Monday, March 14, 2016

Some arguments for the historicity of John

Here.  Although John is supposed to be the latest of the gospels, it is the one that claims to be written by an eyewitness. And John seems clearly to have been Jewish and familiar with Jerusalem. .

Arguments for John's historicity were made in the 19th Century by Westcott.  Have they ever been answered?

HT: Eric Vestrup


planks length said...

The Westcott link appears to be broken.

Edgestow said...

The dialogue in John has always struck me as the most "lifelike" of all the Gospels. I realize I am reading it in translation, but it nevertheless has a striking sense of immediacy and realism seldom matched in anything else I've ever read. It would take almost no wordsmithing or padding to turn the Gospel of John into a screenplay - especially such scenes as the Woman at the Well, the raising of Lazarus, or that wonderful interplay in Chapter 12, where Andrew comes up to Jesus and informs Him that some Greeks would like to meet Him. Jesus responds like a person shaken out of some deep thought, answering with the total non sequitur of the glorious passage about the grain of wheat falling into the Earth. Now, that's realism!

And as the linked article says, John is often the most "geographical" of the four Gospels - not only when the action is in Jerusalem, but also up in Galilee. Very trivial, specific details about various localities that vividly set the scene.

I struggle to understand how some scholars label John as "otherworldly". Not my impression at all.

Eric Vestrup said...

Try this link, PL:

(BTW, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Reppert last week in person, and hope he enjoyed my company as much as I did his. Our otherworldly discussion ended only because of the mundane fact that somebody was helping me move a bed and desk downstairs and I thus had to leave. I'm not sure how I merit the hat tip, but given circumstances as of late, I will take any and all hat tips.)

Continuing the authorship of John question, my good friend Tim McGrew wrote this:

Also, Bishop Lightfoot wrote some essays that appeared in Biblical Essays where the first 200 pages or so (at least in my physical copy of the book) deal with Johannine authorship and the evidence for it.

Some miscellaneous comments of mine (if anybody cares):

(1) In my NICNT volume on John by Leon Morris, Morris notes that Westcott's argument (and this would also apply to Lightfoot's argument) has not really been refuted, but merely bypassed. Such classical arguments by Lightfoot and Westcott seem to be viewed as quaint Victorian relics. I personally have not seen anything on the skeptical side that is as strong as these arguments. (This isn't to say that the arguments against John's authorship have no merit, as I think there are reasonable points of difficulty, but they are in my opinion not nearly as strong as the pro-John stack of evidence.)

(2) I wonder if much of "modern scholarship" has gone off the rails regarding Biblical criticism. I don't know how many deutero-Pauls, trito-Pauls, redactors, "communities", etc I've encountered in my studies, but so much seems so highly speculative, and it doesn't get labelled as speculative, so theories get presented as if they're fact, with the thinnest strands of evidence supporting them. (I see this phenomenon on the Evangelical side too.)

(3) The fact that these works are from the 1ate 1800s does not cause me to denigrate them because they're not "modern". They stand or fall on their own merits. They should not be viewed with any respect or any antagonism simply on the basis of being "old".

(4) BTW specfically to Edgestow --- I don't understand how a lot of scholars say what they do with the tone of assurance reserved for complete certainty. I have found that much of current wisdom, or much of the skeptical bromides out there, just don't hold when I look things up for myself.

(5) Tim and Lydia McGrew years ago turned me on to the historical apologetical works from the 18th and 19th centuries. I'm finding a lot of good, solid things in these old, forgotten works. My (tentative) view as a student of this stuff is that the old divines, besides having most impressive mutton chop sideburns, had the big philosophical issues correct.

Edgestow said...

There seems to have been something in the water a few generations back, that not only Biblical scholars, but practically everyone studying the classical world, simply hated the very idea of sole (or identifiable) authorship of just about anything. It's hard to find a 20th Century translation of The Iliad, for instance, which doesn't have an introduction explaining how it could not possibly have been written by a single person, and that "Homer" almost certainly never existed (and don't get them started on The Odyssey!). The intro to my Penguin Editions copy of Hesiod casts similar doubts on his works. Ditto for my disintegrating paperback of Plato's Dialogues.

And in a similar manner, prior to Tolkien there was an almost (now thoroughly discredited) universal consensus among Medievalists that Beowulf was the work of many hands. But nowadays a single authorship for that poem is generally accepted by scholars.

Let's hope we're now seeing the same sort of reassessment occurring within Biblical scholarship.