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Author Topic: The "Gnostic" Gospel of John  (Read 3372 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: January 15, 2005, 07:37:03 PM »

Some scholars accuse that the Gospel of John is of Gnostic authorship but that the hierarchy of the Church subsequently edited the work to expunge it of any gnostic heresies and conform it to Orthodox doctrine. It's been said that the earliest copies of the Gospel of John are also from Gnostic sources, implying links to these groups.

If this were true, would the Gospel be any less authoritive?
I would say definitely not, considering that the Orthodox Church would have the right to do this as the Church founded by Christ himself.
And who are scholars to say that the hierarchy did not have divine inspiration in conforming the Gospel to Orthodox doctrine?

Discuss...

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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2005, 08:07:51 PM »

I would suggest you pick up a copy of Fr John Behr's "Way to Nicaea". The introduction and first chapter address this question.

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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2005, 08:21:49 PM »

I am not making the same accusation as the scholars. My point is just that if they were right, the Gospel wouldn't be any less authoritive.
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2005, 09:59:32 PM »

If the Gospel were originally authored by Cerinthus, as the Montanists accused, and edited to be expunged of heresy and conformed to Orthodox doctrine; Would it be any less authoritive?
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« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2005, 10:18:01 PM »

Yes and no. It might still be in the canon. But it wouldn't be the Gospel according to St. John anymore either, and that is not insignificant. You could of course bring up many examples to prove the validity of what you are saying, such as how the Scripture itself quotes sources which are apocryphal, pagan, etc. The danger I see is utilizing a methodology (epistemology) in which you "pick and choose" your authorities according to their rightness, logicalness, or factualness. When looking at how to attain knowledge, Orthodoxy focuses on experience, revelation and inspiration (the beginnings of wisdom), not education, exposition, etc. (the end results of one's epistemological system). In essence, Orthodoxy puts what seems subjective above what seems objective, because the supposedly "subjective" experience, revelation, etc. can be led by God in the life in Christ, while the supposedly "objective" rationalistic learning by it's very nature excludes God from the picture to a greater or lesser degree. There is a place for both the means and the end, but the ends must never precede the means, otherwise you end in a jumble of seemingly logical things which contradict one another, and probably a sick soul. That is why, intellectually I can agree with what you are saying; but spiritually, I think there is more to it than a simple proposition that it would still be acceptable. It's about the methodology.
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« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2005, 10:55:35 PM »

That is why, intellectually I can agree with what you are saying; but spiritually, I think there is more to it than a simple proposition that it would still be acceptable. It's about the methodology.

If the Church were divinely inspired in editing the Gospel, it would be spiritually acceptable also.
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« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2005, 11:24:37 PM »

John 21:24 suggests that either the appendix or even the entire Gospel itself was not written by the hand of the "disciple whom Jesus loved.":

"This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true."

The Fourth Gospel was a favorite of the Gnostics and and there was some difficulty in certain Orthodox circles to getting it accepted as apostolic.

One could argue that we should believe the Gospel based on faith, not who may or may not have originally authored it.

If the Gospel in its current form were divinely inspired, it wouldn't matter who originally wrote it nor would it matter the date of its composition in its current form.

And if it were the writing down of an oral tradition that began with John, and if the writers of the Gospel were praying for the intercession of John while composing it, then they could have attributed it to him.

What I am getting at is pretty much what I have said before:
If Cerinthus wrote down the Johannine oral tradition, and the Church edited it, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to be expunged of any heresy and conformed to Orthodox doctrine, then it wouldn't be any less authoritive.

Ireneus states that John wrote the gospel to remove the error of Cerinthus but what if it were the disciples of John who edited the Gospel to remove its errors of Cerinthus?

What if it were even John himself using a Gnostic gospel as the primary source material, using his eye witness to expunge it of heresies and conform it to Orthodox doctrine?
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« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2005, 01:02:26 AM »

I am not making the same accusation as the scholars. My point is just that if they were right, the Gospel wouldn't be any less authoritive.

The book I referenced does not necessarily reflect the thought of scholars. You should really read it. It covers this issue pretty well.

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« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2005, 05:50:42 AM »

John 21:24 suggests that either the appendix or even the entire Gospel itself was not written by the hand of the "disciple whom Jesus loved.":

"This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true."

John 21:24 doesnt suggest that at ALL. In fact there is express testimony from the author himself:

“And he who hath seen hath testified, and his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.” (John 19:35)

“It is generally inferred, probably rightly, that this witness is the beloved disciple (vv. 25-27), responsible for the fourth Gospel as a whole (21:24).” (D.A.Carson, page 625)

“By the pronoun 'ekeinos' (In the second half of the verse - 'He' knows that he tells the truth) the eyewitness refers to himself. This is certainly the easiest way to untangle the pronouns; ekeinos then resumes the referent in the preceding clause, “and 'his' testimony is true”. Certainly eikos can be used by an author about himself. In this case the most likely person is the beloved disciple himself - not only because he is in the vicinity (v.27) but also because this bears formal similarity to 21:24 where the beloved disciple is contextually identified.” (page 626, Carson)

In further emphasising the compelling connection between the evangelist, witness of 19:35, and the beloved disciples, Carson then draws a connection with 1:14: “we have beheld his glory”. “In the theology of the fourth Gospel, the glory of the Son is no more brilliantly displayed to a fallen world than in the shame and suffering of the cross. For the evangelist not to have been present at the supreme display of the Son's glory would be a betrayal of the anticipation called forth by the prologue. The theme of eye-witness testimony thus links not only 1:14 and 21:24, but 19:35 as well, especially since this is the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (page 626, Carson)

Further information affirming that the beloved disciple is the author:

The beloved disciple, is found at the last supper (13:23), the cross (19:26-28), and at the empty tomb (20:2-9). In the epilogue he said to be the one who wrote “these things”, suggesting that the beloved disciple is in fact the evangelist of the Gospel. The synoptic Gospels insist that Christ's apostles were exclusive partakers with Christ at the last supper (Mk. 14:17), which means that the beloved disciple was one of the twelve apostles. The beloved disciple cannot be Peter, for he is repeatedly distinguished from Peter (John 13:23-24; 20:2-9; 21:20). Considering the fact he is one of the seven who go fishing in Chapter 21, and by implication, neither Peter, Thomas, nor Nathaniel, he is thus either one of the sons of Zebedee (James or John) or of the other two unamed disciples. He cannot be James, for James was the first apostle to be martyred (during the reign of Herod Agrippa I, A.D. 41-44; Acts 12:1-1), whilst John lived long enough to give weight to the rumour that he would not die until the Lord's return (21:23).

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the appendix was written by anyone other than the beloved disciple - and none whatsoever to deduce anything about the author of the Gospel body from anything written in the appendix. The opinion at present is fairly general, even among the critics - the vocabulary, the style, and the mode of presentation as a whole, plus the subject-matter of the actual passage reveal common authorship of this appendix and the preceding chapters of the Fourth Gospel.

The Fourth Gospel was a favorite of the Gnostics and and there was some difficulty in certain Orthodox circles to getting it accepted as apostolic.

This can be attributed to the fact that a) John's Gospel was written in a manner which made it difficult to understand, and b) It was often misused by Gnostics which would have instigated much cautiousness, discouraging a quick acceptance.

One could argue that we should believe the Gospel based on faith, not who may or may not have originally authored it.

If the Gospel in its current form were divinely inspired, it wouldn't matter who originally wrote it nor would it matter the date of its composition in its current form.

There is pleeeeeeeeeenty of sufficient external and internal evidence to support Johainne authorship. We shouldnt accept this Gospel's authenticity on blind faith, but on the clear early testiomny of the church - Is there really any good reason at all for discrediting Iraneus' quotation of Polycarp who expressly states that St John the apostle, the beloved disciple is the author of this Gospel?? NONE...all ive heard from anit-Johainne critics is speculation and conjecture - there is no good reason to accept the strong external testimony of the early church.

And if it were the writing down of an oral tradition that began with John, and if the writers of the Gospel were praying for the intercession of John while composing it, then they could have attributed it to him.

Ireneus states that John wrote the gospel to remove the error of Cerinthus but what if it were the disciples of John who edited the Gospel to remove its errors of Cerinthus?

What if it were even John himself using a Gnostic gospel as the primary source material, using his eye witness to expunge it of heresies and conform it to Orthodox doctrine?

Why do you choose to make all these conjectures, against the clear and strong external and internal evidence of Johainne authorship?
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« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2005, 04:38:41 PM »

It is the conjecture of the secularists, not mine. I believe that John is the author of the Gospel and that we have sufficient evidence from historical tradition to prove his authorship.

However, all I am saying is, if those Jesus Seminar whackos were somehow right about its authorship, the Gospel wouldn't be any less authoritive.
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« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2005, 04:14:53 AM »


However, all I am saying is, if those Jesus Seminar whackos were somehow right about its authorship, the Gospel wouldn't be any less authoritive.


It's a moot point. Such a "what if?" scenario has no value since it is based on a false premise, so it is a complete waste of time.
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« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2005, 06:58:16 PM »

The Jesus Seminar is a complete waste of time.
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« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2005, 07:24:15 PM »

Interestingly, reading books by people like those in the Jesus Seminar (Bruce Chilton, Marcus Borg, et al.) played not-a-small part in my conversion to Orthodoxy. After a few months of that type of schlock, I inevitably came to the point where I realised... there just has to be something better than this! Smiley Had I stuck with vanilla protestant and catholic writings I might still be ecclesiastically wandering around; but I saw (theological) hell, and I was afraid. Sometimes a shock is the best medicine.
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« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2005, 11:48:43 PM »

Luke Timothy Johnson's The Real Jesus (1996) is a terrific refutation of the Jesus Seminar and similar movements from an RC perspective. Who could top his take on retired ECUSA Bishop John Spong (rhymes with "wrong")? "Having a bishop with opinions like these is a bit like hiring a plumber who wants to 'rethink pipes.'" Afro
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« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2005, 12:18:26 AM »

Good book review of a specific book written by one of the Jesus Seminar “scholars”: http://www.tektonics.org/books/priceshrink.html

Other books and articles dealing with the Jesus Seminar's flawed methodology, bias agendas, and presuppositions.

+++ N.T.Wright: “The New Testament and the people of God” and “Jesus and the victory of God.”

+++ New Testament scholar Ben Witherington, has one whole chapter in his book “The Jesus Quest” debunking the Jesus Seminars flawed methodology.

+++ Prominent New Testament scholars Michael Wilkins and J. P. Moreland also debunking the Jesus Seminar in their book “Jesus under fire.”

+++ Prominent New Testament scholar and professor of historical and systematic theology Alister E McGrath refutes the Jesus Seminar in his book: “Christian theology: An introduction”

+++ Prominent New Testament scholar Greg Boyd refuting the “Jesus Seminar” and exposing their hidden agenda in this article: http://www.gregboyd.org/gbfront/index.asp?PageID=32 and also in his book “Jesus under siege”.

+++ Prominent New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg refuting the “Jesus seminar”: http://www.equip.org/free/DJ032.htm

+++ Prominent Christian Professor of Philosophy Dr William Lane Craig refuting the “Jesus seminar”: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/rediscover1.html

+++ Prominent New Testament scholar Herzog's “Jesus, Justice and the Reign of God” prove that the Seminar's suppositions create a Jesus who is completely out of place in first-century Palestine. Critical notes from this this book can be found here: http://www.tektonics.org/qt/talkinhead.html
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« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2005, 12:48:08 AM »

not to mention Luke Timothy Johnson's book "The Quest for the Historical Jesus."
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« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2005, 12:59:14 AM »

"Having a bishop with opinions like these is a bit like hiring a plumber who wants to 'rethink pipes.'" Afro

 laugh laugh laugh Good one!  Grin
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« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2005, 07:50:35 AM »

I'm in the middle of reading N.T.Wright's first volume, New Testament and the People of God, as I got it and the other two in his series for Christmas. It gets pretty technical at times, but so far it has been a good read.

As an aside, apparently there's a movie coming out which purports that Christ never existed. The blurb on the website  (I think the movie is called "The Beast") states there are a "growing number of scholars" who believe this. That's a pretty absurd claim since AFAIK not even most Jesus Seminar types would go that far. I wonder who these so-called "scholars" are (funny that no names were mentioned) who actually believe this.
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« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2005, 02:08:22 PM »

I remember stumbling across a website several years ago dedicated to the same proposition. Jesus as Myth. Some people maintain that we "don't know" Jesus of Nazareth ever existed given that the only references to him are in the NT (sooooo biased Wink) and a few other contemporary sources (Tactitus, if I'm not mistaken, mentions one "Chrestus"). Actually, compared to many from antiquity, Jesus is pretty well documented. As one person put it, everyone believes Socrates existed even though all we know of him comes from his student, Plato.
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« Reply #19 on: January 18, 2005, 02:19:50 PM »

Quote
As an aside, apparently there's a movie coming out which purports that Christ never existed.  The blurb on the website  (I think the movie is called "The Beast") states there are a "growing number of scholars" who believe this.  That's a pretty absurd claim since AFAIK not even most Jesus Seminar types would go that far.  I wonder who these so-called "scholars" are (funny that no names were mentioned) who actually believe this.

Absurd claims from Hollywood, who would have thunk it?

To increase the "shock" value, the movie will be released on June 6th, 2006. Get it? 6-6-6

Boy, those Hollywood types are sooooo creative!  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #20 on: January 18, 2005, 03:04:05 PM »

Quote
Some people maintain that we "don't know" Jesus of Nazareth ever existed given that the only references to him are in the NT (sooooo biased  )  and a few other contemporary sources (Tactitus, if I'm not mistaken, mentions one "Chrestus").


There is not one reputable historian who doubts the historical existence of Christ. Despite the fact there is far more corroborating extra-Biblical testimony for Christ's existence than simply that of Tacitus (e.g. Pliny, Josephus etc etc), the fact remains that the historical validity and credibility of the Biblical testimony itself is a rock that simply cannot, and will not, ever be moved. Christianity stands out from all other world religions on the basis that it's truth is historically verifiable. The Resurrection of Christ, the foundation of church, is a historical fact that atheists have been struggling to deal with for centuries now, the evidence of the missing body - the empty tomb, the appearances, the circumstantial evidence, the rapid growth of the early church - are all historical facts supported by the strongest eye-witness testimony, it is simply irrefutable.

One of the worlds leading atheist philosophers (who has recently turned agnostic) Antony Flew had a major debate with a world renowned Christian apologist Habermas, on the topic “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” The result was decidely one-sided. Of the 5 independent philosophers from various colleges and universities who served as judges of the debate, 4 concluded that Habermas had won, and the other called it a draw. One of the judges commented: “I was surprised to see how weak Flew's own approach was... I was left with the conclusion: that since the case against the resurrection was no stronger than that presented by Flew, I would think its time i began to take the ressurection more seriously.” Another commented: “I conclude that the historical evidence...is strong enough to lead reasonable minds to conclude that Christ did indeed rise from the dead...Habermas does end up providing 'high probable evidence' for the historicity of the resurrection 'with no plausible naturalistic evidence against it.'...”

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« Reply #21 on: January 18, 2005, 04:21:30 PM »

More than a Carpenter by Josh Mcdowell.
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« Reply #22 on: January 18, 2005, 05:31:07 PM »

I'm in the middle of reading N.T.Wright's first volume, New Testament and the People of God, as I got it and the other two in his series for Christmas. It gets pretty technical at times, but so far it has been a good read.

As an aside, apparently there's a movie coming out which purports that Christ never existed. The blurb on the website (I think the movie is called "The Beast") states there are a "growing number of scholars" who believe this. That's a pretty absurd claim since AFAIK not even most Jesus Seminar types would go that far. I wonder who these so-called "scholars" are (funny that no names were mentioned) who actually believe this.

From what I know and read, N.T. Wright is quite sound.

 My first thought when ever I see something like "Scientists say" or "Scholars now know" or "Everyone believes"  is to ask "Who are they?  What are their names?  Where was this written?  (If it was the Weird.. ahem World Weekly News that's not a credible source.)   Extraordinary claims require at least ordinary proof, like names, dates and quotes not out of context. 

Call me particular, but there you are.

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« Reply #23 on: January 18, 2005, 05:58:43 PM »

Quote
From what I know and read, N.T. Wright is quite sound.


Just watch out for his views on justification
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« Reply #24 on: January 18, 2005, 06:16:28 PM »


 

Just watch out for his views on justification

What are his views on justification?  (I haven't quite got that far yet) And how would you contrast his views with the Orthodox view on justification?
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« Reply #25 on: January 19, 2005, 03:44:21 AM »

Well, its not that big of a deal really, butfor example, in terms of Justfication and the New Covenant, Wright holds to the belief that Justification is the Lord's declaration that those who believe in Christ as Lord are in the “right”, which for him means the declaring of God’s true covenant people. He sees justification therefore as a definition of our righteousness as people of the New Covenant, how we as individuals are accepted by God into His covenant. Our covenant relationship with God however is simply one of the results of justification, it is “part of our being brought into a covenant relationship with him” (OSB, page 348), yet it doesn't define justification as Wright adamantly argues. Contrary to Wright's conclusions, Justification is about “getting in” rather than the assurance that someone “is in”, so to speak; shifting focus from our position before the Lord to our position in the church.
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