Continuing my thread on methods for studying the Gospels. In yesterday’s post I began to talk about the “Comparative method” and showed how, in comparison with the Synoptics, just how different John is, purely in terms of contents. But even when John and the Synoptics contain similar stories (e.g., miracles; teachings; passion narrative) they are very different. That’s what I try to show in this excerpt today.


Comparison of Emphases

The differences between John and the Synoptics are perhaps 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. 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.


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