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Organization and Structure of the Gospel of John - Part 2 of 4

By Edited Jan 8, 2016 0 0

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R. Alan Culpepper points out that the fourth gospel begins with a high-level overview of what occurs in the gospel. The author proceeds to write always mindful of the overview, or prologue. Culpepper also offers a chiastic structure of the prologue. The key is verse twelve, which reveals that those who believe in His name become children of God.

A – verses 1-2                                       verse 18 – Aʹ
B – verse 3                                       verse 17 – Bʹ
C – verses 4-5                         verses 16 – Cʹ
D – verses 6-8                      verse 15 – Dʹ
E – verses 9-10             verse 14 – Eʹ
F – verse 11             verse 13 – Fʹ
G – verse 12a    verse 12c – Gʹ
verse 12b

This analysis is important because it contains great similarity to other passages in the gospel that share the same chiastic formula. Also, this validates the unity of the first eighteen verses.

In a similar manner, Kysar presents the first eighteen verses illustrating the Logos, or Word, in a powerful way and also presents the structure and relationship found in the passage.

The Logos existed from the beginning.
    The Logos existed with God.
        The Logos was God.
            The Logos was the agent of creation.
                It was life that was light to persons.
                    (It was not John the Baptist).
                        The Logos was in but recognized by the world.
                             The Logos was rejected by His own people.
                                   It was the source of power to become children of God.
                             The Logos became flesh and dwelt in the world.
                        The Logos revealed glory.
                 The Logos was God’s Son.
            (John the Baptist witnessed to Him.)
        It was the means of grace and truth.
    The Logos was superior to Moses.
The Logos made God known as never before.

While these analyses do not prove the Apostle John is the author of these verses, they do solidify the relationship between the first eighteen verses and the rest of the gospel. This combined with other proofs and evidence work together to offer a potent argument. Another distinction of this gospel is the omniscient knowledge shown by the author. John reveals things to the reader that the participant characters do not know, and this significantly impacts the reading of the Gospel. This is an important distinction of this gospel that sets it apart from the Synoptics. “The identity of Jesus, the likelihood of His rejection, and the benefits of receiving Him – these are the bits of vital information entrusted to us before we begin the journey through the story. These bits will enable us to grasp what is going on, even while some of the story’s characters stumble about in their ignorance. The author gives us a special gift, puts us on the inside, as it were, where we can perceive the story in a much deeper and understanding way.” [1] One can interpret the introduction in several different ways depending on religious perspective “but as the Prologue proceeds, what the Evangelist is truly saying becomes more and more constrained, until only a distinctively Christian voice is heard. Better still, if the Prologue is read again after the entire Gospel has been read in a reflective manner, new insights spring to light.” [2] Another component of this style of writing—the audience having knowledge the characters in the narrative does not possess—is the use of irony and riddles. Ashton refers to an illustration when Jesus says to Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” that can be a riddle or irony. This statement “only works because the audience, unlike the characters in the play, knows how the story ends.” [3]

Some suggest that, while John wrote the majority of the fourth gospel, someone else wrote small portions of the book. These include chapters six, fifteen through seventeen, and twenty-one. These are where so-called seams appear in the gospel, verses that seem to conflict with or do not match the preceding or following verses. One such seam is found at the end of chapter fourteen where Jesus seemingly brings the gathering to a conclusion and instructs the disciples to leave, but then there are three more chapters of discourse before the group finally departs, which occurs at the beginning of chapter eighteen. Chapter fifteen contains the Vine and the Branches, and this narrative continues through chapter seventeen. It appears that chapter eighteen picks up the action following the concluding verses of chapter fourteen; thus, it seems chapter fifteen through seventeen belong somewhere else in the gospel. The basic solution for many of the perceived problems in the fourth gospel is to rearrange parts of the gospel. The premise is that parts or sections of the original were displaced, and the effort to reconstruct the gospel sequence was not entirely successful. This argument is difficult to support because of a lack of evidence for another sequence of chapters; any re-ordering would have had to occur before copying and distribution. Of course, had this reordering taken place while the Apostle John was alive, it would be a simple matter for him to correct the sequence.

As a typical example of “solving” problems with the fourth gospel and making it more compatible with the other gospels, Paul Anderson suggests the fourth gospel begin with John the Baptist baptizing Jesus rather than opening with the Prologue. If chapter six, which includes the fourth sign of feeding the five thousand and the fifth sign of walking on the water, as well as the teaching of the Bread of Life, is not originally part of the gospel, and chapter seven should follow chapter five, and chapter twenty is the original ending, the fourth gospel would contain five signs, not seven. In this way, the fourth gospel would be similar to the gospel of Mark.  “Given that the first edition of John closes with inviting the hearer/reader to believe in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah/Christ, the five signs of Jesus likely functioned as a parallel to the five books of Moses. Further, there are precisely the five signs that are neither in Mark nor any of the other Gospels.” [4] 

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Copyright 2016 © Craig B. Manning. All Rights Reserved.

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