July 3, 2022

An early John?

by Interfaith

Although generally regarded as late, the date and relationship of John to the Synoptics continues to raise fresh insights.

There are strong arguments that place John early, so much so as to be contemporaneous with Mark, and possibly that John complements and corrects Mark by providing material absent from it, and by correcting details and chronology.

One argument for an early date is in the temple ‘cleansing’ in John 2:19. Jesus speaks of the destruction of the temple, something predicted in Matthew and Luke, but there are good cases made that the latter two were written after the destruction has been fulfilled. John, in contrast, shows no sign of any knowledge of the events of 70CE. Rather, he focuses on the miracle of the Resurrection; not on an historical actuality, but an anticipation of God’s miraculous plan. Here the temple is Jesus’ body, as found in Paul’s thought – the church being both the body of Christ and the temple of God.

Another stems from studies concluding that the extensive points of contact in Luke and John point to John’s influence on Luke rather than vice versa.

A case in point is the anointing story in Luke, which differs significantly from Mark, and it would appear Luke follows John more closely. Again, in the trial before Pilate, there are a number of points of commonality between Luke and John; the triple declarations of innocence, the triple attempts to release Jesus, the fact that the crowd unsolicited demands Barabas’ release rather than Pilate offering them a choice, the doubled cry by them to crucify Jesus, and the implication that Pilate turns Jesus over to the Jews to crucify him. At each point Luke departs from Mark to make room for Johannine feature. John’s account is internally consistent which would rule out a dependence on Luke.

Finally the value of John’s chronology. John’s dating of the last supper, which is distinct from the Synoptics’ dating, is highly probable during the period of Jesus’ life, while the Synoptics’ dating does not. John’s mission lasting two-three years, against the Synoptic one, and the repeated trips to Jerusalem would make sense in light of the Jewish leadership’s growing doubts about Jesus as a popular apocalyptic leader, and a threat to public safety.

Lastly, a note about Nicodemus. There was a Nakdimon ben Gurion who was part of a leading family in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. Nakdimon would have been an old man at the time of Jesus, and hence the question in John 3:4 “How can a man be born when he is old?”, appropriate to the historical person. This does not prove that John is actually referring to Nakdimon, but does at least suggest that a historical grounding is possible.


The above is culled from various sources, I can provide details and references if interested.

(Discussion in ‘Theology‘ started by ThomasMay 30, 2022)

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