Alpha Christian Texts
The Gospel of John
By the Trajectory arguments, John in its canonical form is the last of the Four Gospels. It presents a highly abstracted Jesus, who is assimilated to the cosmic principle Logos, and also a theologically consistent Jesus, who continually preaches his identity with God. A corollary of this proposition is that salvation is only through Jesus, in effect excluding those Alpha Christians who still believed in a Jewish-style repentance and forgiveness scenario, John shows a close knowledge of Jerusalem, but as Bacon has shown, it is a tourist knowledge of late 1c Jerusalem, such as might have been acquired by any pious person visiting what then remained of sacred sites. Except that it describes repeated visits of Jesus to Jerusalem, the John narrative is not notably Jerusalemite. It stands outside Judaism, and treats the Jews as Others. That Jesus was himself a Jew does not come through strongly in John, where Jesus is more like a being from another planet. The exclusion of Christians from synagogue worship (plausibly dated to c85) is reflected in three passages in John.
Among those most commonly pointed out (in such places as the beginning of von Wahlde Earliest), and requiring to be somehow accounted for in any adequate theory of the nature and formation of John, are these:
- Jn 5, whose whole content is the healing of the man by the Pool of Bethzatha in Jerusalem (plus a long self-explanatory discourse by Jesus), interrupts the narrative sequence of Jn 4 and 6, both of which are set in Galilee.
- Jn 9:22, 12:42, and 16:2 refer to Christians being "put out" of Jewish synagogues. This is probably a response to the Birkat ha-Minim, inserted into the daily synagogue prayers in c85 by Samuel the Less at the instance of Rabbi Gamaliel II. It effectively requires Christians to denounce Jesus, which some were unwilling to do. See Pliny's letter to Trajan for a later phase in this exclusion process.
- Jn 14:31 ends the Passover Meal with an intention to depart ("Rise, let us go hence"). But Jn 15 and 16 continue with further discourse of Jesus, and Jn 17 appends a long prayer of Jesus, the so-called High Priestly Prayer. It is not until 18:1 ("When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley") that the proper sequel to 14:31 occurs. Then Jn 15-17 must be later.
- Jn 21 was evidently appended to the formally satisfactory ending of the Gospel at 20:31. It contradicts the Jerusalem resurrection of Christ (Jn 20:1-29) by depicting a much earlier tradition (foretold in Mk 14:28 and 16:7, but missing in our present Mark), in which the disciples' first knowledge that Jesus' death was not final came about by seeing a vision of him in Galilee. John 21, probably making use of an early version of the Gospel of Peter, depicts that scene. It also gives Peter a role superior to that of the Beloved Disciple, reversing the Beloved Disciple's superiority to Peter in the rest of the Gospel.
There have been many attempts to construct a formation scenario for John, among them these:
- Bacon (The Gospel of the Hellenists, posthumous 1933)
- Bultmann (The Gospel of John, 1966 tr 1971)
- Fortna (The Fourth Gospel and Its Predecessor, 1988)
- von Wahlde (The Earliest Version of John's Gospel, 1989)
- von Wahlde (The Gospel and Letters of John, 3v 2010)
The usual Johannine cluster consists of five texts. The other four are:
- 1 John
- 2 John
- 3 John
That 1 John is somehow related to the Gospel is obvious, since they have many lines and concepts in common. 2-3 John are currently under study. The association of Revelation with any of the others is now regarded as weak, and the page on that text will be found elsewhere.
Topics for Research
The following are topics which frequently arise in discussions of John:
- The Beloved Disciple
- Exclusion from the Synagogues
- John 5
- John 15-17
- John 21
- John the Baptist
- Luke and John
- Mark and John
- Mary Magdalene
- Matthew and John
- The Samaritan Woman
- Stylistic Results
- Theology of John
Here are some useful studies of one or more of the above topics. We thank the authors for making these files available to our discussion:
- Attridge: Argumentation in John 5 (from Rhetorical Argumentation in Biblical Texts, 2002)
- Attridge:The Cubist Principle in Johannine Imagery (from Imagery in the Gospel of John, 2006)
- Attridge: Jesus and Nicodemus (draft, 2015)
- Attridge: Thematic Development and Source Elaboration in John 7:1-36 (CBQ 1980)
- Collins: Representative Figures in the Fourth Gospel #1 (Downside Review 1994)
- John the Baptist, Nathanael, Nicodemus, The Samaritan Woman, The Royal Official, The Lame Man and the Man Born Blind, Philip, Lazarus
- Collins: Representative Figures in the Fourth Gospel #2 (Downside Review 0000)
- Judas, Mary, Mary Magdalen, Thomas, Peter, The Beloved Disciple
4 Dec 2015 / Contact The Project / Exit to Alpha Page