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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.
slide2
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)
slide3
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.
slide4
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.
slide5
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.
slide6
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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