Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baukham Chapter 14: "The Gospel Of John As Eyewitness Testimony."

Chapter 14 of "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospel as Eyewitness Testimony" is so full of information that it would be difficult to summarize as I have done with the previous chapters. Not that it cannot be done, but the time is just not available to me now.

As author Richard Baukham points out, the Gospel of John is the only one of the four Gospels to claim that its contents originate in eyewitness testimony and that the Gospel itself was written by such an eyewitness. John 21:24-25 claims that the author is who had been referred to in key points in the Gospel as "the beloved disciple." This claim was taken at face value until the modern period. The only scholar to present evidence for disputing the claim for John's authorship did so in 1928. His sole evidence was that the Greek verb graphein appeared in the causative sense, that is, John caused the Gospel to be written but did not write it himself. The word appears in Jn. 19:19 where it is stated that Pilate had the inscription proclaiming Jesus as King of the Jews written and placed on the Cross. Also, Paul used graphein to indicate that he was dictating certain portions of his letters (Rom 16:22, cf. Gal 6:11, IPet 5:12) as opposed to Paul informing his readers that he was actually writing (Rom 15:15, ICor 4:14, 5:9, 9:15, 14:37). All this indicates, according to Baukham, is that graphein CAN refer to authorship by dictation. But it still means that the author dictates; nowhere does the use of graphein by John indicate that John was not solely responsible for the content of the fourth Gospel. Only a zeal among those devoted to form criticism can see in the use of the word graphein evidence that John was not the author of the Gospel of John. Baukham quotes K.J. Vanhoozer in making his point:

"...The Fourth a finely tuned work, depending on subtleties of structure, irony and so forth to achieve its effect. It is difficult to see how the substance of the witness could be preserved if the beloved Disciple were not also responsible for its form. But if he is responsible for its form and substance, would he then not be the sole author?"

Some scholars believe that the Gospel of John actually ended at chapter 20 and that chapter 21 was a later add-on. These scholars isolate Jn 21:24 from 21:25. Yet most scholars believe both these verses are meant to be read together to indicate that the author was claiming authorship not only of chapter 21 but of the whole Gospel. Jn. 21:24 means that John wrote the entire Gospel, whether or not he actually wielded the pen.

Jn 21: 21-23 is meant to be a Narrative Epilogue framed by a conclusion divided into two carefully designed stages: Jn. 20: 30-31 and 21: 24-25. The portion fenced off in chapter 21 serves as a narrative epilogue balancing the prologue which appears in Jn 1: 1-18. The prologue in chapter 1 concerns pre-history going all the way back to creation. The epilogue deals with the disciples mission which will extend all the way until Christ's return. The prologue contains 496 syllables while the epilogue contains 496 words. The two frames that fence off chapter 21 each contain 43 words. These examples of symbolism were important to ancient writers.

Baukham spends the second half of the chapter focusing on what scholars call "the 'We' of authoritative testimony." This is in reference to Jn. 21:24 in which John states "We know that his testimony is true." Some believe that the use of "we" in this verse shows that John was not the sole author of the Gospel that bears his name. Baukham compares the use of the word "we" in Jn. 3:11, IJn. 1:1-5, 4:14 and 3Jn. 9-10, 12 to prove otherwise. It is here the attempt to summarize this chapter becomes too time consuming.

The next three chapter focus on the Gospel of John as well. On to Chapter 15.

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