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... th gospel could easily be placed in the context of the big, prosperous and gentile cities of Asia Minor that had a very mixed culture. Trouble with Baptist sects in Ephesus could feasibly be the explanation for Johns omission of Jesus baptism in order to avoid confusion or misguidance. The second location proposed is Syria. A Baptist sect called the Mandaeans were in Syria around the first century and their texts could be also be the explanation for Johns omission of Jesus baptism. Theophilus of Antioch (capital of Syria) wrote the first orthodox commentary of John in Syria during the late second century.
Ignatius who was Bishop of Antioch refers to John while writing in the early second century. Syria was also known to have had a mixed culture and populations of both Jews and Hellenists. The third location is Palestine or Judea. Much of the gospel is based on Jerusalem and there is a very detailed knowledge of the topography of the city.
For example the stone pavement at Gabbatha mentioned in 19 v 13 and the Pool of Bethesda in chapter five. This location would require a very early dating to justify it as after 70 A. D the Romans outlawed Jews and Christians. This theory does not explain the Hellenistic ideas present such as the dichotomy of the flesh and the spirit detailed in chapter three. Johns gospel is at times very close to the synoptics, the feeding of the five thousand in chapter 6, but there are large periods of time when it is not and accordingly a large amount of exclusively Johanian material like chapters 14 - 17 which are almost entirely Jesus speaking. There are three main solutions to such a problem, he may have used other separate sources, he may have dependent upon the synoptics but theologies on them heavily or he used a combination of the synoptics and his own sources and knowledge.
J. A. T Robinson and S. Smalley propose the argument for independent Johanian sources which interconnects well with an early dating of the gospel unsurprisingly as an early dating does not allow for synoptic dependence chronologically. Robinson and Smalley say if one looks closely at the two account of the feeding of the five thousand the differences in the two are so small and irrelevant that they must have used different versions of the same tradition.
John locates the tale in the hills while Mark locates it by the lake, Mark mentions the greenness of the grass whereas John does not and other differences in vocabulary and account stand in support of this proposal. However, these minor differences can be seen as an editing function for the author and the changes may bear theological significance. The hills in John are a sign of revelation, similar to God who revealed himself in the hills in the Old Testament. However there are still fundamental differences between the synoptics and John. Matthew sees John the Baptist whereas John clearly states he does not in 1 v 19. The fact that John the Baptist and Jesus ministry's overlap in John points more towards synoptic redaction of John than vice versa.
The order of events in the fourth gospel is also very different, such as the placement of the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of the gospel, the extensive Judean ministry is not mentioned in the synoptics and often the timing, location and detail of much of the common material is completely different. There is also a considerable amount of Johanian special material like the Wedding at Cana in chapter two, the raising of Lazerous in chapter eleven and the Samaritan episode in chapter four. The gospel uses different key theological terms more often than the synoptics like sign in reference to miracles and light and contains almost no ethical teaching like the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew which is prevalent throughout the synoptics. However, C. K. Barrett sees the Wedding at Cana, exclusive to John, as full of both Hellenistic and synoptic themes.
Wine rituals were central in Dionysian rites, which were popular in Hellenism. Eschatological themes concerning the banquet and the coming of the new order evident in Mark 2 v 19 and Matthew 22 v 1 are also apparent in the wedding narrative, for example the best wine is kept till last being similar to Jesus coming to earth. Some evidence from the early church supports this theory of dependency. Muratorian Canon, writing around A. D 170, says John wrote on behalf of the other apostles. Clement of Alexandria (150 - 215 A.
D) says John used the other gospels to write a spiritual gospel. Origen, who was writing in Alexandria in the third century, also says the third gospel in more interested in spiritual truth than strict religious chronology. Also the bare skeleton of events in the gospel, although there is a great deal of variation, does suggest rough dependence. There are also unexpected verbal coincidences, especially concerning names between John and the synoptics. Mark and John both use the word krabbatos for mat or bed. This was not a refined Greek word and it is unusual that both use it whereas Luke and Matthew do not.
John had a clear knowledge and understanding of both Hellenistic and Jewish ideas. There is a clear hostility to the Jews and a very definite separation between the two groups. A dating around the turn of the first century would be least problematic as an earlier dating excludes the possibility of at least partial synoptic dependence and a later dating is lacking in any real support. Syria or Asia Minor could serve to provide a plausible context for this gospel. As far as Johanian sources and authorship are concerned R. E.
Browne's proposal of stages is a plausible one although not quite to the extent which he suggests. John the Elder seems less problematic than John the apostle given the complexity both theologically and literally speaking of the gospel. It is also hard to imagine why the gospel would have struggled to become fully accepted had the apostle written it. It is plausible to suppose some synoptic dependence or at least knowledge given the similarities in themes although the theory of which proposes independent accounts of the same traditions may also hold some truth.
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Research essay sample on John The Baptist Asia Minor