A Love Supreme: A History of Johannine Tradition

By Allen Dwight Callahan | Go to book overview

THREE
The Spiritual Qospel

The spirit helps me. Now it is exact.
I write: In the beginning was the Act.
—Goethe, Faust 1224–37

The Gospel of John begins with the claim that this is how it all began. It began with the word, the logos. The word comes before everything; it is the word before all the words of testimony to follow. The logos is thus itself a prologos, a word before words.

The Gospel of John is [the spiritual gospel,] as Clement of Alexandria dubbed it in the middle of the second century of the Common Era. Centuries later Friedrich Schleiermacher asserted that the Gospel of John is at once the most historical and the most spiritual of the four Gospels. The logos is a testimony at once spiritual and historical. The witness of John the Baptizer punctuates the prologue, thus firmly ensconcing the opening of the Gospel in earthly history, not heavenly prehistory. The testimony of John is a part of the beginning of the story, the account, that is, the logos. The first chapter of the Gospel opens with words about him, continues with his words, and ends with Jesus' words addressed to some of John's erstwhile disciples. And as we shall see, the first part of the narrative begins in chapter 1 and ends in chapter 10 with the mention of John. And so the prologue, formally 1:1–18, is of a piece with the rest of the first half of the narrative.

The emphasis of the prologue, this word before words, falls on the predicate and not the subject of the logos. The prologue of the Gospel of John is an

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A Love Supreme: A History of Johannine Tradition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Prologue 1
  • One - Root Conflict 6
  • Two - Disciples of the Beloved Community 15
  • Three - The Spiritual Qospel 50
  • Four - In Those Parts 56
  • Five Love in Extremis - The Farewell Discourses (13:1–17:27) 77
  • Six - A King of Shreds and Patches 85
  • Seven - Epilogues 94
  • Abbreviations 101
  • Notes 105
  • Bibliography 115
  • Index of Ancient Sources 121
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