As Brian noted in a couple of places (here and here), he and I attended the presentation on the Gospels with Paul Anderson and Marcus Borg on May 19, 2010. This post is to recap on Paul Anderson’s part of the presentation, where he dealt specifically with the Gospel of John.
First, I want to note that I especially appreciated Marcus Borg’s lucid and concise presentation, which Brian did a great job summarizing and engaging. Borg began with a prayer of Augustine and went on to share his passion: adult theological re-education at the congregational level. It is apparent to me that education is Borg’s forte and I came away having added to my knowledge on the Synoptics, even though I had studied this area at the graduate level in seminary.
Likewise, I also came away from Paul Anderson’s presentation on the Fourth Gospel with a greater understanding. Anderson’s presentation came in four parts: (1) John, the Problem!, (2) Riddles of the Fourth Gospel, (3) Approaches to the Johannine Riddles, and (4) Ways Forward with the Gospel of John.
John, the Problem!
Anderson noted the problem many scholars have had with John throughout the centuries. For one, John is least like the Synoptics, but yet it claims eyewitness. Another is that much of the contents that the Synoptics have are omitted in John (for example, the birth narratives), and vice versa.
Riddles of the Fourth Gospel
Anderson explained the Fourth Gospel’s riddles in terms of three aspects: (1) literary, (2) theological, and (3) historical. At the literary level, there are rough transitions. For example, John 5 moves smoothly into John 7, with John 6 as something of an abrupt transition geographically. Then, there are also apparent additions in John; instead of Jesus’ dialogue with the disciples primarily in private (as in the Synoptics), John has much of the Jesus-disciple dialogue in public. Theologically, John has more tensions and apparent contradictions: Jesus is both very divine but very human, the Son is equal to the Father and subordinate to the Father, there is an emphasis on Jesus’ incarnation but His glory is also emphasized, and so forth. John is also a riddle in terms of historical material: as mentioned, there are departures from the Synoptics and divine presentations, but there is also mundane material.
A greater treatment of these riddles is found in Anderson’s forthcoming book, The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010).
Approaches to Johannine Riddles
Anderson then covered the various approaches at solving these riddles, noting their limitations and strengths. Space does not permit me to cover in detail the points, but this is the outline:
John is . . .
- The “Spiritual” Gospel (a la Clement)
- The Eyewitness Gospel of the Beloved Disciple
- The “Concocted Gospel”
- A Spiritualization of Mark and other Synoptic Material
- Use of Independent Sources and Additions to the Evangelist’s Work by a Redactor (a la Bultmann)
- A Representation of an Independent Tradition that Developed in its own Distinctive Ways, partly due to the History of the Johannine Situation
- A Historical Drama
- A Literary Device
The Synoptic Hypothesis
Paul Anderson put forth his view of relationship between the Synoptics and John via the Synoptic Hypothesis. He begins first with two editions of John: the first edition was produced in Asia minor by the Beloved Disciple in the early to mid-80’s and who continues to preach until his death c. 100 CE. The Epistles were written by John the Elder, who also finalized the Gospel of John after the death of the Beloved Disciple by adding the Prologue, chapter 6, chapters 15-17, and chapter 21.
John’s relation to the individual Synoptics is as follows:
- John and Mark: Interfluential, Augmentive, Corrective
- John and Luke: Formative, Orderly, Theological
- John and Q(?): Q is dependent upon John
- John and Matthew: Dialogical, Reforcing, and Corrective
Anderson presented John as autonomous, yet interactive with the Synoptics, and not derivative from them. For instance, with Mark, there are points of contact that suggest interfluence between the oral forms of John and Mark, particularly the strong similarities found in John 6, and Mark 6 and 8. In Acts 4, there is mention of Peter and John preaching together, and getting reprimanded by the Pharisees. The response comes from both Peter and John, and has a Petrine statement “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you judge” (Acts 4:19a NRSV), and a Johannine statement “for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20 NRSV; cf. 1 John 1:1-3). Papias notes that Mark recorded Peter’s preaching, but got events in the wrong order; John, then, wrote to set the record straight.
There are instances where Luke departs from Mark and sides with John more than a few dozen times. Luke’s has teachings on the Holy Spirit and positive presentations of women and Samaritans, just like John. Luke mentions that his document is what he received from “eyewitnesses and servants of the word (logos)” (Luke 1:1 NRSV).
John and Matthew appear to dialogue over church structure and government. Matthew is the only gospel where Peter is handed the keys. John’s presentation of church leadership is based on the leading of the Spirit (John 14:26: “the Holy Spirit . . . will teach you everything”), and has an egalitarian tone to it (see, particularly, the emphasis on loving one another in 1 John 2-4). In John, Peter acknowledges that Jesus alone has all authority in John 6:68: perhaps Peter is returning the keys?
When this is all placed in a diagram form, it looks like the following (this chart, including an explanatory outline, can be downloaded by clicking on the title above the chart below):
A Charting of Johannine-Synoptic Interfluential Relationships
As the session came to a close, after a period of Q and A, Borg posed a question to Anderson, asking something along the lines of what impact does Anderson’s bi-optic study have for the bigger picture. Someone once told me that when the bi-optic hypothesis first appeared, he did not think it would last long. But the John, Jesus, and History Project has been around for almost a decade now. In my estimation, that points toward a promising future for John in historical Jesus studies. I am excited to see the extent of the Project’s impact, in general, and the that of the bi-optic hypothesis in particular, on later biblical studies scholarship.
My own limited reporting on this event could not do it justice—either to the event as a whole or to Dr. Anderson’s talk. In all, I would say this was a rich and informative session, one of only many more to come. I only wished I could have attended the Saturday forum.
Thanks for this summary. It was a great lecture. It really opened up new ways to look at John, but it moved so fast I couldn’t keep up. These notes are helpful.
I have studied the diagram above in the book I have home from the library written under Anderson’s editorship (John, Jesus, and History Vol. 1). It’s a lot to take in.
I don’t agree with the 90AD date for Matthew, and I am not a believer in standard Q-theory. But I have found cases where Luke seems to feel himself justified to revise or correct Mark in the same direction which John takes (where Matthew simply copies Mark). I think that says something for some kind of link between Luke and John, and I am sympathetic with the diagram as a heuristic tool insofar as it makes an argument for that link.
Good notes. Thanks again.
Another thought. If Luke’s final is mid-80s CE, and the evangelist has actually done some of the interview-type research alleged in Luke 1, I can’t believe Luke missed the chance to get up to Ephesus for a chat with the beloved disciple or his circle.
This seems like an uncomplicated avenue for possible identities between Johannine tradition and Luke’s “L” source (perhaps even a so-called Lukan parable or two came out of Ephesus). Makes me want to make a closer comparison of language styles between “L” and John.
If the final author of John knows Luke’s final, there was no need to repeat what he saw adequately carried by Luke. This is one strong characteristic of the author of John – that he didn’t aim to ‘usurp’ the synoptics by wholesale replication. By contrast, Matthew utilizes so much Mark that he may be accused of wanting to replace the little Gospel, and Luke might fancy that he is also doing an upgrade.
Great fun to speculate.
The INTERNAL EVIDENCE in John’s gospel is sufficient to lead one progressively from the first day of JESUS AS “RABBI” (1:38) to the last day of JESUS AS “I AM WHO I AM”, i.e., the Father in person (8:21-28; 19: 30-37), in his typical, mysterious and powerful self-revelation.
The solution to the riddles lies in firsthand experience (vision) of Christ’s well-documented, perfect and transfigurative death on the cross, i.e., God’s final self-revelation, “according to the Scriptures”, in fulfillment of the promise in the burning but unconsumed bush (Ex. 3: 1-15) and of the terms in the “new covenant” (Jer. 31: 31-34).
The persons using that contra-historical oxymoron (demonstrated by the eminent late Oxford historian, James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue) exposes dependancy upon 4th-century, gentile, Hellenist sources.
While scholars debate the provenance of the original accounts upon which the earliest extant (4th century, even fragments are post-135 C.E.), Roman gentile, Hellenist-redacted versions were based, there is not one fragment, not even one letter of the NT that derives DIRECTLY from the 1st-century Pharisee Jews who followed the Pharisee Ribi Yehoshua.
Historians like Parkes, et al., have demonstrated incontestably that 4th-century Roman Christianity was the 180° polar antithesis of 1st-century Judaism of ALL Pharisee Ribis. The earliest (post-135 C.E.) true Christians were viciously antinomian (ANTI-Torah), claiming to supersede and displace Torah, Judaism and (“spiritual) Israel and Jews. In soberest terms, ORIGINAL Christianity was anti-Torah from the start while DSS (viz., 4Q MMT) and ALL other Judaic documentation PROVE that ALL 1st-century Pharisees were PRO-Torah.
There is a mountain of historical Judaic information Christians have refused to deal with, at: http://www.netzarim.co.il (see, especially, their History Museum pages beginning with “30-99 C.E.”).
Original Christianity = ANTI-Torah. Ribi Yehoshua and his Netzarim, like all other Pharisees, were PRO-Torah. Intractable contradiction.
Building a Roman image from Hellenist hearsay accounts, decades after the death of the 1st-century Pharisee Ribi, and after a forcible ouster, by Hellenist Roman gentiles, of his original Jewish followers (135 C.E., documented by Eusebius), based on writings of a Hellenist Jew excised as an apostate by the original Jewish followers (documented by Eusebius) is circular reasoning through gentile-Roman Hellenist lenses.
What the historical Pharisee Ribi taught is found not in the hearsay accounts of post-135 C.E. Hellenist Romans but, rather, in the Judaic descriptions of Pharisees and Pharisee Ribis of the period… in Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT (see Prof. Elisha Qimron), inter alia.
To all Christians: The question is, now that you’ve been informed, will you follow the authentic historical Pharisee Ribi? Or continue following the post-135 C.E. Roman-redacted antithesis—an idol?
It seems that five or so paragraphs of random assertions hardly allows me to feel “informed” about my error. I think you draw too thick a line between the earliest Jewish Christians and later Gentile Christians. The Apostle Paul was the prime catalyst of the Gentile mission and he was solidly Jewish, reframing Torah observance through the teaching of the Messiah–Jesus–and the promised New Covenant Spirit. While many Christians through the subsequent two millenium have departed from the Jewish origins of this faith this does not mean (1) that all their conclusions are necessarily wrong (did the Holy Spirit stop working in the church once its converts were Romans, Greek, Gauls, Brits, and so forth? Is the Holy Spirit not able to guide the church as it uses new language while engaging new fronts?) and (2) that the Jewish element is not essentially present.
Equally, I think you pigeon hole Second Temple Judaism to be represented only by the Pharisees. We know this to be far from the truth. It is more than historically plausable that Jesus would have come from a perspective of Judaism foreign to the Pharisees in many ways.
I wonder if Anders wants to discuss the dating of the bits and scraps which we actually possess of his dear texts?
Don’t get me started 🙂
My eyes began to cross through most of his comment. What is he talking about?
Brian and John, you are welcome.
John, I haven’t made up my mind on the dates of the Synoptics yet. Why do you think Matthew isn’t in the 90’s? I like what you said about John and Luke.
Anders, I appreciate your passion for what you believe. But your comment has nothing to do with the post. It would be better to interact with the content than to cut and paste what seems to be propaganda for your esoteric historical Jesus.
JohnDave, thanks for getting the discussion back on track.
About my dating of Matthew, it follows the analyses of the older commentaries I’ve read (all the way back to WC Allen in 1907) which I think give strong arguments for a date closer to the break-up of the Jerusalem community of Christians in the days of the destruction of that city.
Also, there’s my pet theory that the publication of Mark without prior canvasing of the Jerusalem community would have precipitated a response (a new version of Mark with their own body of tradition woven in) much sooner than 90CE.
In addition, my rejection of standard Q-theory (the brand which presumes to substitute for the more reasonable theory of Luke’s dependence on Matthew) requires that Matthew must have seen the light of day in time for Luke to find it useful in his work. My judgment of feasible dates for Mark c.70 and Luke c.85 are agreement with Dr. Anderson’s, but I am constrained to place Matt in between them.
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