Texts and Interpretation of the person of Jesus

The Influence and Importance of Hellenism in the P

Stoicism

  • Logos was God and seeds of the divine. Were found in the minds of humanity, allowing for a special relationship between the divine Logos and humankind.
  • If we lived according to the Logos, we would become Children of God.

Stoic's would not believe that:

  • The Logos became human and woul be rejected by his own (1:11).
  • Those who believed in the Logos would become children of God by the authority of the Logos (1:12).
  • The Logos could become flesh and the glory of God would be seen through his suffering and death.

They rejected the idea of God becoming human; Logos was a rational principle rather than a living being.

Scholars concluded that the author uses the idea of Stoicism to help his readers understand who Jesus was rather than endorsing the philosophy. 

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The Influence and Importance of Hellenism in the P

Gnosticism

- Themes of pre-existing Logos and light & darkness are found in both John and Gnosticism, suggesting the former was influenced by Gnosticism.

- Most scholars reject the idea this is a Gnostic Gospel because;

  • Christian Gnosticism didn't develop until the mid-second century.
  • Gnostics believed that salvation came from 'knowledge' and Jesus was only the revealer of knowlegde, not the 'Word made flesh'.
  • The concepts of Logos and light & darkness are also found in Jewish writings

Some claim the fourth gospel was written to refute Gnosticism beacuse of:

  • the focus on the 'Word made flesh'.
  • the lack of emphasis on the superiority of the spirit world.

Platonic Philosophy- taught that the physical world was always changing but there was also a 'real changeless world'. This led to the belief in the contrast between spirit and flesh, which is alsp echoed in John

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Is the Influence Jewish or Greek?

- Brown commented that the discover of the Dead Sea Scrolls challenged the theory that the ideas found in the Prologue had to derive from the Greek philosophies. The scrolls made use of abstract ideas such as light and darkness.

- Dodd says that John explores the theme in great depth so it would appeal to both a Jewish and Greek audience. But he noted that it is "through which he may lead them to the historical actuality of its history, rooted as it is in Jewish tradition".

- John Marsh noted that, in the Prologue, the authoer used every 'tool' at his disposal- the Old Testament, rabbinic writings, Stoic ideas- to help him express his belief that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Logos had come in flesh as the saviour.

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The Different Understanding of the Identity of Jes

- The Prologue offers a high Christology (compared to the Synoptics that offer a low Christology).

High Christology emphasises and starts with Jesus' divinity, whereas Low Christology emphasises and starts with Jesus' humanity. They don't imply one is more superior than the other, just that they are different.

- the birth accounts in the Synoptics emphasises Jesus as the Messiah or of the line of David. Jesus is seen as part of history and his humanity is emphasised. 

- The Prologue emphasises things such as Jesus' pre-existence and the incarnation.

- It stressed that Jesus is not just the Messiah but that Jesus is God, starting and ending with the declaration that Jesus is God. 

- When Jesus appears to Thomas, Thomas proclaims "My Lord and my God" (20:28). For Brown, this is the highest Christological title.

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The Different Understanding of the Identity of Jes

The Trinity.

  • it can be argued that the Prologue introduces the concpet of the Trinity but the term is not used
  • the Prologue has served as a major source for the Church's doctrine of the triune God. In it the mystery of the Trinity is revealed. God the Father is made knwon through God the SOn and God the Holy Spirit.
  • In the early Church there were some major heresies concerning the Trinity:

- the belief that Jesus was born human but became the Son of God at his baptism

- that the Father existed before the Son and then created the Son; so Jesus is not seen as God

These resulted in the doctrine of the Trinity being formulated into the Nicene Creed. It states the Son is consubstantial (of one substance)  with the Father, reflecting the beliefs expressed in the Prologue.

  • In John, it is clear that Jesus is God- God the Son and not just the Messiah. Jesus is the incarnate Word
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The Different Understanding of the Identity of Jes

The Law

- Prologue is an example of replacement theology. All previously revealed and experienced in Israel's relationship has been fulfilled, as the Word has become flesh, in Jesus.

- The new covenant has replaced the Mosaic covenant (John 1:17), Christianity has superseded Judaism.

-Impact can be seen in the early Christian community. One major debate was whether both Jewish and Gentile converts were required to follow the Law to receive God's grace.

- Some belived that the Gentiles who converted should follow the Law, including the ritual practices, e.g circumcision and the food laws.

- Paul supported the view that there was no need for them to follow the Law and that Christ is now the grace from God, not the Law.

- has implications in terms of the religious laws/codes for living in the Bible in ethical decisions as the NT supersedes the OT.

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The Different Understanding of the Identity of Jes

Belief

The Prologue has contributed to the debate among Christians about the nature of belief. Believing transforms people into the Children of God. It is more than believeing something is true (e.g. that Jesus is the Messiah), its about faith; it's 'believing in his name', a 'personal ecnounter' with the divine.

Martin Buber referred to it as an 'I-You' rather than an 'I-It' relationship; it is not dependent in the intellect but requires trust and faith. The impact of believing as a personal encounter can be seen in Christianity;

  • the leader of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, argued that faith, believing, was the only way to salvation; resulting in the development of Protestantism.
  • today, Evangelical Christians focus on the personal encounter with Christ bringing people to faith rather than belief in the Creeds
  • for most Christians, 'believing in his name' is not a rejection of the Creeds or teachings of the Church but how one comes to a faith.
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The Meaning and Significance of Different Terms fo

The writers used titles for Jesus from the OT:

  • to convey the belief that Jesus was the Messiah the Jews were expecting.
  • to help the early Christians to understand who Jesus was through using terms that were familiar to them, from noth the Jewish and Greek worlds.
  • so each Gospel presents the life and teachings of Jesus in a distinctive way the use of Messiah, Son of Man and the Son of God helped them to convey the nature and person of Jesus as they understood it. 

Reference to Jesus as 'the Messiah'

  • seen as Jesus being the chosen one of God, who will usher in the new age
  •  three types of 'anointed' figures are found in the Jewish tradition:
  • a royal Messiah: king-like person from House of David.
  • a priestly Messiah: would restore priestly leadership in Israel.
  • a prophet Messiah: chosen by God to be His spokesperson.
  • at the term it was usually referring to a king-like Messiah. Some Jews expected a political Messiah, more warrior- like to save them and establish a new kingdom. 
  • replaced by Christos meaning Christ in NT.
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The Meaning and Significance of Different Terms fo

Reference to Jesus as 'Son of Man'

  • in OT is it usually used to refer to a normal man.
  • God called Ezekiel "Son of Man" (Ezekiel 2:1) probably to distinguish God's power to that of the prophets.
  • usage comes from Daniel and later apocalyptic writings. Was used to refer to a heavenly being who would bring salvation and judgement.
  • Daniel 7:13-14 refers to one like a son of man who was given authority from God.
  • I Enoch refers to a son of man that is pre-existent and rules with justice.
  • in the Gospels its used rather than 'one like a son of man'; it is used for Jesus and by Jesus himself.
  • Js probably chose this from himself because it conveys his divine mission rather than the nationalistic overtones that were connected with the title Messiah.
  • it highlights Js' humanity that as the savior sent by God in human form he identifies with his fellow huimans; he chose to use this title when referring to his suffering, death and resurrection (Mark 10:45).
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The Meaning and Significance of Different Terms fo

Reference to Jesus as 'Son of God' 

Thit title highlights Jesus' role as Messiah.

  • in the OT, it was given to the king of Israel (Psalm 2:7), so Jewish readers would link together the terms Messiah and Son of God with kingship.
  • in Greek culture, a heroic human figure was referred to as a 'son of God'. This is probably why the term was used by the centurion of Jesus when he was on the cross (Matthew 27:54).
  • for the Romans, this title may have seemed like a challenge to their power, as they believed in the divinity of the emperor.
  • the Gospels used Son of God to exress the unique idea of Jesus' divine sonship and his special relationship with God. Jesus frequently uses father-son language to show the nature of his relationship with God (Luke 10:22).
  • the Evangelists used the title to reveal the nature and person of Jesus to thir readers. In Matthew, Jesus is portrayed as a king like David, so he could be seen as a son of God, but not in a unique way as the Matthew birth narratives show
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