Richard Burridge: John Themes

The Gospel was written in a multi cultural context not replicated until our 'global village'. Greek Neo Platonist dualism, Stoical emphasis on the Logos behind the cosmos and mystery cults with initiation ceremonies were part of the context, along with a deep understanding of Judaism,  its Festivals, heroes and prophets enshrined in its Scriptures.

After the destruction of The Temple in 70 AD Judaism re-grouped around synagogues and was given sharper definition at the Council of Yavneh (Jamnia) (85 AD) which may have accounted for the widening divide between Jews and Christians to which this Gospel may be a response.

If the "Disciple Jesus Loved" is the authority behind John, the relationship with Peter is interesting; on the one hand: he goes one better than Peter in sitting next to Jesus (John 13:23-25); gets Peter into the courtyard (John 18:15-17); stands at the cross when he has fled (John 19:26-27); beats him to the empty tomb and is the first to believe (John 20:2-8) and identifies Jesus at the lakeside  (John 21:7); but, on the other hand, Simon is: among the first to join Jesus and is designated "The Rock" (John 1:42); confesses faith while others are leaving (John 6:68); wants to be washed "all over" by Jesus (John 13:9); tries to defend Jesus (John 18:10); denies Jesus in a way that is gently depicted (John 18:27); is first into the tomb and first to greet Jesus at the lakeside (John 20:6; 21:7); and is made shepherd (John 21:15-17).

John has the 'highest' Christology, as "Christ, the Son of God" (cf. Vermes - KC); but we must not 'read back' later ontological arguments into the text. God is called "The Father" more than 100 times and Jesus is designated "The Son" more than 50; John does not philosophise, he asserts in Jesus' own words. The seven "I am" statements; the: Bread of life John 6:35; 6:41; 6:51; Light of the world John 8:12; 9:5; door to the sheepfold John 10:8; 10:9; good shepherd John 10:11; 10:14; the Resurrection and the life John 11:25; the way, the truth and the life John 14:6; true vine ; John 15:5. In some cases his eschatology is realised but in others there is a future dimension (John 5:19-29).

After divisions over ontology, perhaps the greatest arises from his treatment of Church and Sacrament. Protestants point to the lack of emphasis on church, a spiritual community or a corporate emphasis; Jesus deals with a variety of individuals; however, the "you" phrases in Greek are plural. Catholics emphasise the importance of such images as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1). Protestants note that there is only a passing reference to Jesus' Baptism () and no Communion at the Last Supper; Catholics point to the ubiquity of water (from John 2:1-11 to John 13:1-11), with numerous references to bread and wine (notably John 6:1-14).

There has been a traditional, sharp distinction between the narrative of the Synoptics and the "High Christology" of John but modern scholarship has narrowed the gap.

Taken from:

Burridge, Richard: John: The People's Bible Commentary, The Bible Reading Fellowship, revised 2008, ISBN 978 1 84101 570 5.


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