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On the Trail of the Beloved Disciple

Traditionally, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” in the Fourth Gospel has been identified was John son of Zebedee. This is never explicit, however, in John or anywhere else. When I’m lecturing on the Gospel of John, I like to string my students along by raising other possibilities for the identity of the Beloved Disciple, especially Lazarus, who is explicitly called the one whom Jesus loves in John 11:3—and it is only after this point that we begin to hear about a disciple whom Jesus loves, starting in chapter 13.

Now I’m going to have to add another interesting possibility: that the Beloved Disciple was, in fact, the apostle Andrew. That is the argument presented by Gregory Doudna in his article, “The Case of the Purloined Apostle,” appearing today at The Bible and Interpretation.

Doudna makes an interesting case, though I still haven’t entirely shaken the theory, floated by some of the classmates back at seminary, that the Beloved Disciple is not, in fact R. Alan Culpepper. (And if he remains until Jesus returns, what is that to me?)

The Synoptic Problem Solved!

This makes about as much sense as anything:

The Gospel of Mark was the first draft of a doctoral candidate’s dissertation. He submitted it to his advisor who suggested the need for more background information about Jesus’ birth, maybe some more teaching material, and a stronger ending. The student rewrote his dissertation and submitted the Gospel of Matthew.

His advisor thought the revision was much stronger but felt that the teaching material should be better integrated into the narrative, thought a story about Jesus’ youth might be helpful, and suggested that the genealogy could be expanded back to Adam, etc. The PhD candidate did another major revision and produced the Gospel of Luke.

Once again the advisor was critical and asked for major revisions. Frustrated, the student took drugs and wrote the Gospel of John. – Jordan R. Scharf

(H/T: James McGrath)

Reading the Gospels both Critically and Evangelically

Michael Bird:

I have to say that there are two approaches to the Gospels which I ardently despise. First, some über-secularists want to read the Bible as nothing more than a deposit of silly ancient magic, mischievous myths, whacky rituals, and surreal superstitions. They engage in endless comparisons of the Bible with other mythic religions to flatten out the distinctive elements of the story. Added to that is advocacy of countless conspiracy theories to explain away any historical elements in the text. This approach is coupled with an inherent distaste for anything supernatural, pre-modern, and wreaking of religion. Such skeptics become positively evangelical in their zealous fervor to prove that nothing in the Bible actually happened. Second, then there are those equally ardent Bible-believers who want to treat the Bible as if it fell down from heaven in 1611, written in ye auld English, bound in pristine leather, words of Jesus in red, complete with Scofield footnotes, and charts about the end-times. Such persons regard exploring topics like Johannine chronology just as religiously affronting as worshipping a life size golden statue of Barack Obama.  Now I have to say that both approaches bore the proverbial pants off me. They are equally dogmatic as they are dull. They are uninformed as they are unimaginative. There is another way!

John and Christology

I love this quotation from F. C. Conybeare:

If Athanasius had not had the Fourth Gospel to draw texts from, Arius would never have been confuted…if Arius had not had the Fourth Gospel to draw texts from, he would not have needed confuting.

So says James D. G. Dunn via Michael Bird.

Lessons and Carols 9

The Ninth Lesson:

St John unfolds the mystery of the Incarnation.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)


“O Come, All Ye Faithful”

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.

Showing Love

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (Jn 12:3)

Edith had been a member of the church I think since the Middle Bronze Age. She was a sweet, little (and I do mean little-I doubt she topped five feet!) white-haired lady. Every Sunday the church bus picked her up at her home (and later, the assisted-care facility) and brought her to worship.

I don’t know why, but Edith decided that she wanted to sing a solo in church. Had she sung in the choir in earlier times? If she had, she never told me. But she had confided in me for some time that “one of these days” that was what she was going to do. Sure enough, one of those Sundays, she did.

There are a few ways I could evaluate Edith’s solo. In terms of musical ability, I had heard better. It took a bit of work for the accompanist to match her halting tempo. In terms of liturgy, the song she chose did not really mesh with the theme of the day’s worship. From any earthly standard, it was a second-rate performance.

In terms of devotion to Christ, however, it was beautiful. The sheer simplicity and sincerity of her faith shone through with every note.

Like Mary, Edith wanted to do something for Jesus. Who knows why she chose to do what she did? Who knows why I would probably have chosen to pass on the opportunity to do something so revealing of my soul?

I can see how some might have been made uncomfortable or embarrassed by her gift…but that’s a problem the disciples had too, isn’t it?