Lectionary Year A
March 21, 1999
John 11:1-45

Step III: Immediate Context


     John's differences with the synoptics: no account of the birth of Jesus, baptism, temptation, Last Supper, Gethsemane, or the ascension. No parable stories or healings of demoniacs. In John, Jesus' speeches are often a whole chapter long.
     The facts of the life and ministry of Jesus are different in John. The design of the gospel as a whole is stated by the author in 20:31. Therefore, what is told in this account of Jesus' life and ministry reveals Jesus as Messiah, Son of God. God is revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus provided access to God in ways never before possible. The frequent "I am" statements by Jesus in this gospel are a radical claim that Jesus is God incarnate.

      The structure of this gospel is often broken down into two parts:
           Chapters   1-12 the book of signs
           Chapters 13-20 the book of glory


      This gospel was known in Egypt by 100 A.D (from P52). Its first commentary was written by Heracleon around 150. John was most likely written at Ephesus, also maybe Antioch or Alexandria. This gospel is an anonymous document. Tradition claims (Irenaeus) the author as John the "Son of Zebedee", the apostle. Many scholars believe it was composed by a disciple of John who recorded his preaching. The author was a Jewish Christian who wrote for and in a Jewish Christian community in conflict with synagogue authorities.

      The vast majority of converts were now from Hellenistic not Jewish backgrounds. A crisis may have precipitated the writing of this gospel: possibly the "putting out of the synagogue" or excommunication as heretics for those who practiced alternative forms of Judaism (e.g. belief in Jesus). There are certainly Greek and Gnostic influences in 1st century Judaism. The work of Philo is one example. Shades of both these influences, consistant with the religious diversity of the 1st century Mediterranean world, can be seen in John's writing.

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