The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church

By Charles E. Hill | Go to book overview
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2 The State of the Question and Plan of this Book

Reception of the Consensus

As is apparent from this review, the phenomenon of orthodox Johannophobia has been for several decades a generally recognized principle among scholars working in Johannine studies, and in New Testament and early Christian history. It has been endorsed by most of the trusted names in Johannine studies, one of whom declares it to be supported by 'all our evidence'. Many of these scholars shaped Johannine studies, and New Testament studies in general, in the last half of the twentieth century. Others are highly qualified and respected historians of early Christianity. Their work is quite naturally relied upon by other Johannine scholars and by specialists in related fields. When one scholar wrote that 'It is well known that the orthodox were unwilling to quote the Fourth Gospel in the second century, for it was much the preserve of heretics', 1 she was stating what is, in the mainstream of the academic community, utterly non-controversial.

There has been, as we have seen, some significant resistance to the consensus, particularly since 1989, but the theory has generated surprisingly little controversy on explicitly theological grounds even among scholars loyal to the Roman Catholic Church, such as Raymond Brown, or among conservative Protestants, such as F. F. Bruce and at least two authors in the Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments, published in 1997. 2 One of these, Gary Burge, follows Brown in pointing to the role of 1 John in 'redeeming' the Fourth Gospel from the Gnostics.

Hippolytus (c. 170-c. 236) describes how Johannine language was used by his gnostic opponents. This may explain why the orthodox church (the 'Great Church' as some label it) embraced the Fourth Gospel reluctantly. In fact there is a surprising lack of interest in the Johannine writings among the leading second-century writers. The church's gnostic opponents were using the Fourth Gospel or a form of


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