Anderson and Cribbs-John and the other gospels

Way back in the late 1970s I was pastor in a small Colorado town. The United Methodist pastor there was F. Lamar Cribbs. Lamar was a published New Testament scholar. He died in the early 80s. But I still see citations of his work from time to time. Paul N. Anderson cites his work in The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel.

Lamar’s pet theory was that John’s gospel was written for a Jewish audience in Jerusalem before the outbreak of the Jewish War. That theory has not persuaded much of anybody, although Anderson and most others see John’s community as having had a Palestinian period.

Another idea of Lamar’s gets more respect. He observed that John and Luke have several agreements over against Mark and Matthew. John and Luke, for instance, both have only one feeding miracle. They both have the main resurrection appearances in Jerusalem rather than Galilee. Lamar was able to point out several more detailed instances where John and Luke agreed.

It is obvious that Luke has many passages that are close to passages in Mark and Matthew. But Lamar studied 20 paragraphs or extracts (periscopes is the jargony word) that Luke shared with all three other gospels. In those, Lamar said that Luke either favored John’s version or took a middle position. He found a number of close verbal parallels between John and Luke. You can see this even in English if you compare Luke 3:16 and John 1:26-27. He concluded that Luke drew from some primitive form of the Johannine tradition.

The article is:

St. Luke and the Johannine Tradition

F. Lamar Cribbs

Journal of Biblical Literature

Vol. 90, No. 4 (Dec., 1971), pp. 422-450

Anderson presents the idea that John is in a dialogue with all the other gospels. John is later and they all were available to him. John both reinforces and corrects them.

A very important instance of this is that John confirms the narrative in the Synoptics that the disciples often misunderstood Jesus. But in John this misunderstanding becomes a rhetorical device portraying a bad example meant to correct tendencies in or around the community of John . His corrections include the use of Peter, who usually misunderstands Jesus, as a foil over against the beloved disciple.

By the year 100 Peter was well on his way to being the primary authority figure in the church. He was dead, but the tradition that he represented apostolic succession and the continuation of the authority of Jesus in biships was becoming established. Mark and Matthew support this tendency. But John seems to go against it.

In John it is often Peter who misunderstands Jesus and  the beloved disciple who gets it right and shares a deeper intimacy with Jesus.

John, according to Anderson, has a relational view of church authority. John gives us a “vision of relational connectedness to Jesus” as what constitutes the church. Think of the organic image that Jesus is the vine and his disciples are the branches (John 15). So, although Peter indeed has authority in the church, what really matters is the kind of connection to Jesus that the beloved disciple can claim.

For the final edition of the gospel, Anderson thinks the situation we see in the third letter of John, may give us the context of John’s idea of the church. In that letter the elder John warns Gaius against the bishop, Diotrephes, who shuns both letters and people from the elder. Diotrephes seems to have an authoritarian view of power in the church.

“If the abrupt leadership of Diotrephes ‘who loves to be first’ (3 John 1:9-10) reflects his attempt to hold the church together with an assist from Petrine authority, he and his kin might well be the target of the Johannine corrective to rising institutionalism in the late-first-century situation.”

A thought I had about this is that an explanation for similarity and contact between the Luke and John traditions might be that they both wanted to correct a growing dogma of Petrine authority. Luke was doing it mostly by rehabilitating Paul. John (the elder) was doing it by skillfully and ironically elevating the beloved disciple.

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About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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