The Gospel of John

Baur's dismissal of John's Gospel as a historical source held increasingly undisputed sway in scholarly circles for about a hundred years. And though the sharp distinction between John and the Synoptics as between theology and history was undermined by few scholars would regard John as a source for infor mation regarding Jesus' life and ministry in any degree comparable to the Synop-

124. See further Horsley in Horsley and Draper, Whoever 76 n. 62, 78-81.

125. See below, §§16.4-5. However Koester does recognize the influence which the oral tradition may have continued to exert (Ancient Christian Gospels 99, 109); see also below, §8.3d.

126. This remains true even when we take seriously C. W. Hedrick's warning against The Tyranny of the Synoptic Jesus', in C. W. Hedrick, ed., The Historical Jesus and the Rejected Gospels, Semeia 44 (1988) 1-8, since any portrayal of Jesus is better based on clusters and themes in the Jesus tradition rather than on individual sayings (see further below, §

127. See above, §4.7; Patterson suggests a date for Thomas in the vicinity of 70-80 CE (Thomas and Jesus 120).

128. But Baur already argued that each of the Gospels is systematically tendentious in character (see chapter 4 n. 70).

It is worth noting briefly the factors which have been considered of enduring significance on this point. One is the very different picture of Jesus' ministry, both in the order and significance of events (particularly the cleansing of the Temple and the raising of Lazarus) and the location of Jesus' ministry (predominantly Jerusalem rather than Galilee). Another is the striking difference in Jesus' style of speaking (much more discursive and theological, in contrast to the aphoristic and parabolic style of the Synoptics). As Strauss had already pointed out, this style is consistent, whether Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, or to the woman at the well, or to his disciples, and very similar to the style of the Baptist, as indeed of 1 John. The inference is inescapable that the style is that of the Evangelist rather than that of Jesus.130 Probably most important of all, in the Synoptics Jesus' principal theme is the kingdom of God and he rarely speaks of himself, whereas in John the kingdom hardly features and the discourses are largely vehicles for expressing Jesus' self-consciousness and self-proclamation. Had the striking T am' self-assertions of John been remembered as spoken by Jesus, how could any Evangelist have ignored them so completely as the Synoptics do?131 On the whole, then, the position is unchanged: John's Gospel cannot be regarded as a source for the life and teaching of Jesus of the same order as the Synoptics.

The one major revision required to what we might call the Baur consensus on the historical value of John's Gospel has been the masterly study by C. H. Dodd on the subject.132 Dodd made a strong case for recognizing that both narrative and discourse material contain good, early tradition.133 In particular, John's account of the beginnings of Jesus' ministry probably contains information which the Synoptics passed over; geographical details provided by John are best explained as remembered details; and many are persuaded by John's assessment of the length of Jesus' ministry (three Passovers), the indication of more frequent visits by Jesus to Jerusalem, and the chronology of the last week of Jesus' life.134 As for the discourse material, the number of sayings embedded within the discourses, which have parallels in the Synoptics, is best explained by the fact that

129. Though few are as dismissive as M. Casey, Is John's Gospel True? (London: Routledge, 1996).

130. Strauss, Life 384-86.

131. For further illustration see my The Evidence for Jesus (London: SCM, 1985) ch. 2.

132. C. H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1963).

summarize the evidence, with some elaboration, in my 'John and the Oral Gospel Tradition', in H. Wansbrough, ed., Jesus and the Oral Gospel Tradition (JSNTS 64; Sheffield: JSOT, 1991) 351-79 (here 355-58).

134. See also F. J. Moloney, 'The Fourth Gospel and the Jesus of History', NTS 46 (2000) 42-58. The references to Passover are John 2.13, 23; 6.4; 11.55; 12.1; 13.1; 18.28, 39; 19.14.

the Fourth Evangelist knew and used a Synoptic-like tradition.135 Indeed, again and again it looks as though the Johannine discourses are based on particular sayings of Jesus, similar to the Synoptic sayings in character.136 Moreover, the regular Johannine pattern of miracle ('sign') followed by discourse, and the 'farewell discourses' of John 14-17 strongly suggest that what we have in the Fourth Gospel is the Evangelist's meditations on significant words and deeds of Jesus.

In short, John provides another window on how the Jesus tradition was used already within the first century, and indeed, within the first two generations of Christianity.137 But one can recognize both that the tradition has been heavily worked upon and that it is well rooted within earlier Jesus tradition.138 The point so far as the teaching material is concerned is, once again, that the recognition of both features is determined by comparison with the Synoptic tradition. That is to say, the Synoptic tradition provides something of a norm for the recognition of the oldest traditions. In what follows, therefore, we shall certainly want to call upon John's Gospel as a source, but mostly as a secondary source to supplement or corroborate the testimony of the Synoptic tradition.

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