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Anti-Semitism and Religious Violence as Flawed Interpretations of the Gospel of John

Yes, John’s narrative carries a good deal of religious invective—a factor of heated debates with religious leaders in Jerusalem and/or a diaspora setting—but one must go against the clearly counter-violent presentation of Jesus in John to embrace any form of religious violence. Therefore, resorting to violence cannot be supported by an exegetically faithful reading of the Gospel of John. It goes directly against the Johannine stance against violence, corroborated also by the clear teachings of Jesus in the Synoptics.

See Also: John and Judaism: A Contested Relationship in Context (SBL Press, 2017)

“Glimpses of Jesus Through the Johannine Lens—An Introduction and Overview of John, Jesus, and History, Volume 3”

The Community That Raymond Brown Left Behind: Reflections on the Johannine Dialectical Situation

Addressing the Johannine Riddles—A New Introduction

The John, Jesus, and History Project? New Glimpses of Jesus and a Bi-Optic Hypothesis

By Paul N. Anderson
George Fox University
October 2017

Click here for article.

Comments (2)

To my mind the sheer bitterness of some of the Johannine Jesus' comments on the Ioudaioi is underplayed here. One wonders whether those who were his followers were still his followers at the end of that angry dialogue. Can this fail to represent a distinctly hostile judgement of the Johannine Christians, at least those of the time when John's Gospel went through it second edition, on those who claimed
that they were both Jews and
followers of Jesus? There is also the
way John's Jesus and John refer with such a great sense of externality to 'your law', Ioudaioi etc.. Much seems to depend on making this a Galilean sense of externality vs. Judaeans but it is very hard to give 'Ioudaioi' this sense consistently, as is accepted. This leads us to a polyvalent reading - but can we avoid accepting that one of the valences refers to the religion that we call Second Temple Judaism?
The extreme centrality of the Temple in this religion makes it difficult to understand how there could be a Galilean sensibility self-consciously contrasting with the Judaean one but clearly within the same religious framework? The whole idea of Second Temple religion was that it is in Judaea that God is known: to frame one's religion as external to Judaean ways is to challenge that whole idea.
Which leads to the fact that Jesus is nowhere shown as doing what Second Temple religion most required, i.e. participating as a 'layman' in the priest-led sacrifices.
His zeal for the Temple is expressed in violent acts, prophecies of its destruction and relocation of its sacredness to his own body. Was he then Jewish in the religious sense?
The famous riddling style of Jesus' speech makes it comparatively hard to see whether he accepts or merely seems to accept the Samaritan woman's attribution of Jewish status to him. That salvation will come from among those of Jewish religion can be understood in more than one way: it recognises the positive role of Judaeans and their religion in providing the setting for salvation to come but does not rule out their being left behind when salvation for the whole world is offered.
I don't think that there is any call for religious violence as a duty but the 'cleansing' of the Temple is a symbolic act announcing God's displeasure and thus much worse to come. Jesus creates risks of stampede, panic and disorder and does use a potentially lethal weapon.
#1 - Martin Hughes - 10/23/2017 - 10:47

Violence-provoking or not, the Gospel of John contains highly divisive content. Moreover...

There is no command in the fourth Gospel to love neighbors or enemies. Instead, it states, “He who believes not is condemned already” (John 3). The fourth Gospel more so than the earlier three teaches that one is either Godʼs friend or Godʼs foe, one must “believe” rightly, or, be “damned.” “Eat the flesh and drink the blood,” or you “have no life within you.” It does not say people will be judged according to their “works” as in Matthew. Additional passages in the fourth Gospel state…

No one is able to come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me attracts and draws him and gives him the desire to come to Me, and [then] I will raise him up [from the dead] at the last day.
John 6:44

You do not believe because you are not of my sheep.
John 10:26

My command is this [spoken to his sheep, not spoken to “the world”]: Love EACH OTHER [those within the cult, not neighbors, not enemies] as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down oneʼs life for oneʼs friends. [not for oneʼs neighbor or enemy]… You are my friends if you do what I command… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you… This is my command: Love EACH OTHER.
John 15:14,16-17

This is “in-group” speech as Malina and Rohrbaugh point out in their Social Science Commentary on the Gospel of John. Love other members of oneʼs in-group. The discourse in which the above prayer appears even states it is being spoken to the Jesus in-group, not to everyone: “[Now] before the Passover Feast began, Jesus knew the time had come for Him to leave this world and return to the Father. And as He had loved THOSE WHO WERE HIS OWN in the world, He loved them to the last and to the highest degree” (John 13). The in-group speech begins there and runs several chapters. God gives certain people to Jesus, even before Jesus has died on the cross: “To all whom Thou [God] has given him (Jesus), He may give eternal life” (John 17:2). Those are the ones Jesus loves, the true believers, and they are commanded to love one another. Nonbelievers are “already condemned,” or they do not abide in the True Vine and their “branches will be cut off and thrown into the fire.”

Jesusʼ discourse to his true-believing followers winds down with John 17:22-23 where Jesus prays, “That they may be one [even] as We [God and Jesus] are one [in purpose]: I in them and You in Me, in order that they [Christ followers] may become one and perfectly united [in purpose], that the world may know and recognize that You [God] sent Me.”

A passage in the fourth Gospel that Universalists cite is John 12:32, “And I, if and when I am lifted up from the earth [on the cross or possibly an allusion to heavenly ascent], will draw and attract all men [Gentiles as well as Jews] to Myself.” The Amplified Bible editors added the statement in brackets, suggesting that this passage is not about universalism. Whether the bracketed interpretation is correct or not, the author of the fourth Gospel has made it clear that God has only given Jesus “some” but not all of “mankind”. The rest are “damned already” because they “do not believe” (John 3) or, “You do not believe because you are not of my sheep” (John 10).

Malina and Rohrbaugh in their Social Science Commentary on the Gospel of John point out that the fourth Gospel contains a greater number of specialized theological terms, code words, shibboleths, not seen in any of the earlier Gospels [like, ‘believing into Jesus,’ ‘abiding in him,’ ‘loving him,’ ‘keeping his word,’ ‘receiving him,’ ‘having him,’ and ‘seeing him,’ ‘bread,’ ‘light,’ ‘door,’ ‘life,’ ‘way,’ and ‘vine’ all redundant euphemisms and metaphors for Jesus himself which formed an anti-language outside of “the worldʼs,” and served to maintain inner solidarity], terms that would be meaningful to an in-group seeking cohesion and condemnation of outsiders, like members of an exclusive religious cult or even like members of an exclusive gang.
#2 - Edward T. Babinski - 02/22/2018 - 17:48

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