Re: [John_Lit] Johannine Community
> Dear Fr. Francis:This encapsulates the Christian problem. Though "Christos" is a
> 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.
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
- 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!
P.S. Thanks for advertising my book! :)
Dr. James F. McGrath
Assistant Professor of Religion
Butler University, Indianapolis
From: Matson, Mark (Academic) [mailto:MAMatson@...]
Sent: Wednesday, August 27, 2003 2:58 PM
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 A. Matson
Milligan College http://www.milligan.edu/administrative/personal.htm
- 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.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Matson, Mark (Academic)" <MAMatson@...>
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 A. Matson
> Academic Dean
> Milligan College
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, "McGrath, James"
> I think sometimes there are debates about the notion of the
> community because the terminology is used in different ways. Theattempt
> of Raymond Brown and others to reconstruct stages in the community'sthere are
> history is based not only on the conviction that John wrote in a
> particular setting (which is relatively obvious) but also that
> compositional layers or indications of sources that may allow one tospeak
> trace trajectories and developments over time. But even if one is
> skeptical of the latter, it still seems a convenient shorthand to
> of the Johannine 'community' in the sense of the particularChristian
> community that John was directly connected with when he wrote. Atleast,
> 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
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
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
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.
Department of Religious Studies and Theology
- Tobias Hägerland wrote:
> 3. A group of believers who share common theological beliefs and whoWelcome 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?
> 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'.
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
- Mark Matson wrote:
>sense, i.e. like a "socratic school" which shows a very close
> Doesn't Culpepper actually use the term "school" in a more specific
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
>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
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.
Department of Religious Studies and Theology