Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

...Sounds very Jerry Springer-esque, doesn't it?

Many of you who follow this blog know for a little over a year now, I've worked in certain books of the Bible for long periods of time. This was kind of something I had worked out between the vicar and me. I started with going through all the Psalms backwards, from 150 to 1. Then I did the "last 1/3 of Isaiah". Clear back when I was doing the Psalms I knew I was going to get steered into the Gospel of John. He made noises back then I needed to go there. I grunted. I'm no fool. It's his favorite Gospel. It's my least favorite Gospel. I hid from it for a little while by offering up the dodge of spending some time in Isaiah, which is one of his favorite books and one of mine. But then he threw out the line that doomed me to agree to do John next...

"Well...if you think you're not ready for it, and it's still too much to tackle for you at this point...well, you could do something else."

Arrrgh. He might as well have stood on the playground and yelled, "Chicken! Double-dog dare ya, you little Mama's titty baby!" The effect would have been the same.

I admit it. I cannot back down when the gauntlet has been thrown. Never could. So here I am, wallowing around in the Gospel of John.

The fact that it is so different from the synoptic Gospels is a constant irritant in my shoe. First of all, there are stories in it that are not in the others. It's a fair bit younger than the other Gospels, particularly my favorite Gospel, Mark. The prologue, when compared to the rest of the Gospels, raises some suspicion in my mind it might not have been written by the same person. It doesn't really have the typical pile of parables, it has discourses. Fairly long and complicated prophetic-sounding discourses. Finally, there's my major irritant with John...in John, Jesus is portrayed as "knowing all along he's someone special" to some degree. The other Gospels don't quite portray that level of self-awareness.

So here I am, mired in John. I knew that if I was going to reconcile myself to this, I needed to get some historical and "ancient world affairs" knowledge first. Well, here is what I figured out...

The main thing, I suppose, is to realize that the Gospel of John was basically written for the Greeks. It is unclear and somewhat controversial whether John actually wrote it or it was written by some of John's disciples, or a little of both, but its intended audience was the Greeks. (Now, for purposes of talking about the author, I'm going to say "John" just to have a personal pronoun for reference.) John, being Jewish, realized two things:

1. The Greeks do not understand the cultural historical precedent of Jesus; and
2. In order for Jesus to be understood, there have to be ways to hook him to things of Greek cultural historical reference.

The Greeks were more into "epic depictions" of the gods and godesses of their mythology. Hence, in the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks in discourses rather than little snippets of parables. That would make sense. He speaks more in a "Greek manner" in John than the other three Gospels. Also, when I got into Chapter 2, and was reading about the story of the wedding feast in Cana, I got to thinking..."Hey...didn't Dionysius also turn water into wine in Greek mythology? Come to think of it, there's that story where he turned a lot of things into something else for Midas." That would certainly be a way the Greeks would "get" what Jesus was all about.

At the same time, John has to figure out a way to connect the Greeks to the historical Jewish sacred literature. So in this Gospel, Jesus becomes more "prophetic" and is more frequently seen as fulfilling some prophetic elements of the Old Testament. So the tone becomes more of the tone of one who knows he is fulfiling prophecy.

So, in that sense, I can at least be okay with what this Gospel might have historically been "meant to do" even if I am not crazy about the differences between it and the other three Gospels. I probably have to remember there are plenty of other Gospels out there that were not part of the canon, and having not have read them, parts of this book are outside of my realm of experience in the books of the early church. Well, this will be an adventure, anyway!

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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