• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

'To tell the truths about Jesus rather than recount the facts of his life.' Critically examine and evaluate this claim concerning the purpose of the author of the Fourth Gospel.

Extracts from this document...


'To tell the truths about Jesus rather than recount the facts of his life.' Critically examine and evaluate this claim concerning the purpose of the author of the Fourth Gospel. There are several alternative views about the purpose of John's Gospel. I plan to examine the view that it was written to tell truths about Jesus, and discuss its likelihood within the context of some of the other theories. In order to assess this view of the gospel's purpose, it is necessary to discuss for whom John was writing, as his purpose will hinge upon his audience. If he was writing so his audience could 'see' and have faith in Jesus then he may well have been writing for unbelievers. Karl Bornhauer has proposed that the gospel was written as a straightforward missionary tract for unbelieving Jews. Only Jews, he claims, would have understood the document, because it is preoccupied with Jewish matters and omits any reference to the institution of the Christian rites of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. In its final edition, the gospel was written in Greek, possibly because this is what Hellenistic Jews spoke. On these grounds, the gospel was written to convince Jews of the Christian claim that Jesus is the Messiah. Robinson agrees with this view but Smalley thinks that by the time this gospel was written, the Christian mission to Israel was largely over. The 'Jews' featured in the gospel are Jesus' enemies, not potential Christians - while some believe in him (12:11) ...read more.


that such ideas - when taken over by Christians - involve a denial of the physical reality of Jesus in his life and death. Edwin Hoskyns argued the gospel was anti-Gnostic, as did E Scott, who thought John was basically a reinstatement of the Christian good news in Hellenistic terms. But he also found evidence that the author of John wrote to counteract heretical, Gnostic teachings - he insists on the reality of Christ's life, denies the Gnostic hierarchy of intermediate spiritual agencies, opposes the Gnostic idea that divine sonship is possible apart from the Christ, avoids Gnostic watchwords, and so on. Barrett thinks John was writing whilst Gnosticism was developing; and essentially was trying to 'nip it in the bud' before it really became successful (although Bultmann disagrees and thinks it was already established by c.100 AD). Gnostics, in general, think Jesus' message is for an elite, and only some will get to Heaven. The author of John was clearly conscious of Gnosticism, and apparently not completely or directly critical of it - he uses Gnostic imagery such as light and dark, heaven and earth, is sensitive to the importance of knowledge, and accepts a dualist framework for his theology of salvation. Bultmann believes that the author of John is actually a former Gnostic who is editing the sign source (which is the heart of the ministry), and that John uses a separate source from the synoptics, in which the signs do not feature. Bultmann thinks Gnosticism used the sign source too, but attached the redeemer myth to it. ...read more.


C H Dodd thinks this Kerygma is in John, Peter and Paul. Smalley accepts it is there in John and Paul but thinks it is less developed. He also believes there is a significant difference between its presence in John and in Paul, because Jesus is supposed to be 'the second Adam' in Paul, but John has a greater emphasis on surpassing Moses. He argues that the fourth gospel is much closer to the synoptics than to Paul, that Paul never saw the historical Jesus, only the risen Jesus, and is therefore incomplete. I would agree with Smalley's reasoning because in the Kerygma and in Paul there is little reference to Jesus' historical life, so the purpose of the gospels might have been to put teachings of Jesus into a historical setting. In conclusion, it is impossible to be sure of the purpose of John's Gospel, but it seems likely that the author wanted to communicate truths about Jesus, his role on earth, his divinity, etc. Smalley's views seem well supported by evidence, and I would agree that the gospel couldn't have been a purely historical account - although it may well have a true frame of events. Surely spreading the good news about Jesus would be more important than relating everything he said and exactly as it happened. Robinson, who thought the gospel was written before the synoptics, said that historicity might have been a purpose, but not the main one. Most of those who think the synoptics came first will disagree and think John's history is inaccurate, but as Brown as said, the accuracy is irrelevant, as the narrative frame is probably only there to strengthen teachings about Jesus. Julia Wilson ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Christianity section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Christianity essays

  1. Situation ethics. Joseph Fletcher developed the idea of making a moral decision for a ...

    the case was that agape love could always be dealt out fairly then law would be unnecessary. However there are no such guarantees that love can be dealt fairly therefore it is necessary for human survival. Barclay believed that law had several vital functions as it clarifies experience, defines crime and protects society.

  2. With Reference to other aspects of Human Experience explore the claim that there will ...

    There were widespread allegations from the nationalist community of abuse and even torture of detainees. Nationalists also point to the fatal shootings of 14 unarmed nationalist civil rights demonstrators by the British Army in Derry in January 1972, on what became known as Bloody Sunday.

  1. 'The Jesus' parables of the Kingdom of God were about a future hope of ...

    animals of the time of Jesus, which are in the sheep and goats. The goats were worth less than sheep because sheep gained their value because of their wool. By bringing in this domestic setting the audience of the time would have been able to relate to the passage: (11)

  2. Outline and examine Jesus attitudes concerning wealth and the poor. To what extent do ...

    What is important to note is that he does not say he would give all of them, but rather half of his possessions to the poor. Jesus then praises him for doing this as it is out of his own accord rather than being told to do it according to Tannehill, so this relates to Jesus' attitudes.

  1. Examine why the writers of the synoptic gospels edited the material they used.

    For example, in Matthew 18:15-22 it makes an elaboration about how the early church should deal with sins. On the other hand, an individual may argue that differences can be accounted for because of the oral tradition. The spoken word is a cultural practice that was highly regarded in the early community.

  2. Luke's Gospel

    This theory is based on the fact that in large sections of Luke, Mark is not employed as a source, and that it is possible to reconstruct from Luke, omitting all his borrowings from Mark, a gospel-like document of considerable extent.

  1. Discuss and assess the view that according to the author of Lukes gospel it ...

    According to this commandment the Sabbath should be kept holy and no work should be done but saving a life is allowed. However, Jesus took the concepts of the Sabbath and slightly expanded the boundaries by his teachings and actions.

  2. The Gospel was written to prove to non-believers that Jesus Christ is the Son ...

    This fulfilled the words told to Mary by Gabriel before Jesus' birth, Gabriel told her that Jesus would be called the Son of the Most High. While John the Baptist was baptising people, he proclaimed that ' I baptize you with water.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work