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Resurrection of Jesus: How strong is John's testimony?

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  • Resurrection of Jesus: How strong is John's testimony?

    I. The Enigma of the Fourth Gospel
    The last of the four Gospels appears among the rest in a manner reminiscent of the appearance of Melchizedek to Abraham: “without father, without mother, without genealogy” (Heb 7:3). Everything we want to know about this book is uncertain, and everything about it that is apparently knowable is matter of dispute. The Gospel is anonymous; argument about its traditional ascription to the apostle John has almost exhausted itself. We cannot be sure where it was written, or when. We are uncertain of its antecedents, its sources, and its relationships. This includes its relations with the synoptic Gospels and with the religious movements of its day. Whereas many scholars have spoken of it as the gospel for the Greek world, others have seen it as firmly rooted in Judaism by upholding the good news of Christ among Christians from the Synagogue.
    Issues of this kind admittedly are problems for the academic community...
    Beasley-Murray, G. R. (2002). Vol. 36: Word Biblical Commentary : John.
    Word Biblical Commentary (Page xxxii). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
    If bible-believing scholars admit John is anonymous, we can rest assured that loud-mouth apologists who wish to use it help place the resurrection of Jesus beyond reasonable doubt, are pushing their evidence far harder than those who know the material better.

    The internal evidence in the gospel of John, for it having been authored by a contemporary of Jesus named John, justifies my position that it is not possible to separate which material in John comes to today's reader in first-hand form, and how much of it comes to us in second-hand or hearsay form:

    24 This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true.
    25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written. (Joh 21:24-25 NAS)
    In John 21:24, the author identifies as "we" (i.e., more than one person contributed to authorship).

    In John 21:25, the author becomes "I".

    How do you determine which parts of this gospel come to you from the "we" and which parts come from the "I"?

    You don't. The closer you associate the 'we' with the 'I', as apologists predictably will do, the more the material in John that would be known to a first century 'John' can also be argued to originate with anonymous others.

    In the world of the NT, scribes were given much leeway in using their own words to convey what an author wished to write down for others, so the liberal theory that this gospel is second hand is at least as plausible as the conservative theory that it is first hand.

    For these reasons, I do not say John doesn't constitute first-hand testimony, I only conclude that there is no sufficiently reliable method to separate the first-hand from the second-hand in this gospel, that will impart results of the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' sort that apologists must shoot for if they wish to establish the resurrection of Jesus 'beyond a reasonable doubt'. A quick check of the scholarly opinions indicates much disagreement on the details that go into the question of John's authorship, so any dogmatic certitude on the matter, preached by apologists who are not scholars, probably could be rebutted sufficiently to show that the evidence is nowhere as clear or compelling as they maintain.

    External Evidence:
    The external evidence is uniform with exception of the Alogi whom Epiphanius said attributed John to the authorship of Cerinthus. If you are impressed by "uniform" tradition, then there was such a "uniform tradition" against Paul among the tens of thousands of Jewish Christians under James, that James thought Paul could not dissuade them from it without the most extreme evidence; Paul paying for, and participating in, an OT ritual. Acts 21:20 ff. And the beginning to Origen's commentary on Matthew, with his admission that he learned Matthew's authorship "by tradition", is a good reason to suppose that he is testifying to how traditions were passed on, and the the bulk of gospel-authorship views held by the post 2nd century church signified, not checking of facts, but uncritical acceptance of whatever tradition the teacher was giving.

    If "uniformity of tradition" is the formidable supporting pillar of historical truth that apologists think it is, why don't they think the false rumor about Paul, held so strongly by tens of thousands of first century Jewish converts under James, is a formidable pillar of historical truth (Acts 21:18 ff)? Because James and the elders thought it was false (v. 24)? Ok, then apologists should allow skeptics to think the same way, and trounce the uniform traditions about gospel authorship on the basis of the opinion of a few dissenters...which in the case of John's authorship would be the Alogi.

    In short, the internal evidence is inconclusive and has produced no end of scholarly disagreement. The same is true with the external evidence, and both of these are compounded by the possibility that the modern text of John is a heavily embellished version of the original and solely "spiritual" gospel of John.

    If you are going to establish the resurrection of Jesus with such certainty that it renders foolish those who know the arguments and refuse to accept it, you aren't going to do it with highly debatable inconclusive stuff like the gospel of John. Even inerrantist commentators refuse to draw authorship conclusions that are more than tentative:
    Admittedly, there are numerous uncertainties here, but it would appear that the texts relating to the Beloved Disciple hold well together and present a consistent picture. If chap. 21 was written by another author than the Evangelist, he appears to have shared the tradition relating to the disciple without modification. On the basis of these texts it is possible to make some tentative statements concerning the Beloved Disciple and his relation to the author of the Fourth Gospel.
    Beasley-Murray, G. R. (2002). Vol. 36: Word Biblical Commentary : John.
    Word Biblical Commentary (Page lxxiii). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
    You may think "tentative" is "good enough", but "tentative" means "not done with confidence : uncertain and hesitant". See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tentative.

    So all Beasley was saying was that his discussion of authorship justified him in drawing a few uncertain conclusions that he could just set forth with confidence.

  • #2
    Originally posted by B&H View Post
    In John 21:24, the author identifies as "we" (i.e., more than one person contributed to authorship).
    In John 21:25, the author becomes "I".
    That's it? Well, that's disappointing. Let me just read these passages here...

    I dunno, B&H. I would think that in John 21:24, the author is referring to the disciples when he says "we". Or, he might be referring to anyone else involved too. The "we" would be the ones involved, and the "I" in the next paragraph is of course himself. I wouldn't throw out the whole gospel just because of that.
    Middle-of-the-road swing voter. Feel free to sway my opinion.

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    • #3
      What does this have to do with John's testimony being true or not ? All I see here is you saying that he didn't write john.
      "Kahahaha! Let's get lunatic!"-Add LP
      "And the Devil did grin, for his darling sin is pride that apes humility"-Samuel Taylor Coleridge
      Oh ye of little fiber. Do you not know what I've done for you? You will obey. ~Cerealman for Prez.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Yttrium View Post
        That's it? Well, that's disappointing. Let me just read these passages here...

        I dunno, B&H. I would think that in John 21:24, the author is referring to the disciples when he says "we". Or, he might be referring to anyone else involved too. The "we" would be the ones involved, and the "I" in the next paragraph is of course himself. I wouldn't throw out the whole gospel just because of that.
        I'm not asking anybody to throw out the gospel. I'm asking fundies to cease and desist using the gospel of John to substantiate their case for the resurrection of Jesus, given that, if they wish to prove the resurrection of Jesus is "beyond reasonable doubt" (i.e., the way way to doubt it is to be unreasonable), then their supporting evidence must also meet the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt". And since you cannot tell me how much the "we" contributed to the gospel and how much the "i" did, you have no hope of showing me which parts of John's resurrection testimony come to you as first hand testimony, and which parts come to you as hearsay.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by B&H View Post
          And since you cannot tell me how much the "we" contributed to the gospel and how much the "i" did, you have no hope of showing me which parts of John's resurrection testimony come to you as first hand testimony, and which parts come to you as hearsay.
          John 21:24 does not imply that anyone else was involved in the testimony. The "we" are the people who know that John's testimony is true. At most, that one sentence with the "we" in it would be from anybody besides John, and that sentence calls it "his" testimony, namely John's. I see absolutely no hint, no indication, that the entirety of the gospel (with the outside possibility of that one sentence) was authored by anyone but John.

          I don't take the resurrection of Jesus seriously, but I have to say that your argument here doesn't even qualify as weak. It's frankly nonsensical.
          Last edited by Yttrium; 04-02-2015, 05:49 PM.
          Middle-of-the-road swing voter. Feel free to sway my opinion.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Cerealman View Post
            What does this have to do with John's testimony being true or not ? All I see here is you saying that he didn't write john.
            When the only evidence you have in favor of an alleged truth-claim is testimony, this raises issues that prevent absolute resolution, issues that reasonable persons can disagree on, such as whether the testimony being contradicted by some other testimony or fact successfully impeaches it or not, or whether the testimony testifies too often to incredible things so far outside the minds of the triers-of-fact that it seems more false than true.

            If a stranger on a bus told you that he was able to successfully cross dna from a bird and a dog and now has a real flying dog that really flies, the fact that he is ultimately lying or telling the truth is a consideration that doesn't help you determine anything. The only thing you can do, when given nothing more than testimony to things that you've never seen before, is make a choice of how likely or unlikely it is that he is telling the truth.

            Since that involves credibility determination, reasonable people could disagree on it, just like jurors would disagree on whether, in a rape case in which the female's testimony is the only evidence, whether a proof that she lied previously about rape is sufficient to create reasonable doubt or not.

            You need to familiarize yourself with the rules of historiography. I suggest David Hackett Fischer, "Historian's Fallacies: Toward a logic of historical thought". There's far more to the investigation into ancient gospel testimony than simply "internal text, external test, bibliographical test" that is the usual limit of considerations you find in apologetics books. Matters are decided mostly on considerations of levels of probability or improbability. I suspect most fundies care nothing for rules of historiography since to study them and apply them is to admit that the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus cannot be established beyond a reasonable doubt. And admitting the resurrection of Jesus cannot be established beyond reasonable doubt does not provide fulfillment to minds that want everything to be perfectly certain.
            Last edited by B&H; 04-02-2015, 05:12 PM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by B&H View Post
              I'm not asking anybody to throw out the gospel.
              Yes you are, you deceitful fraud. In all four threads here, you're attempting to undermine the authority of the gospels, rendering them useless for supporting anything.
              Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

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              I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

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