Was Gospel John Written by Gentiles?

Hugh Fogelman levels a charge, often heard from atheists, that the Gospel of John is ati-semetic.
Theological Anti-Semitism is rampant in the Fourth gospel; in other words the gospel of John is anti-Semitic.  No other New Testament writing has as great an anti-Jewish agenda as found in John. Its attack against the individual Jew, “the Jews” and the Jewish observance of Hebrew laws, all reflect the early church’s extreme anti-Semitic stance. When confronted with the question of John’s anti-Semitism Christians do not answer, but respond with a question; “How can the gospel of John be called anti-Semitic when Jesus and his disciples were all Jews?”[1]
He echoes some very standard assertions in support of this view:
The Christian pulpit deliberately fails to inform their flocks of one important fact; No one knows who wrote any of the Gospels, nor when they were written. The gospel names were simply picked/chosen/assigned by the early church. Also, no one knows the religion of any New Testament writer.  Therefore, the Christian rebuttal question ― that Jesus’ disciples were all Jews and the gospel writers were all Jews ― is merely wishful speculation which can not be proven by any stretch of the imagination.[2]
So he asserts that the author of John may have been gentile. In the next breath he moves from Could be to definitely was:"Also, when Christians make the false claim that the gospel writers were Jewish, seem to forget their own study bibles and clergy say that Luke was a Gentile, not Jewish. Oops, so much for the Christian 'question defense' to the rampant anti-Semitism in John." He seems to think that all the gospel writers were gentile. But I will show strong probability that (1) the author of John was Jewish, (2) there is no anti semitism in John.

One of the most powerful arguments Fogelman makes is John's use of the phrase "the Jews" in order to distinguish the author from Jews. In all the synoptic gospels the phrase is used 16 times but in John it's used 70 some odd time. Moreover, the Jews are characterized un John as  those whose native language is the lie (8:44). He also makes the additional argument that John is written so long after the original event, it indicates it's a gentile fabrication. Why would an eye witness wait so long? I will deal with this as well.

Lets start with the first issue:the Jewish nature of the Gospel and it's author.

The author was Jewish. 

James McGrath asks:Q. Is the Gospel of John a Jewish mystical work?He answers:
A. It is appropriate to note that there are scholars who would deny that the Gospel of John is Jewish and/or that it is mystical. My own view, however, is that there is good reason to answer the question in the affirmative. The fourth Gospel has not only the Jewish Scriptures but Jewish traditions of interpretation woven into its very fabric. And the Christians by and for whom it was written had previously been expelled from their local synagogue by other Jews who disagreed with their views. The prologue (John 1:1-18) presents the lens through which the Gospel author wishes Jesus to be viewed, and it shares key concepts with the Jewish mystical philosopher Philo of Alexandria. The Gospel speaks of visions (John 1:51), which were an important part of mysticism, and emphasizes union with Jesus and ultimately with God through the spirit. It is possible that Jesus himself is viewed as a mystic, one who speaks with the divine voice because the divine Word/Spirit dwells in him. For all these reasons and more, the Gospel of John seems aptly described as a “Jewish mystical work.”[3]
There are Rabbis who say John is the most Jewish of the Gospels: "Why is John the most Jewish Gospel?It is often said that John is the Gospel to the world (Matthew to the Jew, Mark to the Roman, Luke to the Greek). However, in 1924 Israel Abrahams said, 'To us Jews, the Fourth Gospel is the most Jewish of the four!' How is that so? If it so, why do so many people tell new converts to begin reading this Gospel?[4]"  
...John who is Jewish is showing that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah and that they need not worry or fear that they are abandoning God because this is God {Elohim} in the flesh, which he proclaims in verse 14; “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” When we look back at the name “Elohim” it means the strong One Who manifests Himself by His own Word (Towns, 124). Now the Jewish people know that if they believe in the Word of Elohim, then they will live by the provisions of God, just as the children of Israel did in the wilderness with manna, Christ is the living Manna of God or as stated in John 6:35(NKJV) by Christ; “I am the bread of life.”[5]
Since the author was Jewish his problem with "the Jews" is not likely to be based upon their ethnicity since they shared that ethnicity; they were also semetic.  The community that produced John was largely Jewish itself. They would have had problems with the religious establishment of the Jews because they had been put out of the synagogue. But there is another group which was also a part of the Johannine community, a group that had special problems with "the Jews" as a people. That would account for the designation of the "the Jews" by their ethnicity. That group was the Samaritans.

The Samaritans lived in the Northern kingdom of Israel they were racially mixed with Jewish and pagan ancestry but they worshiped the God of the Bible.[6] The Major religious difference between jew and Samaritans was that the Jews worshipped in Jerusalem and the Samaritans worshipped in Northern Israel on Mount Gerizim. There is a connection between John and Samaritans apart from the Gospel. In  Acts 8:14-17 when the Sameritas are converted to Christ Peter and John were dispatched to impart to them the Holy Spirit. So there may have been a special connection between the Samaritans and John. We also see Samaritan influences in the Gospel of John itself.  The most obvious Samaritan influence in John is the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-41).That is significant because it shows Jesus accepting a woman and an ethnic group hatred by the Jews. Edwin Freed argues a coupe of other influences in John. He points to the work of John Bowman who pointed out that the Johannine author is attempting to build a bridge between Jews and Samaritans.[7] He turns to the influence of Ezekiel on the story of the good shepherd of John 1-. Ezeiel wanted to reunite Judda and Israel that would involve the Samaritans of Northern Israel.[8] Freed argues that some place names in John are places in Sameria:Aenon, Jn 3:23, Salim, 3:23, Sychar, 4:5,Ephraim, 11:54.
There is a historical reaon to disregard the theroy of anti-semetism in John: There was no big anti-semetic feeling Among gentiles in the first century. That came in the middle ages. So it makes a lot more sense to see these references to "The Jews" and the negativity they engender as influences of the Samaritan Christians upon Jewish Cristians who had become alienated from their Jewish roots. They are not anti-semtic because the Christians of that community were semetic themselves.

This view need not necessitate authorship by the apostle John. Samaritan influences could have linked the document with the apostle regardless of authorship. Even more so if the author was the Elder John, thus confusion over the name.



NOTES

[1]Hugh Fogelman, "John was Jewish? not!," Christianity Revealed.com. 2003-2011. http://jdstone.org/cr/files/johnwasjewish.html

[2] Ibid
[3]James F. McGrath,
Ask a Scholar," Bible Odyssey,2019 https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/ask-a-scholar/Gospel-of-John
[4]"Why is John The Most Jewih Gospel?" Religion Bible 3 liberty univercity https://www.coursehero.com/file/8214447/Why-is-John-the-most-Jewish-Gospel/
[5]Ibid,
[6]Catholic Anwers, Who were the Sameritians and why were they important?1995 https://www.catholic.com/qa/who-were-the-samaritans-and-why-were-they-important
[7]Edwin D. Freed, "SAMARITAN INFLUENCE IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN," The Catholic Biblical QuarterlyVol. 30, No. 4 (OCTOBER 1968),580.. 580-587 https://www.jstor.org/stable/43712286?seq=1
[8] Ibid.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Joe quoting McGrath: It is appropriate to note that there are scholars who would deny that the Gospel of John is Jewish and/or that it is mystical. My own view, however, is that there is good reason to answer the question in the affirmative.

If the work was mystical, but not Jewish, then McGrath would consider "yes" to be the answer here?

Joe quoting McGrath: The fourth Gospel has not only the Jewish Scriptures but Jewish traditions of interpretation woven into its very fabric.

But that hardly makes the author Jewish!

Joe quoting McGrath: And the Christians by and for whom it was written had previously been expelled from their local synagogue by other Jews who disagreed with their views. The prologue (John 1:1-18) presents the lens through which the Gospel author wishes Jesus to be viewed, and it shares key concepts with the Jewish mystical philosopher Philo of Alexandria.

Philo was Jewish, but his ideas were very much a mix of Jewish and Greek. It would be perfectly understandable for a gentile wanting to move Jesus' teachings into gentile thought to go there.

It makes less sense for a Jew to do that. Why would a Jew have all those gentile influences in his book?

Joe: However, in 1924 Israel Abrahams said, 'To us Jews, the Fourth Gospel is the most Jewish of the four!'

Where did he say that? All references to it seem to come from The Interpretation Of The New Testament, 1861-1986 by Neill and (later editions) Wright. Without context, it is very hard to judge why it is the most Jewish, and to then use that to conclude the author was Jewish is dubious in the extreme.

Joe quoting McGrath: ...John who is Jewish is showing that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah and that they need not worry or fear that they are abandoning God because this is God {Elohim} in the flesh

But the Jesus in John is NOT the messiah the Jews expected, i.e., a military leader who would overthrow the Romans.

Joe: Since the author was Jewish his problem with "the Jews" is not likely to be based upon their ethnicity since they shared that ethnicity; they were also semetic. The community that produced John was largely Jewish itself. They would have had problems with the religious establishment of the Jews because they had been put out of the synagogue. But there is another group which was also a part of the Johannine community, a group that had special problems with "the Jews" as a people. That would account for the designation of the "the Jews" by their ethnicity. That group was the Samaritans.

So in fact you are arguing for the author being a Samaritan, not a Jew? That is quite a surprise. Especially as up to this point you seemed to be arguing for a Jewish author. How does this fit with Philo? Why would a Samaritan use a fusion of Jewish and gentile thought?

Joe: There is a historical reaon to disregard the theroy of anti-semetism in John: There was no big anti-semetic feeling Among gentiles in the first century.

I do not see John as anti-Semitic, but I do see a distinction between "them" and "us", with the Jews being very much "them" and not "us". Hence the author was not Jewish.

Pix
Anonymous said…
Joe quoting McGrath: It is appropriate to note that there are scholars who would deny that the Gospel of John is Jewish and/or that it is mystical. My own view, however, is that there is good reason to answer the question in the affirmative.

PX: If the work was mystical, but not Jewish, then McGrath would consider "yes" to be the answer here?


He defends it was both.

Joe quoting McGrath: The fourth Gospel has not only the Jewish Scriptures but Jewish traditions of interpretation woven into its very fabric.

PX:But that hardly makes the author Jewish!

it gives us a good reason to think so. You would have to demonstrate that there was a large body of gentles who where tis in palatine at that time who were deeply emerged in Hebrew expression..


Joe quoting McGrath: And the Christians by and for whom it was written had previously been expelled from their local synagogue by other Jews who disagreed with their views. The prologue (John 1:1-18) presents the lens through which the Gospel author wishes Jesus to be viewed, and it shares key concepts with the Jewish mystical philosopher Philo of Alexandria.

Philo was Jewish, but his ideas were very much a mix of Jewish and Greek. It would be perfectly understandable for a gentile wanting to move Jesus' teachings into gentile thought to go there.

Greek ideas were not novel to people of Palestine. Philo was not so emerged in Greek that he would be mistaken for gentile. There was a special form of Greek-Hebrew culture ("Hellenized") into which most Palestinian Jews were emerged. That's why they had the septuetgent, they spoke Greek more than they spoke Hebrew.

It makes less sense for a Jew to do that. Why would a Jew have all those gentile influences in his book?

not if you know something about it.

Joe: However, in 1924 Israel Abrahams said, 'To us Jews, the Fourth Gospel is the most Jewish of the four!'

Where did he say that? All references to it seem to come from The Interpretation Of The New Testament, 1861-1986 by Neill and (later editions) Wright. Without context, it is very hard to judge why it is the most Jewish, and to then use that to conclude the author was Jewish is dubious in the extreme.

Stephen Neil was a major scholar, his use of the quote is documentation of its veracity. That you can't find it it is not a reason to doubt it. I bet Neil gives the original source. Have you seen Neil's book?

Anonymous said…
Joe He defends it was both.

He actually says "is Jewish and/or that it is mystical", but I think that was bad wording on his part.

Joe it gives us a good reason to think so. You would have to demonstrate that there was a large body of gentles who where tis in palatine at that time who were deeply emerged in Hebrew expression..

That would be the gentile Christians...

Joe Greek ideas were not novel to people of Palestine. Philo was not so emerged in Greek that he would be mistaken for gentile. There was a special form of Greek-Hebrew culture ("Hellenized") into which most Palestinian Jews were emerged. That's why they had the septuetgent, they spoke Greek more than they spoke Hebrew.

That is a fair point.

Joe Stephen Neil was a major scholar, his use of the quote is documentation of its veracity. That you can't find it it is not a reason to doubt it. I bet Neil gives the original source. Have you seen Neil's book?

I was not questioning whether the statement was made, I was questioning its context.

I have not seen Neill's book, no, so I am also wondering about the context there.

Pix
Anonymous said…
Joe He defends it was both.

He actually says "is Jewish and/or that it is mystical", but I think that was bad wording on his part.

He clearly said it was Jewish and mystical

Joe: it gives us a good reason to think so. You would have to demonstrate that there was a large body of gentles who where in palatine at that time who were deeply emerged in Hebrew expression..

PX:That would be the gentile Christians...


Show me some evidence that the Gentiles of Ephesus had deep ties to Judaism? They did not, they were converted by Paul and Timothy out of paganism. When we see the Jewishness of John what the reaon for trying to hang on to gentile authorship?

Joe: Greek ideas were not novel to people of Palestine. Philo was not so emerged in Greek that he would be mistaken for gentile. There was a special form of Greek-Hebrew culture ("Hellenized") into which most Palestinian Jews were emerged. That's why they had the septuetgent, they spoke Greek more than they spoke Hebrew.

That is a fair point.

thanks

Joe: Stephen Neil was a major scholar, his use of the quote is documentation of its veracity. That you can't find it it is not a reason to doubt it. I bet Neil gives the original source. Have you seen Neil's book?

PX:I was not questioning whether the statement was made, I was questioning its context.

sorry ;-)...the only context I find is a lecture at Cambridge. It was a controversial statement

I have not seen Neill's book, no, so I am also wondering about the context there.

I've read that book about 10 times. It's one of my favorite books of all I've read. I don't remember that specifically as my last reading was about 20 years ago. But the look itself is about the evolution of interpretation of New Testament.
Anonymous said…
Joe: Show me some evidence that the Gentiles of Ephesus had deep ties to Judaism? They did not, they were converted by Paul and Timothy out of paganism. When we see the Jewishness of John what the reaon for trying to hang on to gentile authorship?

They considered Christianity to be Judaism at that time. It was not a new religion, but a old one; part of its popularity was that it was an ancient religion.

The gentile Christians considered Judaism to be their religion. How much deeper tie do you want?

Joe: sorry ;-)...the only context I find is a lecture at Cambridge. It was a controversial statement

By context, I was really wanting to know if he went on to say in what way John is the most Jewish gospel. It is not necessarily because it reads like it was written by a Jew.

Pix
Anonymous said…
The article you are replyinh to says this:

Remember, the unknown author of John separates Jesus and his disciples from “the Jews.” This tact encourages readers to see Jews as unfaithful and the Hebrew bible ― therefore Judaism ― as invalid. [This is the same tactic Paul used when speaking to his gentile audiences.] For example, When talking to “the Jews,” John’s Jesus separates himself from them by having Jesus speak of:

1. ”Your Law” (John 7:19, 8:17, 10:34);

2. ”Your circumcision” (John 7:22); and

3. Abraham is “your father” (John 8:56).

When the Jews say, “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert” (John 6:31), John’s Jesus replies, “What Moses gave you (the Jews) (not “us”) was not the bread from heaven.” (John 6:32) Later on, John had Jesus say, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert” (John 6:49). Why didn’t John’s Jesus use the word “our” instead of “your”? After all Jesus was supposed to be a Jew, so the proper usage would have been to say “OUR ancestors ate…”


How do you explain that?

Pix
Anonymous said…
The article you are replyinh to says this:

Remember, the unknown author of John separates Jesus and his disciples from “the Jews.” This tact encourages readers to see Jews as unfaithful and the Hebrew bible ― therefore Judaism ― as invalid. [This is the same tactic Paul used when speaking to his gentile audiences.] For example, When talking to “the Jews,” John’s Jesus separates himself from them by having Jesus speak of:


That demonstrates supreme ignorance, Paul bragged about being a Jew so no way to tag him with anti-Semitism. Now my point was not that the author of John ha no problem with "the Jews." The author's problem is not with their sematic nature but with their religious myopia.

1. ”Your Law” (John 7:19, 8:17, 10:34);

2. ”Your circumcision” (John 7:22); and

3. Abraham is “your father” (John 8:56).

That's Jesus' deity talking not a disdain for their ethnicity,

When the Jews say, “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert” (John 6:31), John’s Jesus replies, “What Moses gave you (the Jews) (not “us”) was not the bread from heaven.” (John 6:32) Later on, John had Jesus say, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert” (John 6:49). Why didn’t John’s Jesus use the word “our” instead of “your”? After all Jesus was supposed to be a Jew, so the proper usage would have been to say “OUR ancestors ate…”

How do you explain that?

Your assertion would imply that Jesus was not a Jew. There's no way to argue that John cut Jesus of from his own background when all other gospels had him being a Jew. We don't Gentile Christian of that era asserting that he wasn't. The author is separating him from the Jews but not because they are semetic. It's because they were rejected by their religious establishment,.

Joe: Show me some evidence that the Gentiles of Ephesus had deep ties to Judaism? They did not, they were converted by Paul and Timothy out of paganism. When we see the Jewishness of John what the reaon for trying to hang on to gentile authorship?

They considered Christianity to be Judaism at that time. It was not a new religion, but a old one; part of its popularity was that it was an ancient religion.

That does not prove there was a large group of gentile Christians who understood Judaism well enough to show the Jewishness we see in John,



The gentile Christians considered Judaism to be their religion. How much deeper tie do you want?

No they did not. Gentile Christians around the time of the writing of John were mostly Pauline converts. GosJohn originated from Ephesus some time between 70 and 110. I place it at 90. Ephesian gentile Christians of that time and place were Pauline based, Timothy was probably there preaching at the time. John is not very Pauline in it's theology. There was a large migration of Jews from palatine to Ephesus in that period. Some were no doubt Christian.


Joe: sorry ;-)...the only context I find is a lecture at Cambridge. It was a controversial statement

PX:By context, I was really wanting to know if he went on to say in what way John is the most Jewish gospel. It is not necessarily because it reads like it was written by a Jew.

Good question, I have picked up some things on my own I see in it. For example his use of Logos in the prologue is not Greek philosophically but is very Jewish. I am paining on doing the next Monday blog piece on that
Anonymous said…
Joe: That demonstrates supreme ignorance, Paul bragged about being a Jew so no way to tag him with anti-Semitism. Now my point was not that the author of John ha no problem with "the Jews." The author's problem is not with their sematic nature but with their religious myopia.

I am certainly not saying John was anti-Semitic; and hence, not that Paul was.

The issue here is that te author of John did not identify with "the Jews". He saw them as separate to whatever group he was, thus he was not Jewish himself.

Joe: That's Jesus' deity talking not a disdain for their ethnicity,

It is the author of John who wrote those words, and they clearly indicate that he saw himself as separate to the Jews, that is, he was not himself Jewish.

Joe: Your assertion would imply that Jesus was not a Jew. ...

No, it would imply that the author of John did not see Jesus as Jewish.

Joe: There's no way to argue that John cut Jesus of from his own background when all other gospels had him being a Jew. We don't Gentile Christian of that era asserting that he wasn't. The author is separating him from the Jews but not because they are semetic. It's because they were rejected by their religious establishment,.

We do see gentiles of that era asserting Jesus was not Jewish - the gospel of John.

If we had hundreds of works from that time, and this was the only one, you might have a point, but we do not. My feeling is Hebrews and Revelation were authored by Jews. Obviously the Pauline letters were written by a Jew, do any other letters touch on this at all? The gospels of Matthew, Luke (plus Acts) and John are really the only works we have from that era that have gentile authors and mention Jesus' background.

If the author was himself a Jew, why would he lump all Jews together as the same religion, when he is himself of a different religion?

Joe: That does not prove there was a large group of gentile Christians who understood Judaism well enough to show the Jewishness we see in John,

Christianity arrived in Ephesus around AD 50, John was written in AD 90. Forty years is plenty of time for someone to become very well acquainted with the Hebrew Bible, given the motivation that he believed this to be the word of God.

Pix: The gentile Christians considered Judaism to be their religion. How much deeper tie do you want?

Joe: No they did not. Gentile Christians around the time of the writing of John were mostly Pauline converts. GosJohn originated from Ephesus some time between 70 and 110. I place it at 90. Ephesian gentile Christians of that time and place were Pauline based, Timothy was probably there preaching at the time. John is not very Pauline in it's theology. There was a large migration of Jews from palatine to Ephesus in that period. Some were no doubt Christian.

Nevertheless, they considered their religion to be Judaism. Today, we would call it Christianity, and more specifically Pauline Christianity perhaps. The Bible has the word "Christian" three times, but in each case it is what outsiders called their sect of Judaism.

To them, it was just Judaism; Jesus was the culmination of everything in the Hebrew Bible, so it was part of that religion, not the birth of a new one.

Pix
The issue here is that the author of John did not identify with "the Jews". He saw them as separate to whatever group he was, thus he was not Jewish himself.

Just because he no longer identified with Jews doesn't mean he never was one. They may not have seen Jew as a racial issue but a religious one. Or he may have been Samaritan.

Joe: That's Jesus' deity talking not a disdain for their ethnicity,

PX: It is the author of John who wrote those words, and they clearly indicate that he saw himself as separate to the Jews, that is, he was not himself Jewish.

He' quoting Jesus

Joe: Your assertion would imply that Jesus was not a Jew. ...

No, it would imply that the author of John did not see Jesus as Jewish.

He would have to be an idiot. You assume that or was not an eye witness and never met Jesus and to not know he was a Jew would mean he knew almost nothing about Christianity. The book itself claims to be the teachings of a disciple of Jesus who had a close personal relation with him. "Beloved disciple" means beloeved of Jesus.

Joe: There's no way to argue that John cut Jesus of from his own background when all other gospels had him being a Jew. We don't see Gentile Christian of that era asserting that he wasn't. The author is separating him from the Jews but not because they are Semitic. It's because they were rejected by their religious establishment.

PX:We do see gentiles of that era asserting Jesus was not Jewish - the gospel of John.

Nope John never says Jesus was not a Jew. why would he be under the Jew's authority such that they killed him if he was not one?

If we had hundreds of works from that time, and this was the only one, you might have a point, but we do not. My feeling is Hebrews and Revelation were authored by Jews. Obviously the Pauline letters were written by a Jew, do any other letters touch on this at all? The gospels of Matthew, Luke (plus Acts) and John are really the only works we have from that era that have gentile authors and mention Jesus' background.

That is insane! no scholar thinks Matthew and Acts are by genital no one. I have a hard time believing that any scholar think John was by a gentile.
PX: If the author was himself a Jew, why would he lump all Jews together as the same religion, when he is himself of a different religion?

I've already answered that. The Jewish Christians had come to identify with the Samaritans because they were alienated by thee Jewish religious establishment. John was written around 90. They had time to have a whole second generation raised as Christians,



Joe: That does not prove there was a large group of gentile Christians who understood Judaism well enough to show the Jewishness we see in John,

Christianity arrived in Ephesus around AD 50, John was written in AD 90. Forty years is plenty of time for someone to become very well acquainted with the Hebrew Bible, given the motivation that he believed this to be the word of God.


Missing the point. There was no such community.

Pix: The gentile Christians considered Judaism to be their religion. How much deeper tie do you want?


Like I said there is no such community in history. Paul specifically refused to make his gentile converts become Jews first.

Joe: No they did not. Gentile Christians around the time of the writing of John were mostly Pauline converts. GosJohn originated from Ephesus some time between 70 and 110. I place it at 90. Ephesian gentile Christians of that time and place were Pauline based, Timothy was probably there preaching at the time. John is not very Pauline in it's theology. There was a large migration of Jews from palatine to Ephesus in that period. Some were no doubt Christian.

Nevertheless, they considered their religion to be Judaism. Today, we would call it Christianity, and more specifically Pauline Christianity perhaps. The Bible has the word "Christian" three times, but in each case it is what outsiders called their sect of Judaism.

To them, it was just Judaism; Jesus was the culmination of everything in the Hebrew Bible, so it was part of that religion, not the birth of a new one.

No. There was a whole second generation that grew up as Christians,that's 60 years.

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