Thursday, April 06, 2006

"History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel" Again:-(

A few weeks ago, I realized that there is now a THIRD edition of J. L. Martyn's "History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel" (it is part of "The New Testament Library" series). Undoubtedly, this work has been enormously influential in Johannine studies. At the same time, however, this work presents a reconstruction of the historical setting that surrounds John's composition that has been scathingly critiqued. Thankfully, there seems to be a movement in scholarly circles away from this fanciful theory (See A. Kostenberger, "The Destruction of the Second Temple and the Composition of the Fourth Gospel," Trinity Journal 26 (2005): 208-14).
Most of the criticism surrounding Martyn's reconstruction seems to have centered on his appeal to the Birkat ha-minim (the Heretic Benediction). Raimo Hakola ("Identity Matters: John, the Jews, and Jewishness") has recently extended the critique in new directions by suggesting Martyn's proposal does not harmonize with new research on early Rabbinic Judaism. In general, Martyn's theory rests on a picture of the Pharisees exerting extensive control of Jewish society after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70. Here are Hakola's specific critiques:

1) the Pharisees had little control over synagogues during the period the FG was written;
2) documentary papyri from A.D. 70–135 reveal the average Jew was not greatly influenced by the Pharisees;
3) the Temple authorities, not the Pharisees, were likely the main enemies of the Johannine community;
4) the rift between Jews and Christians was not precipitated by Christological beliefs but because of differing attitudes towards central symbols of Jewish identity (i.e., the Torah, the Sabbath).

I am far from an expert on second-temple Judaism (frankly, I'm no where near an expert on the Gospel of John either). That said, I will give others the opportunity to comment on Hakola's first three suggestions. Regarding Hakola' last suggestion, it seems problematic on at least two-levels. First, Hakola himself (like Martyn) adopts a "two-level reading" of John that sees the FG reflecting the situation of the Johannine community rather than the life of Jesus. Second, Hakola's suggestion does not provide a satisfactory explanation of the Evangelist's "replacement theme" (Jesus as the fulfillment of major Jewish religious symbols such as the temple and Passover).

Any thoughts . . .


Bill Victor said...

As far as number 4 is concerned, I agree with you that Christology and the questions over Jewish religious institutions are interrelated. John portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of the Sabbath, Passover, Tabernacles, even Hanukkah.

Mark Owens said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. Personally, I'm still working through the Evangelist's discussion of the Sabbath. I'm open to suggesting that the Evangelist emphasizes Jesus' "supremacy" over the Sabbath (eg John 5) but I'm not convinced at this point that there is really a "fulfilled" Sabbath. I guess part of the issue is how one describes the categories "replacement" and "fulfillment." Anyway, I might well post on this in the future. Blessings.


According to John said...


I ordered Martyn's "History and Theology" and "The Gospel of John in Christian history".

Thanks again,