Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The gospel according to John

At the Conservatorium of Music we're just about to get under way for the semester, and our Tuesday and Thursday 'Thrive' meetings* will be looking at the gospel of John.

What a wonderful gospel! If the other gospels begin with a drumroll or a majestic fanfare, the gospel of John begins by throwing us into the deep end. In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Better be wearing your theological floaties, my friends, or we will sink like stones into the oceanic depths of God's great grace. Which maybe no bad thing.

Here's a bit of Don Carson's comment on John:

A thoughtful reader does not have to work at [John's gospel] very long before noticing remarkable differences between the Fourth Gospel...and the Synoptics.

First, John's Gospel leaves out a great deal of material that is characteristic of the Synoptics. There are no narrative parables in John, no account of the transfiguration, no record of the institution of the Lord's supper, no report of Jesus casting out a demon, no mention of Jesus' temptations. There are fewer brief, pithy utterances and more discourses, but some discourses found in the Synoptics ... are not found in John. Although Jesus' baptism and the calling of the Twelve are doubtless presupposed, they are not actually described. Even themes central to the Synoptics have almost disappeared: in particular, the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven, so much a part of the preaching of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels and the central theme of his narrative parables, is scarcely mentioned as such...

Second, John includes a fair amount of material of which the Synoptists make no mention. All of the material in John 2-4, for instance, including his miraculous transformation of water into wine, his dialogue with Nicodemus and his ministry in Samaria, find no Synoptic counterpart. Further, the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus' frequent visits to Jerusalem, and his extended dialogues or discourses in the temple and in various synagogues, not to mention much of his private instruction to his disciples, are all exclusive to the Fourth Gospel.

Doubtless some of this can be accounted for on the basis that John reports far more of Jesus' ministry in the south, in Judea and Samaria, than in Galilee; but the differences between John and the Synoptics are not all attributable to geographical focus No less striking are the forcefully presented themes that dominate John bur that are largely absent from the Synoptics. Only in John is Jesus explicitly identified with God (1:1, 18; 20:28). Here, too, Jesus makes a series of important 'I am' statements: I am the light of the world, the resurrection and the life, the good shepherd, the vine, the living water, the way, the truth and the life. These culminate in a series of absolute 'I am' statements that are redolent of God himself (...6:20; 8:24, 28, 58). The Fourth Gospel maintains a series of 'opposites', dualisms if you will, that are much stronger than in the Synoptics: life and death, from above and from below, light and dark, truth and lie, sight and blindness, and more.

Don Carson, The Gospel According to John, (Leicester: IVP, 1991) pp 21-22.

What a blessing to read the gospel of John in company with a man who's read it himself, often.

*We meet at 1 pm, during semester, most likely in Room 2004. Join us if you like! Even if not, please pray for us. Thank you!

1 comment:

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg said...

Please, consider Samaritan-Jewish Background Commentary on John's Gospel here -