Re: [John_Lit] The Sitz em Leben of the Johannine Epistles
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2001 4:24 PM
Subject: Re: [John_Lit] A response to Raimo Hakola
> Interesting thoughts on the Sitz im Leben of the Fourth Gospel, but
> overall I still lean to Hengel's view that the Fourth Gospel
> represents the fruit of decades of teaching and discussion between a
> teacher and a close group of disciples, possibly partly written up by
> the teacher (who did write the epistles), but finally redacted and
> published by a disciple after the original teacher's death. This
> would allow for the possibility that the scenario you suggest lies
> behind John's reference to the Jews. Even though the crisis was no
> longer a live one by the time the gospel was published, it may well
> have made such an impression that it was still referred to at the
> later date.
DEAR JOHN E STATON:
What you suggest is certainly possible, but I lean to not just an
earlier dating for John, but for the epistles as well.
In History (Book 4, Sect. 22), Eusebius thusly quotes Hegesippus, "When
James the Righteous
had suffered martyrdom like the Lord and for the same reason, Symeon the son
his uncle Clopas was appointed bishop....But Thebuthis, because he had not
been made bishop, began to seduce her (i.e., the Church) by means of the
seven sects (to which he himself belonged) among the people. From these
came Simon and his his Simonians, Cleobius and his Cleobienes, Dositheus and
his Dositheans, Gorthaeus and his Gorathenes, and the Masbotheans."
I'm unfamiliar with the Cleobienes, the Gorathenes, and the Masbotheans.
I am, though, familiar with Simon Magus and Dositheus and their followers.
Both were Samaritans. Both apparently were originally followers of John the
Baptist. Both became active in the thirties. Both were proto-Gnostic in
orientation. From this, I deduce that the rebellion by Thebuthis was
probably proto-Gnostic in nature and probably was centered in Samaria rather
than in Jerusalem, although he likely had some support within the Jerusalem
Church itself. For example, the Hellenist deacon named Nicolaus, since he
gave rise to the proto-Gnostic Nicolaitans, likely supported Thebuthis.
.Once James the Just was executed and the remaining
apostles fled Jerusalem, there would have been a great power vaccuum at the
top of the Jerusalem Church Council and it could very well be that Symeon
was a weak leader who failed to
adequately fill this power vaccuum, making it possible for Thebuthis and his
proto-Gnostic followers to successfully raise a rebellion against the
Jerusalem Church Council and to secede from its authority. Hence, I would
date the schism they created in the Jerusalem Church and its satellite
sister churches, particularly in Samaria, to shortly after the remaining
apostles fled Jerusalem, i.e., to c. 63 or 64 CE..
I suggest you consider the possibility that it might be Thebuthis and his
proto-Gnostic followers who are the unnamed people in the three Johannine
epistles who seceded from the Johannine community and its sister churches.
In this case, John the Elder was one of the top lieutenants of Symeon bar
Clopas and was put in charge of handling this crisis.
This can help us to understand why, in I John 2:18-19, those who seceded
from the Johannine community and its sister churches are called antichrists.
Simon Magus claimed to be the Standing One and to be, as such, the Christ.
So, in the Clementine Homilies (Homily II, Chapt. XXII), Aquila states, "And
sometimes intimating that he (i.e., Simon Magus) is the Christ, he styles
himself the Standing One." Again, he claimed, his followers could, through
proper instruction, realize their inherent capability to also become, in
some meaningful sense, standing ones similar to himself. So, in The
Refutation of All Heresies (Book VI, Chapt. XII), Hippolytus thusly
relates Simon's teachings, "If, then, one receives proper instruction and
teaching, and (where consequently) what is bitter will be altered into what
is sweet,--that is the spears into pruning-hooks, and the swords into
plough-shares,--there will not be chaff and wood begotten for fire, but
mature fruit, fully formed, as I said, equal and similar to the unbegotten
and indefinite power (i.e., the Standing One--the great power Simon claimed
to be--compare Acts 8:9-10)....According to Simon, therefore, there exists
that which is blessed and incorruptible in a latent condition in every
one--(that is,) potentially, not actually; and this is he who stood, stands,
and is to stand." Since the followers of Simon, through his teaching,
supposedly became standing ones and, so, supposedly became christs, it is
the case that they likely proclaimed themselves to be christs. In this
case, one can see their opponents replying that, nay, you are, rather,
antichrists. Possibly, then, the antichrists in I John 1:18-19 are a group
of proto-Gnostics whose membership was largely composed of the Samaritan
followers of Simon Magus.
To conclude, the sitz em leben for the Johannine epistles might be
Jerusalem and adjacent areas of Judea and Samaria c. 63-65
CE--with those who seceded from the Johannine community (which, in this
case, is the Jerusalem Chruch) and its sister churches being proto-Gnostics
(particularly the Samaritan followers of Simon Magus) led by Thebuthis and
with John the Elder being one of Symeon's top aides and his choice for being
the one to handle this major crisis.
Maplewood, MN 55109
- --- In johannine_literature@y..., "FMMCCOY" <FMMCCOY@e...> wrote:
> To conclude, the sitz em leben for the Johannine epistles mightbe
> Jerusalem and adjacent areas of Judea and Samaria c. 63-65this
> CE--with those who seceded from the Johannine community (which, in
> case, is the Jerusalem Chruch) and its sister churches being proto-Gnostics
> (particularly the Samaritan followers of Simon Magus) led byThebuthis and
> with John the Elder being one of Symeon's top aides and his choicefor being
> the one to handle this major crisis.Interesting, but a few too many radical terms for me to accept very
easily. The beauty of Hengel's theory is that he accounts for the
differences between the Gospel and the Epistles. The style of the
Epistles is weaker because they are written by John the Elder
himself, who appears from the smaller epistles to deal orally face to
face rather than to communicate by writing. Perhaps he found writing
hard and his style was difficult to understand. The style of the
Gospel is stronger, because it has been revised many times in
discussions with disciples, and finally redacted posthumously by a
disciple. I am also wary of suggesting the appearance of Gnosticism
so early, but there is certainly more than enough room for discussion.
JOHN E STATON