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Re: [John_Lit] Johannine Community

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  • Big_Mart_98
    ... This encapsulates the Christian problem. Though Christos is a translation of Moshiach , it does not mean the same thing at all. The Christian Christ is
    Message 1 of 13 , Aug 27, 2003
      > Dear Fr. Francis:
      >
      > Your extistnsial experience gives the insight that
      > Hellenistic culture is the idiom of the Gospel(s).
      > Logically, this same insight reflects one Church in a
      > Hellenistic world for which it wrote four Gospels at
      > various times to address specific issues in one
      > coherent ecclesiastical language expressed uniquely by
      > four authors selected by the bishops. The chronology
      > of the Gospels can be discerned by looking at what
      > each addresses via the specific language and
      > rhetorical style to accomplish this.
      >
      > john
      >
      This encapsulates the Christian problem. Though "Christos" is a
      translation of "Moshiach", it does not mean the same thing at all.
      The Christian Christ is Hellenistic and, I think, Neoplatonic, though
      I have reached the limit of my knowledge here. The Messiah, still
      expected, will be an ordinary man who gains the title for his
      achievements. The title was held by many Jewish leaders in the
      post-Alexandrine period, eg the Maccabees.

      Martin Edwards, BA(UEA), PGCE(Hull), RT(England and Wales). No
      current institution.
    • Matson, Mark (Academic)
      ... Point well made. But I wonder, does this framework still demand a Johannine audience (e.g. the Johannine community), or rather an audience that was
      Message 2 of 13 , Aug 27, 2003
        > Francis J. Moloney wrote:

        > I wish to share an experience. I once taught a course on the
        > Gospel of John to 120 African women. As I spoke
        > energetically of light and darkness, acceptance or refusal of
        > Jesus as the Christ and Son of God as the ONLY way to life,
        > etc. ... they wondered about centuries of African peoples -
        > their own parents and elders for many of them - to whom none
        > of this made any sense. It was at that moment that I could
        > see that one had to be at least somewhat "inside" to be
        > touched by the Gospel of John. So I talked to them about
        > Jesus ... but not the Johannine Jesus.

        Point well made. But I wonder, does this framework still demand a
        "Johannine" audience (e.g. the Johannine community), or rather an
        audience that was dealing with similar issues. I guess I could easily
        conceptualize here an audience that was Jewish and/or Jewish-Christian
        (if indeed it is appropriate to yet speak of these distinctions at the
        time this was written). In this perspective, such dualistic language
        and exclusivist claims may well be part of the jockying with a group
        that is external to the author's group, not internal. I think.

        I can imagine myself speaking with a group of Republicans (do I betray
        my own political leanings) and making emphatic statements in order to
        make the point that socially responsible government is useful and
        appropriate. I might even become hyperbolic at some points, claiming
        almost a messianic virtue for Democrats (or some parabolic stand-in for
        the democrats). But that doesn't mean I am addressing a Democratic
        party rally... How would, in fact, the rhetoric between "inside" and
        "outside" look like, especially if the rhetoric was functioning in the
        form of narrative?

        Again, I really would like help in clarifying this, since I really don't
        "get" the community perspective of much of approaches to Gjohn.

        mark

        Mark A. Matson
        Academic Dean
        Milligan College
        http://www.milligan.edu/administrative/personal.htm
      • McGrath, James
        Mark, you make a good point with your Republican-Democrat illustration. I think what I take most of the softer versions of the Johannine community discussion
        Message 3 of 13 , Aug 27, 2003
          Mark, you make a good point with your Republican-Democrat illustration.
          I think what I take most of the 'softer' versions of the Johannine
          community discussion to mean is that, since John presents Jesus in a
          distinct way and focuses on making him answer the objections of 'the
          Jews', similar debates must have been taking place between the Christian
          community of which John was a part and other non-Christian Jews. His
          'church' could still have been part of a synagogue, and needn't have
          been isolated from other churches in other places, but it can still be
          termed a Christian community. To use your illustration, by what you say
          about Democrats in your speech, someone reading it 2,000 years later
          will be able to work out (if they know anything about the late
          20th/early 21st century) that you were writing in an American context
          rather than say in Germany, or at least, if you were writing elsewhere,
          you were connected to and interested in American politics.

          I think sometimes there are debates about the notion of the Johannine
          community because the terminology is used in different ways. The attempt
          of Raymond Brown and others to reconstruct stages in the community's
          history is based not only on the conviction that John wrote in a
          particular setting (which is relatively obvious) but also that there are
          compositional layers or indications of sources that may allow one to
          trace trajectories and developments over time. But even if one is
          skeptical of the latter, it still seems a convenient shorthand to speak
          of the Johannine 'community' in the sense of the particular Christian
          community that John was directly connected with when he wrote. At least,
          that's the way I use it - on the rare occasions that I do use it - and
          hopefully I haven't been misleading people by doing so!

          Best wishes,

          James


          P.S. Thanks for advertising my book! :)



          *****************************
          Dr. James F. McGrath
          Assistant Professor of Religion
          Butler University, Indianapolis
          http://blue.butler.edu/~jfmcgrat/
          *****************************



          -----Original Message-----
          From: Matson, Mark (Academic) [mailto:MAMatson@...]
          Sent: Wednesday, August 27, 2003 2:58 PM
          To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: RE: [John_Lit] Johannine Community


          Point well made. But I wonder, does this framework still demand a
          "Johannine" audience (e.g. the Johannine community), or rather an
          audience that was dealing with similar issues. I guess I could easily
          conceptualize here an audience that was Jewish and/or Jewish-Christian
          (if indeed it is appropriate to yet speak of these distinctions at the
          time this was written). In this perspective, such dualistic language
          and exclusivist claims may well be part of the jockying with a group
          that is external to the author's group, not internal. I think.

          I can imagine myself speaking with a group of Republicans (do I betray
          my own political leanings) and making emphatic statements in order to
          make the point that socially responsible government is useful and
          appropriate. I might even become hyperbolic at some points, claiming
          almost a messianic virtue for Democrats (or some parabolic stand-in for
          the democrats). But that doesn't mean I am addressing a Democratic
          party rally... How would, in fact, the rhetoric between "inside" and
          "outside" look like, especially if the rhetoric was functioning in the
          form of narrative?

          Again, I really would like help in clarifying this, since I really don't
          "get" the community perspective of much of approaches to Gjohn.

          mark

          Mark A. Matson
          Academic Dean
          Milligan College http://www.milligan.edu/administrative/personal.htm
        • Henry Sturcke
          Mark, and all who have contributed to this thread I am enjoying this, one of the better threads since I joined the list. It s amazing how non-experts ask the
          Message 4 of 13 , Aug 27, 2003
            Mark, and all who have contributed to this thread

            I am enjoying this, one of the better threads since I joined the list. It's
            amazing how non-experts ask the best questions sometimes, and help us all to
            review our assumptions.

            Re your point that apologetics and evangelism are not that far apart, it is
            good to bear in mind that it is difficult for us to determine after the fact
            whether an "apologetic" text functioned primarily in dialogue with other
            groups "outside" or primarily as legitimation, that is to assure those
            "inside" that there were possible answers to criticisms.

            Henry

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Matson, Mark (Academic)" <MAMatson@...>
            To: <johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Wednesday, August 27, 2003 9:29 PM
            Subject: RE: [John_Lit] Johannine Community


            >
            > McGrath, James [mailto:jfmcgrat@...] wrote:
            > >
            > > Hello everyone! A couple of quick points. First, to start
            > > with Mark's last question, I think one reason that John's
            > > Gospel is popular in evangelism is that it has an
            > > 'apologetic' thrust and/or aim. This does not mean, however,
            > > that its arguments would have necessarily been convincing or
            > > even intelligible to outsiders, although I happen to expect
            > > that they were to at least some extent. Think of contemporary
            > > apologists like Josh McDowell. Who reads his books? Mostly
            > > (probably almost exclusively) those who are already committed
            > > Christians. But they then recycle his arguments in their
            > > debates and discussions with others. I suspect exactly the
            > > same happened with John's Gospel, and it seems quite likely
            > > that John expected what he wrote to be put to this sort of
            > > use. The main readers would have been believers, but they
            > > would have echoed the dialogues between Jesus and 'the Jews'
            > > in their own evangelism and debates.
            >
            > Thanks, James for the comments. BTW, for those on the list, James has a
            > really excellent book out there, "John's Apologetic Christology" in the
            > SNTS Monographs (Cambridge). I think (as James knows) that this is
            > really a fine book.
            >
            > But I wonder whether the apologetic nature of John's gospel necessarily
            > has to work "inside" the Johannine community. I think you make the
            > point in your book that much of the apologetic argumentation is with
            > "opponents" of the johannine way of conceiving of Jesus. Given that much
            > of that issue deals with Jesus' relationship with God, it seems
            > reasonable to assume that this might have taken place in a milieu where
            > the early church (Johannine or otherwise) is still in real dialogue with
            > Judaism -- before there was a distinctive difference. So such issues of
            > how Jesus could be a true agent of God, and at times be identified with
            > that God, are being struggled with. In this context, isn't the audience
            > almost by definition "not Johannine"? That is, the apologetic nature is
            > external and perhaps even "evangelistic".
            >
            > I guess when I read your book I could see well how the major thrust even
            > allowed for a non-Johannine community audience as the main audience.
            > And I guess apologetics and evangelism aren't really at polar extremes.
            >
            >
            > Or am I misreading you?
            >
            > > In speaking about a 'Johannine Community', there are probably
            > > 'hard' and 'soft' versions of this hypothesis. I am quite
            > > skeptical as to whether one can read John's Gospel as a
            > > thinly veiled history of the community. But I do think that
            > > anyone who has written will know that one writes having been
            > > shaped by particular communities and experiences. This
            > > doesn't mean that no one else will ever read your book, but
            > > certainly one can tell a lot about you by reading a book you
            > > wrote. In this sense, looking to reconstruct the author's
            > > context and intended readership seems a worthwhile
            > > enterprise. It may be a futile one, but still worthwhile!
            >
            > Yes, I think this is much of my point in saying that an author is
            > undoubtedly influenced by the context within which he or she
            > lives/thinks. But that is a much different point than saying that the
            > author then writes TO that community and FOR it. I see these as very
            > different issues which are very often conflated in the discussion.
            >
            > mark
            >
            > Mark A. Matson
            > Academic Dean
            > Milligan College
            > http://www.milligan.edu/administrative/personal.htm
            >
            >
            >
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          • Tobias Hägerland
            As this is my first posting to this list, I take the opportunity to introduce myself as a PhD candidate working on a dissertation in the field of
            Message 5 of 13 , Aug 28, 2003
              As this is my first posting to this list, I take the opportunity to
              introduce myself as a PhD candidate working on a dissertation in the
              field of Historical-Jesus research, but with a special interest in
              John's Gospel, too.


              --- In johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com, "McGrath, James"
              <jfmcgrat@b...> wrote:

              >
              > I think sometimes there are debates about the notion of the
              Johannine
              > community because the terminology is used in different ways. The
              attempt
              > of Raymond Brown and others to reconstruct stages in the community's
              > history is based not only on the conviction that John wrote in a
              > particular setting (which is relatively obvious) but also that
              there are
              > compositional layers or indications of sources that may allow one to
              > trace trajectories and developments over time. But even if one is
              > skeptical of the latter, it still seems a convenient shorthand to
              speak
              > of the Johannine 'community' in the sense of the particular
              Christian
              > community that John was directly connected with when he wrote. At
              least,
              > that's the way I use it - on the rare occasions that I do use it -
              and
              > hopefully I haven't been misleading people by doing so!


              I think this remark is very much to the point. The terminology is
              confused, which has led to a lot of misunderstandings between
              scholars but worse still, to the acceptance of fallacious
              arguments. 'Community' is being employed to denote at least three
              distinct phenomena:
              1. A particular religious community, i.e. a church, congregation,
              group of people participating in common worship in a particular
              place. E.g. the community in Corinth to which Paul addresses his
              letters.
              2. A fellowship of multiple communities in sense (1) above, which
              share common theological beliefs and uphold some form of 'communion'
              despite the geographical distance. E.g. 2 John is supposed to be a
              letter to one particular Johannine community (the Elect Lady) from a
              prominent member of another such community (the Elect Sister). These
              two communities would then be part of the larger 'Johannine
              community'.
              3. A group of believers who share common theological beliefs and who
              purport to be the custodians of a special religious heritage, i.e. a
              school, theological party or wing.

              Now there are good reasons to posit the existence of a 'Johannine
              community' in sense (3) above, something like the Johannine school
              depicted by Alan Culpepper in his work mentioned earlier in this
              thread. But one cannot conclude from this that there existed also an
              entire particular church (congregation) which devoted itself to
              Johannine Christianity alone, still less that there was a larger
              Johannine movement of multiple churches finding themselves in some
              opposition to 'apostolic Christians'.

              Tobias Hägerland, M.Th.
              Ph.D. Candidate
              Göteborg University
              Department of Religious Studies and Theology
            • Matson, Mark (Academic)
              ... Welcome Tobias. Let me push you a bit here. Doesn t Culpepper actually use the term school in a more specific sense, i.e. like a socratic school
              Message 6 of 13 , Aug 28, 2003
                Tobias Hägerland wrote:

                > 3. A group of believers who share common theological beliefs and who
                > purport to be the custodians of a special religious heritage, i.e. a
                > school, theological party or wing.
                >
                > Now there are good reasons to posit the existence of a 'Johannine
                > community' in sense (3) above, something like the Johannine school
                > depicted by Alan Culpepper in his work mentioned earlier in this
                > thread. But one cannot conclude from this that there existed also an
                > entire particular church (congregation) which devoted itself to
                > Johannine Christianity alone, still less that there was a larger
                > Johannine movement of multiple churches finding themselves in some
                > opposition to 'apostolic Christians'.

                Welcome Tobias. Let me push you a bit here. Doesn't Culpepper actually use the term "school" in a more specific sense, i.e. like a "socratic school" which shows a very close following of ideas? In other words for him this is not just a disparate group of people who share a common belief (ala "green party" enthusiasts who are sprinkled about in various places but who all share a similar perspective), is it? Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Culpepper rather specifically suggesting a rather formal group that was tightly connected and passed on the teaching of the Johannine leader/teacher?

                But for me the existence of such a group setting in which the gospel arose (though probably way more extreme than I would suggest) is not the real problem. I guess I can see, in fact, a possible separate social situation for the author of the 4th gospel, perhaps living in a group with somewhat different take on the Jesus event. What bothers me more is the jump from "influence" to "audience." When we posit that the "community" is the intended audience -- thus making this very circular and sectarian, where the gospel both reflects the community and it addressed to the community -- then I have a harder time since I can't fit it into what I see as the rhetorical aims of the gospel. For that I see a broader audience, embracing Jews who were not convinced about Jesus, and possibly even a broader group of Christians who did not share the full conviction (according to the authors) of who Jesus was and his relationship to God.


                Mark A. Matson
                Academic Dean
                Milligan College
                http://www.milligan.edu/administrative/personal.htm
              • Tobias Hägerland
                ... sense, i.e. like a socratic school which shows a very close following of ideas? In other words for him this is not just a disparate group of people who
                Message 7 of 13 , Sep 1, 2003
                  Mark Matson wrote:

                  >
                  > Doesn't Culpepper actually use the term "school" in a more specific
                  sense, i.e. like a "socratic school" which shows a very close
                  following of ideas? In other words for him this is not just a
                  disparate group of people who share a common belief (ala "green
                  party" enthusiasts who are sprinkled about in various places but who
                  all share a similar perspective), is it? Correct me if I'm wrong,
                  but wasn't Culpepper rather specifically suggesting a rather formal
                  group that was tightly connected and passed on the teaching of the
                  Johannine leader/teacher?
                  >

                  Your clarification is, of course, correct and conveys fully what I
                  was trying to say. To suggest that what united 'Johannine Christians'
                  was nothing more than some common theological/ideological
                  inclinations would be inappropriate and, I suppose, largely
                  anachronistic. Rather, I imagine something akin to the theological
                  parties referred to and denounced by St Paul in 1 Cor. 1.12:

                  'That is, that each one of you says: as for me, I belong to Paul; as
                  for me, I belong to Apollos; as for me, I belong to Cephas; as for
                  me, I belong to Christ.'

                  Note Paul's expression (although probably exaggerated for the sake of
                  rhetorical effect), 'each one of you'. Paul depicts and deplores a
                  situation where it is the predominant custom for Christians to pledge
                  allegiance to a 'school'. Such schools were evidently material
                  insofar as they claimed a special relationship to their founding
                  teacher, be it Paul or Christ.

                  The fact that there was apparently a 'school of Cephas' at Corinth
                  may enlighten us about two important aspects of such schools.

                  1. For all that we know, St Peter never visited the Corinithian
                  church, to found a particular school there or for any other reason.
                  The Petrine party at Corinth, therefore, was probably just a branch
                  of a more 'ecumenical' (in the original sense of the word) movement
                  devoted to preserving the teaching of Cephas. I suppose that its
                  members did not simply sympathize with Petrine ideas; these
                  Christians would rather view the apostle as their earthly leader. And
                  it would be most natural if there was also a local leader who
                  endeavoured to safeguard the Petrine heritage within the group at
                  Corinth.

                  2. Every Corinthian Christian, according to Paul, belonged to a
                  party; still, these parties were evidently able to co-exist with
                  others within one single particular church. Paul addresses
                  the 'Church of God at Corinth' and expects the letter to be read
                  aloud not only to those 'belonging to Paul' but also to
                  those 'belonging to Apollos, Cephas, and Christ'. Indeed the very
                  existence of such groupings is too much for Paul. But there is no
                  evidence that once there is a school with a single leader and a
                  distinct theology, there has also to be separate worshipping
                  communities who separate themselves totally from other Christians and
                  view the latter as antagonists. Quite the opposite. The Apollos party
                  at Corinth would not refuse to read/listen to a letter from the
                  founder-leader of the 'competing' Pauline school. Then why should we
                  suppose that Johannine Christians would reject and isolate themselves
                  from, e.g., the Synoptic Gospels?

                  Unfortunately, I do not have current access to Culpepper's work, and
                  I do not remember what he makes of 1 Cor. 1.12.

                  Tobias Hägerland, M.Th.
                  Ph.D. Candidate
                  Göteborg University
                  Department of Religious Studies and Theology
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