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"The prologue is the key which unlocks the meaning of the fourth gospel." Examine and evaluate this claim.

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Introduction

"The prologue is the key which unlocks the meaning of the fourth gospel." Examine and evaluate this claim. All of the evangelists try and use an effective way to introduce their gospel, Matthew and Luke begin with the birth narrative, which establishes Jesus' divine identity from his point of birth and foreshadows events and themes that will be later encountered in the text. Mark instead begins with Jesus' earthly ministry as introduced by John the Baptist, and also has important Christological interests which are established by events in 1:1-13. John's gospel differs in that the first 18 verses are not solely rooted in human history but take a more cosmological approach. John takes the reader on a journey which begins before creation. He begins by establishing Jesus as the divine son of God, before conception and for eternity, a programmatic theme for the gospel. The prologue is believed to be distinctive in 3 ways, firstly it puts forward the idea of Jesus' pre existence. Stating his existence at the side of God at the point of creation, John takes us before the start of Jesus' earthly ministry and starts from the beginning of all things, unlike Matthew and Luke who focus on his existence at his birth in the world. ...read more.

Middle

The author tries to maintain the importance of Jesus over John the Baptist this can be seen by the fact that Jesus isn't baptised by John and so demonstrates his superiority. Bultmann believes the purpose of the fourth gospel is to demonstrate to the followers of John the Baptist that he isn't the messiah and they should transfer their allegiance to Jesus. The Prologue shows Jesus as the logos or word, there is Jewish symbolism with the genesis creation story, 'The word was with and the word was God.' John uses the term to emphasise Jesus' divine relationship. The idea can also be seen to show the idea of supercession or replacement theology, in that Jesus is the new creation. N.T Wright notes that Jesus says 'it is finished' on the cross, and he believes this shows the new beginning and that Jesus was sent to make a new creation through his life and the creation is complete at his death. The word also ascribes characteristics of God onto Jesus, such as life giving, deut 32:46-37, the power to heal, Psalms 107:20. the light of men, Isaiah 55:11, and a means of communication, Ezekiel 1:3. ...read more.

Conclusion

Another idea is that the prologue is in fact a poem, with occasional prose interruptions about John the Baptist. Burney suggested it was an Aramaic hymn, written in poetic style with simple construction and frequent use of the word 'and', which was a common device in Hebrew poetry. Moreover he argued it was translated clumsily into Greek, showing it could have originally been written in Aramaic. Barrett disagrees and argues that the Prologue is a thematic approach and run down of ideas to come. I think it is irrelevant whether it is a poem or a later addition as it still suggests and prepares the reader for ideas to come. Although I don't think it is the key to understanding the meaning of the Gospel, I do think it is a vital part of the writing as it can help readers think and prepare for topics to come. It coincides with chapter 21, and so I believe the two could have been later additions perhaps by the Johannine community, but what is important is what they contain. Hooker believed it is the 'key' to understanding the gospel, but I don't think it is necessarily the key but is a good collection of key ideas within the gospel. ...read more.

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