Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Anti-Judaism and the Gospel of John (again)

The following points summarize my (brief) research on the subject of anti-Judaism in the FG. I apologize in advance for the rather stale treatment of such an emotionally charged issue. I have simply tried to keep this as short as possible.

1) Despite the contention of some scholars, a distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism is helpful in understanding the message of the FG. The former may be defined as "the hatred and contempt for the Jewish people and their culture." The latter may be defined as "the prejudicial denial of the validity of the Jewish religion as a viable means of attaining genuine knowledge of God" (ie. eternal life).
2) Attempts to limit the referent of the noun Ioudaios ("Judeans," "Jewish authorities" etc.) fail to adequately interpret the FG. Furthermore, while there is a connection between the Evangelist's use of the nouns Ioudaios and kosmos, a purely symbolic meaning (Bultmann, Fortna) does not account for the fact that the Evangelist is referring to real personages. In sum, the noun Ioudaios has a number of referents (primarily religous leaders but also "crowds" of Jewish people) in the FG and describes historical individuals who interacted with Jesus. This reality unfortunately produces strong anti-Semitic potential.
3) The Evangelist's 'high Christology' presents serious problems for the continuing legitimacy of Judaism. While the noun "fulfillment" (versus "replacement") seems to best describe Jesus' relationship to Jewish religious institutions in the FG , its usage does not entirely free the FG from the charge of anti-Judaism. For example, to suggest that the FG portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of the temple (John 2:13-22) still requires one address the contuining role of the Jerusalem temple. In sum, one must ask, "If Jesus fulfills something, does he not (on a rather pragmatic level) also replace it?"
4) The historical situation that gave rise to the composition of the FG also has important bearing on this subject. Not only is the 'Johannine community hypothesis' historically problematic (see S. Motyer, R. Hakola), it leads to an unduly negative portrait of the relationship between the Evangelist's audience and the Jewish people. A better approach to the composition of the FG is to see it as a Christian response to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD (see S. Motyer, A. Kostenberger). This reading would (partly) see the FG as an evangelistic document (cf. 20:30-31) written to portray Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish messianic hopes.
5) In summary, if one distinguishes between anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, there is little room to justify labeling the FG anti-Semitic. After all, this Gospel portays Jesus as a Jew (4:22) and was written to (partly) present the Jewish people with the hope of eternal life. That said, the Evangelist's 'high Christology' and related 'replacement theme' make it difficult to avoid the label 'anti-Judaic.' That said, those who consider the FG authoritative should carefully consider Motyer's suggestion that "[a]nti-Judaism is consistent with a wholehearted love both for Judaism and for Jews" ("Editorial: Is John's Gospel Anti-Semitic?," Themelios 23 (1998): 1).


Jim said...

Good work Mark. A necessary distinction.

Anonymous said...

What is your take on the idea of prophetic critique playing the dominant role in the areas where supposed anti-semitism/anti-judaism take place. The OT prophets were alot more anti-semitic than the FG is.

Danny Zacharias

Mark Owens said...

Thanks for the positive feedback.

I would agree wholeheartedly with you (except I think anti-semitic would not be the best adjective). Motyer seems to have the most helpful analysis of this in relation to Hosea. However, I think more can be done in this area, especially in terms of terminological issues (ie what is Judaism).


Michael F. Bird said...

Good stuff.
BTW, two of the best books on 4G that I've read are by Aussies (naturally:
John Painter, The Quest for the Messiah.
John Pryor: John: Evangelist of the Covenant People.
The book by Pryor is probably one of the most underrated monographs in Johannine studies. Also, for your info, Painter is updating C.K. Barrett's 1978 edition of his commentary on St. John.
I should also mention Colin Kruse and Leon Morris as other great Johannine luminaries.

Michael F. Bird said...

Sometime or other I'd love to hear your thoughts on John and the Parting of the Ways!!!

Mark Owens said...

Leave it to an Austrailian NT scholar to shamelessly plug the writings of other Austrailian NT scholars:-) Actually, I agree fully with your assessment of both works. I have not looked at Painter's work very thoroughly,however. I would have at least a few disagreements. Pryor's work is a wonderful little piece. It would make a great text for an intro class on the FG.

As to my thoughts on the FG and the "Parting of the Ways," they matter very little.

Anonymous said...

Good distinction: Anti-Judaism vs Anti-Semitic

Great piece Mark!

Anonymous said...

There is only one major FLAW in your piece:


You cannot separate the two. They are forever intertwined because G-d intertwined the two. The people ARE the religion and the Religion is the people. In Judaism, if one leaves Judaism and becomes a Christian or Buddhist or Muslim, THAT IS WHEN THEY CEASE BEING JEWISH. IMMEDIATELY they are removed from the roles as being Jewish. No matter what. They are dead - so says G-d. It's Torah.

If you "remove" or "destroy" the religion of the people, the people as a nation and culture are also destroyed.

So, when John is speaking against the "religion", he is speaking against the "people". When he is speaking against the "priests, rabbis" ect, He is speaking against the people. When John is quoting Jesus as speaking against the Pharisees, he is speaking against the PEOPLE.

It doesn't matter if he is speaking to ONE person or 1 Million - he is speaking against ALL the people.

There are "evangelicals" and "missionaries" swarming all over the Jewish people these days claiming they want to "save our souls".

Understand this:

G-D, Blessed be He, Gave the Jewish People TORAH. G-d, Blessed Be, TOLD US: Follow it. All of It. FOREVER AND EVER AND EVERMORE.

He did not and no where in TaNach does it CLAIM that "everyone" all nations, "must" follow Torah or DIE.(And, we are talking about the death of the soul, the spirit not just the body.)

G-d told us to follow TORAH or DIE.


Jews do not require or suggest or even encourage "all other nations" to "follow Torah". That is YOUR CHOICE TO DO SO OR NOT.

BUT, for a Jew to "accept" Jesus, the twin of Mythra of Rome, with all the same features and with NONE - NOT ONE SINGLE SOLITARY FEATURE OF THE "MOSIACH" (the Jewish and TORAH given "messiah") - then, IT IS THE SAME AS TAKING UP IDOLATRY AND WORSHIPPING EITHER A MYTH OR A HUMAN BEING. For us: that is DEATH.

And, G-d will be the Judge of whether or not WE did what WE were told to do.

John is ANTI-SEMITIC AND SO IS JESUS (according to your scripture).

Thank you for listening

Anonymous said...

And, I'm not trying to be obtuse in using "anonymous", I can't remember my password and don't want to sign up for another account.