Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Words was God. He was in the beginning with God," or so the prologue to GoJohn begins. All sorts of theological phrases mull in the silence after it, and all sorts of technical theo-philosophical burst through the phrases' seems, trying to hold in coherent meaning.

Take, for example, this excerpt about the same prologue beginning from an older, more devotional examination of GoJohn:
Here [John Ev] claims of Jesus Christ that he was the divien Logos; even that he was eternal, and was self-existent eternally, and was also co-eternal in personal communion with the Father, and was also Deity; or the co-eternity, the co-equality, and the co-divinity of Jesus Christ with the Father. (Pratt 18)
But what's with all the terms? In just a few pages of reading commentaries about GoJohn and related topics (Wisdom, logos, etc...), there is much made about technical terms like hypostasis. It often seems that in an attempt to create distinctions, scholars (especially invested ones, theologians) lose themselves or their audiences, and end up confusing the distinctions. The trickle from explication to general adherent understanding distills the effect of the scholarship. That is to say, the average Sunday school lesson retains the notion that the Bible is one book-- despite its centuries-wide authorship -- and that its translated terms may be read with consistent meaning.

This is unfortunate.

I know that many in that situation wish to preserve a sense of grasping an ultimate truth, historical and cosmological. They would wish to know that Jesus lived, that first-hand witnesses saw him and wrote truthfully about him, that they saw him perform miracles, that they saw him die, and shortly later they saw him alive, and thus that Jesus is indeed a part of a triune God, whatever that means. To draw a distinction in development of the notion that Jesus was a distinct person, or to suggest that one of the gospels may not be an exact first-hand historical account, threatens their security.

While understandable, it is still unfortunate that this is the case. It seems to me that a more nuanced understanding of all scripture, especially GoJohn, would enrich one's knowledge and appreciation for one's own faith. Wouldn't it?

Monday, April 7, 2008

As a first entry, I ask that you bear with some groundwork. After this I hope to just start writing entries, but I feel some basic information will help. As time goes by I may edit this entry (say, to add to the bibliography, or perhaps annotate it), so come back to it every now and then.

It is my hope to look at the Gospel of John (GoJohn) in a new light. Using D. Moody Smith's commentary on the gospel entitled John and the Oxford College edition of The Access Bible as my base texts, I hope to move past a purely devotional stance to a more comprehensive understanding of the author's intent and especially of how first and second century readers would have understood it.

GoJohn is, I think, the more interesting of the gospels. Growing up in the church, I can remember a youth pastor telling new members to start with the fourth gospel. No wonder-- it's theology would color their understanding of the other gospels.

That, as of now at least, is what I will focus on. It seems rather typical, even boring, to focus on ideas such as the doctrine of the incarnation, or Creedal notions of "the God-man," and the like. Nonetheless, it'd be poor style to look at GoJohn and not give them sufficient emphasis. I hope, however, to color that focus with questioning shades. That is to say, I have a keen interest in how the author of the gospel (for convenience sake either John or the Evangelist, or most likely, John Ev) incorporated logos and Wisdom, in how GoJohn presents Jews, and how GoJohn serves as a sort of bridge into the doctrine of the incarnation and Paul's conception of Christ.


D. Moody Smith, John (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1999).

Gail R. O'Day and David Petersen, eds., The Access Bible (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

James D. G. Dunn, Christology In The Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation (Philadelphia, Penn.: The Westminster Press, 1980).