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

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

THE POINT OF JOHN'S CHRISTOLOGY
CHRISTOLOGY, CONFLICT AND COMMUNITY
IN JOHN

John Painter

A late invitation to participate in this Festschrift has left little time to write a worthy contribution in honour of my friend and colleague David Catchpole. Because of a friendship consolidated by a time together in Cape Town in 1976 and an Australian connection, I would not willingly miss this opportunity. I have been helped by the chosen focus of the volume. It suggests a connection with my approach to John which recognises that Christology leads to conflict and the consequences of conflict contribute to the shaping of the distinctive Johannine community.

The argument of this essay is simple. It is that the development of Christology led to a conflict out of which the Johannine community was born. In the Jewish context of the first century the development of Christology inevitably became a source of conflict. Care is required if we are to avoid confusion because we need to distinguish three broad periods during which Christology means rather different things. As applied to the period of Jesus' ministry, if the term Christology is used it is to be understood in terms of Jewish expectations of the Messiah. To be sure, we now recognise a diversity of expectations, and John shows an awareness of a number of these, all of which remain recognisably Jewish. The evidence makes clear that Jesus faced conflict with the Jewish authorities of his day. Roman execution was facilitated by the cooperation and complicity of the Jerusalem leadership. But this may not have been because of Jesus' explicit Christology. It is unlikely that he was opposed simply because he was perceived to be the Messiah. Opposition is more likely to have been because Jesus was the leader of a popular movement that was seriously critical of the Jewish establishment, including the temple regime.1 John (11:46–53) also suggests that the Jerusalem authorities

1 The tradition of the “cleansing” of the temple in the gospel tradition sets Jesus
in opposition to the Jerusalem leadership represented by the High Priest.

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