Monday, 16 January 2017
The Consequent Difference of John
The Oral Gospel Tradition,
James D. G. Dunn, Eerdmans, 2013
Chapter 7, "John's Gospel and the Oral Gospel Tradition", page 194
In the third of a short series of quotes from James Dunn's important book about the orality of the gospels, he makes sure that we understand that the difference between John and Synoptics has significant effect:
We should not hesitate to draw the unavoidable corollary: that to read and interpret John's Gospel as though he had been trying to do the same as the Synoptics is to misread and misinterpret his Gospel. This remains the challenge for those who approach John's Gospel from a conservative perspective: by so doing, they may be missing and distorting John's message!
In other words, if we read John and think that he is working in the same way as Matthew, Mark and Luke, not only may we not understand correctly what John is saying, but we may also come away with wrong ideas about what he isn't saying. Dunn goes on:
The truth of Jesus, the story of his mission and its significance, were not expressed in only one way, as though the Gospel of Jesus Christ could be told only by strictly limiting the interpretation of the earliest Jesus tradition, the ways in which Jesus was remembered.
If we limit our understanding of the gospel to strictly factual accounts, then we will miss the critical reflection and interpretation that those who witnessed Yeshua's ministry first-hand have to bring to the table, guided s they were both by Yeshua Himself and by the Ruach. As Dunn concludes:
It proved also acceptable (just!) that the character and themes of Jesus' mission provided the basis for fuller and deeper reflection on what Jesus stood for and achieved - still the Gospel of Jesus Christ.