Saturday, 27 June 2015

Richard Bauckham on John the Son of Zebedee or not

John the son of Zebedee

A few months ago I was given the opportunity to ask a question via the internet to Richard Buackham author of the excellent ‘ Jesus and The Eyewitnesses’. I have already expressed my appreciation for this book on here previously. However the one fall back in my view is that whilst Richard argues that the Fourth Gospel is indeed eyewitness testimony but the author is not John the son of Zebedee. My question related to this ‘why are you so sure the beloved disciple is not John the son of Zebedee?
Richard was gracious in his answer and responded with the following:-

The Biblical Response
The fourth gospel mainly takes place in Jerusalem while the synoptic gospels mainly take place in Galilee.
It features the voices of people who never speak or don’t appear in the synoptic gospels. 
It seems to be written by a Jerusalem disciple and not one of the 12. 
John is always with his brother James in the Gospels so it is surprising to find no mention of him by name in the Fourth Gospel.

The historical argument-

He goes on to argue that the witness from the early church seems quite strong because they all point to the Apostle John as the author. However Bauckham rightly argues that the name John was very common in the C1st and he has no doubt the author was called John just note the Apostle John. He believes the early church is speaking with one voice though as they are all following Polycarp who point out that the author was John of Ephesus.  However if we take Papias’ comments seriously John of Ephesus was the elder John rather than John the Apostle. He points out, (although admitting it is rather a late tradition) that John was supposedly martyred quite early on. He points out that John disappears after the council in Jerusalem in the book of Acts.

My Response:-

It’s widely accepted that John knew of and was familiar with the synoptic gospels and wanted to supplement their account.  So it featuring different events and different people isn’t a deal breaker.
The fourth gospel doesn't mention James by name, neither does it mention John’s relative Mary the mother of Jesus by name. This is important as it points out two things, John assumes a general knowledge of the information in the synoptic accounts. Secondly John is consistent in not naming his relatives. 
John begins his narrative with the ministry of John the Baptist just like the other Gospels, and indeed we find that there is an unnamed disciple of the Baptist that follows Jesus. It isn’t much of a stretch to see this disciple as the unnamed beloved disciple at the end who Peter points out. In deed in Acts John is coupled not with James his brother but Peter which fits so well with the fourth gospel. As someone pointed out, the beloved disciple is repeatedly found in the place we would expect to see the Apostle John.  Admittedly the fourth gospel does have more trips to Jerusalem but the fourth gospel like the other three concentrates most of its information on  the passion week, filling out the details of the that week. Yet the first two signs take place in Cana and this according to the synoptics is the home of John. 
Whilst the voices are different we are not told anywhere that other disciples than the 12 were at the last supper and every voice that does speak at the supper is one of the 12. 

The historical response.

Buackham rightly affirms that the writer of the 4th Gospel is clearly the Beloved Disciple, he also holds in high regard the names attached to the Gospels by the early church. Which is why he rejects out of hand the idea that Lazarus whom Jesus loved isn't the beloved disciple. The author he is looking for is John as this tradition goes back. Now like many scholars he takes Papias statement of the multiple John's mentioned in Papias list, the Apostle John and the Elder John. Yet the early church were so sure that the son of Zebedee wrote the 4th Gospel that they included it in the cannon as it carried Apostolic authority. This is what is most surprising, Buackham moves scholarship on as he rightly moves away from the community development hypothesis for the gospels but stays in the same place with an evangelical scholarship impacted by liberal scholarship since the C19th. No-one before the C19th argued for John the elder, a whole mythology has now developed around him.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Lights in a Dark Place- Rebecca Davis

I got given a copy of this book to read with my children and then to review it, I am not obliged to give a positive review. My little girls weren't taken with it but that is a reflection of their age not on the writing ability of Rebecca Davis. In fact Rebecca Davis has a tremendous gift of communicating to children. I think this book is aimed at pre-teens and they would find the stories in here fascinating. 

The title is very fitting, Lights in A Dark Place - true stories of God at work in Colombia. Throughout this little book you find that Colombia is indeed a dark place, poverty and oppression are massive. Oppression from both an aggressive Roman Catholicism and from Revolutionaries who in wanting to bring freedom have brought fear. Davis tells how even in these dark places throughout many decades God has been using evangelicos to share the good news with both conservative Catholics looking for freedom and murderous millitant revolutionaries whose guilt keeps them awake. Davis also shares the stories of brave evangelicos who go to tell these people the gospel risking both their lives and their homes. I know these stories were written for children but I found them encouraging, because the gospel can change lives anywhere and challenging because of the sacrificial lives of the evangelicos, both native Colombians and missionaries who are sold out for God and His gospel. I am also encouraged at all the answered prayers in the book, including the prayers of a four year old whose dad showed him pictures of Colombian mountain people and then prayed that God would work in his parents and make them missionaries to Colombia. It was also nice to see the boy grow up and continue ministering to them and seeing remarkable answers to prayer. If you have a child between 8-12 why not read this to them. Who knows God may use it to challenge them to pray you onto the mission field? 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

A Theology of John's Gospel and Letters

Finished this wonderful book today, Kostenberger is a gifted communicator but much more than that makes this an incredible book. Kostenberger says in the very last thought that his intention as a scholar is not to master the book of John but  that he is as a worshiper and disciple seeking to be mastered by it. That is the way this book feels, it is theology as devotion and his enthusiasm for John and for John's LORD is catching. Yet it is also scholarly,  Kostenberger has a firm grasp on trends within Johannine scholarship and as a conservative evangelical he is not afraid to engage with them. He is appreciative of Richard Bauckham's  Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (as am I) but takes him to task for not following the early church in affirming the writer of the fourth Gospel as the Apostle John when the best evidence leads us to that conclusion. Kostenberger rightly points out that Bauckham's book has moved scholarship beyond the now outdated idea of a Johannine community to see that there is weighty evidence within the gospels themselves to point to eyewitness testimony. 

I am not sure where Kostenberger stands on the whole sovereignty of God, human responsibility issue but he is very clear where John stands, while John affirms both, it is the sovereignty of God that is paramount which is one of the reasons I came to a reformed understanding as John's gospel did its work on me.
An interesting chapter in the book shows Kostenberger taking on those who would challenge John's ethics as a sectarian document. He points out that while John presents the world as a dark place,'alienated from God, nontheless it remains an object of his love' both in the sending of Jesus, John 3:16 and in the mission of the disciples, for John this is not just for the Apostles but all who come after. The mission of the church is also a key theme for John and Kostenberger draws this out in one chapter and it is reverberates through the whole book. I commend this book to to you.

I am taking a break from Kostenberger for a couple of books but I am already looking forward to reading his ECNT commentary on John.

God Bless
Stephen <><