Opening the door for a radically new interpretation of the Gospel of John, Alan Watson reveals and substantiates a central yet previously unrecognized source for its composition. Strikingly antithetical to John's basic message, this source originated from an anti-Christian tradition promulgated by the Pharisees, the powerful and dogmatic teachers of Jewish law. The aims of this Pharisaic tradition, says Watson, included discrediting Jesus as the Messiah, minimizing his historical importance, and justifying the Jewish authorities' role in his death. The source, like many of the works that informed and inspired the gospels, has not survived in written form. Clues to its existence, however, lie in the text of John itself, says Watson, especially in four episodes not recounted in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke: the wedding feast at Cana, the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, the rebuke of Nicodemus, and the raising of Lazarus. Watson gives the stories a simple collective label: S. Looking closely at the four episodes unique to John (which he traces back to S), Watson observes that in each Jesus breaks the Sabbath, makes himself ritually unclean, or otherwise affronts Jewish law and tradition. In a manner accessible to lay readers, Watson ranges across all the gospels to make a detailed case for S, which he discovered through a process called form criticism. In addition he draws on rabbinic law and ancient history to reconstruct the milieux in which S evolved and in which John was written. Depicting the early Christian writings as a battleground of opposing thoughts, Watson also offers a fascinating explanation of why the author of John was compelled to use S as a source at all.
About Alan Watson
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Published August 1, 1995
by Univ of Georgia Pr.
History, Religion & Spirituality, Education & Reference.