It has been a pleasure to gather with you each Sunday this spring to discuss John’s Gospel, even though looking for the origins of Christian Anti-Judaism was not an uplifting topic.

I hope you all have a great summer. If you have ideas about what you would like to study in the fall, you can post them as comments here, or suggest them to Stephanie at the church.

We will read John 11:17–54, and 12:9–11. These verses include the raising of Lazarus, a plot to kill Jesus, and a plot to kill Lazarus.

The raising of Lazarus is the last of the signs in the section of John’s Gospel that scholar often call the “Book of Signs.” It is the catalyst that propels the narrative into a strong focus on Jesus coming death portrayed in the “Book of Glory” (chapters 13–20).

Jesus raises Lazarus to life, painting by Jesus Mafa
Jesus raises Lazarus to life, by Jesus Mafa

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This morning we took a long look at John 8:12–20, where we encounter the famous saying “I am the light of the world” (8:12) as well as the charge that the Pharisees “do not know my Father” (8:19).

We discussed the natural tendency of religious communities to draw boundaries to distinguish ourselves from the larger society or competing communities. We considered the characterization of the Pharisees in this text in light of the growing separation between Christianity and Judaism that was happening in the late first century CE.

I had hoped we would also have time to discuss John 9:1–12, but that did not happen. We will start with that passage, where Jesus heals a man born blind, next Sunday. I hope to see you on March 5!

On Sunday we will read two stories from John’s Gospel. The first (John 8:12-20) contains one of the “I am” sayings (“I am the light of the world”) and ends with the curious statement “no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.”

Effinger, I AM The Light of the World
Gregory Effinger, I AM The Light of the World

The other passage follows in chapter 9, verses 1-12. This is the sixth “sign.” Jesus heals a man born blind.

I look forward to reading these texts with you on Sunday and discussing the issues they raise for us as followers of Jesus in today’s Church.

womantakeninadultery
Yougsung Kim, “Forgive

This week we will look at a passage that is not found in any of the earliest manuscripts of John’s Gospel. In fact, it does not appear in any manuscript until at least the fifth century CE. Still, the story is clearly much older than that. We have good evidence that it was known as early as the mid third century.

This story has played a significant role in shaping Christian understanding of God’s mercy. Is it to be rejected because it is not original to John’s Gospel? If so, what does that mean about the message it teaches?

What role should a story such as this play in our theology?

Tomorrow morning (Sunday, February 12) we will look John 6:16–24 where Jesus walks on the Sea of Galilee. We will compare this story briefly with its equivalents in Matthew and Mark and look at a significant archaeological find that helps illustrate the scene assumed by the story.

If time permits, we will also look at one of the “I am” statements in John’s Gospel. In 6:25–59, Jesus refers to himself at “The bread of life.”

Tomorrow morning (Sunday, February 5) we will discuss the third of Jesus’ “signs” in the Gospel of John. In John 5:1-15 Jesus heals a man  on the Sabbath who has been ill for thirty eight years. After the healing, Jesus charges the man, “Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.”

The healing sets up a conflict between Jesus and an amorphous group called simply “the Jews”.

We will examine the theological assumptions behind this story as well as the continued problem posed by references to “the Jews” in John’s Gospel.

If time remains after we discuss this passage, we will move on to John 6:1-14.

p52 recto
p52 recto

Today we spent some time discussing possible perspectives on John’s Gospel, speculating about what can be known historically about its origins, and reading the hymn to the logos (λόγος) in chapter one.

We looked at passages that strongly imply a growing separation between early Christianity and its Jewish roots. 1:17,  9:28, and 15:25 (“their law” rather than “our law”), for example, can easily be read to imply an incompatibility between Moses and Jesus. In this context, what does the author’s decision to begin this Gospel with a poetic discussion of the cosmic significance of the logos imply?

We read 1:1-5 twice, once looking at it as traditionally read, with λόγος referring to Jesus, the Christ, and once reading λόγος as “reason” as an early Greek stoic might have read it. How would the assertion in 1:14 that the word (logos) became flesh and lived among us sound to early Jewish readers?  If we understand logos as a reference to divine “reason” rather than “word”, how might the assertion have sounded to Greek readers steeped in Stoic assumptions? The author’s assertion that “the λόγος became flesh and lived among us” (1:14) challenges some basic assumptions of both groups.

Feel free to join us next week as we continue to probe both the theological contributions of John’s Gospel and the problem of coming to terms with the violent anti-Jewish rhetoric that has claimed support from this same Gospel for centuries.

The image at the beginning of this post is one side of the oldest fragment of John’s Gospel. It begins and ends with the words οἱ Ἰυοθδαίοι, universally translated as “the Jews” in published English versions of John’s Gospel, though we will see later in this class that “the Jews” is not the only option for translating this phrase.

antijudaismandthefourthgospelAllen Davidson and I will be offering a class on John’s Gospel  (A Spiritual Gospel: John and the New Testament Origins of Christian
Anti-Judaism
) beginning in January. We would love to see you there.

Adult Church School begins on January 8 with a brief introduction to the classes being offered. Our class on John will begin the following Sunday (January 15) and run through Palm Sunday (March 9).

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