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III. Purpose and Historical Setting. Purpose and Historical Setting of FG Evangelism : Is FG primarily designed to win converts? 20:30-31 seems to state evangelistic purpose. Textual uncertainty: “come to believe” or “continue believing”? Much in FG is unsuited to evangelism.

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Iii purpose and historical setting
III. Purpose and Historical Setting

  • Purpose and Historical Setting of FG

    • Evangelism: Is FG primarily designed to win converts?

      • 20:30-31 seems to state evangelistic purpose.

      • Textual uncertainty: “come to believe” or “continue believing”?

      • Much in FG is unsuited to evangelism.

      • 20:30-31 may come from Signs Source.

    • Conflict with the Synagogue

      • Jewish Christians being expelled from synagogue; persecuted; reluctant to profess openly; rethinking identity.

        • Council of Jamnia (c. 90) – redefined Judaism; less tolerant.

        • “Benediction against the Heretics” excluded Christians from syn.

      • J. L. Martyn (1968): FG as “two-level drama.”

        • Jesus’ ministry – author’s situation.

        • Controversy over healing blind man on Sabbath (ch. 9).

        • Key is 9:22: parents refuse to give opinion about Jesus for fear that “the Jews” will expel them from synagogue (cf. v. 28-29, 34).

        • Language is anachronistic: “the Jews;” formal decision to ban believers in Jesus.


  • Purpose and Historical Setting (cont.)

    2. Conflict with the Synagogue (cont.)

    • Other evidence of church-synagogue conflict:

      • FG uses “the Jews” over 70 times – usually hostile sense.

      • Three occurrences of aposunagogos (“to be put out of the synagogue;” 9:22; 12:42; 16:2).

      • References to “secret believers” (12:42; 19:38).

    • FG seeks to reassure Christians in face of threats/ accusations from Jewish synagogue.

  • Concern for “secret believers,” Samaritans, and Greeks

    • May be encouraging “secret believers” to come out of closet.

      • Jewish authorities (12:42)

      • Joseph of Arimathea (19:38)

      • Nicodemus? (3:1; 7:50-51; 19:39)

    • Special interest in Greeks and Samaritans may reflect their inclusion in Johannine community.

      • Samaritans (ch. 4)

      • Greeks (7:33-36; 12:20-22)


  • Purpose and Historical Setting (cont.)

    • Polemic against a sect of John the Baptist

      • Evidence of a continuing sect devoted to John the Baptist, revered as Savior and heavenly Revealer (Acts 19:1-7; etc.).

      • FG emphasizes John’s subordination to Jesus, never reports Jesus’ baptism by John; may be reassuring readers over against rival claims(1:7-8, 15, 19-34; 3:22-30; 5:33-36; 10:40-42).

    • Tensions with mainstream/Petrine Christianity

      • Johannine community was isolated from mainstream Christianity (where Peter was central authority figure).

      • FG pits Beloved Disciple over against Peter (20:2-8; etc.).

      • Champions BD as sound authority for Johannine community.

    • Passing of first generation (21:18-19, 23)

      • Two problems: eyewitnesses disappearing; failure of Parousia.

      • Doctrine of Paraclete (ch. 14-16) answers both.

    • Anti-Gnostic polemic

      • Gnostic Docetism is countered by emphasis on incarnation (1:14), reality of death (19:34), bodily resurrection (21:9-14).

      • FG also contains much Gnostic-sounding material.


  • Relationship to Johannine Letters

    • Authorship of the letters

      • Anonymous: “the Elder” (2, 3 John).

      • Vocabulary and themes similar to FG– could be same author.

      • Differences in style and theology – probably a different author in same community/tradition; maybe a disciple of Evangelist; knows FG intimately.

    • Setting of the letters

      • Somewhat later than FG.

      • Problem is heresy resulting in schism.

      • Gnostic false teaching:

        • Docetism – denial of true humanity of Christ.

        • Overly “realized eschatology” – claim full salvation already now.

        • Libertinism – claim sinlessness but practice immorality.

      • Elder emphasizes: real incarnation, atoning death, future eschatology, sacraments, and keeping commandments (esp. love).

      • Schismatics developed into Gnostic Christianity.

      • Elder’s group was absorbed into mainstream Christianity.


  • History of Johannine Community (Culpepper, pp. 54-61)

    • Origins – Group formed around BD in Judea.

    • Early period within synagogue

      • Moved to Antioch/Syria – still in synagogue.

      • Preached Jesus as fulfillment of messianic hopes.

      • Used “signs” to impress Jews.

      • Signs source developed into “Signs Gospel.”

    • Middle period: formation of Johannine Community

      • Exclusion from synagogue.

      • Secret believers remain in synagogue.

      • Others form community around Beloved Disciple.

      • Preaching on words/deeds of Jesus shapes tradition.

      • Dualistic language reflects division from unbelievers.

      • Persecution forces move to Ephesus.

      • Basic FG written in response.


  • History of Johannine Community – cont.

    4. Middle period: second generation

    • Death of BD prompts reflection on Paraclete.

    • Egalitarian structure.

    • Concern for unity and love within community.

    • Rival claims from Petrine churches.

  • Late period: schism

    • Emergence of heretical, Gnostic group.

    • Led to schism.

    • 1 & 2 John warn against heresy.

    • Jn. 1:1-18; 6:51-58; ch. 21; references to BD added.

    • Community is wrecked by dissension.

    • Elder’s group absorbed into mainstream Christianity.

    • Opponents moved into Gnostic groups.


John 20 30 31
John 20:30-31

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

31 But these are written so that you maycome to believe b that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

b Other ancient authorities read may continue to believe.


Benediction against the heretics
“Benediction against the Heretics”

And for apostates let there be no hope;

and may the insolent kingdom be quickly uprooted, in our days.

And may the Nazarenes and the heretics perish quickly;

and may they be erased from the Book of Life;

and may they not be inscribed with the righteous.

Blessed art thou, Lord, who humblest the insolent.

(Culpepper, The Gospel and Letters of John, p. 44)


John 9 22
John 9:22

22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.


Secret believers
“Secret Believers”

12:42 Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue;

19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.


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