Gospel of John

I. Introduction

John the Evangelist

John the Evangelist

All four gospels had the same intent, to promote and solidify faith in Christ among the faithful. They all presented Jesus as a traveling preacher and folk healer. But they propose he was something more. The Christ, the Son of God. John's gospel took that image and titles a step further. The evangelist of the Fourth Gospel clearly framed Jesus as divine. The gospel of Mark introduced Jesus in the light of the Baptist. Matthew and Luke contained Infancy Narratives. But John described him as the pre-existent Word who helped create the cosmos. Throughout the gospel, the author placed the phrase "I AM" on the lips of Jesus along with the images of "the Light of the world, the Bread of Life and Living Water."

Unlike the other gospels, John had an additional segment that addressed the spirituality of believers. The Last Supper Discourse (13:31-16:33) gave comfort to a community that lacked the physical presence of its leader and felt under siege from outsiders. It promised companionship of the Spirit and a continuing presence of the Risen One. Raising the image of the Christ and the concern for believers in the community set the Fourth Gospel apart from the other three.

II. Dating: 90-110 CE

Dating the Fourth Gospel can be tricky. While it did share some roots of oral tradition with the Synoptics, the majority of its contents was original material; a few passages in it indicated redaction. To arrive at a possible date, we will explore these layers of oral tradition, composition, editing with our main focus on the themes of the composition. These described the social conditions of the audience the evangelist addressed and give us a clue when the gospel could have been written.

Dating Overview

A. Oral Tradition
B. Composition
1. "I AM" and Other Claims
2. "The Jews" and Leadership
3. "The Jews" vs. the Disciples of the "I AM"
4. Eschatological and Evangelization
5. Was John an Eyewitness? (Does It Affect Dating?)
C. Possible Editing
D. Dating John's Gospel
E. Addendum: Was the Gospel of John Antisemitic?

A. Oral Tradition

A few passages and verses arose from the oral tradition in John's gospel. Outside of the Passion, they revolved around the appearance of the Baptist, the call of Andrew and Simon, the cleansing of the Temple, healing of the official's servant and two connected passages: Feeding of the Five Thousand and Walking on the Water.

In John's gospel, the Baptist referred to himself in the words of Isa 40:3 (Jn 1:23) while the narrator applied this prophetic verse in the Synoptics (Mt 3:3, Mk 1:3, Lk 3:4). He encountered the religious leadership (Mt 3:7, Jn 1:19). He also gave witness to the descent of the Spirit on Jesus (Jn 1:32) whereas Jesus saw (Mt 3:16, Mk 1:10) or the narrator reported (Lk 3:21-22) it descended from heaven.

In the gospel, Simon and Andrew appear as the first named disciples (Mt 4:18 Jn 1:40-42). Jesus called Simon by his formal name (bar Jonah in Mt 16:17; bar John in Jn 1:42) and renamed him "Peter/Cephas" (Mt 16:17-18 Jn 1:42).

The evangelist recorded the cleansing of the Temple (Mt 21:12, Mk 11:15-16, Lk 19:45, Jn 2:14-15). He also loosely retold the story of Jesus healing the official's servant (from the "Q"source; Mt 8:5-13, Lk 7.1-10).

Finally, the author recounted two passages that were connected in Matthew, Mark and John : the feeding Five Thousand (Mt 14:13-21, Mk 6:30-44, Lk 9:10-17, jn 6:1-13) and Jesus Walking on Water (Mt 14:22-27, Mk 6:45-52, Jn 6:16-21). In the latter narrative, Jesus identified himself as "I AM" ("Ego eimi" Mt 14:27, Mk 6:50, Jn 6:20).

How do we know the passages/verses above predated the gospels in oral tradition? We can find them mentioned in the Johannine and Synoptic traditions; this is called the principle of multiple attestation. Many scholars add the other signs strictly from John into the category of oral tradition. I do not since they lack other independent sources. Instead, I consider them part of John's ("J") special tradition in the same way Matthew ("M") and Luke ("L") have theirs.

B. Composition

Without multiple attestation, scholars have struggled to tease out development in the bulk of John's gospel. No doubt, there was a tension between the familiarity with Jewish practices, Scripture quotes and Palestinian geography on the one hand, then the rather cold description of outsiders as "the Jews" on the other It might not reveal the development of John's gospel but it does give us a window into the social conditions at the time of publication. We can summarize the tension as the struggle between the disciples of the Christ, the "I AM" and the outsiders, "the Jews." First, let's define the terms then we can explore the relationship between the two. We'll finish with comments on other factors we find in the gospel.

1. "I AM" and Other Claims

In John's gospel, Jesus asserted he stood at the center of Judaism. He referred to himself with various images found in tradition. They, however, worked on two levels; they referred to Jesus in the immediate context and to the presence of the Risen Christ in the community.

a. The Temple.

The core of faith was the Temple in Jerusalem which he replaced with his body (Jn 2:18-22). But the terms "Temple" and "body" could have meaning beyond the literal. St. Paul called the Church the "Temple of the Holy Spirit " (1 Cor 6:19; see 1 Cor 3:16-17, 2 Cor 6:16-17) and the "Body of Christ" (1 Cor 12:27, 1 Cor 12:12, Rom 12:4-5). In other words, the community not only believed in the corporeal resurrection of the Christ, they experienced his Risen presence in their midst. They, the Body of Christ, considered themselves as the true Temple.

b. Water.

Water appeared as a theme for change in the Fourth Gospel. At Jacob's well, Jesus addressed the Samaritan woman with the promise of "living water" (an artesian spring) that would bring eternal life (Jn 4:10-15). At the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus turned water into wine (Jn 2:6-10). After his death on the cross, water and blood flowed from his pierced side (Jn 19:34); this flow connected Jesus as the Temple with the prophetic vision of life-giving water pouring over the land from the base of the holy site (Jn 7:37-38, Eze 47:1-12, Joel 3:18, Zech 14:8).

Notice the sacramental themes of water for baptism and blood for Eucharist. Immersion in water brought the neophyte into intimate contact with the Risen One and, thus, into the community of the saved. Afterwards, the faithful shared the Eucharist with the newly initiated. Water became a vehicle for giving eternal life. The ritual of water became the ritual of wine. Both water (baptism) and blood (Eucharist) flowed directly from Jesus.

c. "I AM"

The great theme of John's gospel, the thread that ties it together, is the phrase "I AM." It echoed the revelation of the divine name to Moses at the burning bush: "I am who am" ("Ego eimi o on" Exo 3:14 LXX). Jesus employed the phrase over twenty times in the gospel to indicate divine presence. (The Baptist used the phrase "I am not" in Jn 1:20-21, Jn 1:27 and Jn 3:28 to define himself negatively. Peter did the same with his denials in Jn 18:17, Jn 18:25.) Since Greek allowed the first person pronoun to be understood, use of "Ego eimi" ("I AM") made it emphatic. In other words, the phrase stood almost apart from the rest of the sentence. "I am the bread of life" should be understood as "I AM....the bread of life" (Jn 6:48). The identity of the two sub-phrases referred to the same person (Jesus) but in a sense stood apart. He is the "I AM." He is the bread of life. Jn 8:58 brought this into sharper relief. "Amen I say to you, before Abraham lived...I AM."

Jesus employed the phrase to highlight:

1) Sacramental function:

i. for leadership

ii. for intimacy and unity with disciples (, Jn 14:6, Jn 15:1)

Notice a "sacramental function" was listed instead of a metaphorical understanding. In its simplest terms, we can define a sacrament as "an outward sign with an inner reality." Unlike a metaphor which compares two unlike things to give insight, a sacrament can reveal its inner reality. Consider "I AM the light of the world" (8:12). Light in the world pointed towards the actual presence of God; it just didn't remind people of God. "I AM the bread of life" (6:35, 6:41, 6:48) functioned the same way; the bread broken during community worship realized the presence of the "I AM."

Note the sacramental function of these statements didn't preclude a metaphor. It simply expanded its understanding to a more tactile level. For example, the Incarnation wasn't just a metaphor for the divine presence among humanity; it was "the Word made flesh" (1:14). In the same way, God used items in everyday experience to not only communicate his message but to reveal his presence. The "I AM" was here in and through light and bread.

2) For divine identity as the Christ.

2. "The Jews" and Leadership

The term "Jew" occurred over 70 times in singular and plural forms. The term "the Jews" referred to the religious leadership around 30 times whereas it referred to a simple gathering twelve times. It referred to customs or religious festivals around six times (Jn 2:6, Jn 2:13, Jn 4:22, Jn 5:1, Jn 6:4, Jn 7:2). It was part of the phrase "King of the Jews" around five times during the Passion (Jn 18:33, Jn 18:39, Jn 19:3, Jn 19:19, Jn 19:40, Jn 19:42). The singular "Jew" had an ethnic meaning in the "Woman at the Well" scene (Jn 4:2, Jn 4:20).

When we connect the phrase "the Jews" with the religious leaders, we see they opposed Jesus covertly with challenging questions or derogatory comments. Overtly, the planned to kill him. The verses of opposition are:

One leader signaled an openness to Jesus (Nicodemus in Jn 3:1). Only one verse indicated a mixed reaction to Jesus from the leadership (Jn 10:19).

When we infer a simple crowd as "the Jews," we find a negative reaction to Jesus only a few times ("Bread of Life" discourse in Jn 6:41, Jn 6:52; controversy during Sukkot in Jn 8:31). The phrase referred to an open or receptive reaction in the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:19, Jn 11:31, Jn 11:33, Jn 11:36, Jn 11:45, Jn 12:9, Jn 12:11).

In John's gospel, the term "Pharisees" occurred over 15 times. It indicated leaders in the community. The appearances of the Pharisees are:

The term "chief priests" occurred ten times. There were five times it appeared with the term "Pharisees" ("chief priests and the Pharisees" Jn 7:32, Jn 7:45, Jn 11:47, Jn 11:57, Jn 18:3). It occurred alone five times, once in the context of Lazarus (Jn 12:10) and five times in Passion narrative (before Pilate in 18:35, crying "Crucify him" in Jn 19:6 and Jn 19:15; objecting to the title as "King of the Jews" in Jn 19:21).

Notice what groups were missing from John's gospel: Sadducees and Herodians. The Pharisees, along with their allied legal professionals (the "scribes" Jn 8:3), survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. They were not like the Sadducees who had their power center in the Temple or the Herodians who clung to the named royal clan. They had already established centers of power in the synagogues even in the Diaspora.

Let's compare the terms "Pharisees" and "chief priests" with the term "the Jews." Except for the Healing of the Blind Man (9:1-41) and the Raising of Lazarus (11:1-54), the author seemed to use the terms almost interchangeably especially in the Sukkot controversies (7:1-52, 8:12-59). In the Blind Man narrative, he invoked "the Jews" sparingly since the Pharisees established their role as leaders in the synagogue. In the Lazarus periscope, "the Jews" referred to the mourners in contrast to the Pharisees and chief priests.

So, what can we say about the term "the Jews?" In ancient culture, ethnic groups depended more on social circles and political/religious allegiances than ancestry although one area did not preclude the other (the focus on strictly genetics or "race" is a modern preoccupation). Jews were as much a group defined by behavior and association than by bloodlines. In the Fourth Gospel, the term referred to those Jews outside the Johannine community. Most of the outsiders were hostile because the disciples described by the evangelist had values, associations and behaviors that differed from the self professed "faithful." But not all of the outsiders rejected the Good News out of hand.

3. "The Jews" vs Disciples of the "I AM"

Why did the author refer to children of Abraham who didn't believe in Jesus as "the Jews?" We can point to several factors. First, how did early Christians see Jesus as the Christ? Was he a conduit of God's activity and message? Or was he more, the "I AM?" Second, how did the "I AM" notion develop to take precedent in the gospel? Third, why did the author use the term "the Jews" instead of another?

First, let's consider the difference between divine instrumentality and identity. It's no surprise to readers that the author of John saw the world through dualistic glasses: us vs. them, insiders vs. outsiders. But was this historically the case? In the early centuries CE, many small communities professed Jesus as Lord but their understandings differed greatly. A review of Church heresies would confirm that fact. So this raised the question: did non-Johannine Christians exist who were analogous to Paul's "Judaizers" (Acts 15:1-5, Gal 2:14, Gal 6:12-13)? In other words, were there believers who wished to live within the Jewish community? In the Bread of Life discourse, many followers were repulsed by the imagery and left (Jn 6:60-66). But did they reject Jesus outright? Or did they reject the Johannine community? After all, there was a difference between seeing Jesus as a mere conduit of divine activity and as God himself.

The distinction between instrumentality and identity was one of the fault lines between the synagogue and the Johannine community. If Jewish Christians would have remained faithful to the Law and presented Jesus to their coreligionists as the Messiah through whom God acted, would they have faced utter rejection (Jn 9:22, Jn 12:42-43)? But many did not remain parochial. They, like St. Paul, reached out to the Gentiles with a message of salvation outside the Law. Yet, they also endured what Jews themselves experienced with the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. With the core of cult and identity demolished, both Jewish and Christian communities alike had to rebuild. Jews oriented themselves around the synagogue and the study/practice of the Torah. Christians focused on the Christ. The Johannine community pushed that focus to its logical conclusion: Jesus was the I AM.

Next, let's consider the community's growth in understanding. The notion of the "I AM" in John's gospel was not a growth in theology over time but as a development of practice. As mentioned above, the notion of Jesus as the I AM came from the oral tradition (Mk 6:50, Mt 14:27, Jn 6:20). The evangelist and his community simply placed this notion front and center. They also built their understanding of community life around it. Where did they experience God? In the breaking of bread and the washing of feet. In the forgiveness of sin and a Spirit-filled life. These depended on Jesus as the I AM.

Finally, why did the evangelist use the term "the Jews?" A close read of his gospel indicated the evangelist was familiar with Judaism but had a different understanding of the faith than that of his opponents in the synagogue. He was familiar with Jewish Scripture and practice, even with the geography of Palestine. His gospel directly cited Scripture fourteen times (Jn 1:23, Isa 40:3; Jn 2:17, Psa 69:9; Jn 6:31, Psa 78:24; Jn 6:45, Isa 54:13; Jn 10:34, Psa 82:6; Jn 12:13, Psa 118:26; Jn 12:15, Zech 9:9; Jn 12:38, Isa 53:1; Jn 12:40, Isa 6:9–10; Jn 13:18, Psa 41:9; Jn 15:25, Psa 35:19; Jn 19:24, Psa 22:18; Jn 19:36, Exo 12:46; Jn 19:37, Zech 12:10). It also alluded to Scripture (Jn 1:51; Gen 28:12; Jn 3:14-15; Num 21:9; Jn 8:17-18; Deu 17:6, Deu 19:15; Jn 12:34, Eze 37:25). The author demonstrated a familiar understanding of Jewish practices (ritual washings in Jn 2:6) and festivals (Passover, Sukkot and Hanukkah; see the commentary). Finally, he identified various geographic details in Palestine (Jacob's Well in Jn 4:4-6, Solomon's Porch in Jn 10:3, Kidron Valley in Jn 18:1).

So, if the author had a good understanding of Scripture, practice and Palestinian geography, why did he insist on labeling non-believers "the Jews?" The answer lie in cultural identity. Even after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Rome, remaining Jews in Palestine and their Diaspora coreligionists accounted for between five to seven million people within the Empire. Christians numbered in the mere thousands. Pagans acknowledged how millions of the faithful identified themselves as Jews. These demonstrated their identity by keeping the Law and attending synagogue under the guidance of the Pharisees. Since the disciples of the "I AM" had been excommunicated (Jn 9:34, Jn 16:2), it was easier to maintain cultural labels. The children of Abraham who did not accept Jesus as the "I AM" were "the Jews." Those within the Johannine community saw themselves as outcasts. That identity implied estrangement, even hostility. In many cases, the relationship between the two groups was adversarial.

4. Eschatological and Evangelization

John the evangelist intended his gospel to strengthen the faith and activities of his community. His message addressed the apocalyptic expectations of his audience and their efforts to convert others. Let's take each in turn. What were the end times passages in the Fourth Gospel? Besides Jn 14:2, there were few. The tone of the Last Supper Discourse (13:31-16:33) focused on waiting (Jn 13:33-36, Jn 14:2-5, Jn 16:16-22) not unlike the awaiting servant parable in Mk 13:34-37. It also warned of isolation and persecution (Jn 16:2) not unlike the caveats found in the Synoptics (Mt 24:9, Mk 13:9-13, Lk 21:12). Notice, however, what was missing: the predictions of civil unrest, wars and natural disasters (Mt 24:6-8, Mk 13:7-8, Lk 21:8-11) as the result of evil (2 Thes 2:1-12). The sense of absence was disconnected from the events that caused anxiety within the church and the synagogue: the civil wars in the year of four emperors (69 CE), the destruction of Jerusalem (70 CE) and natural disasters like the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. The author addressed a feeling of absence within the community, not "signs of the times" outside of it.

This void sense did not stop evangelization efforts in the Johannine community. The gospel reflected those who might join and those who would refuse. It hinted at the struggle faith brought to daily life. It also pointed at the means for the effort. Most Pharisees would reject the Good News but not all (Nicodemus in Jn 3:1-12, Jn 3-19:39). Instead, outcasts, like the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:3-42) and the man born blind (Jn 9:1-38), and foreigners (Jn 12:20-21) became the target audience. The message would challenge the disappointments of ancient daily life like the omnipresent reality of death (Jn 11:21-27, Jn 11:32-33). But through those struggles and groups, the Good News would spread especially by word of mouth (Jn 1:35-42, Jn 4:28-30).

5. Was John an Eyewitness? (Does It Affect Dating?)

Here, we must consider the tradition of the eye witness found in Jn 19:35 and Jn 21:24. In both verses, he (or they) insisted upon the veracity of statements made. Chapter 21 associated this person (or persons) with the "Beloved Disciple" found in Jn 13:25-26, Jn 19:26-27, Jn 20:1-10, Jn 21:7, Jn 21:20. Scholars have speculated who this person (or persons) might be. They proposed three possibilities: 1) the Apostle John or another New Testament figure, 2) a minor figure who lived during Jesus' ministry and rose to prominence in the Johannine community or 3) a metaphor for the perfect disciple.

Note the references above came from the Passion-Resurrection narrative. The three verses were from the Passion, the last two came from chapter 21 (the Epilogue Breakfast). If someone added the latter as a redaction (see below), then we have two people claiming the status of eye witness (hence the plural). The authors of the gospel and chapter 21, however, could be the same person (speculations 1 and 2 above). If we consider speculation 1 (John the Apostle), tradition claimed the evangelist lived to a ripe old age. If we consider speculation 2 (minor character), the author portrayed him in the third person; his life span did not affect the timing itself. Speculation 3 (metaphor) transcended any time line. In the end, the matter of the eye witness really did not affect the question of dating.

C. Possible Editing

Despite being a single source, there is evidence John's gospel might have been edited in several places. Suspicion of an edit depends upon three criteria: differences in various codices, redundancy in passages and coherent flow when a questionable section is removed. Scholars point to four examples. From probable to possible, they are:

The passage of the Adulterous Woman stuck out. In early Greek manuscripts from Egypt (Papyri 66 and (75; 200-300 CE) as well as the Codex Sinaiticus (300-400 CE) did not include the periscope; Codex Vaticanus (300-400) also lacked the passage but had a marking at the end of chapter seven and had a blank space at the end of chapter 21 (for its inclusion?). However, many textual scholars have argued the section was a part of the Church tradition that dated back to at least the second century CE if not earlier. The passage also interrupted the flow of the Sukkot controversies (7:1-52, 8:12-59). If we remove it, the text reads smoothly. These textual discrepancies and non-coherence argue for it as a redaction.

The Epilogue Breakfast was not so clear cut. If John 21 was included, the gospel appeared to have two endings; Jn 20:30-31 and Jn 21:25 (principle of redundancy). Many scholars insist chapter 21 was meant to rehabilitate the reputation and leadership of Peter. It began with a transitional phrase ("After these things..." Jn 21:1), emphasized the primacy of Peter as a leader (Jn 21:3-19), insisted on the "Beloved Disciple" as an eye witness (Jn 21:20-24) not unlike the crucifixion scene (Jn 19:35). These factors argued for a later addition as a piece of apologetics on behalf of Petrine supremacy. Yet, no known manuscript exists that ends with Jn 20:30-31. Chapter 21 as a later addition remains an open question.

The last two examples relied solely on the principle of coherence. The conclusion to the Book of Signs appeared to be out of place. If Jn 12:36-43 was moved to the end of Jn 12:44-50, chapter twelve reads smoothly. The Hymn to the Logos (Jn 1:1-18) formed a 13 step chiastic structure. The place and purpose of the Baptist were mentioned twice (Step E1 in Jn 1:9-10; Step E2 in Jn 1:15). The hymn reads smoothly without the Baptist references. If they were redacted into the passage, the editor was sensitive to its chiastic flow.

We should recognize that, except for the possible edit in the Hymn, the other redactions could have occurred after publication.

D. Dating John's Gospel

Unlike the other evangelists, the author of the Fourth Gospel didn't refer to contemporary events. His silence however reflected various crises in the first century CE had subsided. He was not so concerned with eschatology; the fervor for evangelization had cooled somewhat. Instead, he focused church discipline (the Last Supper Discourse) and on the breakdown in relations with other Jews. In fact, John's audience and the synagogue faithful had become so estranged, the divorce had become complete. Disciples of Jesus (the"I AM") referred to their distant cousins with their cultural identity, "the Jews." Despite the fact John could have written through the lens of parochial affairs, the timing, maintenance of church discipline and adversarial posture indicate a date of publication at the earliest in the 90's CE.

However, another factor limited dating. The Egyptian document known as the Rylands Library Papyrus P52 contained parts of seven lines from Jn 18:31-33. Written between 125-175 CE, this fragment is the earliest document of the New Testament extant. Considering the time to hand copy the gospel into general circulation (approximately 10-15 years), the existence of the fragment placed a date cap on the range of publication.

If we take the social conditions described in the gospel and the Rylands Library Papyrus P52 into account as our two end points, we arrive at a possible time frame for publication between 90-110 CE.

E. Addendum: Was the Gospel of John Antisemitic?

Prejudice comes in many forms. It can exist racially, religiously, culturally and politically. It begins with a difference, then distance and, finally, disengagement. It treats people as the objects of prejudice, as the "Other." Those with prejudice assume a superior stance (usually the majority) and consider those they disdain as inferior (the minority). Those with prejudice sometimes take action becoming the oppressors while the "Other" become the oppressed.

Prejudice against Jews was common in the ancient world. Pagans respected Judaism as an age-old religion with a strict moral code but could not understand its intolerance of multiple deities and its adherence to kosher laws. Political and cultural pressures did exist for Jews to conform and assimilate into a polytheistic society. Early in the Hellenistic period, many writers wrote antisemitic tracts. In the second century BCE, the Greek Syrian ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes pursued an aggressive policy to Hellenize Palestine; his action led to the Maccabeean revolt. As the Romans conquered the Hellenistic kingdoms, they assumed prejudice against Jews. According to the first century CE philosopher Philo, such bias led to a massive pagan pogrom against the Jewish quarter in Alexandria (38 CE). It was certainly a cultural factor especially after the revolt in Palestine (Jewish War: 66-70 CE). This outbreak required such effort and resources on the part of the Empire, it washed away any goodwill Judaism had left. The emperor Hadian (117-138 CE) enacted several antisemitic policies including rebuilding of Jerusalem as a pagan polis (named Aelia Capitolina) and banning the Jews from the city; the ban lasted until the seventh century CE.

The evangelist penned his gospel a few decades after the fall of Jerusalem. But he reflected little of the cultural tension between pagan and Jew. The only possible references to outsiders were "the Greeks" who wished to meet Jesus (Jn 12:20-21) and the trial before Pilate (Jn 18:28-19:16). In the later case, the procurator tried to judge fairly only to lose to the mob; he neither believed in nor opposed Jesus. In large sections of the gospel, however, the author addressed controversies between Jesus and the religious leadership. These fights mirrored the strained relationship between the small Johannine community and the larger synagogues over the concept of belief. Disciples of the Nazarene were devoted to the Christ, "the Word made flesh." Traditional Jews, however, rejected Jesus as the Christ; instead, they held fast to the duties outlined in the Law and the edicts of the Pharisees.

This rejection led to a counter-rejection. The author claimed the traditionalists failed to see God divine activity for they never really knew God (Jn 5:38-47; Jn 7:28; Jn 8:19, Jn 8:24-27, Jn 8:47, Jn 15:21, Jn 16:3). Their leadership was weak (Jn 10:12-13) and even illegitimate (Jn 10:1). Their center of worship (the now destroyed Temple) had moved to the Christian community (Jn 4:20-24). For the writer, Jesus himself replaced the traditional practices championed by the Pharisees.

Yet, was this a complete break? After all, Jesus was a Jew (Jn 4:9, Jn 4:22). He was addressed by the traditional title of "Rabbi" (Jn 1:38, Jn 1:49, Jn 3:2, Jn 4:31, Jn 6:25, Jn 9:2, Jn 11:8, Jn 20:16). Judaism had a place in God's plan of salvation (Jn 4:22). The terms "Israel" (Jn 1:31, Jn 1:49, Jn 3:10, Jn 12:13) and "Israelite" (Jn 1:47) were respected. The gospel itself reflected conditions and practices of first century CE Palestine.

What about the term "the Jews?" In places, the evangelist limited his venom to those who actively opposed Jesus. Unlike the Synoptic gospels, he limited the mob at Pilate's trial to the high priests (Jn 19:6, Jn 19:15); in fact, he implicitly conflated "the Jews" (Jn 18:31, Jn 19:38, Jn 19:7, Jn 19:12, Jn 19:14) with the high priests in the Passion. He used the term without judgment to identify Jewish customs and holy days (Jn 2:6, Jn 2:13;, Jn 5:1, Jn 6:4, Jn 7:2, Jn 11:55, Jn 19:40, Jn 19:42). He even looked kindly on those who mourned at the tomb of Lazarus (Jn 11:45-48). Many of "the Jews" actually came to believe in Jesus (Jn 2:23, Jn 7:40, Jn 8:30-31. Jn 10:42; Jn 12:11, Jn 12:19).

So, was the Fourth Gospel antisemitic? The answer is mixed. Yes, it revealed a certain prejudice against those who rejected the Christ. Those who were neutral were seen in a more favorable light since they could be evangelized. In other words, the gospel was more anti-Pharisee than wholesale anti-Jewish. Unfortunately, the seeds of venom lie within it. It began as an apologetic and a polemical tome from a small sect against an established network of synagogues. But, by the fifth century CE, Christians outnumbered Jews in the Roman Empire. A larger populace adopted an established cultural bias both from within the Church and from the pagans. That prejudice envisioned Jews as the "Other," a separate people with a separate religion and a separate set of values. Prejudice became hatred that became an unquestioned tradition that culminated in the Holocaust. We still live with it's aftermath today.

John's gospel didn't light the spark of antisemitism. That bias lived long before the evangelist put pen to paper. But it did add fuel to the flame of an already roaring fire.