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What We Have Heard from the Beginning

The Past, Present and Future of Johannine Studies

Tom Thatcher, Editor

Publication Year: 2007

The past fifty years have seen powerful shifts in the methods and objectives of Biblical Studies. The study of the Johannine Literature, in particular, has seen a proliferation of new approaches, as well as innovative exegetical and theological conclusions. This volume surveys the emerging landscape from the perspective of scholars who have shaped the field. Written in a conversational and reflective tone, the articles offer an excellent overview of major issues in the study of the Fourth Gospel and 1-2-3 John.

Published by: Baylor University Press


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Front Matter


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pp. vii-ix


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pp. xi-xiii

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pp. xv-xix

A few months before this book was finished, my longtime friend and mentor Robert Fortna called to raise a concern. “Your title,” he said, “‘What We Have Heard from the Beginning’—I’m not really sure what that’s all about. Obviously that plays on some references in 1 John, right? ...

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pp. 1-18

When Tom Thatcher approached me with a request for a contribution to the present volume, he paid me the compliment of calling me “undoubtedly one of the juggernauts of Johannine scholarship.” What he meant of course was that he was greatly impressed by my big book on John, Understanding the Fourth Gospel, ...

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1: Response: Why Should Historical Criticism Continue to have a Place in Johannine Studies?

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pp. 19-22

In part three of Gulliver’s Travels, the eponymous hero voyages to Glubbdubdrib where he is granted his wish to see the ghosts of Homer and Aristotle together with those of their numerous commentators. Contrary to expectations, he soon discovers that Homer, far from being blind, has exceptional sight, while Aristotle, ...

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2: In Search of a New Synthesis

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pp. 23-34

Evaluating the present state of Johannine research, looking backward and forward, is not an easy task. The image of a house under construction comes to mind. While some workers are installing the heating and the oil containers in the basement, others are plumbing the upper floors, inserting the windows, or covering the roof with tiles. ...

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2: Response: Johannine Exegesis in Transition— Johannes Beutler’s Search for a New Synthesis

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pp. 35-38

When Johannes Beutler began his work in Johannine Studies in 1967, Rudolf Bultmann’s commentary was, without doubt, still the most influential interpretation of the Fourth Gospel. Since its first edition in 1941, this commentary has served not only as a landmark study for questions of the religious context and literary ...

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pp. 39-58

As I was doing research on the interpretation of manna as “bread from heaven” in John 6, I had also to examine the phrase “He who sent me” and similar terms.1 Then I realized that the forensic perspective plays an important role in the Gospel of John. I looked further into the background of this idea of “agency” ...

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3: Response: Living Word(s) and the Bread of Life

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pp. 59-62

Since the publication of his famous study on John 6, Bread from Heaven, Peder Borgen has become a well–known and well–established Johannine scholar. His contributions range from explorations of the religious background of Johannine thought to the quest for the sources of the Johannine tradition. ...

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pp. 63-82

On Holy Thursday, 1960, I was struck by a preacher’s description of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. That night I found the account (John 13:1–20) in an old translation and began to read. The account became a long farewell speech, and it captured me like nothing I had ever read before. More than legends or lyrics, soldiers ...

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4: Response: Inspecting an Aerial Photograph of John’s Engagement with Sources

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pp. 83-86

For close to five decades, Dr. Thomas Brodie has undertaken what has clearly been an adventurous, indeed life–changing, journey in the company of John’s Gospel. This journey has led him to tackle some of the thorniest issues in Johannine scholarship—including the relationship between John’s Gospel and the ...

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pp. 87-104

I must begin by confessing I feel a bit of a fraud. Looking over the list of Johannine scholars who are contributing to this volume, I am impressed by the quality and focus of their work. Some have devoted their entire scholarly lives to matters Johannine (one thinks, for instance, of D. Moody Smith and R. Alan Culpepper), ...

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5: Response: Progress and Regress in Recent Johannine Scholarship—Reflections Upon the Road Ahead

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pp. 105-108

It is an entirely undeserved privilege to be allowed to add a few reflections of my own to those of my esteemed mentor, D. A. Carson. Most of what I know about matters Johannine I have learned from him, so I can hardly hope to add anything substantive to his highly perceptive observations. My brief comments will revolve ...

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pp. 109-122

This morning, I ran several miles of the Longleaf Trace, a beautiful asphalt path through the woods of southern Mississippi outside Hattiesburg. The path is straight and flat, mileage is noted every half mile, rest stations at regular intervals offer restrooms and water, and various species of trees are labeled along the way. ...

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6: Response: To What End, Methodology?

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pp. 123-126

The career of R. Alan Culpepper is a synopsis of the movements in Gospels scholarship during the past forty years. Indeed, Culpepper has been an integral force in exploring, educating, and encouraging the changes that have occurred. It was my pleasure to study and work with him during his years at Baylor University. ...

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7: The Gospel and the Epistles of John Read against the Background of the History of the Johnnanine Communities

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pp. 127-144

Invited to indicate what I judge to be the critical issues for Johannine Studies, the best I can do is to retrace my own steps in Johannine research and to indicate what proved to be important at various stages.1 The first section of my essay will give a short review of my book Jesus: Stranger from Heaven and Son of God, consisting of ...

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7: Response: The Combination of a Literary and a Historical Approach to the Gospel of John

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pp. 145-148

Marinus de Jonge ends his interesting contribution to this volume with the affirmation that “exegetes can never limit themselves to synchronic analysis. I remain convinced that only literary analysis combined with historical criticism will lead to a full picture of the state of affairs.” Before arguing for the combination of a literary ...

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pp. 149-158

In the early 1970s—when I was still a raw young scholar and not long after my doctoral dissertation had been published as The Gospel of Signs— I went for the first time to an overseas annual meeting of the Society of New Testament Studies (SNTS). I was introduced to two senior Europeans (I would guess recovering Bultmannians), ...

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8: Response: The Fourth Gospel in First–Century Media Culture

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pp. 159-162

Robert Fortna’s lucid essay, a solid summary and update of his work on the background of the Johannine Literature, leaves me (as his work has always left me) with the following question: How might recent research on the media culture of early Christianity impact our understanding of the traditions behind the Fourth ...

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9: What’s the Meaning of This?—Relections Upon a Life and Career

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pp. 163-178

Probably we have all asked the question, “What’s the meaning of this?,” especially those of us who have spent years teaching and reading student papers we were grading. And who, in the process of interpreting Scripture, hasn’t asked, “What’s the meaning of this text?” ...

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9: Response: Is History History?

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pp. 179-182

In American popular culture, “history” is a pejorative term. If someone is done for, finished, no longer relevant, they are “history.” Worst of all is for something to be considered “ancient history,” not only irrelevant but not even worth mentioning. ...

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pp. 183-190

Because responding to Tom Thatcher’s gracious invitation to participate in this volume necessarily involves a bit of reminiscence, we find ourselves briefly at Yale University in the 1950s. To a large extent, the period was marked in Protestant American Biblical Studies by a concentration on issues handed across the Atlantic, ...

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10: Response: Reading History in the Fourth Gospel

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pp. 191-194

It is an honor to respond to J. Louis Martyn’s reflections upon his own intellectual formation and upon an issue that has preoccupied both of us for many years—the Johannine community. Of course, as Martyn well knows, this is by no means my first response to his work; much of my thinking and writing on the ...

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pp. 195-210

In 1972, I was completing a master’s thesis on the use of Daniel 7 and/or Suffering Servant language in Mark 10:45: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” I asked all the expected questions of that period. Was there sufficient linguistic and thematic contact between ...

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11: Response: The Beyond Beckons

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pp. 211-214

Frank Moloney’s paper succinctly chronicles the history of Catholic biblical scholarship in the last century. Following Pius XII’s encyclical in 1943, Catholic biblical scholars were free to engage in the historical–critical methods pioneered by Protestant scholars from the nineteenth century. In many ways, the 1940s and ...

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pp. 215-227

I started studying the Gospel of John more than forty years ago. Since that time, certain chapters or sections have become part of my never–ending quest to understand the mentality of the author, or the inspirer, of this Gospel, as well as the community from which it came. I have particularly struggled to grasp the relationship ...

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12: Response: The Prologue and Jesus’ Final Prayer

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pp. 229-232

What is the literary and theological relationship between the Johannine prologue (1:1–18) and the prayer of Jesus in John 17? As John O’Grady observes in his essay, to ask this question is to raise the wider issue of the relationship between the prologue and the Gospel. O’Grady is not the first to perceive the nexus between ...

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13: The Signs of the Messiah and the Quest for Eternal Life

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pp. 233-256

Growing up in the country in New South Wales, I inherited a love of wide–open spaces. Paradoxically, my career has placed me in large cities. Much of my early life was spent away from the ocean, but I am never happier than when I find myself where the mountains meet the sea. The opening words of Psalm 121 ...

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13: Response: The Johannine Conception of Authentic Faith as a Response to the Divine Initiative

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pp. 257-260

It is a high privilege to be invited to respond to John Painter’s essay. Among his many contributions to New Testament studies, Professor Painter has alerted us to the ways in which the quest narratives function in John, both traditionally and rhetorically. His article in this volume not only explores the origin and development ...

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14: Remaining in His Word: From Faith to Faith by Way of the Text

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pp. 261-276

This is certainly the most unusual project in which I have participated in the thirty plus years I have been engaged in studying and pondering the Fourth Gospel, including teaching it to others and writing about it. The project’s initiator and combination shepherd and sheep dog, Tom Thatcher, invited us to reflect upon ...

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14: Response: Ideologies Past and Present

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pp. 277-280

It was with much pleasure and interest that I read Sandra Schneiders’s reflections upon her journey as a scholar of the Fourth Gospel. There is much about which we concur, even if I began my own journey in a much different place and now find myself heading in new directions. Whereas Schneiders’s path has taken her from ...

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15: Johannine Studies and the Geopolitical: Reflections upon Absence and Irruption

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pp. 281-306

In accounting for the absence of an imperial–colonial focus in early Christian studies, Richard Horsley has repeatedly emphasized a fundamental discursive connection between, on the one hand, the erasure of the geopolitical in the interpretive history of the early Christian writings and historical constructions ...

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15: Response: Toward an Interdisciplinary Approach to Johannine Studies

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pp. 307-310

In “Johannine Studies and the Geopolitical: Reflections Upon Absence and Irruption,” Fernando F. Segovia calls the next generation of scholars to take seriously the geopolitical matrix of the Johannine Literature, particularly the imperial–colonial framework of Rome, in the production and interpretive history of these texts. ...

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pp. 311-320

Christian faith’s interest in history is, and always has been, fueled by the historical fact claims of the New Testament itself. Modern historical criticism has, of course, raised serious questions about those claims, and these questions are nowhere more acute than in the case of the Fourth Gospel. My own interest in the Gospel of John ...

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16: Response: Genre, Sources, and History

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pp. 321-324

Professor Smith’s essay helpfully places the problem of history in the Gospel of John in the context of other ancient Gospels, the most natural setting for understanding John. In view of this approach, what light does the issue of “Gospel genre” shed on historical questions? Moreover, what can we say about history in John ...

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pp. 325-338

No single book in the history of Western civilization has exerted greater influence on the way we live than the Bible. Throughout the centuries, this “Word of God” has served the Christian community as both canon and point of reference. The Bible has been used and abused for countless purposes, so much so that readers ...

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17: Response: The Leuven Hypothesis in C/catholic Perspective

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pp. 339-342

As Professor Van Belle indicates in his essay, the Catholic University at Leuven is home to a rich tradition of biblical interpretation, one that is fully self–conscious of hearing, reading, and understanding the Scriptures in the midst of a community of faith. As Van Belle points out in his summation of the Pontifical Biblical ...

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18: The Road Ahead—Three Aspects of Johannine Scholarship

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pp. 343-354

In 1973, when I began work on my doctoral dissertation, Prof. Noel Lazure, my director, suggested that I adopt some position regarding the literary origin of the Gospel of John and move on in my study of the symbolism of the “crowd” ...

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18: Response: Combining Key Methodologies in Johannine Studies

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pp. 355-358

Professor von Wahlde’s reflections highlight three disparate aspects of Johannine scholarship: the relationship between historical and literary criticisms as applied to the Fourth Gospel and the Johannine Epistles; the question of potential anti–Judaism or anti–Semitism in the Gospel; and, the contributions that recent ...


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pp. 359-390


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pp. 391-400

Author/Subject INDEX

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pp. 401-423


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E-ISBN-13: 9781602580909
E-ISBN-10: 1602580901
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602580107
Print-ISBN-10: 1602580103

Page Count: 425
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1st

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Subject Headings

  • Bible. N.T. Epistles of John -- Criticism, interpretation, etc.
  • Bible. N.T. John -- Criticism, interpretation, etc.
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