In the last post I began to discuss what we can know about the history of the community that produced (or that produced someone who produced) the Gospel of John.   The reason for dealing with this question is this:  one of the overarching theses of my book on memory and the historical Jesus is that the things we experience in the present affect how we remember the past.  They affect which parts of the past we remember (if they something in the past isn’t relevant for something in the present, we don’t bother to recall it; that’s just how memory works) and they radically affect how we remember.  The past is always shaped, in our minds (unconsciously), by the present.

My argument in the book is that this is true not only of us as individuals but also for us as social groups.  Collective memory reflects the present as well as the past, or rather it reflects the past as it is molded by the present.  To illustrate the point here on the blog, I’m citing the example of the Gospel of John, which remembers Jesus in light of the social history of its author’s community.

To make best sense of this post it will probably be of some use to read the preceding one.  Again I am taking this discussion from my textbook on the New Testament.





Stage Three: Against the Synagogue

Sociologists have studied a number of religious communities that have been excluded from larger social groups and forced to carry on their communal activities on their own.  The findings of these various studies are of some interest for understanding how the views of the Johannine community appear to have developed with the passing of time.

Religious groups (sometimes called “sects”) that split off from larger communities often feel …

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