Saturday 10 October 2015

An eyewitness account of the life and teaching of Jesus - John's gospel

Over a period of two half days, I mas moved to read the bulk of the middle of John's Gospel - that Book being my favourite part of the Bible - and I found myself to be in an unusually receptive mood for scripture, such that several things seemed clear for the first time.

For those who do not know it, John's Gospel was written by Jesus's disciple, who was the most spiritually advanced of the disciples, and the only one who remained loyal to Jesus after his arrest and who was present at the crucifixion - where he was given the care of Mary, the Mother of Christ.

John's Gospel it is the only direct, detailed eye witness account of the life of Jesus - although such accounts are embedded elsewhere the New Testament. (Furthermore, the disciple John is - so the end of this Gospel tells us - still alive and at work.)

As an eye-witness account there are many vivid, apparently arbitrary details which are included (one feels) because they were remembered vividly and in case they might be important. Jesus writing in the dust during the parable of 'the woman taken in adultery' is just one example.

Among all of scripture, John's Gospel therefore has immense and distinctive authority.

The take-home message of this Gospel is perhaps the most wonder-full, positive and optimistic statement of the human condition that has ever been. Such is the simplicity, that to attempt summary leads to an impression of platitudinous bathos.

But importantly we are instructed to be of good cheer and not to worry, to be loving - especially among Christians, to be engaged in the world, but indifferent to the world's opinion.

In sum, John's Gospel teaches us what it should be like to 'believe on' Christ; and if our lives are not like this, then we are not living it. In particular, if we are filled with angst and fear of the future, and are focused on what 'the world' thinks and does - then we are (so far) missing the point.

We are also told firmly that  - because of the example and teaching of Christ and the continued witness of the Holy Ghost - we know everything we need to know: we know the nature of God, and that we share in that nature; we know that both the Son and the Father regard us like beloved friends, and not as servants or vassals; we know what we should do and how we should be; and we know that there is ultimately nothing stopping us doing everything necessary now.


sykes.1 said...

Raymond Brown argues in one of his books that the Gospel of John is the only one that is historically, geographically and culturally/legally accurate.

Bruce Charlton said...

@sykes - But the historical critical approach to the Bible is not valid for (divinely inspired and sustained) scripture; but only for man-made writings. And this approach of reading scripture as if it was (merely) an historical document, kills scripture as a potentially revelatory experience.

When we read John's Gospel (as a Christian) we ought not to be thinking in the terms of self-styled Biblical scholarship etc; but a something truthful in a sense far beyond almost anything else that ever has been - even in terms of the Bible there is nothing else quite like it. Indeed, most of the Bible does not even *claim* - neither explicitly, nor even implicitly - to have the kind of validity of John's gospel.

If John can be read in this spirit (which I just achieved for the first time) of the Apostle John, under the highest human level of divine inspiration and knowledge - telling each of us personally (the process sustained by the Holy Ghost) about the life and teachings of Jesus who was God, and whom he knew, loved and was loved-by - then it becomes a truly extraordinary document.

Anonymous said...

most NT scholars do not consider that the apostle John wrote the 4th gospel.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Pcc B - Indeed - but my post was directed at real Christians, rather than NT scholars.