II. The Most Jewish of The Gospels.
The skeptical view mentioned above is not merely behid the times, it actually hasn't been current since the begiing of the 1920s. It was first brought to the public by Dr. Willim Sanday of Oxford, in 1904, in his groundbreaking lectures Criticism of the Fourth Gospel. (Stepehn Niel, The Interpritation of the New Testament: 1861-1961, p. 315). But Sanday's position was not long lived. IN 1923 Dr. Israel Abrams, Reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge, an Orthodox Jew, amazed the theological world when, in a paper to the Theological Socieity, he remarked: "To us Jews The Fourth Gospel is the most Jewish of the Four." (Ibid).
"If a learned Jew makes a remark of this kind, it is impossible for Christians to say he does not know what he is talking about. It is probable that not every Jew would agree with Israel Abrahms; but he was a man of great Rabbinical learning, who had at the same time a close aqauaintence with Christian Scritpures. To say that there were certain Jewish elements in the fourth Gospel which had been over looked would not have been particularaly starteling; to maintain that this, even more than the Gospel of Matthew, was the Jewish Gospel seemed to run counter to everything that scholars had been saying for a generation. Clearly it was time to reconsider a great deal that had for a long time been taken for granted." (Stephen Neil,Inerpritation of the NT, 1865-1965 315-316).
Meanwhile, conservative shcolars had been fighting against the hellenization theme touted by liberal scholars of the fourth Gospel. One such conservative was Adolf Schlatter (1852-1938), who, unlike many New Testament scholars had a deep knolwedge of the semetic background of the New Testament and who knew both Rabbnical and classical Hebrew. Schlatter showed point for point how a great many phrases thought to be hellinized could be found in Rabbinical writtings. He argued that the Palestinian stairgn in John could not be accounted for but for the Jewishish of the author. Moreover, the author lived in Palestine and was familiar with its way of life.(Ibid).
Prof. C.F. Burney of Oxford took up this theme, independently of any knowledge of Sanday, and 20 years latter. Burney was an Old Testament schoalr. He wrote The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel (1922). Burney was impressed with the semetic character of the Johonnie diction. Burney went even futher and proposed that the book was originally written in Aramaic. (Ibid.).
"As a reaction agaisnt the purely hellenistic explainatin of his [John's] sources, there has been a tendency in recent years to look at the use of the Old Testament by the writter of this Gospel...He introduces the Logos, the Word. The term has already had a long history in the Greek-speking world...but at once the author jumps to something that was entirely unkown in the Greek world, the idea of creation..."(Neil 323).
The term Logos is interchangeable in Hebrew usage with the Hebrew term Memra. Both words are used of the presence of God as it is revaled downward to the earth. In The Wisdom of Ben Sirach both words are used interchangeably. On the other hand that does not mean that this usage was purely heterodox. Alfred Edersheim in Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah shows many passages in the OT and in The Targims Johanthan and Onekolus in which Rabbincial sources use the term in the way that John uses Logos. Logos was a very Jewish term and was adapted to use as a substitute for Memra. The use of Logos by John in the context of the prolouge is evidence of the book's Jewishness not it's Hellenization. For more on this topic see Trinity page 1 This is not to say that there aren't great scholars that don't recognize some influecnes for Hellenism. IN fact D.E.H. Whtiely (Theology of St. PaulOxford, 1965) documents the corss fertilization between the five cultures of the area, Hebrew, Egyptian, Fertile Cresent, Asia Minor, and Greaco-Roman. It is therefore foolish to try and establish Hellinziaton of Greek Thought through the use of one work, theme or theological stance. (Whiteley, Theology ofST. Paul p2). C.H. Dodd recognizes the influcne of hellinism and the hermetic writtings along with that of the hebrew. (Neil 323)
Nor is the Hereic nature of John limited to Schoalrs who wrote before the second world war. As Luke Timothy Johnson states , "recent scholarship has reaffirmed the native Jewish elements, not only the obvious resemblances to Philo Jeudaeus, but also phraseic preoccupations...Virtually all of John's dualistic elements can be found even more sharply present in he secterian writtings of Qumran." [The New Testament Writtings, 1986 p. 471]
"Elements of John's Symbolic strutrue are present and important in the Judaism of first century Palestine. second, no less than other NT writtins the symbols of Torah play a critical Role. Third, the symbols are given their choherence by the figure of Jesus." (Johnson, 471).
III. Authorship: The Johonnine Community
The great liberal schoalr Ocsar Cullman wrote a book called The Johonnine Circle(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976) in which he argued that the Johonnine literature (Gospel of John, 1,2,3 John, and Revelation) were all produced by a community which was tightly knitt and organized around a charismatic figure known as the "Beloved Disciple," (or the "BD"). The BD was not the Apostole John. Cullman theorized that this figure became confussed with the Apostle John, perhaps becasue he was the "Elder John" mentioned by Papias in the early second century as a disciple of the Lord in addition to the Apostles, although Cullman himself believed that the BD was probably Lazarus.The group showed some influences of Sameritan theology, and thus may have originated in Sameria, or in Jerusalem but with a infussion of Sameritans."The perceptions of the Sameritans, particularly their 'prophet like Moses' can be traced in the foruth Gospel.' (Johnson, 471). The probably migrated in the AD 50s to Asia Minor, as there was a mass migration form Plastesine to Asia Minor at that time. This is why the Johonnine Epistles seem to be connected to seven Chruches in Asia.
The community which produced the fourth Gospel has been much written about and a huge corpus of works exists based largely upon speculation. Raymond Brown is probably the leading expert on the subject.
The BD was the original group leader and impressed them greatly. So great was their love for him that the legond arose that he would not die before the Lord returned. His death was such a blow to the community that the Gospel was first written to explain that the Lord never said he would not live forever. His testimony stands behind the original account of the Fourth Gospel. But the work had so many redactions the major purpsoe for the telling probably changed, it evolved into the basic guiding manifesto for the group. So curical and central to the life of the group was this evolving account that it bears the ear marks of debate and of the life of the community. This is true to the extent that even the other Johonnine writtings bear the same imprint of langauge and thought, even though their style is very different.
We may never know who the BD was, but I would like to argue for the Elder John. If he was not the BD he was probably his choice to take over the group and bears much of the imprint of his thought. If the Elder was not the BD he was probably one of the major redactors of the Gospel, which may account for the use of identical langague. But I'm assuming that the Elder John Mentioned by Papias was the author of 1-3 John, becasue he calls himself "The Elder" and his books came to be stuck with the label "John."
All experts pretty much agree that the Johonine community was a speicial community, set apart from the rest of the chruch, centered around the figure knwon as the "Beloved Disciple" and which produced the literature that bears John's name. My own theory, based upon Cullman's work in The Johonine Circle is that the Johonine community began with the Apostle John's Trip to the Sameritrans. In fact Baultmann as well as Cullman find hints of Sameritan theology in the foruth Gospel, and there is the episode of the Sameritan woman at the well. In the times after the destruction they probably migrated again to Asia minor. There was a mass exodus from Plestine to Asia Mnior. It is in the latter period represented by the Epsitles and Revelation that we find the community spread among the seven chruches there. Somehow by this time the leader is probably not the Apostle John but someone called "the Elder." This Elder may or may not have been the Beloved Disciple.
I would like to idenify the Elder with the Elder John of whom Papias speaks. But of course I have no real evdience. There are three tombs of John in Ephasus. These may include an Elder John and the Apopstle John and whomever. The fact is we dont' know. But what does seem apparent is that there was a major schism in the group. Clearly the new rebells would not accept the old Guard and there was some doubt as to their acceptence of the Elder's leadership.
Skpetics might aruge that it would extremely dicey to find someone who was old enough to appreciate Jesus' ministry in AD 33 still alive long enough to talk to Papias. But if we date Papias as early as 120, and he was an old man then, we relaize both men could have met in the 50s or 60s AD. Papias would have been very young and Elder John very old. Say taht EJ was 20 in AD30, he would be just 50 in AD60. If Papias was 80 in AD 20 we would only be 20 in AD60.
Skism in the group
3 John 1:9-11
9 I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have first place among them, does not receive us. 10 This is why, if I come, I will remind him of the works he is doing, slandering us with malicious words. And he is not satisfied with that! He not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but he even stops those who want to do so and expels them from the church. 11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.
It is hard to believe that any faction would dare to stand agaisnt the Beloved Disciple, but not so hard to believe that they would stand agasint his deputy or his replacement. The rebel faction might have had their own eye witnesses too. But the figure who authors 1st John, weather the same author as 3 John or not, does claim to be an eye witness.
1 John 1:1"What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed, and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life."
There were eye witnesses in the Johonine community. There were also those who would not listen to them. By the early second century we find copies of the Gospel of John being used by Gnostics in Egypt. The author the fist epistle speaks of those who "went out from amaong us." Perhaps this group left the phsycial environs of the chruches of Asia and travled to Egypt. We know that the Schim centered around Gnsotic like theology, and that the prologue was afixed in order to dennounce and combat the Gnostic thought going around.
The presence of eye witnesses in the community might also be exlain why the resurection accoutns are so framentary. Noice Mary Magdelen is the only woman mentinoed in John's account, but other groupings of women in other accounts.this could becasue each account includes the eye witnesses that wound up in taht community.
In examing the structure of the Gospel of John we can see the work of the eye witness community in action as the Gospel goes through a verity of stages. In the final chapter we see a blantant and clear example of the community as author as the Ephesian elders attest to the authenticity of the work and its derivation from the Beloved the Disciple, and they attest to the authenticity of the Beloved Disciple.
Scholarly research since the 19th century has questioned the apostle John's authorship, however, and has presented internal evidence that the work was written many decades after the events it describes. The text provides strong evidence that it was written after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 and after the break between Christian Jews and Pauline Christianity. F.C. Baur asserted a date as late as AD 160. Today, most critical scholars are of the opinion that John was composed in stages (probably two or three), beginning at an unknown time (AD 50-70?) and culminating in the final edition (our Gospel of John) around AD 95-100. This final date is assumed in large part because John 21, the so-called "appendix" to John, is largely concerned with explaining the death of the "beloved disciple," probably the leader of the Johannine community that produced the gospel. If this leader had been a follower of Jesus, or a disciple of one of Jesus' followers, then a death around AD 90-100 is expected. Anno Domini (Latin: In the year of the Lord), or more completely Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi (in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ), commonly abbreviated AD or A.D., is the designation used to number years in the dominant Christian Era in the world today. ... For other uses, see number 70. ... Ferdinand Christian Baur (June 21, 1792 - 1860), was a German theologian and leader of the Tübingen school of theology. ... For other uses, see number 160. ... Events Londinium is founded by the Romans, taking over as capital of the local Roman province, from Colchester (approximate date) Roman Emperor Claudius appoints Agrippa II governor of Chalcis. ... For other uses, see number 70. ... For other uses, see number 95. ... -1... John 21 provides the only Biblical information about Peters death, traditionally held to have been by crucifixion. ...
Like the other gospels, John was certainly based on previous texts that are now lost. The contemporary scholar of the Johannine community Raymond E. Brown identifies three layers of text in the Fourth Gospel (a situation that is paralleled by the synoptic gospels): an initial version Brown considers based on personal experience of Jesus, a structured literary creation by "the evangelist," which draws upon other sources, and the edited version that we know today (Brown 1979). Father Raymond E. Brown (died August 8, 1998), a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1972 and in 1996 and professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, was one of Americas preeminent biblical scholars. ... The Synoptic Gospels are the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke. ...
A fragmentary scrap of papyrus discovered in Egypt in 1920, now at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, accession number P52 (see link below), bears parts of John xviii:31 - 33 on one side and xviii:37 - 38 on the other. If it has been correctly dated in the first half of the second century, it ranks as the earliest known fragment of the New Testament in any language. Fuller details are at the entry on the Rylands Library Papyrus P52.....
Skepticism about the date (not about the fragment's authenticity) is based on two issues. First, no other scrap of Greek has ever been so narrowly dated based on the handwriting alone, without the support of textual evidence. Second, this fragment is not of a scroll but from a codex; a book not a roll. If it dates to the first half of the second century, this fragment would be an uncharacteristically early example of a codex, the form that superseded the scroll. Since this fragment is small—about nine by five centimeters— it is uncertain whether it comes from a full copy of the John that we know. Nevertheless, while some experts in paleography have objected to the dating, it is agreed that this piece of papyrus is the earliest text for any portion of the New Testament. Its closest rival in date is the Egerton Gospel, a mid-second-century fragment of a codex that records a gospel not identical to any of the canonical four, but which has closer parallels with John than with the synoptic gospels. Thus the Egerton Gospel may represent a less-developed example of the same tradition (though in a slightly later example). A codex (Latin for book; plural codices) is a handwritten book from late Antiquity or the Early Middle Ages. ... Palaeography, literally old writing, (from the Greek words paleos = old and grapho = write) is the study of script. ... The Egerton Gospel (British Library Egerton Papyrus 2) refers to a group of fragments of a codex of a previously unknown gospel, found in Egypt and sold to the British Museum in 1934 and now dated to the very end of the 2nd century AD. It is one of the...