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The Gospel of John and Christian Origins

By John Ashton

Publication Year: 2014

One of the most challenging questions facing New Testament scholars—how did Christianity emerge from Judaism?—is often addressed in general and indirect terms. The question becomes acute, however, when we turn to the Fourth Gospel, which, like the Judaism from which it presumably sprang, affirms one God, yet also affirms the incarnation of the eternal Word and, in nascent form, what Christians will later call the Trinity––teachings that seem to set the Gospel poles apart from Judaism! John Ashton refuses any merely evolutionary explanation for this shift. Rather, he argues that the author of the Fourth Gospel set out precisely to supplant one revelation with another, and this because of the profound religious experience of the Evangelist, who turned from being a practicing Jew to experiencing a new revelation centered on Christ as the intermediary between God and humanity.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-6

One day in early August 1942, when a German nun called Sister Benedicta was at prayer in the chapel of the Carmelite convent in the Dutch town of Echt, members of the German SS presented themselves at the convent door. They told the prioress to inform Sister Benedicta, whose original name was Edith Stein, that she had ten minutes to pack all that she needed for a journey...

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pp. 7-22

Not everybody knows that besides the sublime frescoes of Michelangelo that adorn its ceiling the Sistine Chapel in Rome also contains frescoes painted between 1481 and 1483 by four other great Italian artists, including Domenico Ghirlandaio, to whom Michelangelo was for a time apprenticed, and Sandro Botticelli (not to mention several tapestries by Raphael). The paintings on the...

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Excursus I: The Gospel Genre

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pp. 23-30

What are the Gospels? This is the title of a book by Richard Burridge in which he sets out “to establish the case positively and finally for the biographical genre of the gospels to become the new scholarly consensus and orthodoxy.”1 Consensus? Orthodoxy? Should the torrent of critical applause that greeted this work, liberally quoted in the second edition,2 be allowed to drown out any misgivings one might have about these grandiloquent claims?...

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Consciousness of Genre

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pp. 31-44

Such was the impact of the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, and of the stories told about him after his death, that soon afterwards, in the religiously combustible regions of Palestine and the Jewish Diaspora, a new religion was kindled into flame. Bright little fires of faith in Jesus began to burn, and within a hundred years or so these had coalesced into the single blaze of Christianity....

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Chief Priests and Pharisees

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pp. 45-56

With reference to Julius Wellhausen’s commentaries on the Synoptic Gospels, published just over a century ago between 1905 and 1911, Rudolf Bultmann wrote (in English):

Wellhausen brought clearly to light a principle which must govern research. We must recognize that a literary work or a fragment of tradition is a primary source for the historical situation out of which...

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The Essenes

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pp. 57-74

I ended the last chapter with a discussion of the fate of the Jews after the debacle of their uprising in 66–73 ce, and the flight to Yavneh, a bustling coastal town not far from present-day Tel Aviv. In this chapter we take a huge fifty-mile leap eastward away from the coast to what is (or at any rate used to be) one of the most desolate places on earth, the western shore of the Dead Sea, about...

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Excursus II. The Johannine Community

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pp. 75-84

In this excursus I want to confront a strong challenge to the concept of the Johannine community as this is found in the work of Raymond E. Brown, J. Louis Martyn, and myself.1 The subject of The Sheep of the Fold, by Edward W. Klink III, is apparent from its subtitle, The Audience and Origin of the Gospel of John.2 Following the lead of his doctoral supervisor, Richard Bauckham,3 Klink...

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The Situation of the Gospel

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pp. 85-96

The Gospels, as I argued in Excursus I, are not simply Lives of Christ. A Gospel (and by that I mean one of the four Gospels recognized by the Christian church) is a proclamation in narrative form of faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. Ostensibly historical documents, entirely concerned with events that had occurred in the past, they are actually addressed to the evangelists’ own...

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The Apocalyptic Background

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pp. 97-118

In this chapter, I have two aims in mind. I want to refer back to the Essenes, because I believe that a greater knowledge of this sect will help us to arrive at an understanding of the relationship between John’s Gospel and its author’s Jewish contemporaries. But I will be focusing particularly on the Gospel’s affinity to a manner of thinking, left unmentioned until now, that emerged relatively late...

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Excursus III. The Changing Gospel

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pp. 119-132

How you read the Gospel will depend largely on the importance you attach to the problem spots, or aporias, as scholars call them, from a Greek word meaning “impasse,” points at which the continuity of the Gospel, read carefully, is open to question. Most readers, of course, are blithely unaware of these problem spots and would no doubt endorse the suggestion of David Friedrich...

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The Mission of the Prophet

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pp. 133-144

In the preceding six chapters I have been setting the scene for the remaining three. I now want to focus directly on the three strong streams of Jewish tradition that flowed into the Christology of the Fourth Gospel. One of these will be dealt with in this chapter (the mission of the prophet) and two in the next (the Incarnation of Wisdom and the Son of Man). Finally, in the...

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Excursus IV. The Prologue: God’s Plan for Humankind

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pp. 145-156

As long ago as 1986 I published an article on the Prologue1 in which I adopted and developed a thesis put forward much earlier (1964) by Paul Lamarche that the subject of John 1:3 is not creation, as is widely assumed, but that this verse “is essentially concerned with the realization of the divine plan.”2 Apart from the briefest of notes by Craig Evans,3 my article lay disregarded until it was...

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Human or Divine?

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pp. 157-180

Before inquiring whether the Jesus of John’s Gospel may fairly be called divine (and if so in what sense), let us first ask whether he may fairly be called human. The great majority of scholars, including Rudolf Bultmann, have opted for a human Jesus, but one prominent exception is Bultmann’s pupil, Ernst Käsemann, who answered the question with a resounding no. In an early article...

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The Johannine Christ

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pp. 181-200

I began the preceding chapter by highlighting the enormous differences between the Synoptic and the Johannine portrait of Christ, differences that have never been satisfactorily explained. Not that they have never been noticed: they were observed by F. C. Baur in 1847, in a book that greatly influenced Ernst Käsemann, who refers to it several times in his...

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pp. 201-206

More than once in the course of this book I have observed that despite what seems to be a general consensus among Johannine scholars the fourth evangelist was not a theologian, at least if we understand by this term a person mainly occupied with rational reflection about God. He did not spend most of his time endeavoring to work out a consistent and satisfactory Christology. Nor of...


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pp. 207-216

Index of Ancient Sources

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pp. 217-224

Index of Names and Subjects

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pp. 225-229

E-ISBN-13: 9781451479829
E-ISBN-10: 1451479824
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451472141
Print-ISBN-10: 1451472145

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2014