Vermes, The Changing Faces of Jesus - John

The Author and place of composition of John are unknown; c110 AD Ignatius of Antioch describes the Ephesians as "People of Paul". Attempts to designate it as the "crowning" of the Synoptics failed, as did the Diatessarion (c150 AD); it is Sui Generis, only sharing John 6:1-25 with Synoptics. It is the climax of Christological evolution.

Contrast with Synoptics. No casting out of devils; low profile of healing and miracles (they are manifestations of the divine, not works of a prophet); no nativity, Baptism or Eucharist; sympathetic to family; account of mother but not named Mary; intensely anti Jewish; differs on dating of Passion which downgrades Passover symbolism; focus on himself not God (except 3).

We know about Jesus from what his contemporaries say about him, what he says about himself and what the Evangelist says about him.

a) Contemporaries. Whereas the Synoptics identify Jesus as being the Son of David (Matthew 1; Mark 1; Luke 3); Matthew 9:27; Mark 10:47-48; Luke 18:38-39), John disqualifies him in the ordinary way (John 7:40-42) and proclaims that his Messianic nature is self evident (John Baptist John 1:3; Andrew John 1:41; Samaritan woman John 4:25-26; Joseph John 20:24-25). He never admits to being the King of the Jews (John 18:31-37), in spite of Pilate (John 19:19) but is proclaimed King of Israel by Nathaniel (John 1:40) and on Palm Sunday (John 12:13).

Christianity has elided the terms God and Son of God but this term changed its meaning through time: angels, Genesis 6:2; Kings, 2 Samuel 7:14; every Jew, Exodus 4:22; pious Jews, 4:10; but during exile it began to mean kingly Messiah. All these are Aramaic metaphors but became literal when Hellenised.

Lamb of God: In John 1 (amnos) a different word from Revelation (arnios). John: gathers Temple lambs and Passover lambs into one image; makes Jesus die on the eve of Passover; echoes the tradition of Exodus 1:15 that the lamb of Israel was in the balance against the whole people of Egypt; summons Isaac in Genesis 22

b) Self portrait. The self image as Son of Man stems from Daniel 7:13 which came to mean someone exalted: faith in the Son of Man bestows eternal life (John 6:27); linked with lifting up as in the crucified Jesus (John 3:14-15); the bridge between God and man made two-way (John 3:13). The Son: proceeds (John 8:42); goes (John 14:12); is sent by The Father (John 10:36); that the world might be saved (John 3:17).

The mystical Trinitarian economy is quite distinct from Synoptic eschatological fireworks. From the Father (John 3:34); modelled on the Father (John 5:19); believers dependent on him for eternal life (John 3:36). Love dominates: Father loves Son (John 3:35; ); Son loves Father (John 17-23); believers loved by them both (John 14:21; ); they must love each other (John 13:34; ; ). John puts great emphasis on Glory: timeless attribute shared by father and son (John 17:5; ); passed on to believers (John 17:22-23); Father and Son have glory in common (John 17:9-10); Jesus as mirror of Father (John 1:18; ); oneness of Father and Son (John 17:11; ). Both John 10:30, John 8:51-56 very unjewish. Yet John sometimes puts Father above Son (John 5:19; 7:16; ). Personified Holy Spirit: John 14:17; ; ; .

c) The Evangelist. The Word/Logos is: "a pellucid abstraction of the innovative doctrine"; it reflects the opening of Genesis. Logos is a Greek Phenomenon cited in many sources, notably Philo. Sequence: The Word, light, incarnation, Jesus the man identified with the eternal creative logos. This theology is responsible for controversies of the early church but has little to say on redemption.

Partly taken from

Vermes, Geza: The Changing Faces of Jesus, Allen Lane, 2000, ISBN 0 713 99193 3

KC iv/08

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