1. The Question: Who was the author and what were his connections?

The Gospel is not straightforward, composed at one run.

a. Obvious addenda

21 After conclusion of Gp (20.30-31), and fairly different style (still some similarities) & vocab.

Pericope de adultera - different vocabulary, not in some important MSS - synoptic-like story without Johannine characteristics.

b. Jolts and difficulties

1. Dislocation of chapters 5 and 6: 4 ends in Galilee, 6 is again in Galilee, but 5 suddenly finds itself in Jerusalem, and in 7.1 Jesus again goes up to Jerusalem. It would be easy to place 5 after 7.1. Many theories to explain this dislocation (leaf turned over, scrolls misplaced, etc) but someone must have thought it made sense! Whoever was responsible for the order must have had other criteria than geographical continuity. Lindars explains jolt by insertion of 6 to illustrate 5.46 (on belief - note: it is quite early, since opponents merely puzzled, not implacably hostile as they become in later stages of gospel). Pryor explains position of Jn 6 as filling out statement of 5.45-47, since they are the witness of Moses to Christ. In both cases the basis is that theology is more important to Jn than geography.

2. 14.30 'Come now, let us go' is followed by three chapters of discourse before they actually leave in 18.1. Are these inserted? 15-16 have a ghetto-feel of persecution, and are based on love rather than the faith of 14.

3. Lazarus-incident and aftermath (11-12) could be a later insertion, since 10.40-41 seems to be a conclusion and 11.1 starts off unconnectedly. Ashton (p. 201) rearranges 10-12 radically to get a logical run-in for Passion, including putting the Cleansing back there, as in synoptics.

4. Two odd bits of discourse: 3.31-36 seems disconnected, and is the speaker John or Jesus? 12.44-46 is a public discourse when Jesus has just gone into hiding.

5. The Prologue is never referred to again, and its crucial concept of Logos goes unused. On the other hand, its concepts of light and life are important, and its theme that Jesus is rejected by his own.

2. Literary characteristics

a. Poverty of vocabulary: vocab of 1011 in 15,416 words = 15.25 compared to

Mk: 1345 in 11,242 = 8.35

Hebr:1038 in 4,951 = 4.77

i.e., same words used over and over again.

His chief connective particle, used over and over again, is oun, but it has lost its inferential tone and means almost 'next'. Ekeinos is used as the normal demonstrative, where good Greek would use outos. There is repetitive use of ina and oti corresponding to the Aramaic di.

b. Irony (two clashing layers of meaning of which either speaker or hearer is unaware). This is particularly used in the mouth of Jesus' opponents over his identity (unjustified claims to know who he is, often drawing false conclusions from true premises) e.g. 4.12; 7.15; 8.53, 57. Also blind accusations, often with swaggering claims (and self-important hemeis) 7.30; 8. 41, 47; 9.18, 24; 10.30; 18.30. But disciples too can be ironical, often through bewilderment and over-confidence: 1.46; 11.16; 16.16, 29. Jesus is himself ironical, often with questions, often with me, usually unanswered: 3.10; 7.23, 28; 10.32; 13.38; 16.31. On a larger scale this is echoed by the irony of such incidents as the cure of the man born blind, when the Pharisees think they see but in fact are blind, and by their insistent refusal to accept the evidence gradually nudge the cured man towards faith in Jesus, and by the trial, when in fact Jesus presides over the self-condemnation of those who think they are condemning him.

c. Advancement of understanding through puzzled questions, especially by those at least slightly hostile to Jesus, 3.4,9; 4.9, 11,29, 33; 6. 9, 28, 42, 52; 7.14; 8.19, 22, 33; 9.4 , etc. Many more statements also imply a question.

d. Ambiguity, especially of depth: anothen with Nicodemus (=above or anew), paradidonai in trial scene (=hand over or betray), anthropos used frequently of Jesus (stressing his humanity, but more), living water (Samaritan woman and Feast of Weeks), bread from heaven (=Wisdom or Eucharist).

e.Signs-technique Jn uses synoptic-style stories of miracles (never exorcisms), but then develops them, in a way quite unknown to the synoptic writers, with a discourse of Jesus or prolonged controversy or a meditation.

3. Background

It is impossible to rule out any of three spheres of influence, all of which play their part, mainstream Judaism, sectarian Judaism, hellenism:

a. Local knowledge Frequently Jn shows local knowledge superior to that of the synoptics. He knows that John was baptising at Bethany beyond the Jordan, knows of Aenon near Salim; before the Passion Jesus withdraws to the village of Ephraim. He knows about Siloam, the Pool of Bethesda and its five colonnades. In the passion sequence there is a wealth of knowledge (Kedron, Gabbatha, Golgotha); he avoids the doubtful synoptic scene of the Sanhedrin trial and prefers an interrogation before Annas, which is historically more probable. Martin Hengel goes so far as to pinpoint the author in 'upper-class Jerusalem'(p. 124: Cana is 'a luxury miracle', all the people met are aristocratic [Nicodemus, the basilikos at Capernaum], the poor are barely mentioned, there is none of the Galilean peasant feel of the synoptics).

b. Jewish Feasts A major theme is the replacement of Jewish Feasts and institutions by Jesus' own person. Thus

in 2.1-12 he takes the place of the Law by turning the water of the Law (the water of purifications) into the new wine of the messianic wedding-feast

in 2.13-22 Jesus replaces the Temple itself

in 5.1-18 he takes possession of the Sabbath, claiming that as God has the right to work on the Sabbath (he must continue to bring the new-born to birth and to judge the dead), so has he.

in 7-8 at the Feast of Shelters he claims to provide the living water which was an important feature of the ritual, symbolising the blessings of the messianic age.

in 9 perhaps in giving light to the blind he is alluding to the aspect of the Sabbath as a feast of light, the light of the Law.

in 19.24 by locating the crucifixion at the hour of the slaughter of lambs for the pasch, Jn shows that Jesus' sacrifice replaces that of the paschal lambs.

c. OT theological themes

1. In the prologue Wisdom-themes used to show pre-existence; also the contrast with Moses. Later there is frequent contrast of Jesus with 'our father' Jacob, Abraham and Moses.

2. OT images are used to show that Jesus provides the climax of the OT tradition: he provides the fulfilment of manna, he is the true light, the good shepherd, he reveals God's doxa, he sends God's spirit.

3. Jn 6 is cast in the form of a strictly rabbinic argument, a midrash on Ex 16.1, with the correct secondary use of a prophetic text , Is 54.13.

d. Contacts with Qumran The dualism found at Qumran appears in the contrast of the opposition of light and dark, lies and truth, and especially in 'sons of light', and the expressions 'to do the truth and 'the Spirit of truth' (cf. especially 1 QS 3.13-4.26). The religious value put on Truth is a particularly Qumranian emphasis.

But 'John had dualism in his bones' (Ashton, p. 237), also 'fundamental bipolarity of Jn's vision of the world' (p. 231), so no mere borrowing from Qumran: in Jn 5 life/death, in Jn 8 truth/falsehood, freedom/slavery, in 9 light/darkness, in trial worldly/heavenly throne. Constant little contrasts: 3.12 epigeia/epourania, 7.4 en krupto/en parrhesia.

e. Hellenism Two ideas characteristic of hellenistic Judaism are the Logos (much used by Philo as a vehicle for persuading gentiles that the Law is a worthy system) and the quasi-Platonic use of alethinos.

4. Relationship to the Synoptics

a. Emphases and patterns quite different

Sanders & Davies list:

1. Outline of gospel - in Jn 3 paschs mentioned, whereas synoptics timeless - also cleansing of Temple at beginning not end.

2. Synoptics have pithy sayings, Jn has discourses (very occasional pithy synoptic-type sayings: on harvest [4.31-38], on service [12.24-26]), and mostly centred on person of Jesus and his relationship to the Father - contrast parable of lost sheep and monologue on good shepherd (not realistic: Galilean shepherd shouldn't die for his sheep) - contrast silence at trial and monologue about truth. Emphasis on Christology is paramount.

3. Last Supper: synopts have bread and wine, Jn washing of feet and discourse

4. Final rift with Judaism implied - negative use of 'the Jews' - Samaritan mission.

5. Ethic based on love, and there is no restricting judgement lurking.

6. Many differences in Passion narrative, especially arrest and trials.

7. Higher Christology.

b. Link to synoptics possibly by oral tradition, argues Dunn,

1. Second Sign at Cana probably linked to synoptic version by derivation from common stock. Many points of contact. Chief divergences:

(i) basilikos in Jn for synoptic centurion,

(ii) use of faith-motif: in Mt faith evokes miracle (in Lk stress on humility), whereas in Jn faith only follows cure-saying (and characteristic Johannine plaint about signs and wonders).

2. Feeding of 5000 and Walking on Water. Both these retained with minimum without which story cannot be told (striking identity of numbers); especially Walking on Water has no point for Jn; he makes no attempt to build discourse or anything out of it, so it must be that he retains it simply because it was part of the tradition.

3. Anointing of Jesus. Skeletal tradition is at base (place, richness of ointment, complaint at expense, pronouncement at climax), but variations: characters, head or feet anointed, lesson drawn. Jn's version must be related to Lk's tradition .

4. Entry into Jerusalem (in Jn Jesus finds donkey himself, disciples uninvolved and merely reflect on situation, sole detailed point of contact is Ps 118).

5. Sayings: 1.27; 1.26/33; 2.18/6.30; 2.19; 3.3, 5, 29; 4.35, 44; 12.25; 13.20, 21 , 38; 20.23. Most of these used in different contexts and with different lessons and emphases. Mt 10.40 reflected Jn 5.2 3, 8.19, 13.20, 14.7, 15.23; or Mt 10.24=Jn 13.16; Mt 18.3=Jn 3.3

5. Process of Composition

Bultmann's view has dominated discussion since 1921, but latterly mostly as a jumping-off point with which to disagree. He held that Jn's sources included a Signs-Source and an Ecclesiastical Redactor; this is generally pronounced too wooden, for this material is thoroughly integrated.

But there are surely several stages, which are needed to explain the reduplications and displacements, the variation between oimai (sg) and oidamen (pl). There is an appeal to a Beloved Disciple who is different from the writer but somehow stands as guarantor. Hence the theory that the gospel is to be attributed to the school of the Beloved Disciple. Raymond Brown demands five stages of composition; this is needlessly complicated and can boil down to:

1. Body of traditional material of synoptic type selected and moulded into Johannine patterns.

2. Re-editing to explain cracks and repetitions, duplicate discourses, double conclusion, etc.

3. Final additions, prologue, Pericope de Adultera, possibly Lazarus, chap 21.

But none of this is sufficient grounds to postulate more than one intentionally final edition, let alone more than one distinct author.

6. The Beloved Disciple

13.23-26 BD at supper

18.15-16 The other disciple, known to high priest, associated with Peter

19.25-27 BD at foot of Cross

20.2-10 BD at the Tomb

21.7-24 BD fishing etc, and claimed as source

Loisy took BD as an ideal figure, the good disciple, a figure of love and intuitive response. Others have suggested that it is Lazarus or John Mark, because he appears only in Jerusalem-scenes, and has connections with the high priest (or at least his retinue). If it is John Mark this means nothing (presumably he is not taken as author of two gospels) since we know nothing else about John Mark; against identification with Lazarus is the clash between naming Lazarus in 11-12 and not naming the gospel-writer. Detective work has not yet penetrated the editor`s guard. Martin Hengel attributes the school which produced the Johannine writings to John the Elder mentioned by Papias. Perhaps this is the figure; it means little.


Raymond Brown, The Gospel according to John [Anchor Bible](1966), intro

Paul Duke, Irony in the Fourth Gospel (1985)

Martin Hengel, The Johannine Question (1989)

CK Barrett, Essays on John (1982)

John Ashton (ed.), The Interpretation of John (1986), esp Borgen, Dahl, de la Potterie, Lamarche

Barnabas Lindars, The Gospel of John [New Century Commentary] (1986) intro

James DG Dunn, `Let John be John` in Stuhlmacher, The Gospel and the Gospels, and `John and the Oral Gospel Tradition` in HW (1991)

Essay 4: Johannine Christology


as previous essay and

F. Moloney, The Johannine Son of Man (1975) - a thesis and very long-winded!

J. Ashton, The Interpretation of Jn, especially essay by Borgen (1968)

CK Barrett, Essays on Jn (1982)

JL McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, various articles on Jn and titles

Anthony Hanson, The Prophetic Gospel (1991), esp chapters 15 & 16

John W. Pryor, John, (1992)