The Divergent Views of Christ in John

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 ...

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The Social History Behind the Fourth Gospel

The New Testament Gospels can be studied like any other piece of literature, since they are, of course, literary texts.  And so over the years scholars have applied a number of literary approaches to unpack the meanings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.   But in a number of ways these books are different from most literature we encounter otherwise, for example, from antiquity, the writings of Homer or Virgil, or, from the modern world, Dickens, Virginia Woolf, or, well, J. ...

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So What Sources for Jesus’ Life *Were* Used in the Fourth Gospel?

I have been providing the evidence that the Gospel of John is not a single composition written by a single author sitting down to produce the account at a single time, but is made up of written sources that have all been edited together into the finished product. (See my previous two posts.)

Now I can say something about these sources of Jesus’ life, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection.  Again, this is taken from my Introduction to the NT.


Thus the ...

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The Most Intriguing Evidence that John Used Sources

So far in this going-to-be-substantial thread on the Johannine Writings (Gospel of John;1, 2, and 3 John) I have shown how John is very different from the other Gospels in numerous ways, argued that it’s account is not based on those of the others three (whether or not the author knew of their existence), yet maintained that he must have had other sources at his disposal that provided him with his stories.  Before detailing what scholars have said about these ...

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Where Did the Gospel of John Get Its Stories?

In my previous two posts I’ve talked about how John is very different from the other three Gospels, the “Synoptics” — both in the stories it tells and the way it tells them.  That leads to the natural question.  Where did “John” (whoever the author was) get his stories from?   It’s widely assumed he didn’t make them all up — and he certainly didn’t make up the ones found in other Gospels, since they were written before him.   Then where ...

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Is This the Same Jesus? John and the Synoptics (part 2)

In yesterday’s post I began to show how vastly different the Gospel of John is in comparison with the Synoptics, purely in terms of contents.  What is even more striking are the differences when when John and the Synoptics contain the same kinds of stories (e.g., miracles; teachings; passion narrative).  This is where you can see how the portrayal of Jesus is REALLY different in the fourth Gospel (something no one can see if they simply assume they’re all saying ...

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Comparing John and the Synoptics

I am about to embark on a very long thread, on the Gospel and epistles of John.   As many of you know, my colleague, Hugo Mendez, assistant professor of New Testament and early Christianity at UNC, has started publishing on a major project involving the “Johannine Community.”  That phrase will not mean a lot to many of you.  To New Testament scholars it means volumes.  In fact there *have* been volumes written about it.   It is almost certainly the most ...

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Did Jesus Sweat Blood? “Intrinsic” Evidence for Textual Variants

In yesterday’s post I mentioned some of the kinds of “external” evidence that textual scholars look at when trying to establish the “original” text of a document (that is, the wording of the text as the author originally wrote it) when different manuscripts have different wordings for this or that passage.  In this post I’ll talk about one kind of “internal” evidence that is used to assist in making this kind of decision.  With internal evidence, instead of looking at ...

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How Ancient is the Idea of Christ’s “Incarnation”?

Last week I was asked about the famous passage often known (among scholars) as the “Christ Hymn” of Philippians, 2:6-11.  For a very long time (mid 20th c?) scholars have argued that it is a passage Paul did not write himself, but one that he is actually *quoting*.  The passage seems to affirm the idea that Christ existed *before* he came into the world.

That may not seem weird to modern Christians, but in fact the only place where the idea ...

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Demons and Christians in Antiquity! Guest Post By Travis Proctor

Some readers have suggested that I have guest posts from my former PhD students describing their dissertations.  Great idea!  This is our first shot at it.  One of my most recent PhDs was Travis Proctor, who is now an Assistant Professor of Religion at  Wittenberg College in Springfield Ohio.   Travis wrote a terrifically interesting dissertation on demons in early Christianity.  It turns out, it’s not only a really intriguing topic, but unexpectedly complicated.

The dissertation was called “Rulers of the Air: ...

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