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 other sources I need to give the argument that seems most convincing that his account is indeed based on earlier written accounts that he has taken over. It also happens to be the argument that is most intriguing, at least for my money.
The other two argument I gave may not seem in isolation to be convincing. This one is meant to be. There are inconsistencies in John’s narrative that are easiest to be explain if he is compiling various sources together; these sources didn’t all say the same thing or have the same view; and when they were combined, the combination created some internal inconsistencies.
It’s possible to explain these in other ways, if you work hard enough at it; but I’m going to argue that the they make the most sense if the author has spliced other sources together. The idea is kind of like this: if I were to sew two pieces of cloth together, well, it wouldn’t go well because my skills in sewing are about as good as my skills in three-dimensional math. You would *see* that two pieces have been stitched together, both because my stitching isn’t good (that might be the first sign) and because when you look closely you can see it’s not all the same piece of cloth.
So too with some literary texts. You can see the seams and that makes you notice the different pieces that have been put together. That’s how it is with John. I should stress, again, that this is not just some crazy idea that a liberal biblical scholar who teaches at UNC Chapel Hill came up with. This is fairly standard fare among biblical scholars — the arguments have been around for a very long time. I just happen to buy them. And if you want to buy them at well, the best news is that they won’t cost you a dime.
Here is how I put the matter in my Introduction to the New Testament. After using my sewing skills as an example, I say this:
I do not mean to say that the Fourth Evangelist was a sloppy (literary) seamster. But he did leave a few traces of his work, traces that become evident as you study his final product with care. The following are several illustrations. (I am giving these in very brief form: most of them would require a bit of unpacking — but they are enough at least to give you the idea)
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