Now that I have explained what the socio-historical method is in general terms (in my previous post) I can go on to show how it can be applied to a particular Gospel, in this case, the Gospel of John.  Again, none of this is new and fresh scholarship that I myself came up with; two of the real pioneers of this method were two of the greats of New Testament interpretation in the latter part of the twentieth century, both of whom, remarkably, taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York (taught, in fact, some of my good friends!), the Protestant scholar J. Louis Martyn, and the Roman Catholic scholar, Raymond Brown.   Their views ended up being a more or less consensus position for many years, and continues to be prominent among teachers of the NT still today.

This is how I explain the matter in my Introduction to the New Testament


The Gospel of John from a Socio-Historical Perspective

The place to begin is by examining the different thematic emphases evident in different stories, which ultimately may derive from different sources, and to consider the kinds of social worlds that they appear to presuppose.  I might start by reminding you of one of the distinctive features of this Gospel, namely, the exalted view of Jesus that is emphasized in so many of its narratives.  But you may have noticed in your own reading of the Gospel that not every story shares this exalted perspective.  In fact, a number of John’s stories portray Jesus not as an elevated divine being come from heaven, but as a very human character.  To use the jargon employed by historians of Christian doctrine, portions of this narrative evidence a “high” christology, in which Jesus is portrayed as fully divine, and others evidence a “low” christology, in which he is portrayed as human, and nothing more.

In the modern world, many Christians subscribe to both a high and a low christology, in which Jesus is thought to be …

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