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

By David G. Horrell; Christopher M. Tuckett | Go to book overview

11
CHRISTOLOGY, CONTROVERSY AND COMMUNITY
IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

Marinus de Jonge


The Centrality of Christology in the Fourth Gospel

Christology is without any doubt the main theme of the Fourth Gospel (20:30–31); it is developed in many debates of Jesus with his opponents and in discussions with his disciples. It stresses, repeatedly and in a variety of ways, the uniqueness of the relationship between Jesus as the Son and God as the Father—a theme also highlighted in the Prologue in 1:1–18. There is a particular “Johannine” Christology, characteristic of a specific community (or group of communities) which, to a considerable extent, derives its identity from that Christology. The Johannine Epistles show how this Christology remained the central issue in the life of the community(-ies) and how it became necessary to rethink and redefine it in order to safeguard it against misinterpretation.1

In the story told by the Gospel of John “the Jews” play an important part as opponents of Jesus. There are also Jews who sympathize with Jesus (so, for instance, Nicodemus in chapter 3) but who somehow miss the mark. Some Jewish followers of Jesus have an inadequate faith (as in 8:30). A select group of disciples, however, are repeatedly and intensively instructed by him (especially in chapters 13–18). They receive the promise that, after Jesus' return to the Father, they will be guided by the Spirit of Truth. This will remind them of all Jesus has said and lead them to a full understanding of who Jesus is (so, for instance, 14:26; 16:12–15). The Johannine community sees itself in continuity with this group of intimate friends of Jesus, insiders instructed in the true understanding of Jesus' identity,

1 I cannot deal in detail with the problem of the relationship between the Epistles
and the Gospel. There certainly is a difference in emphasis, also in Christology.
Nevertheless the conflict reflected in 1 and 2 John has left traces in the Gospel in
its present form (see n. 17). See my “Variety and Development in Johannine
Christology”, Jesus: Stranger from Heaven and Son of God (SBLSBS 11: Missoula MT:
Scholars, 1977).

-209-

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