Johannine Christianity

harold w. attridge

The literary evidence for Johannine Christianity

The complexity of the Johannine corpus renders attempts to trace the contours ofJohannine Christianity difficult. Nonetheless, the sources reveal a community of early followers of Jesus who, using an abundance of biblical symbols, defined themselves rather starkly against the Jewish milieu in which they arose. These believers cultivated an intense devotion to Jesus as the definitive revelation of God's salvific will, and understood themselves to be in intimate contact with him and with one another, under the guidance of the Spirit-Paraclete. They were conscious of their relationship to other believers with whom they hoped to be in eventual union. Their piety found distinctive expression in a reflective literary corpus that explored new ways of expressing faith in Jesus. Their common life included ritual actions known to other followers of Jesus, but they insisted on the unique spiritual value of those rites. Disputes eventually divided the community. By the middle of the second century some representatives of the Johannine tradition achieved a respected role in the emerging 'great church', the interconnected web of believers throughout the Mediterranean that provided mutual support and maintained fellowship under the leadership of emerging episcopal authorities. The Johannine community of the first century bequeathed to the universal church its distinctive literary corpus and estimation of Jesus, which came to dominate the development of later Christian orthodoxy. Other representatives ofJohannine Christianity, nurturing alternative strands of tradition, influenced various second-century movements, characterised by their opponents and much modern scholarship as 'Gnostic'.

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