Christology, Controversy, and Community: New Testament Essays in Honour of David R. Catchpole

By David G. Horrell; Christopher M. Tuckett | Go to book overview
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SATAN, DEMONS AND THE ABSENCE OF
EXORCISMS IN THE FOURTH GOSPEL

Ronald A. Piper

There are few places in New Testament scholarship where the interaction of Christology, controversy and community is more apparent than in the fourth gospel.1 It is hardly an exaggeration to claim that everything in the fourth gospel revolves around Christology. The nature of “the Johannine community” and its controversy with the synagogue have also become (despite some recent doubts)2 regular features of Johannine study. But there are still some very puzzling aspects of the world depicted by the fourth evangelist and the conflicts he depicts. One of these is Jesus' conflict with Satan. Why, in particular, are there no exorcisms in John's gospel? This essay will try to provide an answer; it will then attempt to follow up some of the implications of that answer.


The Absence of Exorcisms

It is well-known that there are many differences between John and the synoptic gospels, but often the lack of exorcisms in the fourth gospel has been considered a peculiarity which has drawn only cursory comment. Recently, however, discussion of this topic has begun to increase, not least through the studies of G.H. Twelftree3 and E. Plumer.4

1 A version of this paper was presented to the British New Testament Society
in Aberdeen, September 1996.

2 R.J. Bauckham, ed., The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences
(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1998), esp. 9–48, 147–71; M. Hengel, The Johannine
Question (London: SCM/Philadelphia: TPI, 1989) 114–24.

3Jesus the Exorcist. A Contribution to the Study of the Historical Jesus (WUNT 2.54;
Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr/Paul Siebeck, 1993); idem, Jesus the Miracle Worker (Downers
Grove IL: InterVarsity, 1999); idem, “Demon, Devil, Satan” in Dictionary of Jesus
and the Gospels (ed. J.B. Green, S. McKnight; Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity, 1992)
163–72.

4 “The Absence of Exorcisms in the Fourth Gospel”, Bib 78 (1997) 350–68.

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