22 votes, average: 5.00 out of 522 votes, average: 5.00 out of 522 votes, average: 5.00 out of 522 votes, average: 5.00 out of 522 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5 (22 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...

The History Behind John’s Gospel

In my previous post I explained that there are different (even divergent) understandings of Jesus in the Gospel of John.  I ended, the post by asking the following:  How does one explain these thematic differences among the stories of John?  Social historians would argue that the history of the community affected the ways that it told its stories about Jesus and that critical events in this history led to changes in the community’s understanding of Jesus and his relationship to the people to whom he came.  Scholars who have developed this idea have traced the community’s history through three stages.

That is where I pick up here, by citing how I lay out the matter in my New Testament textbook discussion of John, and the three stages in the life of the community.  This particular aspect of the question will take two posts.  All of this information is important for my ultimate goal: to explain why scholars have found the theory of a Johannine Community so valuable as a way of explaining what we find in the Fourth Gospel.

 

************************************************************************

Stage One: In the Synagogue

The oldest stories of the Fourth Gospel appear to indicate that the Johannine community originated as a group of Jews who …

To keep reading this post you will need to belong to the blog.  If you choose to be a paying member — well bless your entire mortal existence!  Every penny of the small membership fee goes to help those in desperate need, an increasingly massive group these days.  But if you want a free membership, those now are on offer too!  Either way, join!  And keep reading!

… the Johannine community originated as a group of Jews who came to believe that Jesus was the messiah, who nonetheless continued to maintain their Jewish identity and to worship in their Jewish synagogue.  We do not know where exactly this community was originally located, except that it may have been someplace in Palestine where Aramaic was spoken.

The reasons for drawing these historical conclusions come from our only source of information, the Gospel of John itself.  Some of John’s stories emphasize Jesus’ Jewishness and narrate how some Jews came to identify him as the Jewish messiah.  Since this identification of the messiah would have been of no interest to pagans (it’s a reference to the deliverer of Israel), it makes sense that the stories would have been told within Jewish communities.  Since the stories presuppose knowledge of Jesus’ own mother tongue, Aramaic, they appear to have been among the most ancient accounts of the Gospel.

This community of Jewish believers may have owed their existence to a follower of Jesus whom they later called “the Beloved Disciple.”  This enigmatic figure appears several times in the course of the Gospel; he appears to have enjoyed a position of prominence among those who told the stories (see, for example, John 13:23; 19:26-27; 20:2-8).

It appears that these Jewish converts attempted to proselytize other members of their Jewish synagogue.  Evidence for this hypothesis is found not only in such stories as the call of the disciples, which presumably would have been told in order to show how some Jews had recognized Jesus as their messiah, but also, perhaps, in the Signs Source.  You may recall the theory that this source ended with the words now found in 20:30-31: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  The purpose of the Signs Source, in other words, was missionary.  It recorded the miraculous deeds of Jesus precisely in order to convince Jews that Jesus was the messiah.  Originally, then, the signs were not designed to show that Jesus was God.  They indicated that he was empowered by God as his representative.  Jesus was still understood to be a special human being at the stage of the community’s history in which the stories were first told, but he was not yet thought of as himself divine.

 

Stage Two: Excluded from the Synagogue

It is impossible to say how long the Jews of this community remained in their synagogue without causing a major disturbance.  What does become clear from several of the stories of the Fourth Gospel is that a significant disruption eventually took place in which the Jews who believed in Jesus were excluded from the synagogue.  There is no indication of exactly what led to this exclusion, but it is not difficult to paint a plausible scenario.  First-century Jews by and large rejected any idea that Jesus could be the messiah.  For most of them, the messiah was to be a figure of grandeur and power, for example, a heavenly being sent to rule the earth, or a great warrior king who would overthrow the oppressive forces of Rome and renew David’s kingdom in Jerusalem.  Jesus was clearly nothing of the sort.  On the contrary, he was an itinerant preacher who was executed for treason against the state.

So long as the Jews who believed in Jesus kept a low profile, keeping their notions to themselves, there was probably no problem with their worshiping in the synagogue.  But from its earliest days, Christianity was a missionary religion, dedicated to converting others to faith in Jesus.  In the Johannine community, as in most other Jewish communities, the Christians were no doubt rejected by the majority of the Jews and probably mocked and marginalized.  This may have led on the one hand to increased antagonism from non-Christian Jews and, on the other hand, to heightened efforts at evangelism on the part of the Christian Jews.  Eventually, these believers in Jesus became something more than a headache.  Perhaps because of their persistent badgering of the skeptical and their refusal to keep their views to themselves — or perhaps for some other unknown reason — this group of believers in Jesus was forced to leave the Jewish community.

There is some evidence within the Gospel of John itself that the Jewish Christians within the synagogue were at some point forced to leave.  Several scholars have considered the most compelling piece of evidence to be embodied in the healing story of John 9.  In this account, Jesus heals a man who had been born blind.  The Jewish authorities take umbrage at this action, because it has occurred on the Sabbath.  They interrogate the man who has been healed, trying to learn how he gained his sight.  When he identifies Jesus as the one who healed him, they refuse to believe it and call in his parents to uncover the truth.  His parents, however, refuse to answer their questions, insisting that since he is of age, they should ask the man himself.  And then the author explains why the man’s parents refuse to cooperate, in one of the most intriguing verses of the entire Gospel: “His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue” (9:22).

This verse is significant from a socio-historical perspective because we know that there was no official policy against accepting Jesus as messiah — or anyone else as the messiah, for that matter — during his lifetime.  On the other hand, some Jewish synagogues evidently did begin to exclude members who believed in Jesus’ messiahship towards the end of the first century.  It appears then that the story reflects the experience of the later community that stood behind the Fourth Gospel.  These believers in Jesus had been expelled from the Jewish community, the community, presumably, of their families and friends and neighbors, the community in which they had worshipped God and had fellowship with one another.

This expulsion from their synagogue had serious implications for the Christian community’s social life and, correspondingly, for the way it began to understand its world and its stories about its messiah, Jesus.

 


More of the History Behind the Gospel of John
The Divergent Views of Christ in John

86

Comments

  1. Avatar
    godspell  April 10, 2020

    I’ve read that many think John has some of the oldest source material of any gospel, and I’ve always struggled to understand that, since it so clearly distorts Jesus’ ideas. I’m starting to understand. The sources are old, but are refracted through a much later mindset.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      Yes, that’s the argument.

      • Avatar
        KingJohn  April 14, 2020

        Dr. Ehrman, isn’t it true that the Messiah was NOT to take the place of YAHWEH (God) ! That is also why early Jews rejected him.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 15, 2020

          The first statement is true, the messiah was God’s representative who would rule his people. But I don’t understand your second question. By “him” do you mean Jesus? Early Christians decidedly did not think that Jesus replaced Yahweh (if that’s what you mean). The main reason most Jews rejected Jesus was because the messiah was to be a great and powerful ruler, not someone who was crucified by the enemy for crimes against the state.

          • Avatar
            KingJohn  April 19, 2020

            I mean to say early Jews rejected him because, eventually, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus calls
            himself God. Isn’t that true?

          • Bart
            Bart  April 19, 2020

            John was written after the vast majority of Jews who had heard of Jesus had already rejected him. The idea that he really called himself God, or that he was thoguht to have done that, is not found until John (about 60-65 years after Jesus’ death). So I don’t think that was the primary reason. It certainly was not the reason Paul did, originally. The problem is that Christians were calling him the messiah; Paul says nothing about being offended by them calling him God.

  2. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  April 10, 2020

    During the crucifixion, Jesus is offered wine mixed with gall but refuses to drink it. Why wouldn’t he drink it? Other accounts have Jesus drinking wine. Is there a point behind these differences?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      I supposed to show he wasn’t going to take a painkiller.

    • Avatar
      KingJohn  April 14, 2020

      Gall was a Roman drink of the lower classes; it was made by mixing vinegar and water and herbs. The soldiers and lower class drank this; it was despised by upper societies; in other words, a poor mans drink. CHEAP LIQUOR; consequently, an insult to the King of the Jews.

    • Colthrone
      Colthrone  April 17, 2020

      The wine here is adulterated. Adulteration has a negative connotation in the Bible, as it implies a foreign substance that compromises, corrupts or makes impure that which it is added to (think of an adulterous relationship). The wine/vinegar is adulterated with gall, which is a bitter substance symbolic of a bitter soul (Deu. 29:18, Job 20:14).

  3. Avatar
    AstaKask  April 10, 2020

    So does each Sign has a specific symbolic meaning important for belief? Do we have any idea why these signs were chosen and not any of the other many signs?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      They are as a rule different metaphors for the same point: Jesus is the one through whom one can receive eternal life. The author probably took some of the popular miracle stories known in his community and invested them with this theological meaing.

  4. sschullery
    sschullery  April 10, 2020

    What with all of this “ancientness” how did we come to understand John to be the last of the four gospels to be written?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      It was always considered the last, from our earliest records. Possibly because it was the last of the four placed in circulation and people thought, Oh, this one hasn’t been around as long.

      • Avatar
        Thespologian  May 1, 2020

        I don’t recall ever hearing this opinion. Do you question John’s dating?

        • Bart
          Bart  May 3, 2020

          Since the earliest references to John in the second century through till today, it has almost always been considered the final of the four Gospels to be written.

  5. Avatar
    tonysolgard  April 10, 2020

    “This verse is significant from a socio-historical perspective because ***we know*** that there was no official policy against accepting Jesus as messiah — or anyone else as the messiah, for that matter — during his lifetime.”
    Perhaps you could comment on how we know this. Thanks in advance.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      Well, for one thing, there were no Jewish laws at all against *anyone* proclaiming themselves as messiah; it happened on occasion, and people might think you were a bit egomaniacal, but no one was thrown in jail for it. Even later rabbis sometimes considered someone the messiah.

      • Avatar
        Kirktrumb59  April 14, 2020

        And later later. There are those among the flock who continue to believe that Lubovitcher rebbe Menachem Schneerson (died 1994) was the messiah (something he apparently rejected, referring to himself). Not only that, but that his devastating stroke, which left him globally aphasic (unable to speak or to comprehend language) and hemiplegic (paralyzed on his right side) (see psalm 137, verses 5 and 6) reinforced the pre-stroke notion, a sign as it were, that he was the messiah.

  6. Avatar
    Stephen  April 10, 2020

    One can’t help but think of Paul’s claim to have persecuted the Christian community. Might this be the nature of his effort, that he participated in the expulsion of Christian converts from his own local synagogue?

    thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      It could be, but he doesn’t say anything about it. It could also be that he was just taking Christian preachers into the back alley and beating them to smithereens.

  7. Lev
    Lev  April 10, 2020

    “This verse is significant from a socio-historical perspective because we know that there was no official policy against accepting Jesus as messiah — or anyone else as the messiah, for that matter — during his lifetime.”

    Interesting. What’s the source(s) behind this knowledge of no official policy? It sounds a strong claim (“we know”), so I’m assuming it’s not an argument from silence?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      We know there were no Jewish laws at all against *anyone* proclaiming themselves as messiah since it happened on occasion. If someone made the claim, people might think he was a bit egomaniacal, but no one was thrown in jail for it. Even later rabbis sometimes considered someone the messiah.

      • Lev
        Lev  April 13, 2020

        BE comment: “We know there were no Jewish laws at all against *anyone* proclaiming themselves as messiah since it happened on occasion. If someone made the claim, people might think he was a bit egomaniacal, but no one was thrown in jail for it. Even later rabbis sometimes considered someone the messiah.”

        If that’s the case, then why do the gospels record several instances where the Jews tried to (and did) condemn Jesus for blasphemy?

        – When Jesus forgave the paralytic man in Mk 2:5-7; also Mt 9:2-3 and Lk 5:20-21 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?”
        – Jesus identifies himself as God’s son in Jn 5:18, 8:58-59 and 10:30-33 “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
        – His trial before the Sanhedrin. “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.” Mk 14:64.

        According to MacLaren’s commentary, the charge of blasphemy held up because: “He hath spoken ‘blasphemy,’ not because He had derogated from the dignity of divinity, but because He had presumed to participate in it.” And because the Sanhedrin did not believe his claim to be authentic, he was accordingly guilty of a capital offence.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 13, 2020

          Because the Gospel writers want to blame the Jews for Jesus’ death. So they claim he committed blasphemy. The fact that later Christians claimed that Jews found Jesus to have committed blasphemy does not mean that Jews really did find him to have committed blasphemy. No where in the Synoptics does Jesus claim to “participate in” the dignity of the divinity, if by that you mean that he said he was himself God. The messiah was NOT thought to be God; and saying that the Son of Man is soon to come is no more a blasphemy on the lips of Jesus than it was on the pen of Daniel.

          • Lev
            Lev  April 13, 2020

            BE: “No where in the Synoptics does Jesus claim to “participate in” the dignity of the divinity, if by that you mean that he said he was himself God. The messiah was NOT thought to be God; and saying that the Son of Man is soon to come is no more a blasphemy on the lips of Jesus than it was on the pen of Daniel.”

            I thought it was his emphatic positive answer over his messiahship and his sonship to God that was the kicker, rather than his prediction over the son of man? Wasn’t it that which pushed him over the line, that is, his claim he was the son of God meant he was participating in the dignity of the divinity?

            Mk14:61-62 “Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am'”

            In John, claiming to be God’s son meant powerful implications:

            Jn5:18 “For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.”

          • Bart
            Bart  April 14, 2020

            No, not necessarily. The messiah was a human who was so close to God he could be called his son, just as the kings of old (Psalm 2:7, for example, spoken to Israel’s king who has just been anointed at his coronation, “set on Zion’s hill”: “You are my son, today I have begotten you.”)

          • Lev
            Lev  April 14, 2020

            BE “No, not necessarily. The messiah was a human who was so close to God he could be called his son, just as the kings of old”

            Yes, I follow that and agree that it was the standard interpretation among Jews at the time of Jesus. To better explain my point, the Roman parallel might be useful. Although the imperial cult started off almost immediately after Augustus was crowned emperor, the Romans were reluctant to recognise him as divine until after his death.

            In other words, Augustus during his lifetime could share in the “dignity of divinity” and enjoy the status as “Divi Filius” (Latin: divine son), just as Jesus enjoyed this status among some of his followers, but wasn’t recognised as a god/divine until after he died. It seemed there was a half-way house between mortality and divinity where Jesus and Augustus’ sonship of the divine enjoyed a special status – the “dignity of divinity” as MacLaren put it.

            Perhaps claiming to be “Messiah and son of the blessed one” carried with it a special significance (although short of actual divinity) that it warranted the charge of blasphemy if it were judged to be untrue?

          • Bart
            Bart  April 15, 2020

            Yes, it’s possible. You need to look at all the evidence on both sides of the issue and see if it strikes you as *probable*. In this case, how likely is it that first century Jews raised in the Jewish tradition in a remote part of Israel had a Jewish teacher that they believed was actually God (we’re not talking about pagan polytheists here). What analogy for that do we have in Judaism in antiquity? As opposed to the idea that some Jews thought that a holy person was divinized at his death?

          • Lev
            Lev  April 15, 2020

            BE: “In this case, how likely is it that first century Jews raised in the Jewish tradition in a remote part of Israel had a Jewish teacher that they believed was actually God (we’re not talking about pagan polytheists here). What analogy for that do we have in Judaism in antiquity? As opposed to the idea that some Jews thought that a holy person was divinized at his death?”

            That’s a good point. I don’t recall any OT texts that predict that the Messiah would be divinized after death. There’s the odd Psalm or prophet that predicts that he would not be abandoned in the grave, but I don’t think that comes with the expectation that he would be divinized after death.

            My central point is that the picture painted in the gospels is that the Messiah enjoyed a special status short of divinity, but more than mortality, and that is where the blasphemy charge comes in. The ‘Messiah and son of the blessed one’ had (presumably adopted) sonship with God, and that moved them into a special category where he enjoyed the “dignity of divinity”, short of divinity itself. It’s vague and imprecise, but that seems to be what is argued by Jesus’ opponents in the gospels – and why the charge of blasphemy was leveled.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 17, 2020

            Yes, that’s right. But these accounts are written long *after* the life of Jesus and don’t necessarily reflect what was happening (among the disciples) during his lifetime.

          • Lev
            Lev  April 17, 2020

            BE: “Yes, that’s right. But these accounts are written long *after* the life of Jesus and don’t necessarily reflect what was happening (among the disciples) during his lifetime.”

            So it seems the missing link in my theory is whether Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin on the charge of blasphemy or not.

            I find your proposal convincing that Judas’ betrayal was that he ‘spilled the beans’ – that Jesus was privately claiming Messiahship to the twelve. If that is the case, then doesn’t it follow this was the central charge leveled against Jesus at his Sanhedrin trial?

            If that’s true, then perhaps there were laws in 1st century Palestine against erroneous claims over Messiahship and those who followed a false Messiah could face punitive action such as being expelled from their synagogue?

          • Bart
            Bart  April 19, 2020

            The problem wasn’t that Jesus committed a blasphemy but that he called himself the king of the Jews. Only the Romans could appoint a King. Jewish leaders wanted nothing to do with someone who was thouht to be urging political rebellion, out of fear of reprisals. So they simply handed him over to the authorities, who tried him on the political charge. The accounts of him committing blasphemy come later, as Christians (non-Jews) wanted to blame Jews for rejecting the messiah sent from their own God. There is no record of any Jewish laws against declaring oneself a messiah. Josephus mentions that Christians called Jesus the messiah, but he says nothing at all about it being a blasphemy. (He himself was a first century Jew in Israel)

          • Lev
            Lev  April 19, 2020

            BE: “The problem wasn’t that Jesus committed a blasphemy but that he called himself the king of the Jews.”

            Yes, I agree that was the charge he was executed by the Romans for. But was it not commonly understood that the coming Messiah would also be the King who would restore the Davidic throne? That if one claimed to be Messiah, it would naturally follow that he was also claiming Kingship?

            In this way, the Sanhedrin could arrest him on the theological charge of blasphemy, but then hand him over to the Romans on the political charge of treason.

            But yes – I can see how your proposal also works, that the Sanhedrin could simply hand him over to the Romans on the political charge of treason without having to go through any theological hoops.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 20, 2020

            Yes, that’s my point. He was claiming that he would be given the Davidic throne. It was no more a blasphemy for Jesus to say it than it was for Solomon to have said it.

  8. Avatar
    Vlobascio  April 10, 2020

    Thanks for this Bart, I’ve often wondered at how long early Christians would have been allowed to be a part of the Jewish community. I always imagined it was a pretty rapid split given the extent of their theological differences.

    Unrelated question: (I’m full of questions this week!)
    I seem to recall in one of your debates (I think it was with James White) you mentioned that the earlier manuscripts of the gospels seem to exhibit the greatest differences vs. later manuscripts. The example of the ending of Mark comes to mind, but is that also true of the other gospels? Do the earlier copies have more significant differences than the later copies?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      The differences are almost never at this level; but lots and lots of differences, most of them minor (synonyms, word order changes, spellings, words left out or added, slight grammatical changes, and so on)

      • Avatar
        Vlobascio  April 12, 2020

        Right, so the typical rebuttal to the argument that there are many differences is that “only 1% of them matter.”

        But where is that 1% concentrated? Are the most significant differences front-loaded towards earlier texts, as in the case with the ending of Mark?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 13, 2020

          Did I say 1% somewhere? Don’t recall that. And yes, the ones that matter are among the earlier ones maingly. There is no concentration, they are scattered. You might be interested in the ones I discuss in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.

          • Avatar
            Vlobascio  April 13, 2020

            No I didn’t mean your rebuttal was that it’s only 1% that matter, I mean that is the typical evangelical rebuttal to the comment that scripture is so full of changes (White used that rebuttal in his debate with you, as have others.) I will check out the book, thanks!

          • Bart
            Bart  April 14, 2020

            Right! Well, some time ask them to demonstrate that it is 1% as opposed, say, to 1.5% 🙂

  9. Avatar
    tteichma  April 10, 2020

    What’s stage 3?

  10. Avatar
    SteveEastin@abaci.com  April 10, 2020

    If the Johannine community consisted of Aramaic speaking Jews, and not Greek, can we assume that they were unaware of the Nicodemus story? As you have mentioned elsewhere, the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus could not have happened in Aramaic because of the double entendre of “born again” and “born from above.”

  11. Avatar
    tellswo16  April 10, 2020

    How do “we know that there was no official policy against accepting Jesus as messiah — or anyone else as the messiah, for that matter — during his lifetime”?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      There were no Jewish laws at all against *anyone* proclaiming themselves as messiah; it happened on occasion, and people might think you were a bit egomaniacal, but no one was thrown in jail for it. Even later rabbis sometimes considered someone the messiah with impunity.

      • Avatar
        dankoh  April 12, 2020

        Specifically, Rabbi Akiva and some others hailed Bar Kosiba as the messiah in the 130’s CE, changing his name to Bar Kochba – son of a star. Other rabbis mocked him – “Akiva, grass will grow in your cheeks and still the son of David will not have come” (Y. Taanit 68d). Even so, they never said Akiva was violating a commandment, just that he was being foolish.

  12. Avatar
    doug  April 10, 2020

    Do you have any guess as to what percentage of first century Jews (not just the Johannine Community) had even heard of the claim that Jesus was the messiah?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      Very, very small — but depending on which locality one was in and at what date. Paul heard of it early on, e.g..

  13. Robert
    Robert  April 10, 2020

    Bart: “It appears that these Jewish converts attempted to proselytize other members of their Jewish synagogue.  Evidence for this hypothesis is found not only in such stories as the call of the disciples, which presumably would have been told in order to show how some Jews had recognized Jesus as their messiah, but also, perhaps, in the Signs Source.  You may recall the theory that this source ended with the words now found in 20:30-31: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  The purpose of the Signs Source, in other words, was missionary.  It recorded the miraculous deeds of Jesus precisely in order to convince Jews that Jesus was the messiah.  Originally, then, the signs were not designed to show that Jesus was God.  They indicated that he was empowered by God as his representative.  Jesus was still understood to be a special human being at the stage of the community’s history in which the stories were first told, but he was not yet thought of as himself divine.”

    Why would this Signs Source NOT even mention the Resurrection among it’s seven signs?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      Thought I’d answered this? It is narrating the miracles Jesus did during his life to show why he was the Son of God. The resurrection is a miracle God did, not one Jesus did.

      • Robert
        Robert  April 12, 2020

        Bart: “Thought I’d answered this? It is narrating the miracles Jesus did during his life to show why he was the Son of God. The resurrection is a miracle God did, not one Jesus did.”

        Yes, I am familiar with your view (thank you), but I am trying to ask you a more subtle question: Why would the author of this putative signs source limit his material only to signs done by the earthly Jesus prior to his death? If the author is really interested in showing that Jesus was the Son of God and that by believing in him his readers too might have eternal life, why would he not speak of the resurrection of Jesus? In other words, why choose a view of the signs source as proposed by Bultmann vs other scholarly views of the signs source, such as that defended by Robert Fortna?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 13, 2020

          Ah, right, we’re talking at cross purposes again! The author holds a view that you will know the messiah has come to earth by the miracles he did. He thinks the miracles Jesus did shows that he is the messiah. So he writes an account of the miracles he did. WE might think, “Well, buddy, you missed playing your best trump card there.” But it’s *amazing* how many trump cards various Gospel writers on the whole leave in their hand. Think, well, resurrection appearances in Mark; birth stories in John; whatever; passion in Thomas; etc. etc.

          • Robert
            Robert  April 13, 2020

            Hi, Bart. Without assuming your conclusion, can you tell us why you accept a view of the signs source as proposed by Bultmann (seven earthly signs, not including the resurrection) vs other scholarly views of the signs source, such as that defended by Robert Fortna (more than seven signs, including the resurrection)?

          • Bart
            Bart  April 14, 2020

            Because the logic strikes me as the most plausible: if the messiah was to be proved by the signs he did, and the source was written to prove that he was the messiah (20:30-31), then it makes sense that it recounted the signs that he did. I feel like I’m repeating myself. But maybe after the seventh time, it will be convincing. 🙂

  14. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  April 10, 2020

    I’ve never noticed this before in John 20:6-7

    6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,
    7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.

    What is the significance of the cloth being rolled up that had been on Jesus’s head? It wasn’t lying with the other wrappings.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      The Presbyterians have always said it was to show that “everything must be done decently and in its order.” But we don’t know — it’s much debated.

  15. Avatar
    Nathan  April 10, 2020

    In John 20:30 does “not written in this book” refer to a codex? In the late first century, the poet Martial doesn’t use the word codex for this new invention, if he is in fact actually describing a codex. Can the word used help date the gospel?

  16. Avatar
    GeoffClifton  April 11, 2020

    This is certainly an intriguing way of approaching a Gospel from which I’ve heard snippets on Sundays throughout my life. I have met well-educated Christians who are convinced St John wrote the fourth gospel but this is very unlikely and the ‘beloved disciple’ who inspired the community may not have been John either, I gather.

  17. Telling
    Telling  April 11, 2020

    Famous musical author and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is presenting his musical/film presentations every weekend over several weeks, starting with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” last weekend (sorry you missed that), and “Jesus Christ Superstar is running this weekend, free of charge, and free of ads if watched on this link below.

    Webber is a true genius, and I think well demonstrates the absurdity of “the Crucifixion” with this presentation, and should make anyone think.

    This presentation is available free up to about noon on Sunday, tomorrow.

    https://lwtheatres.co.uk/celebrate-theatre-at-home/#music

    Keep the link for others of Webbers presentations. It is his contribution our corona quarantine, a free full length professional presentation every weekend.

    • Avatar
      Iris  April 13, 2020

      There it is again, “as narrow as” opinions of evangelicals. While Webber has remarkable musical and storytelling gifts his interpretation of Jesus is not one I share. I had not seen the punk rock version of the musical as it appeared via television in the U S last night. While some of songs were wonderful, not equal to Phantom or Les Miz. A side question though, Bart, I have never understood what “son of Man” means or is intended to mean.

      • Bart
        Bart  April 14, 2020

        Ah, there are entire books written on the question, detailing evidence for different scholarly views! Mine, briefly: in Jesus’ time, if a Jew talked about “the son of man” he was likely referring to the passage in Daniel 7:13-14, where after the world was ruled (metaphorically) by wild beasts, four of them one after the other, God would send from heaven one “like a son of man,” to destroy the evil kingdoms and establish God’s rule on earth. When Christians called Jesus the Son of Man, they meant that he would be that one to set up God’s kingdom. But later, Christians just started calling Jesus the son of man without that in mind, starting to mean something like “he was really a human, not just a god.” Different meaning for the same words! And that’s why it’s confusing.

      • Telling
        Telling  April 14, 2020

        Bart already answered the “son of Man” question. I studied it also, and learned it means “son of humanity” or “human being” as Patterson and Meyer translate in their Gospel of Thomas translation of “Foxes have dens, … etc”. I suggest it means “son of Adam”, the perfect translation for the Jewish theology. This translation fits with the Old Testament bible where the term is used anywhere to mean a worthless man to a prophet (Daniel). “Son of Adam” could be applicable to any Jew, but presumably not gentiles (they are not sons of Adam). Christians and only Chrisitians gave it an added meaning, being Jesus specifically speaking of himself in third person. And that is a curious translation that in my opinion is a twisted logic.

        The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” tells a story similarly to what Bart believes. Only real difference is Webber holds closer to all the stories of the bible generally being presumed true (which is reasonable for this media). The presentation is a piece of art, in my opinion, regardless of your beliefs. In the 1970’s when the first version came out, it was indeed controversial for the older generation but celebrated by the emerging peace and love generation, as you may well know if you’re of that era.

        And here’s something curious: When Pontius Pilate offers to release either Jesus or Barabbas (called a murderer), the choice (by name) is between the “Son of Adam” (Jesus) and “Son of the Father” (Barabbas) and the Jews roundly choose the Son of Adam for execution and release of the Son of the Father. Look up the term Barabbas. It means “Son of the Father” Bar (son of) Abbas (father). It is my opinion that the oddity was added as a hint to the Jews that Jesus was not the man crucified, something that Romans would not catch.

  18. Avatar
    Levenson  April 11, 2020

    Professor Bart what’re your thoughts on people claiming COVID-19 is part of the prophecy in revelation and that the next step is a chip being implanted as said in revelation talking about accepting the mark of the beast within the right hand or forehead

    I hope you’re keeping safe!

    Thank you in advance

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      My response is that this is what people have always said about the current disaster/situation. Remember when Saddam Hussein was the anti-Christ, 666?

      • Avatar
        rozgnatt  April 13, 2020

        A 2009 editorial in the professional publication Environmental Microbiology comments,”Many viruses are strain-specific predators…as a particular microbial strain becomes dominate in a system, its viral predators will expand exponentially and kill it off. This will leave a niche for another microbial strain to grow into…. This means that the dominant microbialspecies within a system will be constantly turned over.”
        Friends in Venice tell me of how the canals are clean again, the fish have returned, etc. now that the humans have been humbled. Just saying…

  19. stevedemarco
    stevedemarco  April 11, 2020

    Did the early church fathers in some ways regard the Gospel of John as the leading and revered Gospel? Did the other Gospels followed and backed up the doctrine to John?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      Matthew was more widely read; but John was next. they were seen as importantly supplementing each other.

      • stevedemarco
        stevedemarco  April 12, 2020

        Thank you and Happy Easter!

  20. Avatar
    Kavsor  April 12, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman, since Jews don’t proselytize, what was the reason for the early Jewish Christians in your opinion to start recruiting
    other Jews? Could it be because of their ”ultra” apoclyptic views? Not only the end was near, it was imminent. After all Jesus had said : The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near.(Mark1:15) or …some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God…..(Mark9:1). They tried to convert and save as many fellow Jews as possible?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2020

      Yes, it was because they thought the end was coming soon, and only believers in Jesus would enter into the Kingdom, and so all otehrs had to be warned.

You must be logged in to post a comment.