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Old 10-23-2011, 05:04 PM   #1
Adam
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Default Significance of John

My first thread Gospel Eyewitnesses has not gained much attention seeking comment on its own terms. I have ignored the blanket dismissals, no problem there. I appreciate the many serious comments on the lack of proof and argumentation, though this also has the drawback of not revealing what should be deleted or changed. Meanwhile to provide both argumentation and scholarly proofs regarding the Gospel of John I present my paper published in the Cincinnatus Society Journal, No. 3 (May-July 1988), pp. 1-13. This first post should be of general interest even to mythicists. The main proofs will have to wait for several posts in future. Proofs regarding the Synoptics have already been provided in my other thread by links to my four articles in Noesis.
http://megasociety.org/noesis/181.htm#Common
My paper and this thread is about analyzing the sources and editions of John.
The Significance of John [Editor’s title]
By Dale Adams
Abstract The Gospel of John was written by such a complicated process that only ancient texts first printed in 1966 enable a solution to the problem of authorship to be found. Even now, a proper understanding of its composition requires blending insights of many great scholars.

The Gospel of John has been the leading book of the Bible for debate between Christians and non-Christians intellectuals. Critics have felt for almost two centuries that John can be considered non-factual. Nevertheless, many of these same philosophers have honored John for its style, its high-flown theology, and its Hellenization of the gospel. Hegelian pantheism under such critics as David Strauss (Leben Jesu, 1835) and F. C. Baur placed John into a Hegelian synthesis as the Antithesis to Hebrew Christianity. Many radical theologians have followed them in recognizing philosophic and history-moving value in John even though regarding it as a myth written more than a century after the Crucifixion of Jesus.

A larger number of unbelievers have focused on John as a prime disproof of Christianity. They have rightly pointed out that it contrasts sharply with the three Synoptic Gospels. They have reasoned that John must be spurious, thus disproving the Bible at its core, the life of Jesus. Partially agreeing with them, Liberal Christianity has avidly dismissed John as unworthy of a God, and has rebuilt tis theology on the Synoptic Gospels. One of these was Adolf Harnack (1851-1930), the greatest Bible scholar since Origen. Later in life, however, Harnack acknowledged that John was not so Greek as he thought. Later still, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 opened the possibility that John was of Palestinian origin and written very early. “The Three Sources and Five Editions of John” [author’s title] carries this trend to an extreme, but without giving in to the cruel God of Christian Fundamentalism. Indeed, that such exacting scholarship is required to ascertain the truth, paradoxically leads us back to a justification of Harnack against all his conservative (and radical) enemies, and it gives a view of a God that Harnack would have been happy to revere.

Read for content, the Gospel of John may be indeed the “seamless robe” David Strauss believed it to be. To reach its present state, however, John was composed in a complex tangle of rearrangements, combinations of various sources, and additions by several editors. This paper presents the sources and order of the composition of John. The usual analysis of the literature and presentation for the proofs for such a large project requires a book, which is to come. The results and basic argumentation of the research which went into this book are given here, with only such proofs and references to scholars as seem necessary.

The starting point for intensive study is a controversial point. Most current researchers choose to analyze the narratives for a Signs Source. There certainly is a logical starting point in the narratives in the Synoptic overlap sections. Beyond this, however, there is no reason to think that the other narratives are the earliest or next earliest strata.

To the contrary, the narratives can easily be set aside for later study as less likely to be extremely early. Had the non-Synoptic narratives been as early as the Synoptic passages, they would presumably have been popular and included in the Synoptics. The best reason, if early, for exclusion would have been that they were written in Aramaic. However, the Aramaisms in John are in the discourses. Even the Synoptic sections can be held to be necessarily later than 44 A. D. (The Ur-Marcus theory finds Aramaisms in Acts through Act 15. The gospel material would not have been written before Peter went to John Mark’s house in 44 A. D., Acts 12:12.) Let us therefore begin with the discourses, which could theoretically be earlier. [2011 Note: with John Mark instead as the author of the Passion Narrative, that portion could have been written even before 44 A. D.]
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Old 10-24-2011, 11:03 PM   #2
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I had expected some comments on my introductory post #1, as it is general in nature yet touches upon the history of mythicism. There's still the opportunity. However, I'll proceed with presenting the text from my 1988 article. Note that my editor (Grady Ward, not John the Apostle) deleted two key sections (possibly an elision) that I restore herein. His omission made Nicodemus the author of this discourse source, but skipped all my argument that he was and when he wrote it. It almost constitutes a proof.
I. Analysis of the Discourses
Why would the discourses not have been included In the Synoptics, if early? (1) They might have been unknown until later. (2) They might have been in Aramaic, difficult to work with. (3) They might have been unpopular. Indeed, all three of these reasons seem likely.
(1) The discourses may have been unknown to the Synoptic writers. The only reason to think that an apostle wrote the discourses is that the Farewell Discourse is set at the Last Supper, where only apostles are stated to have been present. However, cooks, servers, and even scribes could well have been present without specific mention. Besides, some critics believe that the “beloved disciple” was not an apostle; John Mark, John the Elder, or Lazarus being suggested variously. (Cullman, p. 76-77, 117)
(2) The discourses were originally written in Aramaic, according to the Aramaic scholars. Those who flatly deny written Aramaic discourse of any type are specialists in Greek. There is obviously bias on both sides, but the evidence of Aramaisms requires special pleading to attribute merely Aramaic thought-patterns. The most respected critic on the subject, Matthew Black, finds at least some discourse to be from an Aramaic original.(Black, p. 273). It is thus arguable that all the Johannine discourses were in Aramaic, but that some were retouched into smoother Greek when integrated with surrounding narrative.

[proceeding to first of the two sections of text deleted by the editor,]
(3) All the discourses are heady, and the dialogues with the Jews are outright polemical. Every reason existed to suppress the public discourses. The Farewell Discourse may have been regarded as private instruction unsuitable for general release until later.

Passing from the defensive to the offensive, what reasons argue for an absolutely early date for the discourses, rather than just a relatively early date as against the narratives? The same three reasons above argue for an early date in absolute terms.
(1) The discourses would easily have remained unknown if not by an apostle. To be included later, even though not by an apostle, would likely mean that some special value became recognized in them precisely because of early date. The discourses never record apostles as involved or even present in John 14. The discourses are set largely in Jerusalem, whereas Jesus’s ministry with his apostles is shown in the Synoptics to have been in Galilee. None of the apostles were natives of Jerusalem, and all traveled widely with Jesus throughout Palestine. The discourses thus were likely written by a non-apostle, at an early enough date to be later respected.
(2) John is now largely recognized as quite Aramaic, confirming Lightfoot’s evaluation over a century ago that John is the most Hebraic of the gospels. (Temple, p. 5) The most compelling reason for the discourses alone to be the most Aramaic section would be that the writer was writing from dictation. Even a native Greek speaker would prefer to write in Aramaic if acting as scribe. There is reason to believe that a Greek speaker wrote the discourses (see next paragraph and following), which he would have written in Aramaic only as a first-hand recorder.
(3) The controversial sting of the discourses preceding John 14 ris not to be expected from a Christian presenting Jesus to the world in the best light. Nor would the later recollections of an anti-Christian be acceptable for inclusion in a gospel. The thrust of the case is that the dialogues must have been written at the scene (or shortly afterwards) by a non-Christian or pre-Christian, more likely the latter. The name provided for us is Nicodemus, a Greek name.

Nicodemus as author of the Johannine discourses makes good sense. His name occurs at John 3:1; 7:50; and 19:39. He was highly educated and a leader, well qualified to understand enough of Jesus’s theology to be able to record it well. He was not a committed follower, of Jesus, thus could record mere excerpts of Jesus’s public discourses which were most discreditable to Jesus (John 5:10 to 10:38). Only in John 3 is a more balanced, yet uncomprehending discourse presented. Yet all these different manners of recording fit around the person of Nicodemus. (1) In John 3 the visit by Nicodemus was a simple inquirer. (2) As of John 7:52 Nicodemus was given a charge to prove for himself that Jesus was not a prophet. This would explain the abrasive view of Jesus which is presented in John 5 and 7 to 10:21, all of which occurred at that same feast of Tabernacles. Nicodemus there recorded only criticisms of Jesus or Jesus’s least acceptable utterances.
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Old 10-25-2011, 06:30 AM   #3
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I fail to see how any of this relates to the history of mythicism, or why there is any reason to reject the conventional view that John was written in Greek.
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Old 10-25-2011, 01:05 PM   #4
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I fail to see how any of this relates to the history of mythicism, or why there is any reason to reject the conventional view that John was written in Greek.
The entire 2nd paragraph in Post #1 (right after the abstract) is about the 19th Century radical critics who dismissed John as myth. This continues today in the lower regard for the historicity of John.
Almost all of my thesis depends upon the stylistic differences in Greek, but the discourses are full of textual anomalies that indicate an Aramaic source for at least it. Comparison of John with the Synoptics does not indicate a common Greek source, so the Passion Narrative they share in common was evidently originally in Aramaic.
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Old 10-25-2011, 01:13 PM   #5
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I fail to see how any of this relates to the history of mythicism, or why there is any reason to reject the conventional view that John was written in Greek.
The entire 2nd paragraph (right after the abstract) is about the 19th Century radical critics who dismissed John as myth. This continues today in the lower regard for the historicity of John.
Dismissing John as myth in favor of the synoptics is not what we usually refer to as mythicism.
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Almost all of my thesis depends upon the stylistic differences in Greek, but the discourses are full of textual anomalies that indicate an Aramaic source for at least it.
Do you have a reference that spells this out? Or is it your own work?

Quote:
Comparison of John with the Synoptics does not indicate a common Greek source, so the Passion Narrative they share in common was evidently originally in Aramaic.
This does not follow.

How do you account for one of Bart Erhman's favorite examples - the pun in Jesus' discussion with Nicodemus as to whether one has to be born again or born from above? The Greek words make sense of this, but not the Aramaic.
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Old 10-25-2011, 03:08 PM   #6
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I fail to see how any of this relates to the history of mythicism, or why there is any reason to reject the conventional view that John was written in Greek.
The entire 2nd paragraph (right after the abstract) is about the 19th Century radical critics who dismissed John as myth. This continues today in the lower regard for the historicity of John.
Dismissing John as myth in favor of the synoptics is not what we usually refer to as mythicism.
Gotcha. Disregard my second sentence you quoted. As for the 19th Century scene, you likely know more about mythicism back then, but here's a quote showing common (if suspect, Acharya S) understanding of it:
'...it was a "big question" whether or not Jesus Christ really existed. In the 19th century, these French scholars were followed by Dr. F.C. Baur of the Tübingen School in Germany, along with his pupil Dr. David F. Strauss, who was attacked and lost his occupation for writing a "Life of Jesus" asserting that much of the gospel story was mythical. Strauss practically defined "mythicism" for a time, but was followed famously by Dr. Bruno Bauer (1809-1882), who likewise cast doubt on the Bible as "history." '
http://stellarhousepublishing.com/mythicist.html
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Quote:
Almost all of my thesis depends upon the stylistic differences in Greek, but the discourses are full of textual anomalies that indicate an Aramaic source for at least it.
Do you have a reference that spells this out? Or is it your own work?
In my Post #2, just before the restored deletion (in the first "{2}" section) I reference Matthew Black, listed in my bibliography at the end, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts (or via: amazon.co.uk), 3rd Ed. 1967. I did not footnote Bruce Metzger, however, who wrote about these textual anomalies in the discourses.
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Quote:
Comparison of John with the Synoptics does not indicate a common Greek source, so the Passion Narrative they share in common was evidently originally in Aramaic.
This does not follow.
Yes, I was sliding over whether the completed Synoptics influenced each other. Teeple has convinced me the similarity is from a source.
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How do you account for one of Bart Erhman's favorite examples - the pun in Jesus' discussion with Nicodemus as to whether one has to be born again or born from above? The Greek words make sense of this, but not the Aramaic.
I can't. I don't believe it disproves my thesis in itself.
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Old 10-26-2011, 05:34 AM   #7
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Passing from the defensive to the offensive, what reasons argue for an absolutely early date for the discourses, rather than just a relatively early date as against the narratives? The same three reasons above argue for an early date in absolute terms.
(1) The discourses would easily have remained unknown if not by an apostle. To be included later, even though not by an apostle, would likely mean that some special value became recognized in them precisely because of early date. The discourses never record apostles as involved or even present in John 14. The discourses are set largely in Jerusalem, whereas Jesus’s ministry with his apostles is shown in the Synoptics to have been in Galilee. None of the apostles were natives of Jerusalem, and all traveled widely with Jesus throughout Palestine. The discourses thus were likely written by a non-apostle, at an early enough date to be later respected.
The discourses remained "unknown" because they never existed. They are an insertion into the original GJohn. There is no reason to think they pre-date the 2nd century. What internal evidence shows that they are early?

Quote:
(2) John is now largely recognized as quite Aramaic, confirming Lightfoot’s evaluation over a century ago that John is the most Hebraic of the gospels. (Temple, p. 5) The most compelling reason for the discourses alone to be the most Aramaic section would be that the writer was writing from dictation. Even a native Greek speaker would prefer to write in Aramaic if acting as scribe. There is reason to believe that a Greek speaker wrote the discourses (see next paragraph and following), which he would have written in Aramaic only as a first-hand recorder.
The most compelling reason for the discourses is that a later individual invented them and assigned them to Jesus. It is nonsense to claim that a "native Greek speaker" would do this or that; as someone who works in two languages, Chinese and English, for interviews and similar, I do all my transcribing in English even when the speaker is operating in Chinese (I translate into English faster than I can scrawl characters!). There is no way to determine how a particular transcriber would have operated.

Quote:
(3) The controversial sting of the discourses preceding John 14 ris not to be expected from a Christian presenting Jesus to the world in the best light. Nor would the later recollections of an anti-Christian be acceptable for inclusion in a gospel. The thrust of the case is that the dialogues must have been written at the scene (or shortly afterwards) by a non-Christian or pre-Christian, more likely the latter. The name provided for us is Nicodemus, a Greek name.
Or they were added later in the evolution of the text. How can you show that they are early and not a later invention spliced into the text?

Quote:
Nicodemus as author of the Johannine discourses makes good sense.
Except that he is entirely fictional, constructed as an extension of the original Markan fiction. The entire tale of Jesus' stroll through Galilee and death is one long fiction. There were never any followers accompanying Jesus. Joseph and Mary are inventions, as is J of Arimathea. GJohn is late and dependent on GMark.

Your "argument" consists of assuming that this story goes back to some putative follower of Jesus and then assigning the story to whoever seems good to you. That is a method, but a totally unacceptable one.

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Old 10-26-2011, 07:29 AM   #8
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How do you account for one of Bart Erhman's favorite examples - the pun in Jesus' discussion with Nicodemus as to whether one has to be born again or born from above? The Greek words make sense of this, but not the Aramaic.
I can't. I don't believe it disproves my thesis in itself.
Perhaps, you do not quite appreciate the import of the issue. The confusion of Nicodemus in Jn 3:4 stems from the ambivalence of the adverb anōthen, which can mean both 'from above' or 'the second time'. Jesus, in 3:3 indicates the former, but Nicodemus interprets his words as meaning the latter. If this is a pun which does not have an Aramaic equivalent, then this supposed conversation could not have taken place in Aramaic. The exchange would be meaningless. You may not want to acknowledge this, but your 'thesis' is substantially challenged by this.

My understanding is, and I make no claim of studying this matter closely, that the view that John was translated (fully or substantially) from Aramaic, has no prominent supporter today. The Aramaisms in John are not thought of as presenting compelling evidence that the gospel was translated. But I would be willing to look at some new developments in the arguments for aramaic original text(s). Is there a recent title which argues the F.C. Burney's case, say in the last 20 years ? Thanks.

Best,
Jiri
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Old 10-26-2011, 10:22 AM   #9
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Thanks, Jiri,
I understand the importance of your post.
Meantime I had been thinking to myself, couldn't Jesus and Nicodemus (which is a Greek name) have been carrying on a private conversation in Greek that others in the room would not have understood? When he later wrote down the conversation, he would have written that part in Greek. Sophisticated works in English often include phrases or sentences in French or other European languages, both modern and classical. Or Jesus might have spoken in Greek only the words being made puns.
Helmut Koester wrote (Introduction to the New Testament, 1995, p. 112) that Mark looks like a direct translation from Aramaic into Greek, and perhaps the Signs in John as well.
http://books.google.com/books?id=Ct2...ospels&f=false
(The Discourses are so conventionally dated late that he may not have wanted to list it also, but the principle is established that sources in John may have been originally in Aramaic.)
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Old 10-26-2011, 11:04 AM   #10
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Thanks, Jiri,
I understand the importance of your post.
Meantime I had been thinking to myself, couldn't Jesus and Nicodemus (which is a Greek name) have been carrying on a private conversation in Greek that others in the room would not have understood? When he later wrote down the conversation, he would have written that part in Greek. Sophisticated works in English often include phrases or sentences in French or other European languages, both modern and classical. Or Jesus might have spoken in Greek only the words being made puns.
Helmut Koester wrote (Introduction to the New Testament, 1995, p. 112) that Mark looks like a direct translation from Aramaic into Greek, and perhaps the Signs in John as well.
Special pleading.
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