Monday, May 20, 2019

"The Jews" in John's Gospel: Resources B

Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel. Eds. Reimund Bieringer, Didier Pollefeyt and Frederique Vandecasteele-Vanneuville. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001. xiii +322 pp. $.00 (paper).

Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel originated from a research program at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium) to study the alleged anti-Judaism of the Gospel of John. At the research seminar in Leuven on Jan 17-18, 2000, 24 leading scholars in the fields of Johannine exegesis and Jewish-Christian dialogue met and some of the contributors rewrote their essays for the present volume. The complete set of essays from the seminar has already been published. This volume is the definitive collection on a central problem in the New Testament.

In the first essay "Wrestling with Johannine Anti-Judaism: A Hermeneutical Framework for the Analysis of the Current Debate" the editors structure the debate in the volume on five questions:

A) Is the Gospel of John anti-Jewish?
B)Who are "the Jews" in John?
C) How do we have to understand the presumed conflict between the Johannine community and "the Jews"?
D) Is John supersessionist?
E) What is the possible contribution of hermeneutics to reading John?

In regard to A), no one denies that anti-Judaism has found its way into the interpretation of John but did it originate at the level of the interpreter, the level of the text, or the level of the author? Those agreeing that John depicts the relationship between Jesus and "the Jews" in a negative way (B) sometimes limit, relativize, and even deny the anti-Judaism implied in it. Important here is how to understand John's frequent negative use of the term "the Jews." Jewish authorities? First-century Jews? Only those who do not believe in Jesus? All Jews of faith convictions? As part of an inner-Jewish conflict? C) John 9:22 is now understood as referring only to a local conflict between the Johannine community and their Jewish neighbors rather than as evidence of the full separation of Judaism and Christianity into separate religions. No longer is the entire Jewish religion seen as excommunicating all of Christianity by a formal decree and thus Judaism cannot be blamed for the rupture between Judaism and Christianity. Thus, explanations excusing John's comments on Jews and Judaism as a response to Jewish exclusion and hence safeguarding the gospel's status as an authoritative text are inadequate.

In summary: - anti-Judaism in the fourth gospel reaches to the core of the Christian message and is intrinsically oppressive rather than revelatory. They are not later redactions of the words of Jesus unacceptable from a Christian point of view. Nor can one excise them to save the healthy core of the message. However the hermeneutical solution proposed (E) is that scriptures themselves are not the only place or the end of divine revelation. The author of John was a sinful human being. Yet the gospel cannot be reduced to its anti-Jewish elements. It projects an alternative world of all-inclusive love and life that transcends its anti-Judaism and this world of the text rather than the world of the author is a witness to divine revelation.

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