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 the same thing and all have the same views — as happens when people will read one passage from one Gospel, then another from another, and yet another from another, instead of reading one at a time and seeing what *it* has to say, apart from what the others do).

Here is how I deal with it in my textbook, slightly edited here.


Comparison of Emphases

The differences between John and the Synoptics are even more striking in stories that they have in common. You can see the differences yourself simply by taking any story of the Synoptics that is also told in John, and comparing the two accounts carefully.   Try it!   (Jesus baptism; his last evening with his disciples; his ….   well, here I’ll show some).  A thorough and detailed study of this phenomenon throughout the entire Gospel would reveal several fundamental differences. Here I will emphasize two of them, differences that affect a large number of the stories of Jesus’ deeds and words.

First, the deeds. Jesus does not do as many miracles in John as he does in the Synoptics, but the ones he does are, for the most part, far more spectacular. Indeed, unlike the Synoptics, Jesus does nothing to hide his abilities; on the contrary, he performs miracles openly in order to demonstrate who he is. To illustrate the point, it may be instructive for us to compare two stories that have several striking resemblances to one another, the Synoptic account of the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21-43) and John’s account of the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). Read them for yourself. In both, a person is ill and a relative goes to Jesus for help; Jesus is delayed from coming right away, so that by the time he arrives the person has already died and is being mourned; Jesus speaks of the person as “sleeping” (a euphemism for death); those present think that he has come too late and that now he can do nothing; Jesus approaches the one who has died, speaks some words and raises them from the dead. Both accounts end with Jesus’ instructions to care for the person’s well-being.

]Clearly these are the same kind of story.  What is striking is how they differ from one another in their details — not so much the details of who died and under what circumstances as the details of how the miracle itself is portrayed.  It is striking, first of all, that …

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