Monday, February 08, 2021

Was Gospel John Written by Gentiles?

Hugh Fogelman levels a charge, often heard from atheists, that the Gospel of John is ati-semetic.
Theological Anti-Semitism is rampant in the Fourth gospel; in other words the gospel of John is anti-Semitic.  No other New Testament writing has as great an anti-Jewish agenda as found in John. Its attack against the individual Jew, “the Jews” and the Jewish observance of Hebrew laws, all reflect the early church’s extreme anti-Semitic stance. When confronted with the question of John’s anti-Semitism Christians do not answer, but respond with a question; “How can the gospel of John be called anti-Semitic when Jesus and his disciples were all Jews?”[1]
He echoes some very standard assertions in support of this view:
The Christian pulpit deliberately fails to inform their flocks of one important fact; No one knows who wrote any of the Gospels, nor when they were written. The gospel names were simply picked/chosen/assigned by the early church. Also, no one knows the religion of any New Testament writer.  Therefore, the Christian rebuttal question ― that Jesus’ disciples were all Jews and the gospel writers were all Jews ― is merely wishful speculation which can not be proven by any stretch of the imagination.[2]
So he asserts that the author of John may have been gentile. In the next breath he moves from Could be to definitely was:"Also, when Christians make the false claim that the gospel writers were Jewish, seem to forget their own study bibles and clergy say that Luke was a Gentile, not Jewish. Oops, so much for the Christian 'question defense' to the rampant anti-Semitism in John." He seems to think that all the gospel writers were gentile. But I will show strong probability that (1) the author of John was Jewish, (2) there is no anti semitism in John.

One of the most powerful arguments Fogelman makes is John's use of the phrase "the Jews" in order to distinguish the author from Jews. In all the synoptic gospels the phrase is used 16 times but in John it's used 70 some odd time. Moreover, the Jews are characterized un John as  those whose native language is the lie (8:44). He also makes the additional argument that John is written so long after the original event, it indicates it's a gentile fabrication. Why would an eye witness wait so long? I will deal with this as well.

Lets start with the first issue:the Jewish nature of the Gospel and it's author.

The author was Jewish. 

James McGrath asks:Q. Is the Gospel of John a Jewish mystical work?He answers:
A. It is appropriate to note that there are scholars who would deny that the Gospel of John is Jewish and/or that it is mystical. My own view, however, is that there is good reason to answer the question in the affirmative. The fourth Gospel has not only the Jewish Scriptures but Jewish traditions of interpretation woven into its very fabric. And the Christians by and for whom it was written had previously been expelled from their local synagogue by other Jews who disagreed with their views. The prologue (John 1:1-18) presents the lens through which the Gospel author wishes Jesus to be viewed, and it shares key concepts with the Jewish mystical philosopher Philo of Alexandria. The Gospel speaks of visions (John 1:51), which were an important part of mysticism, and emphasizes union with Jesus and ultimately with God through the spirit. It is possible that Jesus himself is viewed as a mystic, one who speaks with the divine voice because the divine Word/Spirit dwells in him. For all these reasons and more, the Gospel of John seems aptly described as a “Jewish mystical work.”[3]
There are Rabbis who say John is the most Jewish of the Gospels: "Why is John the most Jewish Gospel?It is often said that John is the Gospel to the world (Matthew to the Jew, Mark to the Roman, Luke to the Greek). However, in 1924 Israel Abrahams said, 'To us Jews, the Fourth Gospel is the most Jewish of the four!' How is that so? If it so, why do so many people tell new converts to begin reading this Gospel?[4]"  
...John who is Jewish is showing that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah and that they need not worry or fear that they are abandoning God because this is God {Elohim} in the flesh, which he proclaims in verse 14; “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” When we look back at the name “Elohim” it means the strong One Who manifests Himself by His own Word (Towns, 124). Now the Jewish people know that if they believe in the Word of Elohim, then they will live by the provisions of God, just as the children of Israel did in the wilderness with manna, Christ is the living Manna of God or as stated in John 6:35(NKJV) by Christ; “I am the bread of life.”[5]
Since the author was Jewish his problem with "the Jews" is not likely to be based upon their ethnicity since they shared that ethnicity; they were also semetic.  The community that produced John was largely Jewish itself. They would have had problems with the religious establishment of the Jews because they had been put out of the synagogue. But there is another group which was also a part of the Johannine community, a group that had special problems with "the Jews" as a people. That would account for the designation of the "the Jews" by their ethnicity. That group was the Samaritans.

The Samaritans lived in the Northern kingdom of Israel they were racially mixed with Jewish and pagan ancestry but they worshiped the God of the Bible.[6] The Major religious difference between jew and Samaritans was that the Jews worshipped in Jerusalem and the Samaritans worshipped in Northern Israel on Mount Gerizim. There is a connection between John and Samaritans apart from the Gospel. In  Acts 8:14-17 when the Sameritas are converted to Christ Peter and John were dispatched to impart to them the Holy Spirit. So there may have been a special connection between the Samaritans and John. We also see Samaritan influences in the Gospel of John itself.  The most obvious Samaritan influence in John is the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-41).That is significant because it shows Jesus accepting a woman and an ethnic group hatred by the Jews. Edwin Freed argues a coupe of other influences in John. He points to the work of John Bowman who pointed out that the Johannine author is attempting to build a bridge between Jews and Samaritans.[7] He turns to the influence of Ezekiel on the story of the good shepherd of John 1-. Ezeiel wanted to reunite Judda and Israel that would involve the Samaritans of Northern Israel.[8] Freed argues that some place names in John are places in Sameria:Aenon, Jn 3:23, Salim, 3:23, Sychar, 4:5,Ephraim, 11:54.
There is a historical reaon to disregard the theroy of anti-semetism in John: There was no big anti-semetic feeling Among gentiles in the first century. That came in the middle ages. So it makes a lot more sense to see these references to "The Jews" and the negativity they engender as influences of the Samaritan Christians upon Jewish Cristians who had become alienated from their Jewish roots. They are not anti-semtic because the Christians of that community were semetic themselves.

This view need not necessitate authorship by the apostle John. Samaritan influences could have linked the document with the apostle regardless of authorship. Even more so if the author was the Elder John, thus confusion over the name.


[1]Hugh Fogelman, "John was Jewish? not!," Christianity 2003-2011.

[2] Ibid
[3]James F. McGrath,
Ask a Scholar," Bible Odyssey,2019
[4]"Why is John The Most Jewih Gospel?" Religion Bible 3 liberty univercity
[6]Catholic Anwers, Who were the Sameritians and why were they important?1995
[7]Edwin D. Freed, "SAMARITAN INFLUENCE IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN," The Catholic Biblical QuarterlyVol. 30, No. 4 (OCTOBER 1968),580.. 580-587
[8] Ibid.


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Unknown said...

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Unknown said...

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Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

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The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.

Frederick Douglass

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