The Johannine epistles and the Johannine gospel.

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Ben C. Smith
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The Johannine epistles and the Johannine gospel.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Apr 17, 2018 12:16 pm

Subject: Different authorial perspectives in 1 John.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue May 30, 2017 7:21 am
On pages 105-106 of his commentary on the gospel and epistles of John, and also on page 389 of his Introduction to the New Testament, Raymond Brown lists differences between the epistles and the gospel. This is the version from his Introduction (the two lists are the same in substance, but differ slightly in wording):

Yet there are also some surprising differences:
  1. The Prologue of I John does not emphasize the incarnation of the personified Word, as does the Prologue of John; rather it testifies to the word (message) of life which was seen, heard, and felt - the human career of Jesus.
  2. I John assigns to God features that the Gospel assigns to Jesus, e.g., in I John 1:5 God is light (cf. John 8:12; 9:5); in I John 4:21 and II John God gives the commandment to love one another (cf. John 13:34).
  3. There is less epistolary emphasis on the Spirit as a person, and the Gospel term "Paraclete" is never used of the Spirit (Christ is the paraclete or advocate in I John 2:1.) There is a warning that every spirit is not the Spirit of Truth or the Spirit of God, and so spirits must be tested (4:1, 6).
  4. Final eschatology is stronger in I John than in John, where realized eschatology dominates. There is more emphasis on the parousia as the moment of accountability for Christian life (I John 2:28-3:3).
  5. Especially as to vocabulary, the Dead Sea Scroll parallels are even closer in I John than in John.
Some of these differences give the Epistles the air of being more primitive than the Gospel, but they may reflect the author's claim to be presenting the gospel as it was "from the beginning" (1 John 1:1; 3:11). Overall they suggest that the same person may not have written the Epistles and the Gospel.

I would say that yes, some of these differences do give 1 John "the air" of being more primitive than the gospel. It honestly surprises me that the majority view in scholarship seems to be that the gospel precedes all three epistles. Sometimes it is granted that the appendix (John 21) and a few redactions may postdate the epistles, but the main body of the gospel is commonly thought to have been written first.
I currently belong to the vocal minority of people who think that the Johannine epistles, by and large, predate the Johannine gospel. One of the reasons commonly offered for the priority of the gospel is the following triad of verses:

John 13.34: 34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another."

1 John 2.7: 7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.

2 John [1.]5: 5 And now I ask you, lady, not as writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.

In the gospel Jesus acknowledges that the love commandment he is giving is a new commandment, while in the epistles the author/elder admits that this love commandment is not new. Thus, the argument goes, the gospel must have been written first.

But this argument confuses the order of events with the order in which an author writes about those events; just because an author writes both about WWI and about WWII does not mean s/he has written about those two wars in that order. It is just as easy to write a prequel as it is to write a sequel.

In this case, for example, it is easy to imagine the epistles being written on the basis of church doctrine as found, say, in Matthew 22.37-39 = Mark 12.29-31 = Luke 10.27 and then the gospel later, when the time came to put the love commandment in writing yet again, specifying that it was a new commandment based on the wording of 1 John 2.8 and 2 John [1.]5. Furthermore, the love commandment also finds expression elsewhere in the epistles:

1 John 4.20-21: 20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

The pronoun ("him") in verse 21 must refer to God; thus, according to this epistle it was God who issued the love commandment. The epistle comes across as ignorant of Jesus having issued it in the gospel.

A more directional argument may be found elsewhere between the epistles and the gospel, and it cuts in the opposite direction. In this case, a datum from the epistles is presumed in the gospel, and there is no other known text early enough which would give the information:

John 14.16-17: 16 "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Paraclete/Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you."

1 John 2.1-2: 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have a Paraclete/Helper with the Father: Jesus Christ the righteous, 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Notice that Jesus says that another Paraclete/Helper will be sent after he is gone, implying that he himself is a Paraclete/Helper. But this information (that Jesus is a Paraclete) is not found in the gospel; nor is it found in any of the synoptics or other gospels. Rather, it is found in 1 John, in which Jesus Christ is the only Paraclete mentioned. The gospel, in other words, presumes previous knowledge of something found in one of the epistles.

For the sake of completeness, the following are the only other instances of this term in the New Testament:

John 14.26: 26 "But the Paraclete/Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."

John 15.26-27: 26 "When the Paraclete/Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, 27 and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning."

John 16.7: 7 "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Paraclete/Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."

It appears to be a Johannine concept, appearing only in Johannine writings.

The argument for epistolary priority does not suffer from the same prequel/sequel observation to which the argument based on the love commandment succumbs; it is genuinely surprising to find the Spirit called "another" Paraclete in the gospel... unless one has already read the epistles. 1 John, rather than merely being the first half of a pair of events which could be told in either order, is actually the first half of a conversation, to which the second half is responding. Furthermore, we have evidence in the synoptic gospels of a dominical saying upon which the love commandment in the first and second epistles of John might be based, whereas we have no evidence in any other gospels of anything upon which the Paraclete saying in the gospel of John might be based.

So, for the members of this forum, are there other arguments that you find convincing in this connection, whether for or against my proposal here that the epistles, overall, predate the gospel?

Ben.
Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Thu Apr 19, 2018 5:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Johannine epistles and the Johannine gospel.

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:30 pm

But WHY is the paraklete a Johannine concept? Is it because "John" was the only one to introduce the concept or was it that Montanus and Valentinus were so firmly attached to the concept that an effort was made by the former(s) of this "junk" gospel this "odds and sods" gospel to ghettoize the concept away from Mark and Matthew? Irenaeus says to some unnamed group "you have to accept (the Paraclete) if you accept John" much like he says to the Marcionites "if you don't accept Luke you won't have a gospel." I think some sort of trickery is going on that we haven't figured out.

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Re: The Johannine epistles and the Johannine gospel.

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:37 pm

The passage is:

Others, again, that they may set at nought the gift of the Spirit, which in the latter times has been, by the good pleasure of the Father, poured out upon the human race, do not admit that aspect presented by John's Gospel, in which the Lord promised that He would send the Paraclete; but set aside at once both the Gospel and the prophetic Spirit. Wretched men indeed! who wish to be pseudo- prophets, forsooth, but who set aside the gift of prophecy from the Church; acting like those who, on account of such as come in hypocrisy, hold themselves aloof from the communion of the brethren. We must conclude, moreover, that these men can not admit the Apostle Paul either. For, in his Epistle to the Corinthians,he speaks expressly of prophetical gifts, and recognises men and women prophesying in the Church. Sinning, therefore, in all these particulars, against the Spirit of God, they fall into the irremissible sin. (3.11.9)
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Re: The Johannine epistles and the Johannine gospel.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:48 pm

Secret Alias wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:30 pm
But WHY is the paraklete a Johannine concept? Is it because "John" was the only one to introduce the concept or was it that Montanus and Valentinus were so firmly attached to the concept that an effort was made by the former(s) of this "junk" gospel this "odds and sods" gospel to ghettoize the concept away from Mark and Matthew? Irenaeus says to some unnamed group "you have to accept (the Paraclete) if you accept John" much like he says to the Marcionites "if you don't accept Luke you won't have a gospel." I think some sort of trickery is going on that we haven't figured out.
That may well be the case, but I am not sure it would impact the issue of whether the gospel or the epistles came first very much. It is not as if the other gospels lack all mention of a Holy Spirit or anything; as early as the baptism of Jesus the bestowing of the Spirit is promised, and of course we have the Pentecost event in Acts 2. The Spirit is a major thing in early Christianity; there was plenty for the Gnostics and the Montanists to grab on to in that respect, and in a sense, perhaps, they were merely being conservative, retaining what had been there all along while other sectors of Christianity started to institutionalize. The only thing Johannine about it is the peculiar name, Paraclete, as well as the fact that in the epistles the Paraclete is actually Jesus Christ, whereas in the gospel it is both Jesus (though this fact is merely assumed rather than explored) and the Spirit ("another" Paraclete).

Which do you think came first, the gospel or the epistles?
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Re: The Johannine epistles and the Johannine gospel.

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:59 pm

I agree with you insofar as the form of the epistle was established before the gospel of John. Look at Polycarp's attachment to 1 John 4. I am not sure what the gospel of John is. Never got over the fact that John doesn't know about the Transfiguration even though he was present. But John 13:34 and 15. 19 are quoted by the Marcionite Marcus in Adamantius' Dialogue (2. 16, 20). And Irenaeus seems to imply that Marcionites knew about the Prologue. Not sure what to make of all of this.
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Re: The Johannine epistles and the Johannine gospel.

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Apr 17, 2018 10:06 pm

The perplexing thing of course is the persistent placement of John - FIRST - in the canon. The sources are:

1. Anti-Marcionite works - viz. Adv Marc 4, De Recta in Deum Fide
2. Egyptian canons - Clement (see my discussion here about the 'Ionian' in Stromata 1, Origen down through the Copts.

What can possibly account for this? While Irenaeus goes to great lengths to argue for the primacy of Matthew at the beginning of AH 3, I wonder whether this four gospel set was very late and perhaps originally unknown to Irenaeus. There seems to have been an early holding up of John as the chief witness against Marcion (long before Luke was invented) which may account for his gospel being placed first. That and the Prologue is the beginning of the gospel harmonies and a natural 'introduction' to the Christian faith.
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Re: The Johannine epistles and the Johannine gospel.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Apr 18, 2018 5:06 am

Secret Alias wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:59 pm
Never got over the fact that John doesn't know about the Transfiguration even though he was present.
Well, I doubt the gospel of John had anything to do with any son of Zebedee.
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Re: The Johannine epistles and the Johannine gospel.

Post by arnoldo » Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:08 am

Paul N. Anderson addresses many issues in regard to the differences between the Synpotics and the Johannine writings and its significance.
https://books.google.com/books?id=keBlp ... on&f=false

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Re: The Johannine epistles and the Johannine gospel.

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Apr 18, 2018 7:59 am

Another aside. I can never get over my sense that Acts was originally ascribed to John Mark. He's the glue who holds everything together (a disciple of both apostles) and the way Irenaeus emphasizes that Luke effectively 'replaced' John Mark when John Mark was 'dismissed' gives me reason to believe that the work was not originally written by Luke but ascribed instead to 'John' and could well have fit within a 'Johannine canon.'
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Re: The Johannine epistles and the Johannine gospel.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Apr 20, 2018 12:40 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 12:16 pm
A more directional argument may be found elsewhere between the epistles and the gospel, and it cuts in the opposite direction. In this case, a datum from the epistles is presumed in the gospel, and there is no other known text early enough which would give the information:

John 14.16-17: 16 "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Paraclete/Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you."

1 John 2.1-2: 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have a Paraclete/Helper with the Father: Jesus Christ the righteous, 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Notice that Jesus says that another Paraclete/Helper will be sent after he is gone, implying that he himself is a Paraclete/Helper. But this information (that Jesus is a Paraclete) is not found in the gospel; nor is it found in any of the synoptics or other gospels. Rather, it is found in 1 John, in which Jesus Christ is the only Paraclete mentioned. The gospel, in other words, presumes previous knowledge of something found in one of the epistles.
Let me offer another argument for the epistles of John predating the gospel of John.

Eusebius, in History of the Church 3.39.17, states that Papias used testimonies from 1 Peter and from 1 John, suggesting that Papias knew these two epistles. But Eusebius nowhere claims that Papias knew the gospel of John.

I have judged elsewhere that Papias probably knew the Johannine tradition which eventually made it into the gospel:
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed May 24, 2017 2:29 pm
This is just part of why I think that the Johannine "order" of things is what Papias was comparing Matthew and Mark to. It is not necessarily that Papias (or his elder) knew the gospel of John itself; rather, a body of distinctly Asian tradition was being built up which gave its own spin to how things had gone during Jesus' ministry. This tradition was not arbitrarily remembered just for the sake of being contrary. The date of the Passover, for example, was very important to the Quartodecimans (even though I do not think John itself had anything to do with the origins of that Asian custom; I think the gospel of John simply reflected its time and place and was thus put to good use later in the controversy). Ireneaus mentions some groups which drew symbolism from a 12-month dominical ministry, and it is to John that he turns for a different picture. People opposing Montanism used the contradictions between John and the synoptics to nullify John and thus pull the rug of the Johannine Paraclete out from under the New Prophets' feet. These things mattered.
But Eusebius, who is intent upon quoting the earliest attestations for canonical books by the church fathers, says only that Papias knew the gospels of Matthew and Mark; nothing is said about those of Luke or John.

It makes sense, then, that Papias knew 1 John but did not know the gospel of John, implying (situated as Papias was in Asia Minor, very close to the probable point of origin for all the Johannine literature) that the epistles (1 John at least; the other two are too brief to expect much attention) had been written and published at the time, but the gospel had not.

Unrelatedly, I suspect that Bauckham is probably correct to surmise that the testimonies which Papias adduced from 1 Peter and 1 John included (at least) 1 Peter 5.1, 13 and 1 John 1.1-3, both passages being concerned, as Papias is, with eyewitness testimony.
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