2019-01-27

Gospel of John as the turning point in a New Religion and a New God

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by Neil Godfrey

Eight years ago I posted Starting a New Religion with The Gospel of John. In that post the punch line was: 

Where the Gospel of John is different:

Where the fourth evangelist differs from all of these [books written in the names of other prophets], as well as from those who exploited the Moses tradition, is in his conscious substitution of this tradition by the story of Jesus: ‘You search the scriptures,’ Jesus tells ‘the Jews’, ‘and I am the one to which they bear witness’ (5:39). The deliberate replacement of one founder-figure by another (the same step would be taken centuries later by Mohammed) is effectively the proclamation of a new religion. We may compare John with Matthew here, for whom Jesus is a second Moses, refining and purifying the law, but not replacing it (5:17). John, by contrast, puts the law aside, offering instead, in the name of Jesus Christ, ‘grace and truth’ (1:17). Similarly the Temple, the second pillar of contemporary Judaism, was for Matthew a place where Jesus’ disciples continued to offer their gifts: whereas in John the locus of Christian worship has shifted to a place of ‘spirit and truth’ (4:23)

(Ashton, p. 448)

Gabriele Boccaccini

This year I have read a proposal for another dramatic innovation that we find in this same fourth gospel. Gabriele Boccaccini picks up the recent publications of Larry Hurtado and Bart Ehrman that have sought to explain when and how “Jesus became God”.

Bart Ehrman and Larry Hurtado are the scholars who in recent years have more directly tried to address the question. For Ehrman [How Jesus Became God], the attempt to identify when and how Jesus “became God” is not the clear-cut divide that one would expect, but a much subtler discourse about how and when Jesus became “more and more divine,” until he climbed the entire monotheistic pyramid (almost) to share the top with the Father. Jesus, argues Ehrman, was first regarded as a human exalted to a divine status (like Enoch or Elijah before him), and then as a preexistent heavenly being who became human in Jesus and then returned to heaven in an even more exalted status.

Answering the same questions some years earlier, Larry Hurtado [Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity] traced the origin of such a belief by asking when Jesus began to be worshiped by his followers. In his view the devotion to Jesus marked a unique development within Jewish monotheism, even before the emergence of an explicit theology of the equality of Jesus with the Father. Jesus “became God” in the very moment in which he was worshiped.

(Boccaccini, p. 337)

Boccaccini finds both arguments problematic. Ehrman, for instance, does not really explain how Jesus is different from other figures in the Jewish “pantheon” who are also “divine” (e.g. Enoch, Elijah) and “preexistent”. “Being divine” and “being God” were not identical concepts in Second Temple Jewish belief systems. Angels were superhuman “divine” beings and divine beings could become human and humans could become divine. Preexistent divine beings like the Son of Man figure in the Parables of Enoch were not God; that figure was created at the beginning along with the angelic hosts. Thus in 1 Enoch 48:2-6 we read:

At that hour, that Son of Man was given a name, in the presence of the Lord of the Spirits, the Before-Time; even before the creation of the sun and the moon, before the creation of the stars [i.e., the angels], he was given a name in the presence of the Lord of the Spirits. He will become a staff for the righteous ones in order that they may lean on him and not fall. He will be the light of the gentiles and he will become the hope of those who are sick in their hearts…. He was concealed in the presence of (the Lord of the Spirits) prior to the creation of the world, and for eternity.

Hurtado is correct in pointing out that

Jesus was the only person in Judaism of whom we have evidence that he was worshiped by his followers;

But . . .

nonetheless, the force of the argument is somehow diminished by the fact that “veneration” was a common practice toward people of authority. Even within the Jewish monotheistic framework, different degrees of veneration could apply to divine beings other than, and inferior to, God.

Note, therefore, in the Life of Adam and Eve (13-16) the archangel Michael called on all the angels to worship Adam as the image of God:

The devil replied, ‘Adam, what dost thou tell me It is for thy sake that I have been hurled from that place. When thou wast formed. I was hurled out of the presence of God and banished from the company of the angels. When God blew into thee the breath of life and thy face and likeness was made in the image of God, Michael also brought thee and made (us) worship thee in the sight of God; and God the Lord spake: Here is Adam. I have made thee in our image and likeness.’

And Michael went out and called all the angels saying: ‘Worship the image of God as the Lord God hath commanded.’ And Michael himself worshipped first; then he called me and said: ‘Worship the image of God the Lord.’ And I answered, ‘I have no (need) to worship Adam.’ And since Michael kept urging me to worship, I said to him, ‘Why dost thou urge me I will not worship an inferior and younger being (than I). I am his senior in the Creation, before he was made was I already made. It is his duty to worship me.’

When the angels, who were under me, heard this, they refused to worship him. And Michael saith, ‘Worship the image of God, but if thou wilt not worship him, the Lord God will be wrath with thee.’ And I said, ‘If He be wrath with me, I will set my seat above the stars of heaven and will be like the Highest.’

And God the Lord was wrath with me and banished me and my angels from our glory; and on thy account were we expelled from our abodes into this world and hurled on the earth. And straightway we were overcome with grief, since we had been spoiled of so great glory. And we were grieved when we saw thee in such joy and luxury. And with guile I cheated thy wife and caused thee to be expelled through her (doing) from thy joy and luxury, as I have been driven out of my glory.

Again in 1 Enoch 62:6, 9 we find the expectation that the Son of Man will be worshiped even though he is not identified with God.

And the kings and the mighty and all who possess the earth shall bless and glorify and extol him who rules over all, who was hidden. . . . 

And all the kings and the mighty and the exalted and those who rule the earth
Shall fall down before him on their faces,
And worship and set their hope upon that Son of Man,
And petition him and supplicate for mercy at his hands.

What set God apart from other divine and preexistent beings was, Boccaccini believes, was that God was the creator of all. God was not only sitting at the top of the pyramid of divine and angelic beings. God was set apart not simply on the basis that he was more divine than others (Ehrman) or that he was more worthy of worship (Hurtado), but that he was unique, in a dimension of his own, because he had created all things.

Philo spoke of five distinctive characteristics of Jewish “monotheism” in On the Creation of the World (170-72) and one of these was his creator status:

God has a being and existence, and he who so exists is really one, and he has created the world, and he has created it one … having made it like to himself in singleness; and he exercises a continual care for that which he has created.

Paul? 

Don’t we read in Paul’s letters claims that Jesus was God or equal with God? Boccaccini replies:

In the letter to the Romans, Paul used a similar language of “adoption” both in reference to Christ, who was “designated Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4), and in relation to the whole Christian community (“you received a spirit of adoption whereby we cry, ‘Abba, Father!”’ Rom. 8:15). In his unique relationship with the Father, the Messiah stands out as the son among the other sons; the phrase does not imply in itself Jesus’s equality with the Father, unless we read the Synoptics and Paul in light of the Gospel of John.

(344 — emphasis mine)

What of the Philippian Hymn? 

As Yarbro Collins and Collins correctly point out [in King and Messiah, 147], the prose hymn in Philippians “clearly speaks about the preexistence of Jesus … [but] does not imply that Jesus was God or equal to God before his birth as a human being.” In Ehrman’s words, “Paul understood Christ to be an angel who became a human.” Erhman’s definition of the Philippian hymn as an early example of “incarnation christology,” however, is misleading, and his rejection of the parallelism with Adam is unnecessary. Philippians’s description of the lowering of the divine “Son” who became human as an act of obedience and was then exalted to an higher degree of divinity parallels the story of the “divine” Adam, the other “Son of God,” who also was created “immortal” like an angel but became “human” (i.e., mortal) as a punishment for his desire of acquiring a higher degree of divinity. Yes, Paul describes Jesus as “a preexistent divine being,” [How Jesus Became God, 266] but there is no “incarnation” in Paul; in no place does Paul talk of Jesus as an uncreated being who became flesh. Yes, “Christ could be a divine being yet not be fully equal with God.” Paul is very careful; he never refers to Christ as the θεός, the only uncreated Maker of All.

(351)

The Divine Uncreated Christ

For Boccaccini the Gospel of John was the turning point.

The common view that earliest Christianity bestowed a “low Christology” on Jesus as the Messiah is without warrant, Boccaccini argues. Ehrman’s thesis of Jesus “gradual climb up the ladder of divinity” is without support.

There never was in Christianity something like a “low Christology,” centered on the view of Jesus as a human Messiah. Since its earliest beginnings, the Jesus movement found cohesion in the belief of Jesus as the “Son of Man,” an exalted heavenly, divine Messiah, the forgiver on earth and the would-be eschatological Judge. However, while exalting Jesus as a “divine” being and venerating him accordingly, the first Christians did not even take into consideration the hypothesis that their Messiah could be “uncreated.” This possibility was simply not part of the Jewish messianic debate of the time. Paul also was very careful never to attribute to the κύριος Jesus the title of θεός (God), which was unique to the Father.

Indeed, even though there are so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many θεοί and κύριοι—yet for us there is only one θεός, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one κύριος, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1 Cor. 8:5-6)

(349 f.)

Boccaccini stresses that for Paul Jesus was a Messiah figure comparable to the Son of Man figure in the Parables of Enoch. Paul does not apply the Son of Man title to Jesus, it appears, because to do so in the context of Paul’s writings would be to make Jesus the Son of Adam, whereas Jesus represents a polar opposite figure to Adam: Adam fell because of his disobedience; Jesus lowered himself voluntarily and in obedience. Yes, the Philippians hymn presents a Jesus who is preexistent, but that does not imply that Jesus was God or equal with God before entering the world as a human.

It took almost a century for Christians to come to the conclusion (or within a Christian theological perspective, to the realization) that Jesus the Messiah “has become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Heb. 1:4). And it took the genius of the Gospel of John to first introduce the possibility of an uncreated divine Christ and make this concept part of the theological debate of Second Temple Judaism. This goal was achieved by relying on speculations about the divine “uncreated” λόγος/σοφία, speculations that were not completely extraneous to Jewish messianism, in the sense that it was believed that the Messiah would speak the word of God and would be the revealer of heavenly wisdom (Isa. 11:1-5).

John’s Prologue: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.

Sirach 24:8 Then the Creator of all things gave me a command, and my Creator chose the place for my tent. He said, ‘Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.’

The Gospel of John’s Prologue, Boccaccini points out, “is a masterpiece of theological synthesis.”

The Word ( λόγος ) is firstly said to be divine and uncreated; then that divine and uncreated λόγος is said to be the instrument by which God created all.

The Septuagint (Greek translation) of Psalm 33 declares how all things were created by “the Word ( λόγος ) of the Lord”.

In the Septuagint of Proverbs, Wisdom is said to be uncreated; but in Sirach 24:8 Wisdom was said to have been created, and that created Wisdom “dwelled” among mankind. John combined the two: the uncreated Logos came to “dwell” among us. John, or the author of the Gospel of John, was the first, it appears, to have removed the boundary between created and uncreated. In the process Jesus became the “divine uncreated manifestation of God ( λόγος ).

Until the Gospel of John Christians looked on Jesus was the divine yet created Messiah/Christ. They could not declare Jesus to be god/God. With the Gospel of John they could look on Jesus as the “uncreated” λόγος.

“My κύριος [Lord] and my θεός [God]!” (John 20:28)

We sometimes hear that in principle John could have called Jesus Wisdom ( σοφία ) instead of the Word ( λόγος ). But the technical hitch to that identification was the fact that Jesus was male and σοφία was a feminine noun. Boccaccini suggests another and more profound reason for choosing Word over Wisdom for Jesus:

Λόγος had always been unambiguously presented in the Jewish tradition as an uncreated manifestation of God, while, as we have seen, the debate about the created or uncreated status of Wisdom was still open. By using λόγος, John could be sure not to be misunderstood in his claim that the man Jesus was the created embodiment of an uncreated manifestation of God.

In conclusion, an entirely Jewish progression

Jesus “became God” not when he was given the attribute of “divinity” (which happened at a very early stage, maybe even during his lifetime) or when he was “venerated” (which also happened at a very early stage after his death, as soon as he was believed to be resurrected and living in heaven). Jesus “became God” not even when progressively a “higher degree of divinity was given to the already divine Messiah” and Jesus began to be understood as a preexistent angelic figure who came to dwell on earth. It did not even happen when his disciples “upgraded” their veneration, worshiping him as God.

The categories of “veneration,” suggested by Larry Hurtado, and that of “divinity,” explored by Bart Ehrman, fall short of giving a clear answer to the quest for “how Jesus became God,” and do not fully recognize the distinctive and revolutionary contribution given by the Gospel of John. Jesus “became God” only when the Gospel of John ultimately made him “uncreated,” and the Messiah was understood to be the uncreated λόγος who became flesh. It was not the transformation of a Jewish prophet into a pagan God, as Maurice Casey argued [From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God], but the transformation of a Jewish prophet and messianic claimant into the Jewish God, exploiting the rich variety of previous messianic models and the dynamic nature of Jewish monotheism.

(355 f.)

And it was all “very Jewish”. There is no need to call upon non-Jewish Hellenistic influences to explain Jesus’ status.

Conceptually, John’s λόγος Christology was only a small “variant” in relation to existing Jewish messianic and earlier christological models that described the lowering and exaltation of the preexistent “divine” Messiah, and yet it was a huge, bold step. The crossing of the boundary between the “created” and the “uncreated” distinctively set the Christian Messiah apart and brought Jesus to an unprecedented level of exaltation, from an inferior divine being to the Jewish God.

(356)

–o0o–

One question arising from what I have set out above is the significance of Jesus calling himself the Son of Man in the Gospel of John. Recall that the Son of Man was known from Enochic literature to be a created being. John reconciled the Son of Man title by explaining the various functions of Jesus as Messiah. The Messiah, we learn from the early chapters, has many functions. One of these is to judge the world. That was the Son of Man’s job according to the Parables of Enoch.

Jesus is not the Son of Man by nature; the Son of Man was in fact “created.” Jesus therefore is only “said” to be the Son of Man because he serves as the eschatological judge. “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son… [the Father] has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:22,27).

(353 f.)

The Parables of Enoch state that it was Enoch who as the Son of Man. Enoch was said to be the judge at the end of days.

You are the Son of Man born for justice, and righteousness has dwelt in you, and the Chief Justice of Days you do not abandon” (1 En. 71:14)

The Parables even describe the transition of Enoch into an angelic being, or in Boccaccini’s words, he was “transfigured” to become an angel.

John does not hold back from a sharp rebuttal:

No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

Against those who claimed that Enoch was the Son of Man who ascended into heaven, John argued the superiority of Jesus, the Son of Man who descended from and ascended into heaven.

(353)

So the Son of Man was a title bestowed on Jesus because he was to fulfill the functions of the Son of Man. In The Gospel of John Jesus was not the literal Son of Man; he was said to be the Son of Man because he would carry out the Judgement, originally a Son of Man task. Once the Son of Man had been thus reduced to a term that represented a role or function, it soon lost its significance in the subsequent theological debates among various Christian factions.

Other changes followed. One of these was that angels and mortals on earth were no longer allowed to be worshiped. In the earliest days of “Christianity”, when Jesus was understood to be a created being, and when the Son of Man figure was said to have been created, the worship of angels was accepted. Jesus was one of many, or the highest among his like-kind. Once Jesus became in uncreated being and in that dimension, the God dimension, he was worshiped, then the worshiping of angels and mortals was from that moment forbidden.


Ashton, John. 2009. Understanding the Fourth Gospel. 2nd edition. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Boccaccini, Gabriele. 2018. “From Jewish Prophet to Jewish God: How John Made the Divine Jesus Uncreated.” In Reading the Gospel of Johns Christology as Jewish Messianism, edited by Benjamin Reynolds and Gabriele Boccaccini, 106:335–57. Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. Leiden ; Boston: Brill.


 

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Neil Godfrey

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27 Comments

  • 2019-01-27 22:42:39 GMT+0000 - 22:42 | Permalink

    Isn’t the human imagination an awesome thing?

  • Martin Lewadny
    2019-01-28 04:25:07 GMT+0000 - 04:25 | Permalink

    This blog essay has introduced a plethora of rich comments and insights. John’s Gospel says so many “crazy” — absolutistic things— his Jesus looks nothing like the synoptics,,, and where they peek through they are extremely ambiguous and highly ironic as if he too is in conversation as a gnostic/mystic/hermetic/ Jewish, Greek sage into logoi (not just logos)..Readers don’t forget that a lot of light can be shed on what John means by or uses the word logos..but Logoi appear throughout John to show its creative ability..based too on Psalm 33 etc. and a host of widsom sources!!!

    John is hard on any alleged “believer” since he shows how shallow one’s belief is or twisted or whatever…. John’s gospel has the balls to say and I have not met one apologist yet to dismiss what many of his texts say like…. “NO One knows God the Father except the Son and NO One
    know the Son except the Father! I use this text against all smug Christians who tell me they Know God and they know Jesus. You have got to be kidding me!!! They don’t really accept this text…. and still like to use John 14:6…I am the truth, the life, the way text.

    Yet they can’t believe Jesus really said what he said. Interesting? Some believers….!!! Most of them engage in hermeneutical hypocrisy…. they won’t apply the same standards or methods or rules to themselves that they use to prove perceived falsehoods in their own mind..

    Finally, this blog should be expanded re this issue much more.. since John’s gospel is the most “embarrassing” one if we were to take Jesus as a historical figure for argument sake.

    I would like to see something done on Joseph Turmel’s take on John’s Gospel. Look up Turmel on Wikipedia.What a fascinating history of Johannine criticism… You will be paid for your look!!

    Cheers Everyone!

    Marty

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-30 11:36:16 GMT+0000 - 11:36 | Permalink

      I seem to recall Roger Parvus in some of his guest posts a while back making regular use of Turmel.

      I also think Tim here has done more study on the Gospel of John, particularly with respect to its dialogue with the Gospel of Mark. Paradoxically those two gospels are far more alike than they are different — both have a Jesus no-one else can know, in both Jesus talks in mysteries, it’s almost as if John has come along and turned Mark inside out to give us the same gospel from the opposite viewing position.

  • Martin Lewadny
    2019-01-28 05:27:06 GMT+0000 - 05:27 | Permalink

    I also wanted to add a note of support for Dr. Carrier re his own analysis of such issues.

    There was a “god” ,,a “spirit/angel” mediator who created …an extention …an attribute or manifestation of “god” and his name was not called “Jesus” at any human birth,,, but called “Jesus” (Phil. 2) only “After” he accomplished the will of God as he was sent..

    BTW the highly gnostic tinge expressed in this poetic hymn is evident…an it is present in this poem. A “Christ” …a ruler from a divine source left the pleroma and entered into the kenoma!!

    But he is only given the name Jesus “after” this divinely ruling presence had accomplished some sort of “exchange”. Paul wants his people to put on a different mind…It is a Christic mind…

    A ruling, powerful mind…. NOUS…. All this is very Stoic and Paul in all his writings reflects Stocism,, and not just a little bit!

    Okay,,, that’s all for now

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-28 05:33:48 GMT+0000 - 05:33 | Permalink

      Though the hymn does appear to be open to that interpretation (that the name Jesus was the name above all names that was given at his ascension) and some scholars have argued in favour of that interpretation, many have difficulty accepting Jesus as “a name above all names” given that it was such a common name. It was in this context that I found the work of classicist John Moles interesting: https://vridar.org/2018/07/31/that-name-above-all-names/

      • Martin Lewadny
        2019-01-28 05:56:47 GMT+0000 - 05:56 | Permalink

        Thanks Neil.. will look it up… Yes, I am not sure how much this Pauline piece could know of a historical Jesus in the flesh…Paul did not meet him, though there is weird push-back on that these days. In any case some kind of adoption or coronation motif is present in this poem, which even has a possible interpolation as I see it “even the death on a cross”..Weird intrusion in the poem… but Paul is singling out enemies of the cross so it fits too. I have always had suspicions with so-called creeds and NT hymns. Paul with his training may well have produced these himself in moments of ecastasies via the spirit… see the Pauline tradition about hymns being spoken during earlier Pauline communities! in Eph. 5 and Col. 3.

        In any case Joshua or Jesus is common. .. no doubt… but this name itself in the OT has connections with both warrior/deliverance and priestly aspects in metaphorical/prophetic terms.

        Again, Neil I will check out the references. Thanks!

        • James Barlow
          2019-01-28 19:51:00 GMT+0000 - 19:51 | Permalink

          It is forever interesting that of all the books—-canonical, pseudo graphical, apocryphal, gnostic etc.—there is none named after a ‘Joshua’ (‘Jesus’).

          • Steven Watson
            2019-03-21 01:46:25 GMT+0000 - 01:46 | Permalink

            I refute that thus: Jesus ben Sirach; the Book of Joshua (Straight-up Iesous in Eastern Orthodoxy!). At the time the “books” of the New Testament were written, way before they were collected together or canonized, the only canon was the Septuagint/Tanakh.

  • Martin Lewadny
    2019-01-28 05:45:26 GMT+0000 - 05:45 | Permalink

    I can’t believe I left out the bottom line of what I wanted to say in the last response.

    The Logos was perceived by Judaic poets as the instrument or mediator that was part of him and he gave birth to a Logos…some quasi-independent hypostastes who was “divine” since it or he was birthed in the Father’s womb. This is clear throughout John.

    The Logos is divine because it was born of God (John 1!!!) The poem sets up the reader for the narratives showing the power of the Logos or Logoi of Jesus….

    And I forgot to point out Paul’s divergence from the traditional nativity scence… The Christos or the Anointed was given his name,,not at his birth by Mary…hence…you shall call his name Jesus(which btw is clearly a false prophecy since his name was to be called Immanuel!) Oh,,,Oh!!

    Moreover, imagine a community of John, unlike Matt, MK. Luke.. No physical birth is located in John or Mark…that is why they are so similar in theo-logics!!

    The Logos is an angel… a sent one.. even the son of man who is in heaven (Enoch!). He was taken from the earth…body and everything… Apologists wake up… Is not Jesus sent from heaven as a man already in heaven (Enoch?).

    Required reading for all here…Read the Gospel of John this week. And remove all synoptic spectacles and you will come to know how wild and strange it is from any “Jesus” we have ever known…. Its view of God is way different too!!! How on earth can Jesus call God…my God in contrast to all Jews saying “our” God..etc.

    Jesus knows sacred stuff nobody knows….

    Albert Schweitzer was right…everyone gives Jesus a make-over into their own images, ideas, and ideals….! John is certainly no exception and the epitome of a make-over!

    No wonder the writer’s agenda is simply to turn you into a “fideist”.. (John 20:30ff)

    Unfortuanately, I can’t believe anymore…. too much exaggeration for me (the writer even admits this when talking to the reader!!. J. Turmel (a famous rogue Catholic gave me a few more nails in the Jesus of John.

    🙂

    • Joseph
      2019-01-28 06:39:49 GMT+0000 - 06:39 | Permalink

      B. may be onto something with the gospel of John. But! Logos is also a Greek word, very important in Gnosticism, and in Greek philosophy well before Christianity. So Boccaccini isn’t right to see it as purely Jewish.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-01-28 06:42:12 GMT+0000 - 06:42 | Permalink

        Logos was a term used in a wide range of ideas, including Jewish writings (e.g. Philo), and all that is needed for B’s argument is that it is found in the Septuagint and other Jewish writings.

        • Joseph
          2019-01-28 14:11:52 GMT+0000 - 14:11 | Permalink

          Though? The Septuagint was the Greek version of the Tanak. And as a translation it may reflect a Greek slant, preferences.

          Greeks after all knew of a logos going back to Heraclitus, c. 500 BCE.

          Not to mention the very Hellenized, Platonistic Philo, 20 BC to 30 AD. Whose life brackets Jesus, curiously.

      • James Barlow
        2019-01-28 19:55:35 GMT+0000 - 19:55 | Permalink

        (The Stoic influence on the Wisdom Literature has been undisputed for quite some time….)

    • JBeers
      2019-01-29 02:18:25 GMT+0000 - 02:18 | Permalink

      Assignment from Martin Lewadny: “Required reading for all here…Read the Gospel of John this week”. Book report here:

      Assignment completed (well, heavy skimming only of some parts). For me, the assignment was as advertised. However I am far less familiar with this material than most people here, so my comments may be pitifully naive.

      If it were the only orthodox gospel, Christianity would be quite different from what it has been.

      In reading it I really was surprised that it wasn’t suppressed. (I do have vague memories, don’t I, that there was some resistance to it’s being included in the canon?) It’s not just that Jesus seems ethereal. The author (or for all I know, authors) almost seem to me as if mocking the idea that they were describing real flesh-and-blood historical events. Peter cuts off the soldier’s ear and right afterwards denies Jesus connections. After the resurrection the incongruity of the inability of people to recognize Jesus could almost pass for comedic Ionesco absurdity. Even in the body of the story before the crucifixion the airy way in which Jesus speaks to people does not seem as if a serious attempt at even minimal realism but almost an attempt to flout lack of literal realism, to encourage disbelief in the literal story.

      To me, a naive reader, it is as if the author is telling sophisticated (and not so sophisticated readers) that he(she/they) is(are) a ‘mythicist’, all but stating explicitly that the story itself is to be taken with boulders of salt–nevertheless though a mythicist is using the story as a prop, perhaps almost but not quite ironically, to impart something important that the author wants to be considered with full devotion.

      So that is this pupil’s book review, and I hope you don’t mind my verbiage. [Also: What does “Jesus” mean by “sin” in this gospel?]

  • db
    2019-01-28 07:13:42 GMT+0000 - 07:13 | Permalink

    Boccaccini, Gabriele (2018). “From Jewish Prophet to Jewish God: How John Made the Divine Jesus Uncreated”. In Reynolds, Benjamin; Boccaccini, Gabriele. Reading the Gospel of John’s Christology as Jewish Messianism: Royal, Prophetic, and Divine Messiahs. BRILL. ISBN 9789004376045.

    On the Jewishness of John’s Christology, see now the brilliant analysis of Deborah Forger, “Divine Embodiment in Jewish Antiquity: Rediscovering the Jewishness of John’s Incarnate Christ” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2017). —(p. 342, n. 19)

    Cf. Forger, Deborah (2017). “Divine Embodiment in Jewish Antiquity: Rediscovering the Jewishness of John’s Incarnate Christ”. deepblue.lib.umich.edu. chapter 4 reveals how various Jewish authors viewed the high priest as a deified human or the visible representation of God on earth.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-28 11:44:23 GMT+0000 - 11:44 | Permalink

      You will perhaps be happy to see that I have been preparing a post from a section of Forger’s thesis. Expect to be doing more posts from Reynolds and Boccaccini volume.

  • JBeers
    2019-01-28 12:58:13 GMT+0000 - 12:58 | Permalink

    Please indulge a digressive and naive question about the name ‘John’.

    Would the name have had any special significance to the readers of the 4th gospel other than its occurrences in the NT?

    Included as potential special significances might be–

    Was it exceedingly rare outside the NT previously, inside or outside Judaism, something of a marker for Christianity (or Mandaeism)? So extremely common (as ‘John’ is in English-speaking countries) that it might have had the meaning of ‘anonymous’, ‘anyone’, ‘no one special’, ‘from general surroundings’?

    Idle curiosity here.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-28 13:51:36 GMT+0000 - 13:51 | Permalink

      According to Tal Ilan’s Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity covering Palestinian male names between 300 BCE and 200 CE (same reference used by Richard Bauckham in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses), Johanan (=John) was the 5th most popular name. Here’s the list of 20 male names in order of popularity:

      Yohanan was the name of one of the Maccabees and their names were generally popular.

  • john dauria
    2019-01-28 17:11:50 GMT+0000 - 17:11 | Permalink

    jbeers: I think johanan ultimately derives from the jah portion of jahweh, a portion that became a component part of many palestinian names and which had many variations over time, eg the iah on the end of names such as zephaniah and jeremiah. Maybe.

  • Amer
    2019-01-29 20:05:46 GMT+0000 - 20:05 | Permalink

    Brilliant … There is a Biblical Jesus far unlike God – He is not the Jesus of Christianity.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-01-30 13:06:19 GMT+0000 - 13:06 | Permalink

    In two comments above I referred to (1) the Gospel of John being far more like the Gospel of Mark than a superficial reading would suggest, and (2) Roger Parvus’s posts in which he suggests that the Gospel of John was originally the gospel or teaching of Apelles, an ex-Marcionite leader of an anti-docetic gnostic “church”.

    If we are persuaded by R.G. Price’s and others’ case for the Gospel of Mark being influenced strongly by Paul, then we might also be interested in Roger Parvus’s proposal that the Gospel of John was also “Pauline” … the beloved disciple being “Paul”, and reminding us that “Paul” was a nickname meaning “small” … and the history of the idea that it was “John” who was nicknamed “Paul”.

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  • Steven Watson
    2019-02-09 22:56:02 GMT+0000 - 22:56 | Permalink

    Yes Neil, I’ve pulled another all-nighter reading your blog.

    At that hour, that Son of Man was given a name,

    I’m sure I’ve read something like that before… 🙂

    <

    blockquote>What set God apart from other divine and preexistent beings was, Boccaccini believes, was that God was the creator of all. Damn, and there was I thinking God handed off to Christ the creative duties in Paul… Oh, wait… Col. 1:16 🙄 I find it helps to read the ruddy book. /s

    In case it is not clear I’m commenting on Boccaccini and not having a go at Neil. Now I really must go, I’m pressed for time. TTFN

  • Joseph
    2019-02-15 12:23:28 GMT+0000 - 12:23 | Permalink

    Around Feb. 13, 2019, Hurtado included on his blog some scholarly reference material on this; Jorg Frey’s books.

    Hurtado and most other scholars seem willing to concede there 1) is some theological, 2) non historical material in GJohn. Though he 3) will not directly committ to saying the same about the synoptic gospels. Or will not explicitly say that none of the Jesus material is historical.

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