Sunday, Feb 10, 2008: “Introduction to the Gospel of John”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Selected Readings from the Gospel of JOHN
Lecture Series Led By Rev. Mike Kreutzer
Sunday, February 10, 2008





1) original material, similar to the Synoptics
2) Johannine patterns
3) organization into a consecutive gospel
4) secondary editing by “the evangelist”
5) redaction by a follower / disciple of the evangelist
(possible addition of chapters 11-12, 15-17, 21)


Exact information:

chap. 4, Samaritans: belief, theology, Gerizim, Jacob’s well
chap. 5, pool of Bethesda: name, location, construction
chap. 6-8: theological themes related to the Passover and the Feast of 
Tabernacles reflect accurate knowledge of practices and 
synagogue readings
details about Jerusalem: pool of Siloam (9:7); Solomon’s Portico (10:22-23);
stone pavement at the Praetorium (19:13)


Material / information not found in the Synoptics:

Jesus baptizing before his public ministry (3:22);
public ministry lasting more than one year;
several journeys to Jerusalem;
ongoing opposition of the authorities in Jerusalem (not just in last days);
many details about the passion and death

Jesus portrayed in terms of Old Testament “Wisdom”

Use of terms from the Pharisaic tradition (e.g. “Rabbi”)


Purpose: teaching to encourage believers; defense against Jewish opponents, followers of John the Baptist, and early heresies


Ecclesiology: a community of believers is assumed (“vine and branches”, “sheep and shepherds”)

Sacramentalism: no specific sayings or “institution narratives”, but references to Baptism and the Eucharist scattered throughout the gospel; used to show how the sacraments of Christian life are rooted in Jesus own words and actions


Eschatology: both realized and imminent


Poetic format: parallelism, inclusions, chiasm, double-meaning, misunderstanding


The narrator holds a key position in this Gospel. He is omniscient. He tells us from the start (1:1-18) who the central character is. He reveals the thoughts of Jesus and of several other characters. He provides many interpretive comments. He tells the story from the perspective of his contemporary community, reflecting back into Jesus’ life and ministry their affirmation of his resurrection and their experience of the Spirit.


What is this book about? What is its purpose? Gerard Sloyan (John, Interpretation series, pp. 7-8):


“There is enough of a group of the Palestinian scene reflected in this Gospel to inspire confidence in hearers who know ‘the land of Israel’ well. At the same time the Gospel seems to be the document of a community of dissident diaspora Jews, whose Bible is the Septuagint, whose grasp of basic Hebrew words is tenuous, and who are at home in the sonorous prose of a post-biblical hymnody that can be set to poetry like strophes.

“The one who speaks for them, John, is not in the first instance interested in telling the story of Jesus’ public career. He wishes to proclaim Jesus’ identity to contemporaries so that their belief in him will be correct. There is consequently the appearance of historical narrative, but behind it lies the reality of messages directed to contemporaries, friends, and foes alike. It is to engage them in the story that everything is told. John like any good storyteller – and he is one – uses his characters and events, Jesus along with the rest, to say what he wants to say about the significance of this believing community by telling of the significance of Jesus. It is this Jesus who is the center of the community’s faith.


“John does not produce a work of fiction. His narrative is historically based. But the primary goal is persuasion, not a chronicle of events. In the interest of persuading the hearer, he will use every technique known to the narrator’s art – some of them very effectively. That is why it is a mistake to approach the Fourth Gospel by putting it to a set of historical questions: Did Jesus make his utterances at the different feasts as recorded? Was his life threatened by hostile crowds bent on stopping him? Could Pilate have conducted himself in a legal proceeding in the way described? The questions are not so much unimportant as irrelevant. History is modern biblical scholarship’s primary category, largely for apologetic reasons originating early in the last century. But history is not the right measuring-rod to apply to works of religious literature. Literary canons are. This does not mean that historical and geographical questions are not to be put to the Fourth Gospel, only that they are not primary. The way the author goes about telling his story is primary.”


John and Lent:


John’s focus is on the person of Jesus and on what it means to be his disciples: obviously themes of central and critical importance as we prepare to celebrate and renew baptism at Easter.


Gerard Sloyan (p. 6, John, “Interpretation” series): “Jesus is a sign of division throughout the Gospel. Faced with him, people either come to believe in him and thereby walk in the light or choose the darkness of non-belief (8:12) and can expect judgment, that is, condemnation (3:19).” That choice is a central theme of Lent, along with the ongoing commitment to live within that choice.


John’s version of the Gospel highlights the four key baptismal symbols that we will be addressing the next four weeks: birth from above, water, light, and resurrection.