koester, C., 2008. The Word of life. A Theology of John’s Gospel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Lee, D. A., 1994. The Symbolic Narratives of the Fourth Gospel. The Interplay of Form and Meaning. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. Lee, D. A., 2002. Flesh and Glory:  Symbol, Gender, and Theology in the Gospel of John. New York: Crossroad. Lee, D. A., 2010a. ‘The Gospel of John and the Five Senses’, JBL 129: 115–​27. Lee, D. A., 2010b. Hallowed in Truth and Love:  Spirituality in the Johannine Literature. Eugene: Wipf & Stock. Lee, D. A., 2010c. ‘John’, in B. R. Gaventa and D. Petersen (eds.), The New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon: 709–​34. Lee, D. A., 2013. ‘Witness in the Fourth Gospel: John the Baptist and the Beloved Disciple as Counterparts’, ABR 61: 1–​17. Lee, D. A., 2015. ‘ “Signs and works”: The Miracles in the Gospels of Mark and John’, Colloquium 47: 89–​101. Lee, D. A., 2016. ‘How John uses Imagery’, in D. Estes and R. Sheridan (eds.), How John Works: Storytelling in the Fourth Gospel. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature: 151–​70. Lieu, J., 2008. ‘Anti-​ Judaism, the Jews, and the Worlds of the Fourth Gospel’, in R. Bauckham and C. Mosser (eds.), The Gospel of John and Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 168–​82. Lincoln, A. T., 2000. Truth on Trial:  The Lawsuit Motif in the Fourth Gospel. Peabody: Hendrickson. Moloney, F. J., 1998. John. Collegeville: Liturgical Press. Moloney, F. J., 2008. ‘John 21 and the Johannine story’, in T. Thatcher and S. D. Moore (eds.), Anatomies of Narrative Criticism:  The Past, Present, and Futures of the Fourth Gospel as Literature. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature: 237–​51. Moloney, F. J., 2013. Love in the Gospel of John: An Exegetical, Theological, and Literary Study. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Symbolism and ‘Signs’ in the Fourth Gospel    273 Motyer, S., 2008. ‘Bridging the Gap:  How might the Fourth Gospel help us cope with the Legacy of Christianity’s Exclusive Claim over against Judaism?’, in R. Bauckham and C. Mosser (eds.), The Gospel of John and Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans: 143–​67. O’Day, G. R., 1998. ‘John’, in C. A. Newson and S. H. Ringe (eds.), The Women’s Bible Commentary. 2nd edition; London: SCM: 293–​304. Rahner, K., 1973. Investigations. vol.4, New York: Crossroad. Ricoeur, P., 1977. The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-​disciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Salier, W. H., 2004. The Rhetorical Impact of the sēmeia in the Gospel of John. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Schnackenburg, R., 1968–​82. The Gospel according to St. John. 3 vols. London: Burns & Oates. Schneiders, S. M., 1999. Written that You may Believe. Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. (2nd edition 2003). New York: Crossroad. Schnelle, U., 1998. Das Evangelium nach Johannes. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. Schnelle, U., 2009. Theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. Skinner, C. W. (ed.), 2013. Characters and Characterization in the Gospel of John. London: Bloomsbury. Soskice, J. M., 1987. Metaphor and Religious Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sturdevant, J. S., 2015. The Adaptable Jesus of the Fourth Gospel: The Pedagogy of the Logos, Leiden: Brill. Thatcher, T. and Moore, S. D. (eds.), 2008. Anatomies of Narrative Criticism: The Past, Present, and Futures of the Fourth Gospel as Literature. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Tillich, P., 1962. ‘The Religious Symbol’, in S. Hook (ed.). Religious Experience and Truth: A Symposium. London: Oliver & Boyd: 3–​11. Van der Watt, J., 2000. Family of the King: Dynamics of Metaphor in the Gospel according to John. Leiden: Brill. Weder, H., 1996. ‘Deus incarnatus: On the Hermeneutics of Christology in the Johannine writings’, in R. A. Culpepper and C. C. Black (eds.), Exploring the Gospel of John: in Honor of D. Moody Smith. Westminster: John Knox: 327–​45. Williams, R., 2014. The Edge of Words: God and the Habit of Language. London: Bloomsbury. Wright, N. T., 1994. Following Jesus:  Biblical Reflections on Discipleship. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Zimmermann, R., 2006. ‘Imagery in John:  opening up paths into the tangled thicket of John’s figurative world’, in J. Frey, J. van der Watt, and R. Zimmermann (eds.), Imagery in the Gospel of John. Terms, Forms, Themes, and Theology of Johannine Figurative Language. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 1–​43. Zimmermann, R., 2008. ‘Symbolic community between John and his reader:  the garden symbolism in John 19-​20’, in T. Thatcher and S. D. Moore (eds.), Anatomies of Narrative Criticism: The Past, Present, and Futures of the Fourth Gospel as Literature. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature: 221–​35.

Chapter 17

Dua lism and t h e Worl d in the Gospel a nd L et t e rs of Joh n Jörg Frey

Introduction ‘Dualism’ has been an issue in Johannine scholarship only since the nineteenth century. In particular the dichotomies between light and darkness, life and death, and the community and ‘the world’ have caused interpreters to apply that category to the Fourth Gospel, often in connection with particular suggestions regarding the history-​ of-​religions background of such ‘dualistic’ language. ‘Dualism’ became the core term for interpreters who linked the Johannine literature (Gospel and Epistles) either with Gnosticism (thus F. C. Baur, R. Bultmann, or J. Becker), or (since 1947) with the Qumran community or the Dead Sea Scrolls (thus, e.g. K. G. Kuhn and J. H. Charlesworth). The precise meaning and the implications of the term ‘dualism’, however, are far from clear, and a wide variety of dichotomies have been labelled as more or less ‘dualistic’. Therefore, the present article will first consider the issue of definition and review the manner in which the category was applied in Johannine scholarship. Then, the various elements of dualistic language in the Fourth Gospel (and in 1 John) will be presented in order to discuss their function in the present text and the plausibility of the history-​of-​ religions interpretation.

What is ‘Dualism’? The precise meaning and implications of the term ‘dualism’ are unclear and disputed. The term has no equivalent in ancient sources.

Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John    275 The term ‘dualism’ was introduced into the discussion of religions in 1700 by the Orientalist Thomas Hyde with regard to the Zoroastrian doctrine of two primordial and co-​eternal principles (Hyde 1700). Since then, ‘dualism’ has often been linked with ‘Iranian’, ‘Oriental’, ‘Gnostic’, or Manichean world-​views. Such a strict ‘metaphysical’ dualism is hardly conceivable within the context of Jewish or Christian monotheism in which an evil power or ‘Satan’ can never be considered equal to the one God. Thus, in Biblical scholarship, the perception of ‘dualism’ or ‘dualistic’ elements was regularly associated with foreign (Iranian, Apocalyptic, Qumranian, or Gnostic) religious ideas. In Church History, the term was often applied to describe ‘heretical’ movements in Christianity, from Manicheism to Paulicianism, Bogomilism, or Catharism (Stroumsa 1999: 1004). In the mid-​eighteenth century, the enlightenment philosopher Christian Wolff widened the meaning of the term by applying it also to the philosophical dichotomy of mind and matter in Platonism and Cartesianism (Wolff 1734: §39; Bianchi and Stoyanov 2005: 2506). The range of ‘dualisms’ has as a result become quite confusing. There is no common taxonomy, and the usage of the term in biblical and religious studies and in philosophy displays a wide variety. Generally, we can distinguish between different types of dichotomies or even ‘dualisms’ (Stroumsa 1999:  1004–​5), e.g. between radical or moderate dualisms, between dialectic (with an everlasting antagonism) and eschatological dualisms (with a final resolution), or between cosmic (with the world created by the good principle) and anticosmic dualisms (with the world being the creation of the demiurge or Satan). With regard to the biblical and early Jewish tradition and the particular dichotomies presented in the NT, several types of dualism can be discerned (Frey 2014a: 272; cf. Frey 1997a: 281–​5): • metaphysical dualism: God/​Satan/​Belial etc. (which in the biblical context is never ‘absolute’ but only relative: Satan is never on the same level or co-​eternal with God) • cosmic dualism: Michael/​Belial (or also metaphorically: light/​darkness) with the world (humans and also angels/​spirits) divided into two opposing groups, camps, or forces • spatial dualism: above/​below; heavenly world/​earthly world (although the duality of ‘heaven and earth’ is most often not dualistic but simply used for the whole of the creation) • eschatological or temporal dualism: this world/​the world to come • ethical dualism: good/​evil; the good/​the wicked • soteriological dualism: the saved and the rejected or lost (due to a salvific act or decision) • theological/​creational dualism: creator/​creation; God/​world • physical dualism: matter/​spirit • anthropological dualism: body/​soul or spirit • psychological dualism:  good portion/​bad portion; good inclination/​evil inclination (with the contrast or struggle between good and evil within the human heart or mind)

276   Jörg Frey

Dualism in Johannine Scholarship Due to its association with foreign elements in Christian or biblical tradition, the term was utilized in particular for describing a foreign history-​of-​religions background to NT texts. With regard to Johannine thought, ‘dualistic’ elements or a ‘dualistic’ language or world-​view were considered evidence for a Platonic, Gnostic, apocalyptic or Qumranian background. Interestingly, ‘dualism’ did not become a predominant theme in Johannine scholarship before Rudolf Bultmann’s interpretation in the 1920s and, then, in his influential commentary (Bultmann 1941 and 1971). Before the 1920s, the category was of only limited relevance. a) A certain appropriation of some elements of Iranian thought in the Johannine writings had been considered since the late eighteenth century, when the German philosopher and literary theorist Johann Gottfried Herder compared the Gospel with the newly published Avesta texts (Herder 1775; see Frey 2004a: 9; 2006: 9–​10). Some early critics of the Gospel around 1800 also tried to explain the Gospel in terms of Alexandrian, Platonist, or Gnostic thought (see Frey 2004a: 10–​11), but their influence on scholarship was very limited. In all these authors, the term ‘dualism’ was not yet utilized for describing Johannine language and thought. Ferdinand Christian Baur, the founder of the ‘Tübingen school’ and the most influential German critic in the nineteenth century, adopted the term ‘dualism’ for describing Christian Gnosticism, but rejected it as inappropriate in his presentation of Johannine theology (Baur 1864: 359–​ 362; see Frey 2006: 10). The interpreters from the History-​of-​Religions school around 1900 actually considered the ‘dualistic’ tendencies in Paul stronger than those in John (see Frey 2006: 10–​11). ‘Dualism’ did not become a prominent category in Johannine interpretation before scholars began to explain the entirety of Johannine language and thought in terms of a Gnostic milieu. Such an interpretation became possible when Richard Reitzenstein (Reitzenstein 1921) explained the Gnostic ‘Myth of the Primordial Man and Redeemer’ from earlier Iranian dualism. b) Relying primarily on Reitzenstein’s findings, Bultmann developed the view that the entirety of Johannine thought took shape against the background of a coherent dualistic world-​view. This interpretation was first presented in two foundational articles from 1923 and 1925 (Bultmann 1967a and 1967b) and later developed in his influential commentary (Bultmann 1971). Although Bultmann could reconstruct the Gnostic ‘Redeemer Myth’ only from much later Mandean and Manichean sources, he vigorously defended his view that the Gnostic world-​view was a pre-​ Christian foil against which the Christian preaching had to be read.1 1 

See Chapter 9, Gitte Buch-​Hansen, ‘The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context’.

Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John    277 According to Bultmann’s view, Johannine language must be understood as a coherent whole, and this is only possible on the basis of the Gnostic myth (see Bultmann 1967c, against Percy 1939). Thus, not only certain motifs or expressions but the whole concept of Johannine thought should be interpreted from the dualistic opposition between God and the world and from the Gnostic myth of the redeemer which the evangelist had applied to the earthly appearance of Jesus. According to Bultmann, the Gnostic world-​view with its implication of a radical dichotomy between the present world and the divine sphere provides the best explanation of the Johannine concept of revelation and redemption: The divine messenger and redeemer enters the world, utters his paradoxical revelation and thus challenges humans to believe, before he finally departs from the world in order to return to the heavenly realm. This Gnostic ‘Redeemer Myth’ underlies Bultmann’s influential interpretation of the Fourth Gospel. It is based on the idea that light and darkness, truth and deception, God and humans, are fundamentally separated, so that light, life, and salvific knowledge are inaccessible for humans by nature. Gnostics, therefore, knew about the necessity of revelation which could be localized in various redeemer figures. According to Bultmann, that general mythological idea of the redeemer is now ‘historicized’ when revelation is proclaimed as realized in Jesus of Nazareth. Consequently, the Christian ‘kerygma’, as most lucidly brought to expression in the Fourth Gospel, can be understood as the proclamation of the otherwise inaccessible ‘salvation’ from death to life, or from darkness to light. Such salvation can happen to those who faithfully listen to the word and follow the redeemer in order to be united with him. Hermeneutically, it was crucial for Bultmann’s views that he could interpret the message of the Gospel against the background of what he assumed to be the pre-​Christian and widespread world-​view of Gnosticism and its redeemer myth (see Frey 1997b: 129–​14; 2014b: 103–​108). c) Bultmann held the view that the evangelist of the Fourth Gospel was a former Gnostic, who had revered the Baptizer as a redeemer figure, before he was converted to faith in Jesus. Thus, when applying the Gnostic myth to the historical figure of Jesus, the evangelist presented an anti-​Gnostic interpretation of his Gnostic tradition. In Bultmann’s view, therefore, the Fourth Gospel is strictly opposed to Gnosticism. Bultmann thus advocated an anti-​Gnostic interpretation of John. His brilliant student Ernst Käsemann, however, denied the anti-​Gnostic tendencies and claimed that the Gospel itself displays a ‘naïvely docetic’ and Gnosticizing theology (Käsemann 1967). Though being opposed to each other, both readings were actually based on the assumption that the Gospel’s world view is strictly dualistic. The revealer is a stranger to the world (cf. also Meeks 1972), and in Käsemann’s interpretation, the Johannine community is a ‘sectarian’ conventicle, separated from ‘the world’. Other interpreters who followed Käsemann’s interpretation could go even further and read John as a Gnostic text that displays a completely dualistic view of salvation of God and world (thus Schottroff 1970, with reference to the newly discovered Nag Hammadi texts).

278   Jörg Frey d) With the decline of the Bultmann school and rise of a new interest in historical issues, some Johannine scholars began to ask for the history of thought in the Johannine community, based on source and redaction critical analyses of the Gospel (Fortna 1970; Becker 1974; Richter 1977; see Frey 1997b: 266–​97). Within that paradigm, it was in particular Jürgen Becker who found various types of dualism in the different layers of the Gospel, so that he could utilize ‘dualism’ for reconstructing various subsequent periods of Johannine thought (see also Becker 1991:  1.53–​62). According to his reconstruction, the Johannine Community developed from a non-​dualistic period (with an openness to the mission among Jews) through influences of a more Qumran-​like dualism (in John 3:19–​21) to a Gnosticizing cosmic dualism, which was also the world-​view of the Evangelist. In the time of the later redaction, the view changed towards a stronger determinism and a ‘church-​oriented’ dualism with the community being strictly separated from the ‘world’. It is clear that such a reconstruction can only be based on a particular view of the redaction history of the text, and if the latter is questioned, the image of the history of theology in the Johannine Community also loses its plausibility. The interpretation further presupposes that the Johannine community lived in strict segregation not only from ‘the world’ but also from other early Christian groups, and that the dualism found in the language of the texts thus mirrors the social situation of the community behind the text. More recent scholarship has cast doubts on those presuppositions: It is a methodological fallacy to draw such consequences about the sociological structure of the community from certain linguistic elements of the Johannine language. A (partly) dualistic language is not necessarily the result of ‘sectarian’ community life.2 The literary and theological development as reconstructed by Becker suffers, therefore, from severe methodological problems and lacks historical plausibility.3 e) Another line of research deserves consideration here: the connection of Johannine dualism with Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran in 1947 happened at a time when Johannine exegesis, most strongly in Germany but also elsewhere, was dominated by Bultmann and focused on the debate about a Gnostic background. In this scholarly situation, the Scrolls provided an interesting alternative to the Gnostic interpretation (see Frey 2012: 535–​6). The texts from Qumran Cave I were quickly published, and particularly the Community Rule (1QS) with its famous ‘Treatise on the Two Spirits’ (1QS III.13—​IV.26) and the War Rule (1QM) revealed a type of cosmic dualism hitherto unknown in the Hebrew Bible and in ancient Judaism. The type of dualism found in these texts of the Qumran sect provided a seemingly closer parallel to the dualism in the Johannine writings than the parallels adduced by Bultmann from much later sources. Therefore, scholars claimed early on to have found the ‘mother 2 

See Chapter 15, Philip S. Esler, ‘Social-​Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John’. See Chapter 3, Michael Labahn, ‘Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John’, and Chapter 5, Martinus C. de Boer, ‘The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature’. 3 

Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John    279 soil’ of Johannine language and thought in these texts (Kuhn 1950). Some interpreters, however, also tried to explain the new type of dualism as a stranger within contemporary Judaism since it appeared to contain a trace of foreign (Iranian) influence (Kuhn 1952). This led to the idea that John was particularly influenced by a ‘heterodox’ tradition in Judaism (cf. Frey 2004a: 26–​7). Some early interpreters boldly concluded that the Fourth Gospel is strongly shaped by Palestinian Judaism, originally rooted in an Aramaic milieu (Cross 1958: 161–​2), which was supposedly ‘authentic’ and historically more reliable (Albright 1956:  171–​2). Others conjectured that not only John the Baptist but also the Beloved Disciple or the author of the Fourth Gospel was a (former) member of the Qumran community who had read or memorized certain of the previously named texts from Qumran. (Ashton 1991: 205; Charlesworth 1996: 88) Although detailed comparisons (Brown 1955; Charlesworth 1968/​9) provide numerous terminological and phraseological parallels, the growing awareness of the diversity within the Qumran library since the release of the numerous Cave 4 fragments and the observation that most of the common terms are not exclusively paralleled in the Qumran texts triggered a more cautious evaluation of the relationship between Qumran and the Johannine writings (Bauckham 1997; Aune 2003; Frey 2004b and 2008). The decisive effect of the Qumran discoveries on Johannine interpretation is that they stimulated the rediscovery of the Jewish character of the traditions behind the Fourth Gospel, but a direct influence on the text or its author cannot be demonstrated.4 The comparison with early Jewish texts has also shown that various language elements do not form a coherent unity:  They may point to various traditional backgrounds and they do not form a coherent ‘dualistic’ world view. The unity of ‘Johannine dualism’ as formerly advocated by Bultmann was rather the result of his systematic concept, according to which ‘dualism’ (as found in the Gnostic world view) provides the only situation in which revelation can take place and be understood.

Elements of Dualistic Language in John The author of the Fourth Gospel and—​if different—​the author of the Epistles are rather eclectic, adopting and developing traditions, motifs and terms from various (contemporary Jewish and early Christian) contexts in their own literary compositions. Such eclecticism is explicitly stated with regard to the ‘signs’ of Jesus in John 20:30. Consequently, the various elements of dualistic language in John (see Popkes 4 

See Chapter 10, Jutta Leonhardt-​Balzer, ‘The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature’.

280   Jörg Frey 2005: 14–​17) have to be discussed separately. What is their most plausible background in the earlier tradition? Do the dualistic expressions point to certain experiences in the history of the Johannine communities? And what is the intended effect of such dualistic expressions on the readers? For such an inquiry, the Gospel can be read as a compositional and pragmatic unity. What are the primary dualistic motifs in John? a) A  first dualistic element and a significant point in a history of religions argument is the eschatological opponent figures and their names. Whereas the most significant name of the chief of the evil powers in Qumran, Belial, is never used in the Johannine writings, the chief of the evil powers is named ‘the Satan’ (ho Satanas:  John 13:27), ‘the Devil’ (ho diabolos:  John 8:44; 13:2; 1 John 3:8.10), ‘the Evil One’ (ho ponēros: John 17:15; 1 John 2:13–​14; 3:12; 5:18–19) and, in a particular Johannine term, ‘the prince of this world’ (ho archōn tou kosmou toutou: John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). ‘The Satan’ clearly reflects a concept developed in late biblical and early Jewish apocalyptic tradition which was already adopted by Jesus and also by Paul and the Synoptics. This concept was most likely transmitted to John with the earlier Jesus tradition (see Theobald 2015: 281–​4). diabolos is the LXX translation of Hebr. śāṭān and ho ponēros can also be used to replace the term ‘Satan’ (cf. Matt. 13:19 with Mark 4:15). But whereas the Hebrew loanword Satanas is predominant in Paul and Mark, where diabolos is not used, diabolos becomes the predominant term in later NT texts and in John, and likewise ‘the Evil One’ is used only once in Paul (1 Cor. 5:13) but twice in Matthew (Matt. 6:13; 13:19) and more frequently in the Johannine literature. This may indicate that the Johannine terminology represents a later stage of early Christian tradition, whereas a direct adoption from Jewish sources (not to mention Gnosticism) cannot be demonstrated. With the term ‘prince of this world’, John employs an expression that is unparalleled in earlier Jewish and Christian tradition but is probably rooted in Jewish apocalyptic contexts: John 12:31 (‘Now is the judgment of this world, now the ruler of this world will be cast out’) adopts the tradition of the eschatological ‘fall’ of Satan (cf. Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:7–​10) and links it with the ‘hour’ of Jesus’s exaltation, i.e. the ‘hour’ of the cross. All these terms do not specifically point to the Qumran texts but more generally to the tradition of Jewish and early Christian apocalyptic thought according to which ‘the whole world’ is ruled by ‘the Evil One’ (1 John 5:19). As already the earlier Jesus tradition, John claims that the power of that ‘ruler’ is broken in a very specific manner, or that he is ‘judged’ (John 16:11) through Jesus’s death and exaltation. Whereas the accuser is ‘cast out’ (John 12:31), the ‘advocate’ (paraclētos: 1 John 2:1) Jesus is exalted and in the heavenly realm. Here, dualistic language is used to express experiences of the community and to comfort or confirm the addressees in their faith. When the Epistles present another new term for an opposing figure (antichristos: 1 John 2:18.22; 4:3; 2 John 7), apparently a Christian neologism, the author seems to draw on a community tradition that also has a strongly apocalyptic background (see Jenks 1991; Lietaert Peerbolte 1995; Frey 2000: 73–​4). But also, that tradition, probably about an end tyrant or an eschatological deceiver, is

Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John    281 utilized in a creative manner and applied to a plurality of false teachers misleading and endangering the community. b) A  second ‘dualistic’ structure is made up by the categories ‘above’ and ‘below’ which was even called ‘the basic structure of Johannine dualism’ (Aune 2003: 285). The opponents are ‘from below’ or ‘from this world’ (John 8:23; cf. 3:31), whereas the Son or Son of Man is ‘from above’, ‘not from this world’, or ‘from heaven’ (John 3:13; cf. 6:62). Those who believe are ‘born from above’ (John 3:3) or ‘from God’ (John 1:13; 1 John 5:1.4.18) and ‘not from the world’ (John 15:19; 17:15). The opponents, instead, are said to be ‘from the world’ (1 John 4:5) or also ‘from the Devil’ (1 John 3:8) or ‘from the Evil One’ (1 John 3:12). This web of oppositions may be rooted in cosmological concepts of Jewish apocalypticism but also has analogies in Hellenistic and Gnostic texts, whereas there is no real analogy to the opposition ‘above’/​‘below’ in the texts composed by the Qumran community. The terms primarily imply a metaphoric of space which is also closely linked to the specific Johannine family metaphoric (cf. van der Watt 2000): Believers are ‘born’ or ‘begotten’ from God, or they are ‘children of God’ (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1), whereas the opponents can even be called ‘children of the Devil’ (1 John 3:10; cf. John 8:44). The various metaphors, however, do not represent a ‘static’ worldview, and unlike in some Gnostic views, the destiny of humans is not predetermined from the very beginning of the world, but rather decided upon in the encounter with Jesus or his word: ‘Being from above’ or ‘from below’ is not considered the effective and unchangeable reason for human belief or unbelief. Rather than keeping humans in a predetermined status, the Gospel aims at a change of that status, at drawing humans to belief in Christ. Only from a retrospective vantage point can the unbelief of Jesus’s contemporaries (and also the opposition of the contemporaries of the later community) be explained by use of such categories. In John, the idea of hardening (John 12:37–​43; cf. 1 John 2:18–1​9) is a category used retrospectively in order to explain the difficult experience of unbelief and to protect the community from being disturbed and threatened. c) This is particularly evident in the use of the category of light and darkness (Schwankl 1995) which is widespread in Hellenistic and Gnostic texts, but also in Qumran texts such as the covenantal liturgy in 1QS I–​II and the ‘Treatise on the Two Spirits’ (1QS III.13–​IV.26). The Qumran texts provide close parallels to some of the Johannine expressions (e.g. ‘Light of the Life’ John 8:12 //​1QS III.7; ‘walk in the darkness’ John 8:12; 12,35 //​1QS III.21; IV.11), and John 12:36 even uses the term ‘sons of light’ (huioi phōtos) which is also used as a self-​designation of the Qumran sectarian group (bnē ‘wr). But it should be noted that the term is paralleled not only in Qumran (and already in earlier, ‘pre-​Qumranian’ texts such as the Visions of Amram), but also in other early Christian texts (1 Thess. 5:5; Eph. 5:8; and Luke 16:8), so that a direct influence from the Qumran texts cannot be established (Frey 2004b: 188–​90). The corresponding term ‘sons of darkness’ is also missing in the Johannine literature, so that ‘it is hardly credible that the Qumran use of the light/​ darkness imagery influenced John’. (Bauckham 1997: 109)

282   Jörg Frey The most obvious differences can be seen regarding the function of the light/​ darkness metaphoric (cf. Frey 2006: 31–​42). Within the Qumran worldview, there is a strong hostility between the realm of darkness and the realm of light. Humans belong either to the realm of light (if they belong to the community), or to the realm of darkness, and the respective ‘character’ is due to God’s eternal predetermination. Within such a deterministic worldview, a transfer from the realm of darkness to the reign of light is hardly conceivable. But this is just what the Fourth Gospel wants to narrate and to encourage. In the Gospel narrative, the metaphoric antithesis between light and darkness does not occur in a symmetric description of two groups of humans as in the cosmic dualism of the Qumran Community Rule 1QS, but is used in a characteristic asymmetry. It does not describe a fixed status of the world or humans, but is embedded into the ‘revelatory dynamics’ of the Gospel according to which the light has come into the darkness in order to enlighten humans and draw them to the light. The metaphoric is only prominent between John 1:4 and 12:46, in the presentation of Jesus’s public ministry, whereas it is virtually absent from the farewell discourses and the Passion Narrative. When Judas departs for the final deliverance of Jesus, the narrator comments on this with deep symbolic overtones: ‘It was night’ (John 13:30). Programmatically at the beginning of the Gospel, the Prologue states (in the present tense): ‘The light shines in the darkness’ (John 1:5). It is then repeatedly said that humans should ‘come to the light’ (John 3:20–​21) or ‘believe in the light’ (John 12:36). In the course of the gospel narrative, readers increasingly become aware that the light is ultimately Jesus himself (John 8:12). Then, toward the end of his earthly ministry, light metaphors are used to point to the limited time left (John 9:5; 11:9–​10) and to the urgency of the revelation. So, the metaphoric is clearly integrated into the dramatic design of the Gospel. The metaphoric of light and darkness thus contributes to the communication of its Christological message of the Gospel and helps to draw the readers towards the true view of Christ. In 1 John, the light terminology is used somewhat differently: here, it is not Christ, but God himself who is said to be ‘light’ (1 John 1:5), so that being ‘in the light’ means truly belonging to God and the community, whereas darkness metaphorically denotes various acts of sinful behaviour and hostile actions. In the Epistle, the metaphors are used paraenthetically to encourage readers to abide with the community and with God. As the Epistles reflect and react to a crisis in the Johannine communities, the revelatory (or even missionary) dynamics are absent here, and the dualistic language of light and darkness is more strongly used to describe the difference between insiders and outsiders. Here, we can find a better analogy with the Qumran texts, but this cannot be explained from a borrowing of traditions but rather from the analogous situation of a community in distress within an alien or even hostile world around it. d) Apart from light and darkness other ‘dualistic’ pairs of terms are used, in particular truth and lie and life and death. Their usage is similar to that of light and darkness: In 1 John, there is a better balance between the usage of the positive term (with regard to the realm of the community) and the negative term (with regard to a

Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John    283 negative behaviour or status). In the Gospel, instead, both oppositions are also used asymmetrically: Truth/​Lie: In the Gospel, ‘lie’ and ‘liar’ only occur once with regard to the Devil in John 8:44, whereas ‘truth’ (alētheia and related words) is used frequently throughout the Gospel, from the Prologue (John 1:14.17) until the end (John 21:24: ‘his testimony is true’). Like the term ‘light’, ‘truth’ is particularly linked with Jesus, who is ‘the truth’ (John 14:6), but also the ‘true vine’ (John 15:1). The term is also linked with the testimony of the Spirit-​Paraclete who is called the ‘Spirit of truth’ (John 14:17; 16:13) and guides the disciples ‘in all truth’. Thus, the testimony of the Gospel as the testimony of the Spirit-​Paraclete and the Beloved Disciple (cf. John 19:35; 21:24) is also presented as reliable ‘truth’ that humans should believe. Only a small part of the Johannine passages on truth occur in a dualistic opposition with negative terms. The close connection of Jesus and the Spirit with ‘truth’ is certainly an expression of Johannine theology which can hardly be explained from a non-​Christian context. The ‘Spirit of Truth’ from the ‘Treatise on the Two Spirits’ (1QS III 13—​IV 26) is another term for the angelic leader of the divine host (i.e. Michael, or the ‘Prince of Light’) and has almost nothing in common with the Johannine Spirit-​Paraclete. Moreover, in Qumran, the opposition is not between truth and ‘lie’ or ‘deceit’ but between truth and ‘wickedness’ (psh’) which is unparalleled in the Johannine literature. Life/​Death: Similar observations can be made with regard to the opposition between ‘life’ and ‘death’. ‘(Eternal) life’ is the most prominent term for salvation in John. ‘Life’ is the nature of God himself, and it is inherent to the Logos (John 1:4). The Son has life in himself (John 5:26), he gives and even is life (John 11:25–​26; 14:6). ‘Eternal life’ is also given to those who believe in him, so that they have been transferred from death to life (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14) and will not ‘taste death’ (John 8:51–5​2), but live, even if they physically die (John 11:26). In John, ‘life’ is ‘eternal life’, and there is no difference between the two terms. Instead, there is a difference between zōē and other terms, such as bios (1 John 2:16; 3:17). zōē is also used with a characteristic double meaning (created, physical life/​‘eternal’ or post-​mortal life) as are also the terms for dying and death (physical death/​spiritual death or perdition). Although the motif of death (John 5:24) or perdition (John 3:16) is used more frequently with reference to the situation from which humans are saved, or to the consequences of unbelief, the structure is not that of a fundamental bifurcation of humankind (as, e.g. in the Qumran texts). Again, the ‘dualism’ is broken by the creative and life-​giving power of God and Christ. Since ‘life’ is a motif in many Jewish, pagan and also early Christian texts (see Frey 2000: 262–​70), it is difficult to clearly define the background of John’s language of life. At least the syntagma ‘eternal life’ (zōē aiōnios) points to a Palestinian Jewish tradition (Dan 12:2) which was then adopted in earlier Christian tradition and developed in the Johannine school, but of course the notion of ‘life’ is widely conceivable for recipients from different religious traditions. This may be one of the reasons for the fact that in John ‘(eternal) life’ replaces the earlier core term of the Jesus tradition ‘kingdom of God’ (see Frey 2016).

284   Jörg Frey It is particularly striking that in Johannine perspective, the situation of humans before their encounter with Christ is not a ‘neutral’ one. Bultmann’s idea of a ‘dualism of decision’ (‘Entscheidungsdualismus’) as a specific modification of the underlying Gnostic dualism in which humans are set free to decide between belief and unbelief was inspired by his existentialism but is inappropriate for the Fourth Gospel. Here, the situation of humans who do not believe in Christ is clearly negative; they are not in a twilight zone but in darkness, and thus not free to decide or to act. They are captives of sin, falsehood, and death. This is amply demonstrated by the figure of Lazarus who is called out from the tomb by Jesus and has to be unbound to move and walk (John 11:44). But the idea that the world is in darkness before the coming of the light (Christ) is not derived from a dualistic world-​view borrowed from some foreign religious context but rather the consequence of the unique soteriological function of Christ and the focus on eschatological salvation. If Christ is the only light and the only true giver of life, the situation of humans without Christ can only be a situation of darkness and death. This does not preclude that in the encounter with Jesus and his word they might be drawn towards him, hear his voice and believe, but in the Johannine view, this is not an act of human decision but a gracious act of God who raises the dead to life. e) Of course, the oppositions discussed previously imply an eschatological perspective according to which the final destiny of humans is characterized by either life or death.5 But the traditional view of the Last Judgement is decisively modified in John. The decision between salvation and perdition is not only expected at the end in a final judicial act (as in the Jewish tradition or most prominently in Matt. 25), but happens now, in the encounter with Jesus or his word. The duality of eschatological perspectives, thereby, is clear:  The fundamental alternative is between being saved or facing eternal perdition (John 3:16), or rather between being raised from death to life or staying in death (John 5:24). In view of the proclamation of Jesus (or later: of the Gospel), humans can either stay in unbelief, blindness, darkness and death, or obtain faith, sight, and life. Such life is ‘eternal life’ now and also implies everlasting life even in the case of physical death (John 11:26). As already Paul in his exposition of faith in Christ, John proclaims life as the implication and present gift of faith in Christ (Ueberschaer 2017). The consequence of that type of present-​oriented eschatology is that the idea of ethical probation, prominent in other NT writings (e.g. Matthew, James or 2 Peter), is almost completely dismissed. Believers who are saved are not ‘on probation’, but have been given eternal life in the present without condition. Consequently, it is expected that they do abide in Christ, otherwise they are not truly believers. The problems of such an impressive theological view are also visible in the Johannine writings: In the face of the disturbing phenomenon of disciples turning back (John 6:60–​66) or


See Chapter 18, Ruben Zimmermann, ‘Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John’.

Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John    285 community members leaving the community (1 John 2:18–​22), this type of theology can only resort to the explanation that such ‘disciples’ ‘were not all of us’ (1 John 2:19). In spite of the differences between John and other NT writings in that decisive aspect, the ‘eschatological dualism’ between eternal life and perdition is retained, although the positive perspective of salvation and life is stressed much more than the negative one of condemnation and death. f) One final opposition is presented especially in the section of the Gospel that is particularly transparent for the problems and experiences of the post-​Easter community, the Johannine farewell discourses (John 13–​17). Whereas in the introductory part of the Gospel ‘the world’ (ho kosmos) is also used with a positive (John 1:10a; 3:16; 4:42) or neutral meaning, referring to the creation (1:10a) or to humanity as the object of God’s saving love (John 3:16–1​7; 4:42), it seems to turn into a strongly negative term in the farewell discourses. There, ‘the world’ refers to the subject of hostility against Jesus and his disciples. The kosmos is dominated by its ‘ruler’ (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), it rejects or even hates Jesus (John 15:18–​9; cf. 1:10b) and likewise his disciples (John 17:14). Only at the end of Jesus’s Farewell Prayer is there a slightly positive perspective: The world shall come to know that Jesus is sent by the Father (John 17:23). There has been extensive discussion whether ‘the world’ (ho kosmos) in John 14–​17 is simply an equivalent for ‘the Jews’ in John 3–​12, thus representing the unbelief and hostility of particularly Jewish contemporaries of Jesus and/​or the Johannine Community after Easter,6 or whether ‘the world’ encompasses Gentiles as well as Jews and thus reflects the opposition and hostility experienced by the post-​ Easter Johannine Community distressed by a world of unbelief, both Jewish and Gentile. (Kierspel 2006: 178–​81) The opposition between the Community and the world is also mirrored in 1 John. According to 1 John 5:19 ‘the whole world’ is governed by ‘the Evil One’; it does not ‘know’ the disciples (1 John 3:1), as it does not know Jesus. Disciples should not ‘love the world’ (1 John 2:15), as the world will ‘pass away’ (1 John 2:17). As Jesus has overcome ‘the world’ (John 16:33), believers should also overcome ‘the world’ in their faith (1 John 5:4). But as in the Gospel, the negative notion of the world is modified by a strong expression of the positive intention of Jesus’s salvific work: God’s Son has been sent into the world (1 John 4:9; cf. John 3:17) as ‘saviour of the world’ (1 John 4:14; cf. John 4:42) and through his death, he is the atonement for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2; cf. John 1:29). Therefore, the negative connotations are not the expression of a fundamentally dualistic world-​view, e.g. a Platonizing perspective on matter or a Gnostic devaluation of the created world. They rather mirror concrete experiences of alienation and hostility from the contemporaries in the world of the Johannine Community. This is also confirmed by further aspects of the farewell discourses (John 14:1.27: ‘trouble’; John 16:6.33: ‘sorrow’, ‘tribulation’;


See Chapter 8, Adele Reinhartz, ‘The Jews of the Fourth Gospel’.

286   Jörg Frey Joh 14:18: ‘orphans’) that express the feeling of loneliness and tribulation of the community after Jesus’s departure. If the strict ‘dualism’ between the Community and ‘the world’ is modified in the end of the farewell prayer and the Gospel even implies the hope for a positive reaction of ‘the world’ to Jesus, the ‘dualism’ is finally broken through, and the hope for a future change or for the final effects of God’s saving love ultimately outweigh the strict oppositions (Popkes 2005: 346–​9).

Whence Johannine ‘Dualism’? The Failure of the History-​of-​R eligions Explanation As demonstrated previously, a coherent explanation of the various dualistic terms and oppositions within the Johannine writings is impossible. The notion of eschatological opponents has its prehistory in early Jewish apocalyptic tradition, and was adopted already by Jesus and the pre-​Johannine Christian tradition. Spatial categories are also prominent in Jewish apocalypticism (e.g. in the Enochic tradition), and likewise in Hellenistic thought, and other NT writings with a more present oriented eschatology and a certain influence of Hellenistic thought (as, e.g. Ephesians or Hebrews) also strengthen spatial categories over against the temporal perspective. However, the general notion of the divine sphere ‘above’ and the human sphere ‘below’ is so general that it is unnecessary to assume that those categories point to a direct apocalyptic, Hellenistic or Gnostic influence. The same is true for the opposition between light and darkness which is fairly common in various fields of ancient culture, including Qumran, Hermetism, and Gnosticism, but the attempt to demonstrate a particular dependence on the Qumran texts has definitively failed. The peculiarities of the Johannine use are explained better by other strands of biblical and early Jewish tradition and their adoption and development in earlier, pre-​Johannine Christianity. More recently, scholars have suggested that the light/​darkness metaphor in John was inspired by the tradition of Jewish exegesis of the creation narrative (Bauckham 1997: 112–​13). Furthermore, we have to consider ‘the image of a prophet or teacher as a light who by his teaching of truth gives light’ (Bauckham 1997: 112), a motif which is also applied to John the Baptist as a ‘shining lamp’ in John 5:35. Even more important is the idea of the Torah or the word of God as a light: This motif is found frequently in the Hebrew Bible (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23; and Isa. 2:3, 5 and 51:4) and the Septuagint (Wisd. 18:4), it seems to be particularly prominent in Jewish texts which are roughly contemporary with the Fourth Gospel such as L.A.B., 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch. 2 Baruch makes extensive use of the imagery of light and darkness with reference to good and evil, truth and error, or salvation and punishment. According to 2 Bar. 59:2 the ‘lamp of the eternal law . . . illuminated those who sat in darkness’, and L.A.B. 11:1 characterizes the law in

Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John    287 its universal function as a ‘light to the world’, a term that refers back to the prophetic characterization of the law as ‘light of the nations’ (Isa. 51:4; cf. Wisd. 18:4). Bauckham (1997) correctly observes that these phrases are ‘remarkably close to what the Fourth Gospel says about Jesus Christ as the light of the world’ (Bauckham 1997: 113). A further aspect has been added by Aune (2003) who refers to the language of conversion in Second Temple Judaism and in early Christianity, in which light and darkness are repeatedly used as metaphors. In Acts 26:18, the conversion of the Gentiles from the power of Satan to the true God appears as an opening of the eyes, as the transfer ‘from the darkness to the light’. The imagery is used in numerous Jewish passages on repentance or conversion (cf. Bar. 4:2:  ‘towards the light’; T.Gad. 5:7:  ‘repentance  . . .  puts darkness to light’; T.Jos. 19:3: the sheep are led ‘out of darkness into light’; T.Benj. 5:3). Most illuminating is Joseph’s prayer for Aseneth in Jos.As. 8:9 where God is addressed as the one ‘who gave life to all (things) and called (them) from darkness to light, and from error to truth, and from death to life’. A similar metaphorical use of the terms can be found in 2 Cor. 4:6; Col. 1:12–​13, Eph. 5:8, 1 Pet. 2:9. According to 1 Clement 59:2, converts are called ‘from darkness into light’ (cf. also Odes Sol. 11:16). In other passages, such as 1 Thess. 5:4–​8 and Rom. 13:12–​14 (cf. T.Levi 19:1), the paradigm is adopted within a paraenetic framework. The reference to Jewish and early Christian conversion terminology, in connection with the Biblical traditions of the creation and the Torah as a light can better explain the variegated (and dramatically well-​integrated) usage of the light/​darkness terminology in John (Frey 2008: 152–​4). An explanation from a particular Qumranian or Gnostic background is implausible.

The Function of the Dualistic Language in the Gospel Rather than merely explaining ‘dualistic’ expressions as an adopted language, we should ask for the function those expressions have in the Johannine language and rhetoric and, in particular, in the Gospel. Two aspects deserve to be mentioned: As Takashi Onuki (1984) has nicely demonstrated, the dualistic language helps to create a language ‘on the border’, i.e. a level of abstraction on which experiences of the post-​Easter community and the experiences narrated from the mission of Jesus can be merged. The community experiencing hatred and distress can thus perceive that its own problems are similar to what had also happened to the incarnate word of God. Readers of the Gospel from the post-​Easter time are thus enabled to appropriate the Jesus story as a foundational pattern for their own life and faith and as a help for coping with their own experiences of unbelief and rejection. On the other hand, their own experiences are now explained by the foundational pattern of Jesus’s ministry, rejection, passion, death, and resurrection. The phrase that ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John

288   Jörg Frey 1:5) is, thus, a programmatic reference to the post-​Easter reality: The evil powers were not successful in their attempt to extinguish the light of the world, but due to his resurrection, the light shines forth and overcomes darkness or even ‘the world’. Thus, the disciples are also encouraged not to be troubled by Jesus’s ‘absence’ (John 14:1, 27) or by the hatred of the world but rather to be strong in tribulation (John 16:33) and to continue their mission and the proclamation of the word. Interestingly, the farewell discourses (in John 17:21–​23) and the Gospel story as a whole (in John 20:19–​23) end with a positive confirmation of the mission of the disciples. There is no closed dualism according to which those ‘from below’ are destined to stay ‘below’ or in the darkness; rather the dynamics of the Gospel is designed to draw human beings from darkness to light and from death to eternal life. The dualistic elements in the language of the Gospel, especially the motif of light and darkness, are not only integrated into the dramatic development of the Gospel story but are also used as a means for characterizing Jesus as the light, the truth and the life. The various oppositions are all used in a characteristic asymmetry which can be called the ‘asymmetry of salvation’ (cf. Weder 1992): The focus is on the light and the life, whereas the negative opposite is only the dark foil on which the light can shine. Not only the Father (John 6:44) or the guiding Spirit (John 16:13), but also the Gospel text with its numerous didactic elements ‘draws’ readers towards Jesus, who is the light, life, and truth. The salvific aim of the mission of Jesus (John 3:17) is mirrored in the salvific intention of the Gospel text (John 20:30–​31). All the dualistic expressions utilized in the Gospel ultimately serve that salvific aim, for the dualistic understanding of a world in darkness and in separation from the light is ‘overshadowed’ by the overwhelming reality of God’s love as revealed in Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8–​16).

Suggested Reading The classic presentation of Johannine ‘dualism’ (in an influential but strongly disputed interpretation) can be found in Rudolf Bultmann’s Theology of the New Testament (Bultmann 1953; ET 2012). A detailed comparison of the Johannine ‘dualism’ with the dualism in the Qumran texts is presented by Charlesworth (1968/​69). A critical discussion of the claim of a very close dependence on Qumran is given in Aune 2003 and Frey 2008. A  recent interpretation of Johannine dualism (in debate with Bultmann) is provided in Bauckham 2014. A comprehensive discussion is presented in Frey 2006 (in German). A fuller discussion of ‘the world’ in John is presented in Kierspel 2006, and—​still valuable—​in German in Onuki 1984.

Bibliography Albright, William F., 1956. ‘Recent Discoveries in Palestine and the Gospel of St. John’, in William D. Davies and David Daube (eds.), The Background of the New Testament and its Eschatology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 153–​7 1. Ashton, John, 1991. Understanding the Fourth Gospel. Oxford: Clarendon. Aune, David E., 2003. ‘Dualism in the Fourth Gospel and the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Reassessment of the Problem’, in D. E. Aune, T. Seland, and J. H. Ulrichsen (eds.), Neotestamentica et Philonica: Studies in Honour of Peder Borgen, NovTSup 106; Leiden: Brill: 281–​303.

Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John    289 Bauckham, Richard J., 1997. ‘Qumran and the Fourth Gospel: Is there a Connection?’, in Stanley E. Porter and Craig A. Evans (eds.), The Scrolls and the Scriptures: Qumran Fifty Years After, JSPSup 26/​RILP 3; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press: 267–​79. Bauckham, Richard J., 2014. ‘Dualism and Soteriology in Johannine Theology’, in Bruce W. Longenecker and Mikeal C. Parsons (eds.), Beyond Bultmann. Reckoning a New Testament Theology. Waco, Tx.: Baylor: 133–​54. Baur, Ferdinand Christian, 1864. Vorlesungen über neutestamentliche Theologie (Ferdinand Friedrich Baur, ed.) Leipzig: Fues. Becker, Jürgen 1974. ‘Beobachtungen zum Dualismus im Johannesevangelium’, ZNW 65: 71–​87. Becker, Jürgen, 1991. Das Evangelium nach Johannes, 3rd. ed., 2 vols., ÖTK 4/​ 1–​ 2, Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus and Würzburg: Echter. Bianchi, Ugo, 1983. Il dualismo religioso: Saggio storico ed etnologico. Nuovi saggi 86. 2nd ed. Rome: Ateneo. Bianchi, Ugo, and Stoyanov, Yuri, 2005. ‘Dualism’, in Encyclopedia of Religion. 2nd edition, vol. 4: 2504–​17. Bousset, Wilhelm, 1967. Kyrios Christos. Geschichte des Christusglaubens von den Anfängen des Christentums bis Irenäus, 6th edition. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht. Brown, Raymond E., 1955. ‘The Qumran Scrolls and the Johannine Gospel and Epistles’, CBQ 17: 403–​19, 559–​74. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1941. Das Evangelium des Johannes. KEK 2; Göttingen:  Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1953. Theologie des Neuen Testaments. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1967a. ‘Der religionsgeschichtliche Hintergrund des Prologs zum Johannesevangelium’, in Exegetica. Aufsätze zur Erforschung des Neuen Testaments (Erich Dinkler, ed.) Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr: 10–​35. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1967b. ‘Die Bedeutung der neuerschlossenen manichäischen und mandäischen Quellen für das Verständnis des Johannesevangeliums’, in Exegetica. Aufsätze zur Erforschung des Neuen Testaments (Erich Dinkler, ed.) Tübingen:  J. C.  B. Mohr: 55–​104. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1967c. ‘Johanneische Schriften und Gnosis’, in Exegetica. Aufsätze zur Erforschung des Neuen Testaments (Erich Dinkler, ed.) Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr: 230–​54. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1971. The Gospel of John. Transl. by G. R. Beasley Murray, Oxford: Blackwell. Bultmann, Rudolf, 2012. Theology of the New Testament. Transl. by Kendrick Grobel, Waco, Tx: Baylor. Charlesworth, James H., 1968–​9. ‘A Critical Comparison of the Dualism in 1QS 3:13—​4:26 and the Dualism contained in the Gospel of John’, NTS 15: 389–​418. Charlesworth, James H., 1996. ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel according to John’, in R. Alan Culpepper and Clifton C. Black (eds.), Exploring the Gospel of John: In Honor of D. Moody Smith. Louisville: Westminster John Knox: 65–​97. Cross, Frank Moore, 1958. The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies. London: Duckworth. Fortna, Robert T., 1970. The Gospel of Signs. A Reconstruction oft he Narrative Source Underlying the Fourth Gospel. SNTSMS 11, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Frey, Jörg, 1997a. ‘Different Patterns of Dualistic Thought in the Qumran Library’, in Moshe Bernstein, Florentino Garcia Martinez, and John Kampen (eds.), Legal Texts and Legal Issues. STDJ 23. Leiden: Brill: 275–​335. Frey, Jörg, 1997b. Die johanneische Eschatologie, vol. 1: Ihre Probleme im Spiegel der Forschung seit Reimarus, WUNT 96; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr.

290   Jörg Frey Frey, Jörg 2000. Die johanneische Eschatologie. Volume 3: Die eschatologische Verkündigung in den johanneischen Texten. WUNT 117; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Frey, Jörg, 2004a. ‘Auf der Suche nach dem Kontext des vierten Evangeliums’, in Jörg Frey and Udo Schnelle (eds.), Kontexte des Johannesevangeliums, WUNT 175; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 3–​45. Frey, Jörg, 2004b. ‘Licht aus den Höhlen? Der “johanneische Dualismus” und die Texte von Qumran’, in Jörg Frey and Udo Schnelle (eds.), Kontexte des Johannesevangeliums, WUNT 175; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 117–​203. Frey, Jörg, 2006. ‘Zu Hintergrund und Funktion des johanneischen Dualismus’, in Dieter Sänger and Ulrich Mell (eds.), Paulus und Johannes: Exegetische Studien zur paulinischen und johanneischen Theologie und Literatur. WUNT 198; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 3–​73. Frey, Jörg, 2008. ‘Recent Perspectives on Johannine Dualism and Its Background’, in Ruth Clements and Daniel R. Schwartz (eds.), Text, Thought, and Practice in Qumran and Early Christianity. STDJ 84; Leiden: Brill: 127–​57. Frey, Jörg, 2012. ‘Qumran Research and Biblical Scholarship in Germany’, in Devorah Dimant (ed.), The Dead Sea Scrolls in Scholarly Perspective. A  History of Research. Leiden and Boston: Brill: 529–​64. Frey, Jörg, 2014a. ‘Apocalyptic Dualism’, in:  John J. Collins (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Apocalypticism, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 271–​94. Frey, Jörg, 2014b. ‘Johannine Christology and Eschatology’, in Bruce W. Longenecker and Mikeal C. Parsons (eds.), Beyond Bultmann. Reckoning a New Testament Theology. Waco, Tx.: Baylor: 101–​32. Frey, Jörg, 2016. ‘From the “Kingdom of God” to “Eternal Life”:  The Transformation of Theological Language in the Fourth Gospel’, in Paul N. Anderson, Felix Just, S.J., and Tom Thatcher (eds.), John, Jesus, and History, Volume 3: Glimpses of Jesus Through the Johannine Lens. Atlanta: SBL: 439–​58. Herder, Johann Gottfried 1775. Erläuterungen zum Neuen Testament aus einer neueröffneten morgenländischen Quelle. Riga: Hartknoch (in: Johann Gottfried Herder, Sämmtliche Werke, Bd. 7, Bernhard Suphan (ed). Berlin: Weidmann’sche Buchhandlung, 1884: 335–​470). Hyde, Thomas, 1700. Historia Religionis Veterum Persarum. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jenks, G. C., 1991. The Origins and Early Development of the Antichrist Myth. BZNW 59; Berlin and New York: de Gruyter. Käsemann, Ernst, 1967. Jesu letzter Wille nach Johannes 17. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr. Kierspel, Lars, 2006. The Jews and the World in the Fourth Gospel. WUNT 2/​ 220; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Kuhn, Karl Georg Kuhn, 1950. ‘Die in Palästina gefundenen hebräischen Texte und das Neue Testament’, ZTK 47: 192–​211. Kuhn, Karl Georg 1952., ‘Die Sektenschrift und die iranische Religion’, ZTK 49: 296–​316. Lietaert-​Peerbolte, Bert Jan, 1995. The Antecedents of the Antichrist. JSJ.S 49; Leiden: Brill. Meeks, Wayne A., 1972. ‘The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism’, JBL 91: 44–​72. Onuki, Takashi, 1984. Gemeinde und Welt im Johannesevangelium. Ein Beitrag zur Frage nach der theologischen und pragmatischen Funktion des johanneischen ‘Dualismus’. WMANT 56; Neukirchen-​Vluyn: Neukirchener. Percy, Ernst, 1939. Untersuchungen über den Ursprung der johanneischen Theologie. Lund: Gleerup. Popkes, Enno Edzard, 2005. Die Theologie der Liebe Gottes in den johanneischen Schriften. WUNT 2/​197; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Letters of John    291 Reitzenstein, Richard, 1921. Das iranische Erlösungsmysterium. Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen. Bonn: Marcus & Weber. Richter, Georg, 1977. Studien zum Johannesevangelium. (ed. Josef Hainz) BU 13; Regensburg: Pustet. Schwankl, Otto, 1995. Licht und Finsternis. Ein metaphorisches Paradigma in den johanneischen Schriften, HBS 5; Freiburg i. Br.: Herder. Schottroff, Luise, 1970. Der Glaubende und die feindliche Welt. Beobachtungen zum gnostischen Dualismus und seiner Bedeutung für Paulus und das Johannesevangelium. WMANT 37; Neukirchen-​Vluyn: Neukirchener. Stroumsa, Guy G., 1999. ‘Dualismus: 1. Religionswissenschaftlich’, in Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 4th edition. vol. 2: 1004–​5. Theobald, Florian, 2015. Teufel, Tod und Trauer Der Satan im Johannesevangelium und seine Vorgeschichte, NTOA 109; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Ueberschaer, Nadine, 2017. Theologie des Lebens bei Paulus und Johannes:  Ein theologisch-​ konzeptioneller Vergleich des Zusammenhangs von Glaube und Leben auf dem Hintergrund ihrer Glaubenssummarien. WUNT 389; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. van der Watt, Jan G., 2000. Family of the King: Dynamics of Metaphor in the Gospel According to John. BIS 47; Leiden: Brill. Weder, Hans, 1992. ‘Die Assymetrie des Rettenden’, in Einblicke ins Evangelium. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: 435–​65. Wolff, Christian Hermann, 1734. Psychologia rationalis:  methodo scientifica pertractata. Frankfurt/​Leipzig: Officina Libraria Rengeriana.

Chapter 18

Eschatol o gy a nd T i me i n the Gospel of J oh n Ruben Zimmermann

Introduction ‘The hour is coming and is now here.’ Jesus speaks this sentence twice in the Gospel of John (4:23; 5:25) and with it he raises in nuce issues related to the topic of ‘time and eschatology’ in the Fourth Gospel. The ‘hour’ is only one of several vehicles employed by the evangelist to express a carefully thought out concept of time. The announcement of the ‘coming’ of the hour points towards events of the last days, which are to take place in the near future. This expectation of the coming end of time is part of early Jewish apocalyptic thought, referred to as ‘eschatology’ in the Christian tradition, and includes the end of time and of the world, final judgement and resurrection of the dead. One aspect of Jewish apocalypticism is the coming of a messianic figure like the ‘Son of Man’ (Dan. 7; 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra), a title which is frequently used for Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (e.g. in John 1:51; 3:13–​14; 12:23, see Moloney 2007; Reynolds 2008), along with the simple notion of the ‘coming one’ (ho erchomenos). The hour, however, is not only said to be ‘coming’, but also said to be ‘now here’, which points to the Johannine emphasis on the present time, an emphasis that can be seen in numerous places in the Fourth Gospel. The promises for the future have now become reality, though perhaps in a way different than expected. Yet Jesus’ announcement in 4:23 and 5:25, as it stands, includes a tension: is the hour coming, or—​on the contrary—​is it now here? Do these two notions of time or eschatology, the future and the present, contradict each other to such an extent that they must be explained as deriving from two different stages of the Gospel’s composition, from redactional intervention, or even from different sources—​or is it possible to bring them into a productive tension? Attempts to answer these questions have led to diverse proposals to deal with these tensions, a point which is also closely linked to issues of methodology (e.g. literary or redactional criticism, narratology). Complicating matters

Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John    293 further is the fact the Fourth Gospel is not only concerned with the future and the present, but also with the past. The story of Jesus refers to past events and is, to a certain extent, history, not myth (Anderson 2009). However, the attempt to use the Fourth Gospel as a source for reconstructing the ‘historical Jesus’ (Charlesworth 2010) is undermined by the highly reflective and intentional processing of the past in the Gospel of John itself. The Fourth Gospel is not interested in true facts, but in true life. The history of Jesus is recounted for the benefit of the Johannine Community in the present and readers beyond. Thus, the past has been remembered to shape the present and the future. It is relevant memory (‘vergegenwärtigte Erinnerung’, Rahner 2000). John not only recounts the Jesus story differently than the Synoptics (Lieu 2005) with regard to time (e.g. the Cleansing of the Temple is placed at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry instead of at the end) and temporal horizons (e.g. pre-​existence), it also gives us more insight than the Synoptics do into its intention to do so. In the Farewell Discourses (13–​17), it elaborately twists the perspectives on time in the narrative. On the level of the narrated world Jesus takes future events into consideration, which coincides for the originally intended reader with his or her present experience. In this way, the linearity of time is scrambled, and John demonstrates that the Jesus event culminates, but does not end, at the cross. The end is a new beginning. In a similar way, the beginning is not fixed as the starting point in history. According to the Fourth Gospel, the Jesus story does not begin with Jesus’ baptism or birth but goes back to the fathers of Israel (John 8:58: ‘before Abraham was, I am’) and even farther, to the beginning of creation (John 1:1: en archē, ‘in the beginning’). Hence, ordinary time concepts are challenged and the turning point, the ‘hour’, is at the crucifixion.

From ‘Apocalypticism and Eschatology’ to a Broader Johannine ‘Concept of Time’ Time issues play a major role in the Gospel and Letters of John. Yet, it is not easy to grasp the various aspects of the topic and how time is reflected within the Johannine writings. For a long time in New Testament scholarship the different themes were subsumed under the general heading of ‘eschatology’. The terms ‘eschatology’ and ‘apocalypticism’ are derived from academic discussion and are scholarly constructs (see Filoramo 1999; 1542; Mühling 2015). The Johannine writings offer no ‘doctrinal teaching concerning the last or final things’ (Van der Watt 2011: V) even if the author at times uses the adjective ‘last’ (eschatos) (e.g. 6:39–​54; 1 John 2:18). Thus, if we want to continue speaking of an ‘eschatology’ in John, we must first determine what we mean by this term. Jörg Frey regards as ‘eschatological’ all those motifs in the Johannine texts which in the Old Testament and in early Jewish or early Christian tradition were associated with the last events (Frey 2000: 4). Here, ‘eschatology’ is used in close connection, or even

294   Ruben Zimmermann synonymously with, the term ‘apocalypticism’, that is Jewish apocalypticism (see also Frey 2011: 20–​3; Aune 1992: 595). Following Collins, apocalypticism deals with salvation at the end of time involving a transcendent reality (Collins 1979), whereby it is defined as a theological category. Furthermore, one can agree with Frey that not only motifs and formulations which were regarded as still outstanding (and are for example formulated using the future tense) should be included in the category, but also those which are considered to have already occurred (Frey 1997: 409–​12). This so-​called ‘realized eschatology’ (C. H. Dodd) is primarily related to Jesus’ ministry, to the experience of faith, or to worship in the Johannine Community (Culpepper 2008; Weidemann 2008). The present eschatology is closely linked to a known apocalyptic tradition. Only if the author and his addressees agree that a certain event has an apocalyptic character can a discussion of its current realization, meaning the present eschatology, be at all comprehensible. This leads to a differentiation between (a) traditional motifs derived from an apocalypticism with a future expectation and (b) the function in the present of these motifs in the communicative process between author and addressees. The only access to this communication process, however, is the extant text. Considering eschatology in John means always considering the way John is reflecting eschatological motifs by means of linguistic devices. It is only a one-​sided approach based upon the comparative methods of a tradition-​historical approach that limits the issue to certain aspects and motifs introduced and defined by scholarly debate on eschatology/​apocalypticism. The dimensions of the issue are significantly richer than such a limitation would indicate, and for this reason it makes sense to open up the discussion to the broader topic of ‘time’ (Erlemann 2004). The overarching heading in scholarship should be ‘time’, or more precisely the Johannine notion of dealing with ‘time aspects’ (Neyrey/​Rowe 2008; Estes 2016). Eschatology, hence, is only one aspect of time in the Johannine writings, or of John’s concept of time. This expansion of the discussion allows for a broader study of the various ways in which time is understood in the narrative. For example, using the method of narrative criticism, Culpepper observed how ‘narrative time’ is determined by ‘order’, ‘duration’, and ‘frequency’ (Culpepper 1983: 51–​75; see further). Davies considered systems of structuring time by using classifications such as history and eternity or past, present, and future (Davies 1992: 44–​66). Neyrey and Rowe applied a model of time articulated by cross-​cultural anthropologists for a deeper understanding of the Johannine concept of time (Neyrey/​Rowe 2008), whereas Estes identified ‘temporal mechanisms’ by means of which the narrator shapes time to be analysed as ‘the calendar: structures of time’ and ‘the watch: glimpses of time’ (Estes 2016). These new approaches have provided the particularly helpful insight that the perception of the concept of time in the Gospel of John is always dependent upon the manner in which ‘time’ is conceptualized. There is a sense in which the notion and understanding of time has, since antiquity, preoccupied philosophy and intellectual endeavours (Lenz 2013). Ever since Aristotle and then Augustine a distinction has been made between ‘intersubjective’, measurable time periods (hour; past, present, future) and the ‘subjective’ experience of time (before/​after, pressed for time). Empirical and cultural cycles of time (day and night, calendars of festivals and

Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John    295 holidays) or biographical temporal moments (birth and death, age at one’s wedding) can be distinguished from mythical concepts of time such as primordial time, the end of days, or eternity. The following sections will take up the shift in the history of research as it relates to the concepts of time in the Johannine writings so that, on the one hand, the traditional phenomena and theologoumena related to time can be discussed but, on the other hand, newer, and in particular narratological, methods can be utilized in order to address the concept of time in the Fourth Gospel.

Future or Present Eschatology: New Perspectives Few issues have been as significant, and as intensely debated, in Johannine scholarship as the issue of Johannine eschatology (see the history of research in Frey 1997). Modern scholarship has been critical of the traditional view of a future eschatology (Frey 2011: 9–​ 19). In their search for the timeless truths of faith, nineteenth century exegetes such as Ferdinand Christian Baur, Albrecht Ritschl, and H. J. Holtzmann (details of their views in Frey 1997: 10–​28) saw evidence only for a present eschatology in John. Even the insights of Johannes Weiß and Albert Schweitzer with their rediscovery of ‘consistent eschatology’, i.e. a future expectation, could not shake this scholarly conviction. On the basis of the Synoptic evidence, they postulated that the historical Jesus held a radical expectation of an imminent eschaton that, however, according to Schweitzer, collapsed after the death of Jesus due to the identification of Jesus with the Son of Man.1 The Gospel of John, however, did not play a role in the reconstruction of the views of the historical Jesus in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Representatives of the religionsgeschichtliche Schule, such as Wilhelm Bousset and Wilhelm Heitmüller, regarded the Fourth Gospel as a document of religious mysticism, which had a concept of time oriented entirely to the present. Rudolf Bultmann, with his existentialist perspective, developed this understanding to its culmination (see Frey 1997: 85–​150): According to Bultmann, whereas future eschatological statements were to be regarded either as relics of sources/​traditions or as later additions from an ecclesiastical redactor, the Gospel produced by the Evangelist was an almost ideal representative of present eschatology. ‘Time’ was interpreted by Bultmann as ‘timeliness’ and ‘eschatology’ as ‘eschatological existence’ so that every linear, and thus also future orientation, is to be understood as a misunderstanding (Bultmann 1948: 146–​7). The true understanding of time thus coincides with the true understanding of faith, which ultimately results in the


See Schweitzer 1906: 282: ‘Der “Menschensohn” ward begraben in den Trümmern der zusammenstürzenden eschatologischen Welt; lebendig blieb nur Jesus, “der Mensch.” ’

296   Ruben Zimmermann abolition of the traditional conception of time.2 Only the ‘now’ of decision is relevant and it requires no preparation and allows for no development. The hermeneutical circle with which Bultmann styled the Evangelist ‘as a “biblical forerunner” of Bultmann’s own program of existential interpretation’ (Frey 2011: 15) notwithstanding, his interpretation has had significant subsequent impact and a long afterlife not only from a theological or a religionsgeschichtliche (Käsemann 1966; Schottroff 1970) perspective, but also, and especially, from a methodological one. Bultmann could only demonstrate his ‘ideal’ eschatological concept by postulating major intrusions into and adjustments to the transmitted text, for which source criticism was a welcome method. As a result, later exegetical work on John relegated future and present eschatological statements to different redactional layers and sources (e.g. Becker 1991; Siegert 2008). Despite the fact that the intrinsic value of the statements of future eschatology in the Gospel of John were repeatedly noted (e.g. Cullmann 1962; Käsemann 1966; Brown 1966/​70), it was the work of Frey on the concrete linguistic usage of temporal terminology that was able to overcome the old dichotomy (Frey 1998; Frey 2000). It is not only on the basis of sources, semantics, and style that present and future expressions can be considered alongside each other. They can also be brought together through the ‘model of two temporal foci’ (Modell zweier temporaler Brennpunkte; Frey 1998: 295). The first focus is the ‘hour of Jesus’, i.e. the hour of the cross and glorification towards which and from which the entire occurrence can be conceived. The second focus is the present community, i.e. the Evangelist and his readers, who are brought into close contact with the narrated account of the earthly Jesus. In the Farewell Discourses the connection between the two foci and the ‘fusion of temporal horizons’ (Frey 1998: 296; Frey 2014: 134) is most readily apparent.

The Farewell Discourses: Fusion of Temporal Horizons The so-​called Farewell Discourses (John 13–​17) of John are as fascinating as they are challenging to interpret. Most scholars identify two distinct discourses, i.e. 13:31–​14:31 and 15:1–​16:33, whereas others are inclined to view 16:4b–​33 as a separate and thus third discourse. The section closes with Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer (17:1–​26). Since 15:1–​17:26 follows Jesus’ summons to ‘be on our way’ in 14:31c, scholars have repeatedly viewed this material as a secondary insertion, initially on the basis of source criticism (Becker 1991/​ II: 572–​3; see the overview in Schnelle 2016: 310–​14), and more recently in the ‘relecture [rereading] model’, in which one views the ‘continuation’ found in John 15–​17 as a new and constructive interpretation of the first discourse from an ethical-​ecclesiological 2 

Bultmann 1948: 146: ‘in der eschatologischen “Zeit” ist die Spannung zwischen Gegenwart und Zukunft aufgehoben’ (‘in eschatological “time” the tension between present and future is abolished’).

Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John    297 perspective (Zumstein 2016: 502–​4, 551; Dettwiler 1995; Haldimann 2000). A case can, however, also be made for affirming the literary integrity of the section from a synchronic perspective. For example, Francois Tolmie distinguishes between the levels of the story, narrative, and narration as he offers a unified, narratological analysis of the whole (Tolmie 1995). Religionsgeschichtliche comparisons with Greek tragedy (e.g. Sophocles, Antigone, 876–​943) suggest that bringing the external plot and action to a standstill can serve to advance the development of the internal plot (Parsenios 2005: 68), which means that the Evangelist may be intentionally employing a known stylistic strategy. This view is supported by the meal/​symposium in 13:1–​21 followed by a discourse 13:31–​36, through which the affinity of the Farewell Discourses to Greco-​Roman consolation literature becomes apparent (Lang 2004; Parsenios 2005: 111–​49). Farewell discourses, however, are also known in Jewish literature: Jacob (Gen. 49:1–​27), Moses (Deut. 31–​34), or a whole series of apocryphal Jewish texts in this genre (T.Mos., T.Job, 2 Bar., 4 Ezra, T.12 Patr.; see Winter 1994). The Farewell Discourses are thus particularly significant for illuminating the temporal understanding of the evangelist. Within the discourses Jesus describes the situation after his departure, i.e. after his death. Even though this situation is pressing and creates uncertainty for the disciples, Jesus’ departure is viewed as necessary (John 16:7) so that the disciples may be brought fully into the truth. Most commentators have understood this scene as a projection of the post-​Easter reality of the Johannine Community into a pre-​Easter context. Jesus has already been crucified and the community has been excluded from the synagogue (9:22; 12:42; 16:2), feels under duress, and may even be experiencing persecution (15:20; 16:2). By retrojecting the ‘now’ into the past and into the time of Jesus, a pragmatic move is made in order to create a new perspective concerning the future for addressees confronted with uncertainty. The present situation of the evangelist is brought to expression in a retrojected narrative as a vision for the future. The narrative strategy of the entire Gospel can be inferred from the perspective of the Farewell Discourses with their specific ‘post-​Easter hermeneutic’ (Hoegen-​Rohls 1996). Through comments by the narrator (2:22) or confessional statements in ‘I’ or ‘we’ formulations (1:14; 21:24) the post-​Easter faith is projected into the pre-​Easter narrative. The story of Jesus is remembered because it is viewed as relevant for the present and future. The Gospel itself thus becomes a medium for opening up the future. According to Hoegen-​Rohls, this reflection upon time can be described in three dimensions: the differentiation between temporal eras (before and after the crucifixion), the continuity of temporal eras, and the ‘fusion of temporal eras’ (Hoegen-​Rohls 1996: 82–​229; also Rahner 2000; Frey 2014). By means of the so-​called Paraclete, a concentration of the fusion of temporal eras and of time can be observed. Religionsgeschichtliche parallels reveal the necessity of farewell discourses including a successor for a departing ‘hero’ (e.g. Joshua for Moses in As. Mos. 11:9–​12) and in the Johannine Farewell Discourses the coming of the Paraclete is announced (14:16–​20; 14:26; 15:26–​27; 16:7–​11; 16:13–​15). He is not only filled with the Spirit, like Joshua was (Deut. 34:9; Num. 27:18), but is actually identified with the Spirit (14:26). The Paraclete can thus be understood as fulfilling a special role as the guarantor of the continuity of the work and truth of Jesus. He will ‘remind

298   Ruben Zimmermann you of all things’ (14:26), will teach and bear witness (14:26; 15:26), and, at the same time, guide into all truth and declare the things that are to come (16:13). In this way, the ‘summoned’ Paraclete takes up the task of comforting and standing alongside the downcast and oppressed Johannine community (16:6, 33), a function that is already indicated in his name (paraklētos, derived from the verb parakaleō—​to comfort, be an advocate). On the basis of this explicit supratemporal and hermeneutical function ascribed to the Paraclete, this character becomes the remembered and present symbolic form that can be seen in the pages of the Gospel itself (Rahner 2000: 79). As can be seen in relevant parallels in this genre (4 Ezra 14:24–​25), farewell discourses also had the function of legitimating a writing, a function that may well also apply to this text, the Gospel of the anonymous Beloved Disciple (21:24–​25). According to Moloney, John 20:9 (‘for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead’) could already hint at this new scriptural understanding of the Gospel itself (Moloney 2014).

Motifs of Time and Eschatology The Hour of Jesus The reader encounters the motif of ‘the hour of Jesus’ from the moment of his first public appearance at the beginning of Chapter 2 (cf. Beutler 1997: 25–​7). In all likelihood, the reader of John is somewhat confused as to why, during the wedding at Cana, Jesus responds to his mother rather brusquely with a reference to his ‘hour’ (2:4). The hour is not, however, simply a measure of time per se (see 1:39; 19:14), for the motif is placed within a relative and theological temporal horizon: the hour has ‘not yet (oupō) come’. The reader is thus placed on a track leading to a particular goal. Later repetitions of the ‘not yet’ (7:30; 8:20) not only create additional suspense but also reveal that the hour must be related to the hour of Jesus’ arrest. Other statements offer this ‘not yet’ in a tension-​filled pairing with an ‘already now’ (4:23; 5:25; cf. 16:32). It is not until John 12:23, 27–​13:1 that the ‘coming of the hour’ is overtly disclosed to be the hour of Jesus’ death, which will be, at the same time, the hour of his glorification (John 17:1). Frey suspects that this ‘hour’ motif was developed from the Markan Gethsemane pericope (Mark 14:41) (Frey 2013: 511). Considered within the broader tradition-​historical context, the ‘hour’ motif is an apocalyptic motif that can be understood as an expression of the widely represented motifs of ‘the last day’ and ‘the day of YHWH’ (e.g. Isa. 13:6; Joel 3:4; Amos 5:18–​20), which were utilized in the prophetic and apocalyptic proclamation to announce a powerful and awe-​inspiring historical, or in later texts, an eschatological event. In the New Testament, antiquity’s already brief notion of the length of a day is dramatically shortened by John (cf. Matt. 24:43–​44; 25:27). This apocalyptic horizon becomes even more visible in the occurrence of the motif in 1 John. We find the motif of the hour twice in 1 John 2:18, both times in connection

Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John    299 with the adjective ‘last’ (eschatos). The ‘last hour’ is here indicated by the coming of the so-​called ‘antichrist(s)’ (see 1 John 2:22; 2 John 7; Zimmermann 2011: 519–​20). But in the Gospel of John one also finds an extension of the ‘hour’ motif beyond the hour of Jesus’ death in its application to the suffering and threatened community (16:2, 4, 25, 32).

The Last Day—​On That Day—​A Little While—​Parousia In the Gospel of John, we find the stereotypical expression ‘[on] the last day’, [en] tē eschatē hēmera (6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48, see 7:37). The term eschatos (‘last’) had in certain contexts evidently become a terminus technicus for apocalyptic events (e.g. in 1 Cor. 15:26). There are numerous references to the ‘end of time’ in early Christianity (with chronos, Jude 18, cf. 1 Thess. 5:1; with kairos, 1 Peter 1:5; Ign. Eph. 11:1) or, based upon Old Testament or early Jewish-​Hellenistic formulations (see Isa. 2:2; Ezek. 38:1; Mic. 4:1; Dan. 2:28; 10:14; 1QSa 1.1), to the ‘last days’ (see Acts 2:17; 2 Tim. 3:1). The ‘last day’ in John is closely linked to ‘resurrection’. Jesus announces several times in John 6 that he himself will ‘raise up’ believers ‘on the last day’ (6:39, 40, 44, 54). In John 11, however, Martha’s expectation that her brother will be raised up ‘in the resurrection on the last day’ is corrected (11:24; see Zimmermann 2008: 92–​3). Confronting the death of Lazarus, resurrection does not take place only at the end of time and of the world; resurrection is realized in encountering Jesus here and now. This is clearly expressed in Jesus’ ‘I am’ saying, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (11:25), which does not remain merely a saying but is concretely realized in the raising of Lazarus. The promise of 5:25 that ‘the dead will live’ when they hear ‘the voice of the Son of God’ becomes reality in the present time: ‘he cried out with as loud voice, “Lazarus, come out” ’ (11:44). And Lazarus ‘came out’ (11:45). Despite the extent to which the Johannine eschatology is here presented as present and this-​worldly, the future dimension or ‘final eschatology’ remains indispensable (Thyen 2005: 536). This is the case from John 11 onward to the death and resurrection of Jesus, which on the level of the narrated world has not yet occurred and which is prefigured in the Lazarus pericope (Zimmermann 2013: 756–​7). It is also the case for the disciples and believers who are grappling with the correct understanding of death and resurrection after the Easter event. Even the ‘I am’ saying in 11:25 has captured the experience of the ongoing nature of death in the curiously intertwined expression ‘even though he dies’ (11:26). As then explicitly thematized in the Farewell Discourses (previously discussed), the promise of resurrection and life is not simply related to a ‘future purely beyond time . . . but a future already filling the believer’s present with eternal life’ (Schneiders 1987: 52–​3). In 16:23, 26 one once again encounters a reference to the ‘day’, more precisely to ‘that day’. On the textual level this is the day of recognition and revelation that is connected by most exegetes to the return of Christ (Schnelle 2016: 329), even though this return could be identical with Easter (14:20; Thyen 2005: 671–​2). An analogous double meaning is also created in this section through the sevenfold use of mikron, ‘a little’ (16:16–​19),

300   Ruben Zimmermann which is to be understood in conjunction with 7:33; 12:35 as ‘a little while’ (a short time). The reader asks with the disciples who do not understand: ‘What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about’. (16:18). This term, which occurs quite often (see also 13:33; 14:19), is always related to Jesus as the subject, who will only be seen a little while longer before returning to the Father. There is an additional reference to a short period of time in 16:16 with reference to the moment that Jesus will see the disciples again. In the narrated world, one can view this brief period of time as related to the Easter appearances of Jesus. On the level of the reader, however, these appearances are already in the past so that one could relate this brief period of time to the return of Jesus in the future. That such a renewed future eschatology is not foreign to the Johannine circle is evident in the Epistles. In 1 John 2:28 the parousia of Jesus is explicitly mentioned (en tē parousia autou, ‘at his coming’) and, as such, a terminus technicus of the early Christian expectation of the imminent return of Christ is taken up (Erlemann 1996, 66–​7; Lieu 2008, 115).3 John 14 and 16 as well as 1 John 2:28 can be seen as allusions to the expectation of the parousia within the Johannine Community. Although there is an emphasis on the present reality of salvation, future elements still remain. At the same time, references to ‘a little while’ should not be mechanically transferred to an absolute timeline or naïvely identified with a fixed timespan (e.g. between the resurrection and the parousia). Even without loading the term with existential-​philosophical meaning, the metaphor of time that is short or close (Weinrich 2008) fulfils a narratively pragmatic function that, via the disciples, brings forth a certain perception of time in the readers (Wittmann 2013). Time is pressing!

Eternity—​Eternal Life Crucial terms related to time in John are ‘eternity’ (aiōn) and ‘eternal’ (aiōnios). Both occur in stereotypical expressions, such as ‘for eternity’, eis ton aiōna (John 4:14; 6:51, 58; 8:51–​52 etc.) and ‘eternal life’, zōē aiōnios, (17 times).4 With respect to the latter expression, where the adjective ‘eternal’ is connected to ‘life’, van der Watt has argued that the combination ‘eternal life’ (zōē aiōnios) is ‘basic and primary’, and thus that the omission of ‘eternal’ with ‘life’ (as, e.g. in 5:24; 6:40) is exceptional and can be explained by stylistic considerations (van der Watt 1989: 227; similarly Mußner 1952: 48–​9). The two stereotypical expressions ‘for eternity’ and ‘eternal life’ can appear next to each other, as can be seen in 4:14: ‘but those who drink of the water that I will give them will not be thirsty for eternity (eis ton aiōna). The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life (zōē aiōnios)’ (similarly 6:51, 58). It is striking that with the terms ‘eternity’ and ‘eternal life’ a timespan is apparently identified that is set over and against the limitations of physical life. This relates to food 3  See Mark 13:24–​27; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:16f.; 2 Thess. 1:7–​10; 2:8; 2 Pet. 1:11; Rev. 14:14–​16; 19:11–​16; 20:2–​6 among other passages. 4  See John 3:15, 16, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54; 10:28; 12:25, 50; 17:2, 3.

Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John    301 and drink (4:14, 36; 6:27), but ultimately to the physical life itself. The promise of eternal life is equated to overcoming death (8:51). Does ‘eternal life’ (zōē aiōnios) mean ‘everlasting life’, in a temporal sense, or does it refer to an afterlife, i.e. a life that begins after physical death? The Gospel itself offers a definition: ‘This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (17:3). Similarly, in 6:47 Jesus says: ‘Amen, Amen, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life’ (see also 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:26; 20:31). Eternal life results from knowing God and believing in Jesus Christ. In other words: According to John’s understanding, the point of reference for life is found in a relationship with the Father and the Son. Life becomes actual through belief in Jesus, i.e. in the relationship to him and through him. C. H. Dodd proposed that the Jewish, apocalyptic conception of time was newly interpreted in a Hellenistic sense: Under the influence of Platonic ontology ‘eternal life’ (zōē aiōnios) refers to the divine life beyond our temporal perception. There is no more past and future, but only God’s eternal present (Dodd 1953, 149–​50; Dodd 1954, 173). Such an atemporal understanding of the term ‘eternal’ is, however, ruled out by the combination with the term ‘life’. Because eternal life, by being bound to Jesus, can already be experienced prior to physical death (cf. 3:36; 5:24; 6:47, 54), it is experienced in the body, and that abundantly (10:10). By relating the story of the incarnate Word, the Fourth Gospel addresses many ‘fleshly’ dimensions of life. There is, for instance, no life without eating and drinking (6:53–​54) and the verbs used (e.g. trōgō, ‘chew’, in 6:54) emphasize the physical dimension of a life consisting of flesh and blood (Webster 2003). But ‘life’ according to the Gospel of John is not only to be tasted. All five senses (tasting, seeing, hearing, touching, smelling) are addressed by John’s theology (Lee 2010). Thus, the concept of eternal life of the Fourth Gospel should not be limited to spiritual life, or life after death, nor simply viewed as directing believers towards a heavenly (divine) life. It clearly has a horizontal and very human dimension as it relates to a ‘way of living’. In other words, life in John also has ethical significance, which means that we can speak of a Johannine ‘ethics of life’ (Stare 2012; Zimmermann 2016). At the same time, the nourishment of the body of believers is not perishable water and bread, but rather the ‘flesh’ and the ‘blood’ of Christ (6:54). It is a special quality of life that can also be experienced in human life. There is no denial that death comes at the end of (physical) life (John 11:26; 12:25), but death does not limit this true life. Frey argues that it is the impartation of eternal life that encompasses the goal of the entire redemptive act in John (Frey 2000: 260–​2). In order to avoid misunderstandings and keep a wider semantic range of possibilities open, Coloe has suggested that we replace ‘eternal life’ with ‘eternity life’ so as ‘to emphasize that Jesus offers an entirely different quality of life—​the life God lives in eternity’ (Coloe 2013: 71).

Preexistence In both the Prologue and throughout the Gospel of John, the beginning of the Jesus story is consciously and explicitly extended beyond the historical existence of the

302   Ruben Zimmermann person of Jesus. In the systematic theological tradition this extension is referred to as ‘preexistence’. Whereas earlier studies included, in addition to the Prologue and the High Priestly Prayer, the sending and the Son of Man passages in their examination of this theme (Hamerton-​Kelly 1973), Kunath has recently argued for a reduction of the number of passages to seven in which ‘the temporal priority’ of Jesus is explicitly stated (Kunath 2016: 41–​5, 365). These include the twofold attestation by John the Baptist that Jesus existed before he did (1:15; 1:30), four statements by Jesus himself (6:62; 8:58; 17:5, 24), and the hymnic beginning of the Gospel en archē (John 1:1–​2). Particularly striking are the formulations in which Jesus speaks of an existence ‘before Abraham’ (8:58) or ‘before the foundation of the world’ (17:24). A linear, temporal conception along the lines of a before/​after structure is created through the use of temporal prepositions (prō in 17:24, prin in 8:58, both meaning ‘before’). This structure allows Jesus to be placed prior to contemporary (John the Baptist) or historical (Abraham) figures and, indeed, at the very beginning of the timeline. According to Kuhnert, this is a coherent theological motif in the Gospel, one which utilizes the provocative attribution of a ‘being beforehand’ to Jesus in order to present a vital aspect of John’s narrative Christology. It has as its aim a process of Christological recognition on the part of the reader (Kunath 2016: 367). Similarly, Culpepper consistently identified the previously mentioned statements as ‘pre-​historical analepsis’ (Culpepper 1983: 57–​8), in which he also included, as logically fitting, the statements concerning Jesus having been sent. Kuschel places these so-​called ‘sayings of preexistence’ beyond a supposed absolute chronology and into the evangelist’s narratival, poetic construction of time. John gives the impression of temporal linearity but knows that the pre-​and post-​existence of Jesus cannot be a matter of temporal phases. Rather in the narrative a ‘unique temporal fusion’ takes place through ‘an ingenious transcending of the limits of time’ (Kuschel 1990: 469).

Time and Narration in John The tightly interwoven nature of time and narration was the focus of earlier studies in narrative theory and philosophy (e.g. Genette 1980; Ricoeur 1984–​88). Ever since the pioneering study of Culpepper (1983), studies seeking to describe precisely the structuring and modulation of time in the Fourth Gospel via narratological methods have been available.5 Linguistic temporal markers (e.g. prepositions and adverbs such as meta tauta, eti, prin etc.), verb tenses, time metaphors, indications of the passage of time, as well as temporal references forwards and backwards can all be recognized and appreciated as narratival methods and strategies that also carry theological meaning and significance (Frey 1998: 208–​16).


See Chapter 12, Jo-​Ann Brant, ‘The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama’.

Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John    303 Culpepper applied Genette’s distinction between story and discourse, between narrated time and narrative time, to the Gospel, and thus was able to describe with greater nuance the disruptions and anachronisms at the levels of ‘order’, ‘duration’, and ‘frequency’ (Culpepper 1983: esp. 53–​75). We discuss each in turn. First, the order of the story is interrupted frequently by the narration. A  particularly notable instance is to be found in 11:2 where the reader is informed by the narrator that Mary ‘was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume’, even though this scene is not recounted until John 12:1–​12. Despite the fact that this comment ‘functions as a prolepsis’, Culpepper placed it in the category of ‘completing analepses’ (Culpepper 1983: 60) because it provides ‘important information about events which were omitted from the narration’ to this point (Culpepper 1983: 59). Belonging to the category ‘historical prolepses’, according to Culpepper (1983: 67)6 are 2:22 (‘after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this’) and 12:16 (the disciples ‘did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered’), which refer to events that have yet to occur at the level of the narrative but have already occurred at the level of the Evangelist and his audience. Second, the variation in the presentation of the duration of events is particularly alluring. A specific relationship between narrated time and narrative time is thereby developed. The conscious oscillation between ‘slow motion’ scenes (e.g. the Foot-​washing in 13:4–​5: Jesus ‘got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him’) and rapid summaries (e.g. 4:43: ‘When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee’) give the story a certain rhythm. The temporal modulation is also quite clearly recognizable at the macro-​level of the Gospel. Mentioning three Passover festivals (2:13; 6:4; 13:1) relates, on the basis of the cultural knowledge of the Jewish calendar, a narrative time of two and a half years. Though the first year is recounted in two and a half chapters (2:13–​3:21), the second year takes us through five chapters. The speed of narration is slowed further in John 12 so that in the seven chapters (John 13–​19) one night and one day of narrative time transpires. Narrative time seems to slow down with a view toward the coming hour of death by crucifixion (12:23) and even comes to a standstill (Frey 2014: 142). Finally, the narrative frequency of events can be noted, for it makes a difference when events that happened once are narrated as ‘singulative narrative’ or ‘repetitious narrative’ or, conversely, when events that happened repeatedly are narrated in a ‘repetitive manner’ or in an ‘iterative narration’ (Culpepper 1983: 73). Thus, when an event like ‘Jesus’ hour’ is presented as a specific event located in one moment of time but is repeatedly narrated its significance is markedly underscored. Though such observations provided ways out of previous dead-​ends in scholarship on John, this Gospel persistently defies a comprehensive explanation. Though numerous


Culpepper develops a complex system of ordering ‘external’, ‘mixed’, ‘historical’, and ‘prehistorical’ analepsis/​prolepsis. See Culpepper 1983: 70.

304   Ruben Zimmermann temporal indications can indeed be understood as the intentional structuring of time (e.g. the structure built around a week in 1:29, 35, 43; 2:1 or around a 12-​hour day of activity by Jesus in 11:9–​10; see Koester 2015), other statements, such as the parenthetical reference that it was ‘about the tenth hour’ (1:39), remain enigmatic as to their semantic significance. Of course, this may be due, at least in part, to the differing conceptions of time and how time is structured in antiquity and modernity. It is precisely this cultural influence of temporal systems to which Neyrey and Rowe (2008) or Estes (2008; 2016) have given attention. According to Estes (2016:  42), anyone expecting an absolute chronology or temporal linearity in the Fourth Gospel commits ‘the fallacy of assumed time’: ‘For us to understand how time works in John, it will require [us] . . . to unlearn first many assumptions about time that we implicitly use’ (Estes 2016: 43). One may not, therefore, postulate a physical or historical definition of time and must instead rely upon metaphors that can only provide probabilities and not certainties. For this reason Estes refers to ‘time pockets’, a ‘temporal geodesic’, or, analogous to landscapes, ‘timescapes’ (Estes 2008: 162), all of which can only be approached multidimensionally. According to Estes, John does not contain precise temporal coordinates, but ‘relative temporal markers’ that function as an index, for example ‘after these things’ or ‘the next day’ (Estes 2008: 153–​9; 2016: 47). Furthermore, he speaks of ‘temporal descriptors’ as a reference to time that describes the temporal context of an event (e.g. ‘near to Passover’, Estes 2008: 159). In addition, he distinguishes between ‘an event as a demarcated period of time’ (Estes 2016: 48) and ‘event-​like objects’, which are words relating temporal value (e.g. aiōnios, ‘eternal’) or temporal processes (e.g. gamos, ‘wedding’; Estes 2008: 200–​ 20). Whereas Culpepper operates entirely on the level of the narrative, Estes views the events as rooted in history and reality. It is precisely this reality that presents the evangelist with the specific challenge of deciding ‘how these events fit together into one coherent story. . . . The historiographer must now create a syuzhet that essentially conforms to a block universe model of time. In a temporal block universe, past, present, and future are all equally real and accessible’ (Estes 2016: 49–​50). In the story, however, the narrator recounts ‘three dimensions onto a two dimensional text’ (ibid.). Through the interplay of three temporal movements (which Estes calls diegetic levels, anachronies, and intratextual diachronies) it is not only coherence that is created but also a type of ‘narrative determinism’ (Estes 2008: 173–​86) that allows for meaningful connections beyond chronological, causal connections. For example, on the ‘diegetic level’, Estes identifies two, interrelated systems of time: ‘the witness world’ (238–​9) and ‘the epic world’ (239–​ 41). The first is correlated to the life of and time of Jesus and the latter to the time of later Christians or readers. The insights gained by Estes through a rather complex process thus converge with similar observations made by Hoegen-​Rohls (1996) and Culpepper (1983). Estes’s contribution, however, is the manner in which he has argued, with significant hermeneutical caution, against any hasty assertion of either a completely splintered or fully harmonized temporal conception in the Fourth Gospel. This Gospel is a ‘turbulent text’ (Estes 2008: 251) and our understandings of its ‘temporal mechanics’ ‘will never be complete’ (254).

Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John    305

Time, Theology, and Ethics The nuanced and highly differentiated conception of time in the Fourth Gospel is not some type of intellectual game, but rather the medium of expression for its theology and ethics (see Cook 1988: 99). Without any claim to comprehensiveness, three aspects are here highlighted on the basis of their chrono-​theological relevance: the hour of the cross as the christological, temporal turning point; the coinciding of beginning and end in the concept of the new creation; and the ability to act in the face on ongoing temporal conflict. All three are, within the Johannine temporal modulation, closely interrelated. The Fourth Gospel opens with the beginning of time (1:1) and is familiar with the apocalyptic discourse concerning the last day and the end of time. In this way, the broadest possible temporal horizons are opened. The cosmic drama of the creation of the world and the end of the world is, however, also related to the fate of a historical person in the Gospel of John, namely to Jesus of Nazareth. This story is presented as a tragedy in which, through a markedly slowed narration, the hour of Jesus is identified with the crucifixion (12:23, 27). With Jesus’ last words from the cross (tetelestai, ‘it is finished’, 19:30) it appears that not only his life but time itself has come to a standstill and to an end. The crisis of the cosmos does not cease, as in the Markan apocalypse, in the end of the world or in the recurring conflagration of the world as in Stoic thought (see McGinn 2003) but rather in the death of the Son of Man on the cross. The hour of death, however, is also a new beginning, a point that is brought to expression through a variety of metaphors. Whereas in the Synoptics the hour of Jesus’ death is marked by the darkening of the sun, evoking a common image of the end of the world, John speaks of doxa, which identifies the visible, perceivable (usually divine) ‘glory’ (see Chibici-​ Revneanu 2007). Though crucifixion was socially and culturally identified as the ‘nadir’ of the death of a criminal, in the Gospel of John it is pointedly identified as being ‘lifted up’ (12:32, 34; cf. de Boer 2007). The parable of the grain of wheat speaks of life that grows out of death (12:24). At the cross a paradoxical reversal of known values takes place along with a revolution of the known temporal system. Darkness is described as glorious light, denigration is lifting up, and the end is, at the same time, a new beginning. Death becomes new life, which can then be seen in the resurrection of Jesus (John 20) and experienced in the sharing of a meal with the resurrected one (John 21). The concentration of apocalyptic traditions upon the person of Jesus of Nazareth and the claim that in his death both the extant world (order) has come to an end and a new beginning has come into existence may very well sound exclusive and foreign to modern ears. Yet the pragmatic intention of the Fourth Gospel is precisely the opposite. The reversal of temporal relationships should be valid for all believers, a perspective which is brought to expression in the Farewell Discourses as addressed to both the first addressees and later readers. Through the giving of the Paraclete and ultimately through the supratemporal account of the Gospel itself, the Jesus story serves as a mirror for the reader’s own life story (Reinmuth 2009). The parable of the transformation of sorrow to

306   Ruben Zimmermann joy in the act of giving birth (16:21) embraces, in its polyvalence, christological, ecclesiological, and ethical aspects (Zimmermann 2015). The new birth as individual act of creation becomes spiritually possible for everyone (3:3–​5). The life of the resurrected one becomes an inverted act of creation: when the resurrected Jesus comes to the disciples, he ‘breathes on them’ (20:22). The unusual term enephysēsen (‘breathed on’) utilized here refers back to the Garden of Eden where God, in the creation of a human, also breathes into the human being the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). The act of creation here becomes an act of new creation by the resurrected Jesus. Creation is repeated in recreation and in this way temporal horizons are fused (Zimmermann 2016b). ‘Abundant life’ (10:10) is not simply a remembrance of paradise nor is the resurrection of the dead relegated to a future time (11:24). By engaging the Gospel the reader can learn how to live in his or her present time. For instance, he or she can learn with Martha in the face of the death of her brother Lazarus, that through faith in Jesus, salvific remembrance and future promise can be experienced in the here and now: ‘Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die’ (11:25–​26). It is the narratively constructed new time of believers that prefigures the reading community’s ‘narrative identity’ (Ricoeur 1991) and moral responsibility, both in the present and the future (Zimmermann 2011).

Suggested Reading The three volumes of Frey dealing with the history of research (Frey 1997), the grammar and semantics of time (Frey 1998), and select interpretations of crucial texts (Frey 2000) are still foundational for the issue of ‘eschatology’. Numerous studies of the Farewell Discourses (John 13–​17) offer insights into the heart of the Johannine conception of time and demonstrate the manner in which different methods (e.g. narratology in Tolmie 1995; hermeneutics in Hoegen-​Rohls 1996; the ‘relecture-​model’ in Dettwiler 1995 and Haldimann 2000; or religionsgeschichtliche comparisons in Parsenios 2005) can aid in bringing specific aspects of the text to light. Studies of individual aspects of the concept of time offer consideration of specific elements in the conception, whether that is, e.g. the new discovery of historicity (Anderson 2009) or the issue of preexistence (Kunath 2016). Culpepper was the first to highlight the manner in which the interweaving of time and narrative can be described more precisely with narratological terms and methods of analysis and his compelling, summary overview is still worth reading (Culpepper 1983: 51–​75). Estes employed a highly sophisticated methodology in demonstrating the complex system of temporal ‘modulation’ (Estes 2008; Estes 2016) and his unusually novel, and thus also provocative discussion of ‘temporal mechanics’ seeks to provide insight into ‘how John works on time’ without diminishing the abiding unfamiliarity of the Fourth Gospel’s conception of time.

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Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John    307 Aune, David E., 1992. ‘Eschatology, Early Christian’, ABD 2: 594–​609. Becker, Jürgen, 1991. Das Evangelium nach Johannes. ÖTK 4/​ 1–​ 2; 3rd edition. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlag. Beutler, Johannes, 1997. ‘Die Stunde Jesu im Johannesevangelium’, BK 52: 25–​7. Brown, Raymund E., 1966/​70. The Gospel according to John. AB 29/​29A; Garden City/​ NY: Doubleday. Bultmann, Rudolf, 1986 (1948). Das Evangelium des Johannes. KEK 2; 21st edition; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Charlesworth, James, 2010. ‘The historical Jesus in the Fourth Gospel: A Paradigm Shift’, JSHJ 8: 3–46. Chibici-​Revneanu, Nicole, 2007. Die Herrlichkeit des Verherrlichten:  Das Verständnis der doxa im Johannesevangelium. WUNT 2/​231; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Collins, John J., 1979. ‘Introduction: Towards the Morphology of a Genre’, in John J. Collins (ed.), Apocalypse: The Morphology of a Genre. Semeia 14; Missoula: SBL: 1–​20. Coloe, Mary L., 2013. ‘Creation in the Gospel of John’, in Mary L. Coloe (ed.), Creation is Groaning. Biblical and Theological Perspectives. Collegeville/​MI: Liturgical Press: 71–​90. Cook, W. Robert, 1988. ‘Eschatology in John’s Gospel’, Criswell Theological Review 3: 79–​99. Cullmann, Oscar, 1962. Christus und die Zeit. 3rd edition. Zürich: Evangelischer Verlag. Culpepper, R. Alan, 1983. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel. A  Study in Literary Design. Philadelphia: Fortress. Culpepper, R. Alan, 2008. ‘Realized Eschatology in the Experience of the Johannine Community’, in C. R. Koester and R. Bieringer (eds.), The Resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of John. WUNT 222; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 253–​75. Davies, Margaret, 1992. Rhetoric and reference in the Fourth Gospel. JSNTSup.  69; Sheffield: JSOT. de Boer, Martinus C., 2005. ‘Jesus’ Departure to the Father in John: Death or Resurrection?’, in G. Van Belle, J. D. van der Watt, P. Maritz (eds.), Theology and Christology in the Fourth Gospel. BETL 184; Leuven: Peeters & Leuven University Press: 1–​20. de Boer, Martinus C., 2007. ‘Johannine History and Johannine Theology: The Death of Jesus as the Exaltation and the Glorification of the Son of Man’, in G. Van Belle (ed.), The Death of Jesus in the Gospel of John. BETL 200; Leuven: Leuven University and Peeters: 293–​326. Dettwiler, Andreas, 1995. Die Gegenwart des Erhöhten. Eine exegetische Studie zu den johanneischen Abschiedsreden (Joh 13,31–​ 16,33) unter besonderer Berücksichtigung ihres Relecture-​Characters. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Dietzfelbinger, Christian, 1997. Der Abschied des Kommenden. Eine Auslegung der johanneischen Abschiedsreden. WUNT 95; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Dodd, C. H., 1953. The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dodd, C. H., 1954. ‘Eternal Life’, in idem, New Testament Studies. 2nd edition; Manchester: Manchester University Press: 160–​73. Erlemann, Kurt, 1996. Endzeiterwartungen im frühen Christentum. Tübingen and Basel: Francke. Erlemann, Kurt, 2004. ‘Zeit IV. Neues Testament’, TRE 36: 523–​33. Estes, Douglas, 2008. The Temporal Mechanics of the Fourth Gospel. A Theory of Hermeneutical Relativity in the Gospel of John, BIS 92; Leiden/​Boston: Brill. Estes, Douglas, 2016. ‘Time’, in D. Estes and R. Sheridan (eds.), How John Works. Storytelling in the Fourth Gospel. SBLRBS 86; Atlanta: SBL Press: 41–​57. Filoramo, Giovanni, 1999. ‘Eschatologie, 1.  Religionswissenschaftlich’, RGG (4th edition) 2: 1542–​6.

308   Ruben Zimmermann Frey, Jörg, 1997. Die johanneische Eschatologie I: Ihre Probleme im Spiegel der Forschung seit Reimarus. WUNT 96; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Frey, Jörg, 1998. Die johanneische Eschatologie II: Das johanneische Zeitverständnis. WUNT 110; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Frey, Jörg, 2000. Die johanneische Eschatologie III: Die eschatologische Verkündigung in den johanneischen Texten. WUNT 117; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Frey, Jörg, 2011. ‘New Testament Eschatology—​an Introduction’, in Jan G. Van der Watt (ed.), Eschatology of the New Testament and Some Related Documents. WUNT 2/​315; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 3–​34. Frey, Jörg, 2013. ‘Die “theologia crucifixi” des Johannesevangeliums’, in idem, Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten. Studien zu den Johanneischen Schriften I. (ed. J. Schlegel). WUNT 307; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 485–​554. Frey, Jörg, 2014. ‘Die Gegenwart von Vergangenheit und Zukunft Christi. Zur “Verschmelzung” der Zeithorizonte im Johannesevangelium’, in Martin Ebner (ed.), Zeit. Jahrbuch für Biblische Theologie 28; Neukirchen-​Vluyn: Neukirchener: 129–​57. Genette, Gérard, 1980. Narrative Discourse. An Essay in Method. Trans. by J. E. Lewin; Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Haldimann, Konrad, 2000. Rekonstruktion und Entfaltung. Exegetische Untersuchungen zu Joh 15 und 16. BZNW 104; Berlin: De Gruyter. Hamerton-​Kelly, R. G., 1973. Pre-​existence, Wisdom, and the Son: A Study of the Idea of Pre-​existence in the New Testament. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hoegen-​ Rohls, Christina, 1996. Der nachösterliche Johannes. Die Abschiedsreden als hermeneutischer Schlüssel zum vierten Evangelium. WUNT 2/​84; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Käsemann, Ernst, 1980 (1966). Jesu letzter Wille nach Johannes 17. 4th edition; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Koester, Craig, 2015. ‘Es ist Zeit, dem Licht zu folgen (Wandel bei Tag und Nacht) Joh 11,9f.’, in R. Zimmermann (ed.), Kompendium der Gleichnisse Jesu. 2nd edition; Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlag: 793–​803. Kunath, Friederike, 2016. Die Präexistenz Jesu im Johannesevangelium. Struktur und Theologie eines johanneischen Motivs. BZNW 212; Berlin/​Boston: De Gruyter. Kuschel, Karl-​ Josef, 1990. Geboren vor aller Zeit? Der Streit um Christi Ursprung, München: Piper. Lang, Manfred, 2004. ‘Johanneische Abschiedsreden und Senecas Konsolationsliteratur’, in J. Frey and U. Schnelle (eds.), Kontexte des Johannesevangeliums. Das vierte Evangelium in religions-​und traditionsgeschichtlicher Perspektive. WUNT 175; Tübingen:  Mohr Siebeck: 365–​412. Lee, Dorothy, 2010. ‘The Gospel of John and the Five Senses’, JBL 129: 115–​27. Lenz, Hans, 2013. Universalgeschichte der Zeit. 2nd edition; Wiesbaden: Marix. Lieu, Judith, 2005. ‘How John Writes’, in M. Bockmuehl and D. Hagner (eds.), The Written Gospel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 171–​83. Lieu, Judith, 2008. I, II, & III John: A Commentary. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. McGinn, Bernard, Collins, John J., Stein, Stephen J. (eds.),2003. The Continuum History of Apocalypticism. New York: Continuum. Moloney, Francis J., 2000. ‘The Fourth Gospel and the Jesus of History’, NTS 46: 42–​58. Moloney, Francis J., 2007. The Johannine Son of Man. 2nd edition; Eugene/​OR: Wipf and Stock. Moloney, Francis J., 2014. ‘ “For As Yet They Did Not Know the Scripture” (John 20:9): A Study in Narrative Time’, ITQ 79: 97–​111. Mühling, Markus, 2015. T & T Clark Handbook of Christian Eschatology. London: T&T Clark.

Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John    309 Mußner, Franz, 1952. ΖΩΗ. Die Anschauung vom ‘Leben’ im vierten Evangelium unter Berücksichtigung der Johannesbriefe. MThS 1.5; München: Zink. Neyrey, Jerome H. and Rowe, Eric, 2008. ‘Telling Time in the Fourth Gospel’, HvTS 64: 291–​320. Parsenios, George L., 2005. Departure and Consolation. The Johannine Farewell Discourse in the Light of Greco-​Roman Literature. NovTSup 117; Leiden: Brill. Rahner, Johanna, 2000. ‘Vergegenwärtigende Erinnerung. Die Abschiedsreden, der Geist-​ Paraklet und die Retrospektive des Johannesevangeliums’, ZNW 91: 72–​90. Reinmuth, Eckart, 2009. ‘Biographisches Erzählen und theologische Reflexion des Johannesevangeliums’, Zeitschrift für Neues Testament 12: 36–​45. Reynolds, Benjamin E., 2008. The Apocalyptic Son of Man in the Gospel of John. WUNT 2/​249; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Ricoeur, Paul, 1984, 1985, 1988. Time and Narrative. Trans. by Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer; 3 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ricoeur, Paul, 1991. ‘Narrative Identity’, Philosophy Today 35: 73–​81. Sasse, Hermann, 1933. ‘αἰών κτλ.’, TWNT I. A-​G (ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich) Stuttgart: Kohlhammer: 197–​209. Schneiders, Sandra M., 1987. ‘Death in the Community of Eternal Life. History, Theology, and Spirituality in John 11’, Interpretation 41: 44–​56. Schnelle, Udo, 2016.  Das Evangelium nach Johannes. THKNT 4; 5th edition; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. Schottroff, Luise, 1970. Die Glaubende und die feindliche Welt. WMANT 37; Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag. Stare, Mira, 2012. ‘Ethics of life in the Gospel of John’, in Jan Van der Watt and Ruben Zimmermann (eds.), Rethinking the Ethics of John. ‘Implicit Ethics’ in the Johannine Writings. WUNT 291; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 213–​28. Schweitzer, Albert, 1906. Von Reimarus bis Wrede. Eine Geschichte der Leben-​Jesu-​Forschung. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Siegert, Folker, 2008. Das Evangelium des Johannes in seiner ursprünglichen Gestalt. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Thyen, Hartwig, 2005. Das Johannesevangelium. HNT 6; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Tolmie, D. Francois, 1995. Jesus’ Farewell to the Disciples, John 13:1–​17:26 in Narratological Perspective. BINS 12; Leiden: Brill. Van der Watt, Jan G., 1989. ‘The Use of αἰώνιος in the concept ζωὴ αἰώνιος in John’s Gospel’, NovT 31: 217–​28. Van der Watt, Jan G. (ed.), 2011a. Eschatology of the New Testament and Some Related Documents. WUNT 2/​315; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Van der Watt, Jan G., 2011b. ‘Eschatology in John—​A continuous Process of Realizing Events’, in Van der Watt 2011a: 109–​40. Webster, Jane S., 2003. Ingesting Jesus. Eating and Drinking in the Gospel of John. Academica Biblica 6; Atlanta: Scholars Press. Weidemann, Hans-​Ulrich, 2008. ‘Eschatology as Liturgy. Jesus’ Resurrection and Johannine Eschatology’, in C. R. Koester and R. Bieringer (eds.), The Resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of John. WUNT 222; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 277–​310. Weinrich, Harald, 2008. On Borrowed Time: The Art and Economy of Living with Deadlines. Trans by Steven Rendall; Chicago: Chicago University Press. Winter, Martin, 1994. Das Vermächtnis Jesu und die Abschiedsworte der Väter. Gattungsgeschichtliche Untersuchung der Vermächtnisrede im Blick auf Joh 13–​17. FRLANT 161; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck.

310   Ruben Zimmermann Wittmann, Marc, 2013. Gefühlte Zeit. Kleine Psychologie des Zeitempfindens. 2nd edition. München: Beck. Zimmermann, Ruben, 2008. ‘The Narrative Hermeneutics of John 11. Learning with Lazarus How to Understand Death, Life, and Resurrection’, in C. R. Koester and R. Bieringer (eds.), The Resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of John. WUNT 222; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck: 75–​101. Zimmermann, Ruben, 2011. ‘Remembering the Future—​Eschatology in the Letters of John’, in Van der Watt 2011a: 514–​34. Zimmermann, Ruben, 2013. ‘Vorbild im Sterben und Leben (Die Auferweckung des Lazarus), Joh 11,1–​12,11’, in R. Zimmermann et al. (eds.), Kompendium der frühchristlichen Wundererzählungen, Vol,. 1: Die Wunder Jesu. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlag: 742–​63. Zimmermann, Ruben, 2015. ‘The Woman in Labor (John 16:21) and the Parables in the Fourth Gospel’, in K. B. Larsen (ed.), The Gospel of John as Genre Mosaic. Aarhusiana Neotes-​ tamentica 3; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: 303–​39. Zimmermann, Ruben, 2016a. ‘Abundant and Abandoning Life: Towards an “Ethic of Life” in the Gospel of John’, ABR 64: 31–​53. Zimmermann, Ruben, 2016b ‘Neuschöpfung—​die Koinzidenz von Anfang und Ende im frühen Christentum, besonders im Johannesevangelium’, in Marion Gindhart and Tanja Pommerening (eds.), Anfang und Ende. Vormoderne Szenarien von Weltentstehung und Weltuntergang. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft: 85–​138. Zumstein, Jean, 2016. Das Johannesevangelium. KEK 2; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Chapter 19

T he Person of J e su s Christ in th e G o spe l of Joh n Udo Schnelle

Introduction The person of Jesus Christ is the centre of the Gospel of John, since it was written to elicit faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God (20:30–​31). The Gospel as a whole can be understood as a strategy of faith (Zumstein 2004:  31–​45), in which the unity of the Father and the Son form the basis (10:30) and the recognition of the saving activity of God in the sending of the Son (3:16–​17) is the goal of the presentation. All hermeneutical perspectives, literary strategies, and the content have the purpose of eliciting faith, strengthening it, and leading it to new insights. This basic conception is unfolded on three levels, which are intertwined with each other in various ways, but which can still be distinguished: 1) the level of the narrative; 2) the level of the conceptual density in the Christological titles; and 3) the level of the theological themes.

The Johannine Story of Jesus Christ In the Gospel of John, the story is determined by two issues throughout (Culpepper 1983; Stibbe 1994): 1) The issue of the person of Jesus Christ (‘Who is this human being?’: tis estin ho anthrōpos; cf. 5:12). Faith knows about the double origin of Jesus, for he is not only the son of Joseph (6:42) but also the Son of God (1:34; etc.). This insight is presented throughout the Gospel. At the same time, however, John knows that not only faith but also unfaith is a possible reaction to Jesus. For this reason, 2) the conflict between faith and unbelief is the second major issue of the Gospel. Together they shape the narrative structure and drive and configure the action.

312   Udo Schnelle

The Prologue In the Fourth Gospel Jesus Christ is present from the very beginning and yet comes only gradually into view within the narrative. The Prologue (1:1–​18) first presents Jesus as Logos (logos = ‘word, speech’).1 There he is decisively assigned to the divine sphere because he is pre-​existent, already in the beginning with God, and the mediator of creation. John 1:14 represents a further intensification: the pre-​existent and divine Logos comes fully into created reality, into the world, and becomes a part of it. In the Logos, Jesus Christ, the eternal and almighty God became really human; he gives himself over to lowliness, corporeality, and thus to transience and suffering. His ‘worldliness’ is thus a defining element of the Christian view of God. God opens himself to the world, he enters into it, and as the creator of life he shares with human beings life in all its dimensions. The truth of God (1:14, 17) is thus an ‘enfleshed’ truth, and only as such accessible to humanity.2 At the same time the following point also applies: the Logos does not give up his divinity in the incarnation, because especially in the Incarnate One the divine glory, mercy and truth shine through (1:14–​17