There are a few spots left in the study, so if you have been mulling over whether you would like to join us, here is your chance.
Third Year of Bible Study
We will meet starting tomorrow, Thursday, September 8, 2022, from 7:30-8:30 p.m. (east coast time) in person, then will meet throughout the year mostly on Zoom, but at least three more times in person. The study will go to May 4, 2023, with a six week break for Thanksgiving and a week’s break for Easter.
The Gospel of John
This year, we will take a deep dive into John’s Gospel, a familiar book to many Bible readers, though often positioned as the “spiritual” gospel as opposed to the “historical” synoptic gospels.
Actually, John’s and Peter’s gospels developed side-by-side.
According to the Acts of the Apostles, the first two Gospels to widely circulate came through Peter and John. As Paul Anderson points out, “Acts 4:19-20 provides an overlooked first century clue to Johannine authorship, connecting John the Apostle with the Johannine tradition (1 John 1:3) a full century before Irenaeus. The rhetorical appeal to ‘what we have seen and heard’ bears an unmistakable Johannine ring.” [Paul N. Anderson, The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: With a New Introduction, Outlines, and Epilogue (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2010), lxxi.]
But Peter and John answered them,
[Peter] “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge;
[John] “for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.”Acts 4:19-20 (NRSV)
Peter and John are pictured together, preaching together, and no doubt influencing each other as their core group of one hundred and twenty women and men quickly grew into a throng of thousands.
Bi-Optic Gospels: John and Mark
Anderson further posits a bi-optic, rather than a Synoptic dynamic among the four Gospels, with Mark and John presenting “similar, but autonomous, impressions of Jesus,” followed by Matthew showing influence from Mark, and Luke showing influence from all three of the other Gospels.
If we accept Eusebius’ attestation through Papias that the Gospel of Mark is Peter’s testimony, and through the writer of Acts that the Gospel of John is John’s, then we can surmise a dialogue having grown up between these first two Gospels in the early days of the church. Points of contact developed between each of these first two testimonies, so that John’s Gospel, in its final form, seems to contain “augmentive and corrective responses” to Mark, and perhaps Matthew and Luke as well (influenced, as they were, by Mark), as depicted in this chart.
[For further discussion, see Paul Anderson’s book, The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), pages 126, 145-151]
But what might John have been correcting, or augmenting, or dialoguing with?
John: The Woman’s Gospel
Was this final Gospel meant to provide further proofs not already recorded, or—as Papias seemed to indicate—was it also to straighten timeline issues and story details?
It is easy to see that at least in concerning the topic of women disciples, John has much more to say than Mark. In terms of gross bulk of material on women disciples, Mark’s Gospel contains only twelve verses that refer to Jesus’s women disciples.
- Mark 15:40-41
- Mark 15:47
- Mark 16:1-8.
The longer version of Mark contains another three verses pertaining to Mary of Magdala seeing the risen Lord, Mark 16:9-11 and returning to tell the disciples, who do not believe her testimony.
By startling contrast, John’s Gospel contains one hundred and twenty-seven verses describing Jesus’s interactions with four named women, as well as an unnamed but significant woman (and a second unnamed woman, as depicted in the beginning of chapter 8).
- John 2:1-12, Jesus and His mother at the wedding in Cana
- John 4:1-42, Jesus and the woman at the well
- (John 8:1-11, Jesus and the woman caught in adultery)
- John 11:1-6, 17-45, Jesus with Martha and Mary at the raising of Lazarus
- John 12:1-8, Jesus with Mary and Martha when He is anointed
- John 19:25-27, Jesus with His mother and John at the cross
- John 20:1-18, Jesus with Mary of Magdala the morning of His resurrection.
John’s Portrayal of Jesus’s Intent
In the calling, commitment, and teaching of His disciples, Jesus departed from the traditional Rabbinical model.
- Unlike other schools, Jesus kept His table fellowship open to all, those of every stratum and sphere of life.
- And, unlike the scribes, Pharisees, and other Jewish teachers of His day, Jesus placed the authority of the Law below His own authority, while citing the Law as needed in support of His own teaching and actions. Jesus astonished the scholars of His day, for though He was formally untrained, He “taught as one with authority (ἐξουσία) which surpassed that of the scribes.”
- Jesus’s intent for His students and followers, based upon His superior authority, was of life-long learning.
- Jesus made His disciples witnesses of and participants in His ministry.
- Jesus selected His students and followers from every walk of life, both women and men, Jewish and non-Jewish.
The Study of John’s Gospel
Throughout our study, we will pay close attention to Jesus’s interaction with women. We will also note when John takes dramatic departure not only in how and whom Jesus called but also the cleansing of the temple, depiction of the feeding of the five thousand, Peter’s declaration of faith, Passion Week, the Last Supper, and the weeks following Jesus’s resurrection.
Our study will be supplemented with material from Broken, Searching, Trusted, Powerful:
- Virgin Mary
- Woman at the Well
- Woman Caught in Adultery
- Martha of Bethany
- Mary of Bethany
- Mary of Magdala
We will be taking a six week break in the middle, for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and another week’s break in the spring for Easter.
The course is filling up fast, and the host, Cindy Stambaugh, and I have agreed to limit enrollment in order to keep the conversation rich, robust, and yet warm and intimate as well.
For a preview the “Broken, Searching, Trusted, Powerful” study guide and registration information, please see below