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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
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      > 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.
    • 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 2 of 13 , Aug 27, 2003
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        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 3 of 13 , Aug 27, 2003
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          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 4 of 13 , Aug 28, 2003
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            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 5 of 13 , Aug 28, 2003
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              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 6 of 13 , Sep 1, 2003
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                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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