Saturday, October 10, 2009

Baukham Chapter 15: "The Witness Of The Beloved Disciple"

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospel as Eyewitness Testimony" by Richard Baukham is greatly influenced by the work of Samuel Bysork. Bysork applies the standards of ancient historiography to the concept of "witness" in the New Testament. Baukham applies these standards to the Gospel of John in chapter 15. According to Bysork, the histories considered the most credible in the ancient world were those which were written by or relied upon those who had direct contact with the events in question. Josephus advertised his qualifications as a historian this way: "My qualification as a historian of the war was that I had been an actor in many, and an eyewitness of most, of the events." The portrayal of Jesus' ministry in the Gospels is taken from the direct testimony of those in direct contact with Jesus' ministry; the text of the Gospels is closer to the original eyewitnesses reports than most modern scholars will allow, according to Bysork/Baukham. Not only are the original eyewitnesses the active guarantors of the factual record concerning Jesus' ministry, the are the chief interpreters of that ministry and its message through the four Gospels, which preserve their witness for the Church until the second coming of Christ.

The concept of witness in the Gospel of John confuses some because of the English translation of such words as witness, testify and testimony. English can only translate the word from the martureo word group, which are classified as legal metaphors. (Jn. 15:27, 1:21-22) But there is another word for witness which not tranlated into English because English has no corresponding word. This word is autopes, a word denoting first hand experience. (Lk. 1:2) Some scholars take the position that "witness" is only a legal term, and that John's Gospel was not written by a personal eyewitness to Jesus' ministry but one who was giving theological witness to the message of Jesus's teaching. But the concept of personal eyewitness as participant is contained in the words translated from the autopes word group.

Baukham returns to a concept he introduced earlier, "the inclusio." Baukham believes that Mark's Gospel witnesses to Peter's influence by the use of inclusio, a literary device in which Peter is the first disciple introduced and the last one heard from in Mark. In John, Baukham sees an inclusio that represents the eyewitness testimony of John, a witness that makes John more qualified than Peter to witness to the Gospel in written form. The inclusio begins with the unnamed beloved disciple seeking Jesus out in Jn. 1:35 and ends at Jn 21:22. In 1:35, the beloved disciple is still a disciple of John the Baptist. He is a witness to John's testimony of Jesus being the Lamb of God and is later able to fully understand the significance of the fact that Jesus died with no bones broken and that when pierced, blood and water flowed from Jesus' body. Peter, not a disciple of John the Baptist, had not fully grasped this yet. In Jn. 21:22, Jesus states that John's witness of Him will continue until He returns. The inclusio concerning John, showing that he has a witness apart from Peter's, shows that Johns witness began before Peter's and continued after Peter's witness was finished. It is not that Peter's witness was any less valuable than John's, but Peter's ministry was to be the Shepherd of the new Church, while John was to be a witness to the full meaning of Jesus' acts and teachings. I am not giving full justice to Baukham's presentation because of time constraints, yet the inclusio argument is not the strongest argument in Baukhams book. Baukham himself says that the inclusio is based on speculation more than hard evidence. Part of his argument for an inclusio in the Gospel of John is that the beloved disciple who wrote the Gospel is not the Apostle John listed in the lists of Apostles in the Synoptics. Where he gets that from I do not know. I have been reading the book for a while and remember no such previous reference to this claim. I am very sure I would have remembered it if I had come across it earlier in the book. The claim seems to pop up out of thin air.

Some scholars believe that John could not have written the Gospel bearing his name because to designate himself as the disciple Jesus loved would be an act of self aggrandisement. Baukham states that this view reflects modern sensibilities rather than the thinking of the world the disciples lived in. John was showing his readers the intimacy he had with Jesus so that he could demonstrate his qualifications as a witness as portrayed in the Gospel. Paul was no less willing to remind readers concerning his special call to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:1-5, Gal. 1: 15-16).

On to chapter 16.


Jim said...

Your masthead quotes, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" and also says that "input is welcome". So on the idea of "being diligent" on a matter that involves respect for the authority of God's word, I hope you will welcome this item of input and receive this offer of biblical correction.

When the Bible urges the readers of scripture to "prove all things" it certainly was not suggesting that they should look to the hearsay of men as their standard of truth but, rather, in accord with Ps. 118:8 they should look to scripture and trust the authority of God's word -- and not the traditions of men which may be added to that word. In your comments you refer to, "John's witness", but here you are following the traditions of men and not the authority of God's word since the plain text of scripture can prove that WHOEVER the unnamed "other disciple, whom Jesus loved" was he could not have been John -- because that idea forces the Bible to contradict itself, which the truth cannot do.

While the designation "other disciple, whom Jesus loved" depicts the one-of-kind-relationship that the author had with Jesus, it is also true that no verse of scripture ever described John as having this unique relationship with Jesus. The fact is that there is not a single verse that would justify teaching the idea that John was the unnamed "other disciple, whom Jesus loved".

This is why repetition of hearsay from non-Bible sources must be used to sell the John tradition. One can pick and choose their favorite non-Bible source to cite as a reason why they believe the idea that the unnamed "other disciple whom Jesus loved" was John. But what no one has ever done is cite a single verse that would justify teaching that this person was John -- not those who originated this unbiblical teaching and not those who repeat their error to this day.

Of course, those who want to avoid the light of scripture on this topic (because it proves the John tradition is false) will rush to change the subject - raising this-or-that objection to divert attention from what the word of God actually has to say on this topic. But those who love the truth will welcome biblical correction and if you would care to see a presentation of the Bible evidence on this topic (just scripture, no hearsay from non-Bible sources) then check out a free eBook at that uses the legal evidence method to show beyond a reasonable doubt that this unnamed disciple could not have been John.

Mr. Guthrie said...

Jim, sorry I did not notice your comment earlier. I will respond either later today or tomorrow. Yes, I do welcome the imput of others.

Mr. Guthrie said...

Jim, I now have time to respond.
The Bible is the infallable, inerrant Word of God that is sufficient for knowing who God is and what our conduct should be. It would have been nice if you quoted the entire masthead. You left out this sentence: "This is the record of my Biblical, Theological and Pastoral Studies." This should indicate that in addition to Scripture, I study what others have said about them. If Christians are expected to only consult the Bible, and not what others say about it, it would be a sin to listen to sermons every week at Church. It would be a sin to seek the counsel of other Christians. Of course Scripture is to have the primary role as the source of doctrine and conduct. Yet that does not mean that we should not consult what those past and present has said about it. Because some have falsely reported its contents, willfully or not, others must respond to correct their false assertions. As to Professor Baukham, his book contains 9 pages of Scripture references, three colums to a page. With very tiny print I might add. He probably has more Scripture quotations than your book which your name is linked to. In fact, if you would read his book, you would see that his conclusions as to the identity of the writer of the Gospel of John is the same as yours. I disagree as to his interpretation of Scripture on this point as well as yours. That does not mean I don't honor Scripture, that means that you, Professor Baukham and myself interpret Scripture differently. Yes, there are traditions that John the Son of Zebedee wrote John's Gospel, but because they are not written in the Bible does not invalidate their trustworthiness. If I am wrong and you are right as to the author of John's Gospel, then we simply disagree as to interpretation. If I am wrong, it is no indication that I favor other sources than Scripture.

Jim said...

I will say this and then I will leave it at that. Defenders of unbiblical ideas have to change the subject from a discussion of the biblical evidence on said matters because the Bible does not teach unbiblical ideas. But the Bible says what it says – and God's word has managed to preserve the truth regarding the one whom "Jesus loved" despite men adding to the Bible on this topic.
First, you change the subject with this straw man argument, "If Christians are expected to only consult the Bible, and not what others say about it, it would be a sin to listen to sermons every week at Church", for I never suggested that it was "a sin to listen to sermons" or to listen to "what other say" about the Bible. The point is that if what someone says about the Bible either CONTRADICTS the Bible, or is presented as being biblically true when there is not a single verse that would justify teaching that idea, then those who respect the authority of the word of God are obliged to reject what is said in such instances.
If any person must cite non-Bible sources (the number would not matter since truth is not determined by popularity) because they cannot cite scripture that would justify teaching an idea that they are promoting, then they should not be presenting that idea AS IF IT WERE BIBLICAL -- for it is axiomatic that in order for a teaching to be biblical there must be a biblical justification for teaching that idea.
The pursuit of truth does not rely on quantity ("He probably has more Scripture quotations") but rather on quality (i.e., in harmony with the whole Bible). Since the devil quoted scriptures in such a way as to contradict OTHER scripture passages, it is clear that just quoting scriptures on a topic is not an indicator of truth. In order to be biblical, any verses quoted must harmonize with all of scripture -- which is why, as noted before, the John idea cannot possibly be true, because it forces the Bible to contradict itself.
And, finally, you present another mischaracterization of what I said in my previous post, for you write "Yes, there are traditions that John the Son of Zebedee wrote John's Gospel, but because they are not written in the Bible does not invalidate their trustworthiness", but this is another straw man argument. Because I have clearly argued that what DOES "invalidate their trustworthiness" is the FACT that this tradition is PROVEN FALSE BY SCRIPTURE ITSELF. I never argued that just because something is not "written in the Bible" would "invalidate" an idea, yet you continually change the subject to avoid having to discuss the matter strictly on the biblical merits. Does the John tradition hold up to biblical scrutiny, no it does not. That is why no person (professor or otherwise) has EVER cited a single verse of scripture that would justify teaching the John tradition. You say, "If I am wrong and you are right as to the author of John's Gospel, then we simply disagree as to interpretation." No, you can’t pretend that this is about the messenger. If the facts in the plain text prove that the John idea is a false, then those who believe the John idea are in opposition to God's word. It is clear that you are not interested in seeing the biblical evidence that would prove you are wrong, so go ahead and believe what you want, but don't pretend that your disagreement is with me, because I am not the source of truth on this issue, the Bible is the source. You feel free to cite non-Bible sources and listen to what others have to say on this topic, and I think it best to look first and foremost to the plain text of scripture to determine what is true and what is not. So, "interpretation" of scripture is NOT what you and I disagree about. Rather we disagree as to the best METHOD FOR DETERMINING TRUTH, and it my contention is that an idea cannot be true if it contradicts the facts in scripture.

Mr. Guthrie said...

Jim, I'm glad you got that out of your system.