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Old 02-20-2001, 10:12 AM   #1
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Post Discussing the Gospel of John

Many have mentioned the Gospel of John in the Homer/Mark and Miracles threads. I thought I'd add this post to the furor.

The Gospel of John used to be dismissed by many New Testament scholars as containing any historical information. Rather, it was believed to have been written well into the second century, and to be mainly theology at the expense of history. The main reason for these beliefs was the Gospel of John's sophisticated theology. Recent discoveries and scholarship, however, have forced the scholarly community to reassess its attitudes towards the Gospel of John.

I have previously posted about how a recent manuscript discovery lead to the redating of the Gospel of John to the first century. Although many scholars argued for a date in the mid-second century, the discovery of P52, a manuscript piece from the Gospel of John and dated to 110-120 CE, forced the widespread abandonment of this dating. Scholarly consensus now places the final authorship of the Gospel of John to 92-95 CE. The point of my previous post was that the dating of New Testament books by our subjective interpretation as to their "theological development" was faulty.

Not only has the dating of the Gospel of John been radically moved forward because of recent discoveries, but the notion that John "created" much of his history has also been significantly challenged. As with the dating of John, many have argued that John's high theological ideas have lead him to "create" history, such as people and places, to support his theological perspective. It was also argued that John demonstrated Greek gnostic ideas and little familiarity with Palestine.

John's gospel provides a wealth of place names, including rather exact locations, and a varied list of specific individuals and their names. It was often argued, however, that such specifics was created to fit the author's theology. Perhaps most well-known is the confirmation of the "pool of Bethesda." Scholars used to doubt that such a place ever existed and that the author invented it because of the theological significance of the name "Bethesda." Now, however, archeologists have discovered the pools. Perhaps even more significant is the fact that the pool was destroyed in 70 CE during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. So the author of John has clearly demonstrated detailed pre-70 CE knowledge of the city of Jerusalem. Other discoveries have also confirmed specific locations: Bethany near Jerusalem and the Lithostrostos. "This vindiciation covers personal names and titles as well. And careful analysis has virtually ruled out the idea that Jn, like the apocrypha, interlards stories with personal names just to give them a ring of authenticity." Raymond E. Brown, New Testament Essays, "The Problem of Historicity in John," at 145.

Other recent discoveries have disproved the theory that John relied on Greek gnostic theology to author his own gospel. The dead sea scrolls of the Qumran community have given us a wealth of information regarding this important sect of first century Judaism. Information that previous scholars were unable to use in forming their ideas. "The abstract language, the dualism of light and darkness, and other features which once seemed to rule out Palestentian origin now help to confirm it. For much of the very same vocabulary, mentality, and theological outlook found in Jn is found also at Qumran both before and during Jesus' time." Brown, New Testament Essays, at 145.

I find these recent discoveries significant for two reasons. First, and most obvious, they confirm that John is much more historical than previously thought. Second, the recent discoveries once again demonstrate the problematic nature of equating a sophisticated theological perspective with being ahistorical. In other words, it is incorrect to assume that the theological attachment a gospel author makes to a particular place or person indicates that the place or person were created by the author. Rather, it seems more likely that the author has derived historical significance from real places and names.
 
Old 02-21-2001, 05:16 PM   #2
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The gospel accounts are neither all theology nor all history. They are a complex blend of fact and meaning.

Gospel means "good news." "Good" is a subjective term, and each gospel writer had his own idea of what that good was and how to present it. "News"--to be truly "news"--must be constantly updated to be regarded as useful or meaningful.

The gospels "update" the historical life of Jesus in order to be understandable to their readers. Christianity does the same thing today.

The gospel writers were people, not parrots. Thinkers, not memorizers.

John's gospel sees Jesus as the Lamb of God. In John, Jesus dies on Passover. In Mark, he dies on Passover eve. In John, Jesus is in total control and accepts the "bitter cup" from the Father. Mark's Jesus, in a moment of doubt, asks that it be taken away. John's Jesus says "It is finished!" when he dies. All is going according to God's plan. Mark's Jesus cries out "Why hast thou forsaken me?"

One thing to remember is that Mark was written to a community that had recently survived the Roman war of 70 AD: people had been slaughtered and the Temple had been burned. They felt forsaken.

John's highly-developed Cristology came later. Jesus speaks in long theological sermons, mostly about himself and the importance of believing in him. There are no proverbs, no aphorisms, no exorcisms and little concern for the poor. A definite comparison of the four gospel portraits cannot help but point out a definite differences in the communities concerned with different issues in different time periods.
 
Old 02-21-2001, 06:23 PM   #3
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I agree with aikido7.

I would like to add that your claim that "Scholarly consensus now places the final authorship...to 92-95 CE" is not true. There are scholars which believe that the gospel of John could have been authored as late as 100-110 CE, dates that are not shown to be impossible from the mss found in Egypt.

I agree with your claim that "it is incorrect to assume that the theological attachment a gospel author makes to a particular place or person indicates that the place or person were created by the author" (although it would not be unjustified to hold that author's writings as suspect).
 
Old 02-21-2001, 06:31 PM   #4
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nihlo:
I would like to add that your claim that "Scholarly consensus now places the final authorship...to 92-95 CE" is not true. There are scholars which believe that the gospel of John could have been authored as late as 100-110 CE, dates that are not shown to be impossible from the mss found in Egypt.
</font>
I stand by my claim. Perhaps you quibble with the meaning of the term consensus. The 92-95 CE date is by far the majority position. There are, of course, a minority of scholars which would place it earlier, later, and who would split it up into earlier and later editions.
 
Old 02-21-2001, 06:59 PM   #5
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Could you please substantiate your claim that your position is supported by the large majority? While you're at it, please provide me with a percentage definition of 'majority'.

[This message has been edited by Nihlo (edited February 21, 2001).]
 
Old 02-21-2001, 07:26 PM   #6
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From
http://www.bible.org/docs/soapbox/jnotl.htm

Most scholars date this gospel c. 90s-100.23 There is a growing number of scholars, however, who place it sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.24 Apart from J. A. T. Robinsonís radical redating of John to the fifth decade of the first century25 (a view which, to my knowledge,
almost no scholar has found palatable), the vast bulk of NT scholars can be put into two camps: 90s or 60s.


There is a list of points in favor of both camps below this paragraph. It looks like a solid discussion of the issues.

Michael
 
Old 02-21-2001, 07:36 PM   #7
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Thumbs up

Thanks.
 
Old 02-21-2001, 10:21 PM   #8
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nihlo:
</font>

Hi Nihlo

If you are interested in a more in depth look at dating of the Gospels, please take a look at my thread on Redating the books of the New Testament.

Dating the Synoptics can be found towards the bottom of page 1 of that thread, and John is addressed on page 2. Any comments or questions you might have would be welcome.

Thank you, and welcome to the Boards,

Nomad
 
Old 02-22-2001, 08:34 AM   #9
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I see Turtonm and Nomad have provided references to the dating of John.

"While you're at it, please provide me with a percentage definition of majority'."

Majority &gt; 50%.
 
Old 02-22-2001, 11:27 AM   #10
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Wink

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
Majority &gt; 50%. </font>
LOL - Sounds like more Christian propaganda to me

 
 

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