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The Historical Jesus and the Gospel of John

Paul N. Anderson explains how the two really can go together:

Think of it! What would happen if the National Geographic Channel ran a special on a recently discovered gospel text from the late first century, which was different from the Synoptics but also developed an alternative rendering of Jesus and his ministry? If the third-century Gospel of Judas created a stir, with virtually no historical-Jesus tradition within it, imagine what sort of a ruckus would emerge if John were taken seriously as an independent Jesus tradition, differing from the Markan gospels with at least some knowing intentionality. That’s what I believe will happen if the Fourth Gospel’s historical features come out from being eclipsed by its theological ones.



  1. Even if the Gospel of John were found more recently, the excitement of its newness wouldn’t change the fact that it has a high degree of internal stylistic consistency. The narrator, Jesus, and John the Baptist all speak in the same distinctive fashion. That is the main reason it is less useful than the Synoptics for looking at the historical Jesus, at least as far as his words are concerned. That some details of chronology may have historical value has long been taken seriously. And so I appreciate Paul’s work on the Gospel of John, but I don’t see that a “Johannine revolution in historical Jesus studies” is likely, to say nothing of whether it would be legitimate in the context of the rules of critical historiography.


  2. […] West, Darrel Pursiful, Ari, and James McGrath have already commented on it but if you’d like an additional […]


  3. LOL.

    (And it’s not like the Jesus in GJudas has a distinctively different voice than the narrator. But it’s still worth all the excitement.)


  4. If I weren’t spending my time on the Psalms and other bits of the writings, I would choose to read John. I wouldn’t choose an apocryphal gospel. What sort of counterfoil does one need to the fragmented triple voice of the synoptics? (With their occasional Johannine thunderbolt.) One finds that the one who is beloved creates by faith both history and eternity in one 24 hour day. This is the bread of life that was given for the life of the world. (I can read an allusion to this in the first verses of psalm 27.
    in drawing near to me to break to eat even my flesh, my troublers and my enemies, they – to me, they stumbled and fell
    בִּקְרֹב עָלַי מְרֵעִים לֶאֱכֹל אֶת בְּשָׂרִי צָרַי וְאֹיְבַי לִי הֵמָּה כָשְׁלוּ וְנָפָלוּ
    The eternal life that is in John is also fully intimated in the Psalms and known in the elect of Israel for our sake. Psalm 27 is a case in point. I will post on this one later today or tomorrow if I keep up my intent to read two psalms a day for the next 2 months.)


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