Have a Happy Summer

It has been a pleasure to gather with you each Sunday this spring to discuss John’s Gospel, even though looking for the origins of Christian Anti-Judaism was not an uplifting topic.

I hope you all have a great summer. If you have ideas about what you would like to study in the fall, you can post them as comments here, or suggest them to Stephanie at the church.

Sunday, March 19: The Seventh Sign–Jesus Raises Lazarus

We will read John 11:17–54, and 12:9–11. These verses include the raising of Lazarus, a plot to kill Jesus, and a plot to kill Lazarus.

The raising of Lazarus is the last of the signs in the section of John’s Gospel that scholar often call the “Book of Signs.” It is the catalyst that propels the narrative into a strong focus on Jesus coming death portrayed in the “Book of Glory” (chapters 13–20).

Jesus raises Lazarus to life, painting by Jesus Mafa
Jesus raises Lazarus to life, by Jesus Mafa


Sunday, March 12–More on Nicodemus’ visit with Jesus

On March 5 we read John 9:1–12, the healing of a man born blind—the sixth of the signs found in the first half of John’s Gospel. Last Sunday (March 13) we continued with 9:13–34 as well as a section on spiritual blindness in John 9:35–41.

William Brassy Hole, 1846-1917

At the end of class we began reading the story of Nicodemus’ visit with Jesus in John 3:1–21. We will continue that discussion tomorrow morning. I have uploaded the presentation I will be using. You can view it here.

This story embodies both of the focal points of this class. There are clear elements that fed later anti-Jewish attitudes in the centuries following the writing of John’s Gospel, and there are clear elements that fed Christian spirituality and mystical experience. Come discuss both with us tomorrow morning!



“You do not know my Father”

This morning we took a long look at John 8:12–20, where we encounter the famous saying “I am the light of the world” (8:12) as well as the charge that the Pharisees “do not know my Father” (8:19).

We discussed the natural tendency of religious communities to draw boundaries to distinguish ourselves from the larger society or competing communities. We considered the characterization of the Pharisees in this text in light of the growing separation between Christianity and Judaism that was happening in the late first century CE.

I had hoped we would also have time to discuss John 9:1–12, but that did not happen. We will start with that passage, where Jesus heals a man born blind, next Sunday. I hope to see you on March 5!

Texts for next Sunday, February 26, 2017

On Sunday we will read two stories from John’s Gospel. The first (John 8:12-20) contains one of the “I am” sayings (“I am the light of the world”) and ends with the curious statement “no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.”

Effinger, I AM The Light of the World
Gregory Effinger, I AM The Light of the World

The other passage follows in chapter 9, verses 1-12. This is the sixth “sign.” Jesus heals a man born blind.

I look forward to reading these texts with you on Sunday and discussing the issues they raise for us as followers of Jesus in today’s Church.

Sign 5: Jesus walks on water (John 6:16–24)

Tomorrow morning (Sunday, February 12) we will look John 6:16–24 where Jesus walks on the Sea of Galilee. We will compare this story briefly with its equivalents in Matthew and Mark and look at a significant archaeological find that helps illustrate the scene assumed by the story.

If time permits, we will also look at one of the “I am” statements in John’s Gospel. In 6:25–59, Jesus refers to himself at “The bread of life.”

Jesus Heals a Man at Bethzatha: The Third Sign

Tomorrow morning (Sunday, February 5) we will discuss the third of Jesus’ “signs” in the Gospel of John. In John 5:1-15 Jesus heals a man  on the Sabbath who has been ill for thirty eight years. After the healing, Jesus charges the man, “Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.”

The healing sets up a conflict between Jesus and an amorphous group called simply “the Jews”.

We will examine the theological assumptions behind this story as well as the continued problem posed by references to “the Jews” in John’s Gospel.

If time remains after we discuss this passage, we will move on to John 6:1-14.

January 22, 2016

Tomorrow morning we will examine two passages in chapter two of John’s Gospel. The first is the story of the Wedding at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus turns water into wine. The second story is often called the “cleansing of the Temple.”

Opening Sunday (January 15, 2016)

p52 recto
p52 recto

Today we spent some time discussing possible perspectives on John’s Gospel, speculating about what can be known historically about its origins, and reading the hymn to the logos (λόγος) in chapter one.

We looked at passages that strongly imply a growing separation between early Christianity and its Jewish roots. 1:17,  9:28, and 15:25 (“their law” rather than “our law”), for example, can easily be read to imply an incompatibility between Moses and Jesus. In this context, what does the author’s decision to begin this Gospel with a poetic discussion of the cosmic significance of the logos imply?

We read 1:1-5 twice, once looking at it as traditionally read, with λόγος referring to Jesus, the Christ, and once reading λόγος as “reason” as an early Greek stoic might have read it. How would the assertion in 1:14 that the word (logos) became flesh and lived among us sound to early Jewish readers?  If we understand logos as a reference to divine “reason” rather than “word”, how might the assertion have sounded to Greek readers steeped in Stoic assumptions? The author’s assertion that “the λόγος became flesh and lived among us” (1:14) challenges some basic assumptions of both groups.

Feel free to join us next week as we continue to probe both the theological contributions of John’s Gospel and the problem of coming to terms with the violent anti-Jewish rhetoric that has claimed support from this same Gospel for centuries.

The image at the beginning of this post is one side of the oldest fragment of John’s Gospel. It begins and ends with the words οἱ Ἰυοθδαίοι, universally translated as “the Jews” in published English versions of John’s Gospel, though we will see later in this class that “the Jews” is not the only option for translating this phrase.

Coming in January: A Spiritual Gospel – John’s Gospel and the Origins of Christian Anti-Judaism

antijudaismandthefourthgospelAllen Davidson and I will be offering a class on John’s Gospel  (A Spiritual Gospel: John and the New Testament Origins of Christian
) beginning in January. We would love to see you there.

Adult Church School begins on January 8 with a brief introduction to the classes being offered. Our class on John will begin the following Sunday (January 15) and run through Palm Sunday (March 9).