Baker Academic

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Was the Gospel of John Composed Independently?

The above poll is meant to measure how many Jesus Blog readers hold the view that the Fourth Gospel was composed with knowledge of or direct dependence on Synoptic tradition.

Feel free to comment below.

-anthony

27 comments:

  1. I don't know if the poll really works as it is formulated. Personally, I think John knew Mark and probably Matthew and Luke as well. But he is obviously not dependent on them in the same way the Matthew and Luke are dependent on Mark. So from my perspective, John has composed his Gospel with knowledge of Mark and probably the other Synoptic Gospels and yet he is writing his account of Jesus, which remains "independent" in the sense of informed but not strongly determined by theirs and is no doubt informed by independent traditions as well. So what box am I supposed to check? Perhaps, directly dependent upon Mark, since I think he probably knew Mark, either in written form or as a Gospel that he had heard read? P.S. Great advertising on this site =)

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    1. There's always got to be one.

      -anthony

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    2. Make that two. In fact, I've argued that John may be both independent and dependent - in the sense that the author may have known one or more of the Synoptic Gospels, but may also have known versions of stories independently of them as well. It could be "both/and" rather than "either/or."

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  2. I vigorously defend the Fourth Gospel's direct literary dependence on the Synoptic Gospels--not just Synoptic tradition. My revised dissertation, John's Use of Matthew, will be published next year by Fortress Press; I'll present a preview, "Ecclesial Authority from Matthew to John," in a joint John, Jesus, and History and Synoptic Gospels panel at SBL in San Diego.

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    1. Looking forward to it, James. I have it on my calendar already!

      -anthony

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  3. directly dependent on Mark's Gospel, as well as Luke's.

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  4. Really depends on the day upon which you ask me. I go back and forth on the matter. What I have come to realize is that it doesn't really matter, neither for exegesis or historiography.

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    1. Dr. Bernier,

      I'd like to hear more about why it wouldn't matter historiographically speaking.

      -anthony

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    2. What I mean is that the concern with in/dependence has been largely linked into the question of multiple attestation (which is really multiple *independent* attestation). The thing is, multiple attestation is really an issue within the paradigm that Collingwood called "scissors-and-paste" history, which proceeds by cutting up the sources into discrete units then selecting certain ones to string together in a new narrative. This is exactly what yourself, Chris Keith, Jens Schröter, exactly, have been arguing against for the last few years. In other words, the relevant non-importance of source in/dependence is derivative of your own and others' work in undercutting authenticity and thus criteria thereof.

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    3. Okay, thanks. I should say that I've only got one foot in the camp you mention (Goodacre deserves mention here; he writes the chpter on M.A. in the book you have in mind). I'm not ready to dismiss the logic behind multiple attestation entirely. And it seems that Goodacre isn't either when asked about Pauline material. But back to the issue at hand: I think that John's composition is an interesting question in its own right - not necessarily tied to the criteriological question.
      -anthony

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  5. Also, what about one or more of the Synoptics knowing John's Gospel? (Yes, I'm shouting out to Mark Matson with this question).

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  6. There is no way to exclude the possibility of at least *indirect* dependence of 'John' on at least one of the synoptic gospels. Personally, I think direct dependence is likely.

    Robert

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  7. Paul Anderson writes:

    Well, folks had better look at my extensive treatments of these issues, beginning with an analysis of John 6 and Synoptic corollaries in The Christology of the Fourth Gospel. Within that analysis, none of the 45 similarities between John 6 and Mark 6 and 8 are identical, thus making direct literary dependence on Mark (or other Synoptics) impossible to affirm. However, John’s familiarity with Mark (based on Ian Mackay's work) does seem plausible—especially if the Johannine evangelist had heard Mark performed orally in one or more meetings for worship. So, while I agree overall with Moody Smith and Gardner-Smith, John’s isolated independence from Mark is too strong; I prefer familiar autonomy. After all, the 15% of John’s similarities with Mark are all distinctive, and 85% of John has no direct parallels in Mark, so a vague “spiritualization” of that material does not account for John’s pervasive self-standing tradition.

    Given, though, a first edition of John that does not include the Prologue or chapters 6, 15-17, and 21 (with Lindars and Ashton—what I believe to be the most plausible inference of later added material), interestingly enough, John's first edition (ca. 80-85 CE) has five signs that are NOT in Mark (or Matthew or Luke). Therefore, John's first edition appears to augment Mark and to some degree (with Bauckham) to set the record straight here and there. It is also likely that the early Markan (pre-Markan?) and Johannine traditions had some engagement during oral stages of their traditions, hence cross-influence (with Brown) or interfluence (my term) is also plausible. If two (or more) preachers traveled in ministry together, hearing each other tell stories of Jesus, while still rendering their own accounts, that would explain some of the non-symbolic, illustrative details common to John and Mark, which are not included in Matthew’s and Luke’s redactions of plausibly written Mark. Hence, John’s relation to Mark is interfluential, augmentive, and corrective. The later edition of John, though, appears to harmonize John with the Synoptics (hence, adding feeding/sea-crossing/discussion/Peter’s confession elements in John 6 and Peter-reconciling elements in John 21), so John’s later material reflects familiarity with the other Gospels, still defending its autonomy in Jn 21:25 just as individuation from Mark is asserted at the end of the first edition in Jn 20:30-31.

    Luke, however, departs from Mark no fewer than 6 dozen times, coinciding (siding?) with John's rendering. Therefore, the Johannine tradition deserves to be seen as one of Luke's sources (hence, Lk 1:2—gratitude to eyewitnesses and servants of the Word—Logos, and Luke crediting John the apostle with a characteristically Johannine theme—Ac 4:20, cf. 1 Jn. 1:3; Jn 3:32). Lamar Cribbs’ arguments are stronger, there, than Bailey’s. While I believe John is finalized later than Luke, most of Luke’s most characteristic features (birth narratives, Lord’s prayer, beatitudes, parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, emphasis on the poor, etc.) are absent from John. Rather, given Luke’s use of Mark, the question is better put as to why Luke includes Johannine details and material not in Mark, sometimes shifting the order to be more like John’s rendering than Mark’s. And yet, given the fact that Luke stays with Mark’s ordering of Jerusalem visits and places the great catch of fish at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, rather than the end, it is most likely that Luke’s dependence on the Johannine tradition is a factor of hearing the Johannine tradition rendered, rather than making use of a manuscript (contra Matson)....

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    1. Paul Anderson continues:

      Matthew’s contacts with John primarily involve aspects of interfluential engagement during the later stages of these Gospels’ traditions. Much of the engagement relates to aspects of church governance, and the Johannine tradition appears to be correcting Matthean institutionalization, or at least the structuralizing work of Diotrephes and his kin (1 Jn. 1:9-10), who appears to have been appropriating Matthean hierarchy in his proto-Ignatian attempts to deal with divisions and crises in the late first-century situation (see my engagement with Graham Stanon on this issue in RBL 1, 1999. Matthew also appears to be familiar with a couple of Johannine motifs (directly or indirectly) in that Matthew references healings in Jerusalem performed on the lame and the blind in the temple area (Matt 21:14—cf. Jn 5 and 9), and Matthew locates the healing in Capernaum from afar as happening before the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (hence, confirming the first two signs of Jesus—before those recorded in Mark 1) as a means of corroborating the Johannine presentation of the early ministry of Jesus (before John was thrown into prison—Mk 1:14; Jn 3:24).

      I’ve written extensively on these issues also in The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus, The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel, and several essays on the Bible and Interpretation website. These are elements of a Bi-Optic Hypothesis, which basically asserts that while Matthew and Luke built upon Mark, John (at least in its first edition) built around Mark. In that sense, John is different on purpose.

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    2. Paul, I really like your term 'familiar autonomy' and your consideration of oral performance. Once one recognizes 'John's creative or 'authorial autonomy', however, hypothetical attempts to over-define a very early edition of John and Lucan dependence early Johannine elements are unnecessary. A simpler hypothese is simply that John had some knowledge of the pre- and post-synoptic traditions, through a variety of means, oral, oral performance, possibly some textual familiarity. I don't think we can define with much confidence exactly what kind of familiarity and hypothetical interdependence may have been at play behind the texts. I assume you are familiar with the work of CK Barrett, Maurits Sabbe, Frans Neirynck, Gilbert Van Bella, Peter Judge, and others who defend some form of dependence and unity of style in the fourth gospel. What are your critiques of their approach?

      Robert

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  8. If we take Eusebius' source (which CE Hill has argued is Papias) at this point in his "Church History" then it appears that after the synoptics had circulated and been read widely that John composed his Gospel in order to fill some "gap" in the early chronology of Jesus' life.
    "“And after Mark and Luke had already made the publication of the Gospels according to them, John, they say, used all the time, a proclamation that was not written down, and at last came to writing for the following cause. After the three Gospels which had been previously written had already been distributed to all, and even to himself, they say that he welcomed them and testified to their truth, but that there was therefore only lacking to the Scripture the account concerning things which had been done by Christ at first and at the beginning of the proclamation. . . . Now they say that on account of these things, the apostle John was exhorted to hand down in the Gospel according to himself the time passed over in silence by the first evangelists and the things which had been done by the Savior at this time.” (EH 3.24.7-11)

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  9. Great discussion here and on Facebook. I think I lean slightly toward general familiarity towards the Synoptic (at least Markan) tradition with some independent sources but I really do not know at this point. I am open to the possibility of Lukan dependence on John, especially with the recent arguments to re-date Luke-Acts to the early second century, but again I would have to research it more in detail to see if I think there is a literary connection and which way it would run between Luke and John. However, I do think CE Hill is wrong to attribute the tradition(s) behind HE 3.24.7-11 to Papias. I have joined some other scholars in expressing skepticism over whether Papias knew Luke or John in my dissertation on the early reception history of Mark (forthcoming for Fortress :) ). I think a better candidate for the tradition might be Clement of Alexandria who believed that the evangelist John was aware that the Gospels with the genealogies (Matthew, Luke) covered the material facts and that Mark wrote at the request of his Roman audience so that he set out to compose a more spiritual Gospel (HE 6.14.5-7; I know Eusebius in HE 2.15.2 claims Papias says the same thing as Clement but I suspect the agreement there just lies in Mark being Peter's interpreter and the knowledge of 1 Pet 5:13).

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  10. Thank you for the clarifying comments on HE 3.24.7-11.

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  11. Speaking as a complete amateur, I would date John as the last of the Gospels based on its naming Peter as the disciple who cut off the servant's ear. Certainly such an act would be considered criminal by Jerusalem and perhaps even Roman authorities. The best time to identify the culprit is after he is safely dead and buried.
    So if John is the last Gospel, then it is filling in details, such as when Jesus made the claim about rebuilding the Temple, or building on other stories, such as catching the fish, or commenting on other stories, such as the one about "not tasting death until Kingdom comes" not meaning that the favorite disciple would die.
    Just thoughts of an amateur.

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  12. My feeling is that there's a dependence of John on all three Synoptics. John seems to have taken a rather different attitude to plagiarism, going thesaurus crazy as it were (e.g. the imperial official's son for the centurion's boy). The large-scale agreement in order with Matthew in the earlier part of John is particularly striking: the framework of incidents that the discourses hang on correspond to a pass through the narrative parts of Matthew (Jn 1.1 "In the beginning..." cf Mt 1.1 "This is the book of generations..."; Jn 1.19ff cf Mt 3.1ff [John the Baptist]; Jn 4.4ff cf Mt 4.12ff [Journey into Galilee]; Jn 4.46ff cf Mt 8.5ff [centurion's/imperial official's boy/son]; Jn 5.1ff cf Mt 9.1ff [healing the paralytic]; Jn 6.1ff cf Mt 14.15ff [feeding the 5000]; Jn 7.1ff cf Mt 17.22ff [in Galilee, because when Jesus goes to Judea, people will kill him]; then from 9.1 he picks incidents from parts of the other Synoptics that he liked, but were not in Matthew). The effect this gives is of course that large chunks of John have no parallel, as it is a different sort of work with its long, looping discourses; but the incidents the discourses hang on are precisely where the Synoptic parallels are most evident.

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  13. I've thought about these issues some too. So let me add my shameless plug here: Steven A. Hunt, Rewriting the Feeding of Five Thousand: John 6.1-15 as a Test Case for Johannine Dependence on the Synoptic Gospels (SBL 125; Peter Lang, 2011). Yeah, I thought it was a snappy title too. Following the Leuven school and holding on to Occam's razor, I argue for a simple solution that works: John made use of the SG. Like so much of the writing in the ancient world, John transforms his written sources to suit his theological purposes. I know, I know it's out of fashion. But it's a working hypothesis that people can evaluate and agree or disagree with. Give it a shot in your own research—You may like what you see. On the other hand, long lost sources, oral traditions, clever reciprocal relationships in multiple drafts, etc., are nothing more than hermeneutical black holes. I thought Goulder did a lovely job deconstructing these "unfalsifiable" positions years ago when he was going after Q, even if he made the case too strongly (what does "unfalsifiable" mean in this business?!). Anyway, my book makes a lovely stocking stuffer for that special someone if you’re beginning to think about the holidays. As for me, I'm looking forward to the Barker book mentioned above. I’m sure he read Neirynck. It's about time people start reading Neirynck again!

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    1. Neirynck was perhaps the greatest source critic of the 20th century.

      Robert

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  14. One thing I’m not hearing much of in this conversation is the question of compositional practices, championed by Derrenbacker (an aside: Derrenbacker’s work, in my opinion, is the most important one on the SP in the last 15–20 years, at least). The question of John’s use of the Synoptics must be related to the way ancient texts were related to their sources. We take a hint from how others used their sources about whether the supposition that John used the SG is a more or less plausible one. Whatever the case, the way the Synoptics are/were related to each other—regardless of the solution you espouse—will be a very different kind of relationship that is assumed if we accept that John made use of one or more of the Synoptics during composition.

    As regards the Synoptics use of each other, regardless of the solution, you have a sustained use of sources throughout the composition. Mark on 2GH uses Matthew and Luke from beginning to end—of course, skipping past those parts he wishes not to use. Luke on FH uses Mark and Matthew from beginning to end; Matthew and Luke on 2DH use Q and Mark from beginning to end (this is less so with Matthew’s use of Q, which, while absolutely moves from beginning to end, is more haphazard than Luke’s use of Q. At any rate, you see a sustained use of the sources throughout, except obviously for the Sondergut material, which we can know little about—whether they were written or oral sources. For much of ancient writing where sources were used, there is little that differs from this kind of situation—even in places where verbatim agreement is minimized (i.e., Josephus’ use of Chronicles, Kings, etc.). For the most part, authors made a sustained and extended use of their sources.

    If we assume John’s use of the Synoptics or vice versa, on the other hand, we see something that is not attested to (or very much)—though this by no means is conclusive evidence against John–SG dependence: there needs to be room for a sui generis compositional practice, though its probability will be initially low. For instance, it will seem that John composes for the most part without making any use of the SGs, and then all of the sudden, out of nowhere he narrows in and uses some phrase or word. Barker will have us believe, for instance, that John made use of Matthew’s Zechariah passage (John 12:13 // Matt 21:5) (an already dangerous position, since the place of agreement pointed to is an OT passage). (Well have to wait till his work is published next year to see if it convinces.) But what do we make of this not using anything and then suddenly going to a source for some minor point? That to me seems unlikely, although I’m willing to have my mind changed.

    There is also a question of which SG John uses. Does he use all three? If not, which? Which become problematic whenever the pericope used to show dependence is triple or double tradition material. In order to distinguish between the SGs at this point, one has to happen upon idiosyncratic expressions (John’s Gospel aside here for a moment) in one of the SGs which is also in John. But then the question becomes whether or not these are not just stock phrases grafted into the tradition, perhaps from being talked about in Christian community, rather than from an actual appropriation of content during composition. Both John and Luke, for instance, are the only ones to say that the tomb which Jesus was put in was one in which ‘no one had ever lain’ (or something to this effect). Do we need to assume John used Luke (i.e., looked it up in his source) because he has it as well? I’m doubtful. Seems like the kind of expression that would accrue over a bit of time about the tomb.

    All this said, I’m not against the possibility that John was familiar with (had read or had heard the SGs) as opposed to “used during the composition of” or “was dependent on” them. But even if this is true, what does this tell us about John? Not much, if anything.

    -JGB

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    1. At SBL this November, my Achtemeier Award presentation, "Ancient Compositional Practices and the Gospels: A Reassessment," will demonstrate--contra Downing and Derrenbacker--that scribal conventions such as micro-conflation and radical reordering were attested prior to the composition of the Synoptics and that the level of difficulty increased thereafter, particularly in the Diatessaron. John fits neatly along this trajectory, as does any other Synoptic Gospel according to any given hypothesis--Griesbach included.

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    2. Thanks for the reply Dr. Barker.

      I would certainly be attending your paper, if I were going to SBL, but, alas, I will not be there. If I could get a copy of it at some point, I’m sure it would be helpful to my research. :)

      To defend Derrenbacker a bit (I can’t speak for Downing), I think I would say that he’s well aware of the fact (and this can be seen in his book) that radical reordering and micro-conflation are attested to in other literature. In fact, I don’t think he’s denying this of his own position (2DH), since Mark-Q overlaps are material that feature both Markan elements and Matthean/Lukan/Q elements. And this will presuppose conflation.

      Moreover, in his section where he deals with 2DH, he understands that Matthew’s use of Q, which is ordered according to a Lukan order of the double tradition material, requires a radical reordering. Hence his discussion of the order of Q, Luz’s position, a Q codex, etc., which is intended to ameliorate the problem. Moreover, even Matthew’s and Luke’s use of Mark (the dominant position) entail reordering. Consider, for instance, where Luke places the Visit to Nazareth pericope as opposed to where Mark and Matthew place it, or On True Greatness (at the Last Supper vs. outside Jericho).

      The question for him and others, so far as I understand them, is which solution entails the least amount of reordering and the least amount of mirco-conflation. They are not practices unheard of, but they are practices that are far more exacting and unpractical during composition than a sequential-short term memory-one source at a time type practice.

      Even with the reordering that we see with Matthew’s and Luke’s uses of Mark, they are still relatively speaking sequentially ordered. And if we assume Mark’s use of Matthew and Luke, the process is still relatively sequential. While reordering is attested to, it certainly cannot be the norm.

      Since the principle of parsimony, however, is at play in deciding in favour of one solution rather than another, the solution to be accepted must be or should be the one that entails the least amount of difficulty when it comes to the process of composition.

      Thus, I’m not sure what you’re arguing—so far as it is indicated here in your post—is quite as “contra-”Derrenbacker as you might think. Perhaps it is with Downing, who seems to be far more bold in his assertions. We’ll have to wait to hear your paper.

      As far as John is concerned, it is difficult for me to see how John’s use of one or more of the Synoptics fits “neatly” within this trajectory. The point I made above was that the use of the Synoptics by the other Synoptists was “sustained” (i.e., the use is constant and continuous), not that it was not sequential or did not entail micro-conflation. Even those parts which would be quadruple tradition, The Feeding of the 5000, Passion material, etc., you don’t have much similarity between John and the Synoptics, except for the occasional expression. All of this “quadruple” material is pretty much “J” material, if I can use such an expression. So what would it mean to say that John was dependent on this material? To base dependency on occasional expressions, a few words in this pericope and a few in that one, is a difficult (not an impossible) case to make. Similarity of ordering between John’s pericopes and the Synoptics (such as with the Passion material) can be sufficiently argued as coming from “familiarity with” the Synoptics, dependency I’m not sure is a necessary condition of that similarity. I suspect that you will address these issues in your upcoming book, which I certainly eagerly await. :)

      -JGB

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  15. I think the gospel of John was written over a long period, from about 75 to 100-105.
    At first the author knew about gMark only, then he learned about gLuke, then about 'Acts". Finally someone else added the epilogue.
    Additions and shuffling were done in the body of the gospel, but also in its ending: first to 20:10 (gMark known), then to 20:23 (gLuke known), then to 20:31 ('Acts" known), then to 21:25, right after presbyter John (the author of Revelation) died.
    I did considerable research on this gospel and it is at:
    http://historical-jesus.info/jnintro.html

    Cordially, Bernard

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