Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 15

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 1
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 2
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 3
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 4-5
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 6
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 7
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 8
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 9
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 10-11
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 12
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 13
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 14
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 15


It has been established by the Beloved Disciple of John's Gospel and reaffirmed by Dr. Richard Bauckham in his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, that the evangelist is an eyewitness to the events included in its 21 chapters. In chapter 15 of this work, Dr. Bauckham turns his attention to what sort of witness the Beloved Disciples is. He ultimately concludes the Beloved Disciples serves as both a cosmic trial and a historic witness.

The former requires more space than a mere blog post can provide, but consider Bauckham's argument.
There can be no doubt that Lincoln is right to stress the metaphorical complex of the lawsuit as a theme that runs through the Gospel and accounts for the prominence of the idea of witness in the Gospel. The Beloved Disciple’s witness must be connected with this broader motif. Lincoln is also right to see the prophecies of deutero-Isaiah as the most important source of this motif, though it is, of course, also important that the Gospel’s story of a cosmic lawsuit includes the literal events of judicial proceedings against Jesus by the Jewish authorities, acting in the name of the “law” of Moses, and by Pilate.In deutero-Isaiah YHWH brings a case against the gods of the nations and their supporters in order to determine the identity of the true God. He calls on the worshipers of the other gods to demonstrate their reality and supremacy, while he himself calls as witnesses his people Israel and the figure of the Servant of YHWH. It is this lawsuit that the Gospel of John sees taking place in the history of Jesus, as the one true God demonstrates his deity in controversy with the claims of the world. He does so by calling Jesus as chief witness and by vindicating him, not only as true witness but also as incarnate representative of God’s own true deity. The witnessing role of the Servant in Isaiah is played by Jesus in the Gospel, while the accompanying role of the witnesses, God’s people Israel, in Isaiah is taken by Jesus’ followers in the Gospel. Even though the decisive verdict against the world is given in the cross, the trial continues as the followers of Jesus continue to bear witness against the world. (387)
He goes on to argue that in the Gospel, there are two phases of the trial and thus also of witness. The first phase, which comprises the Gospel's own narrative scope (37) consists of 7 witnesses which are as follows:
  1. John the Baptist (1:7ff)
  2. Jesus himself (3:11ff0
  3. the Samaritan woman (4:39)
  4. God the Father (5:32)
  5. Jesus' works or signs (5:36)
  6. the Scriptures (5:39)
  7. the crowd who testify about Jesus' raising of Lazarus (12:17)
The second phase lies in the future from the perspective of the narrative (387). Here there are two witnesses: the Paraclete (15:26) and the disciples (15:27) of whom the Beloved Disciple is one (19:35; 21:24). (387) This leads to Bauckham's conclusion: This is how the Beloved Disicple's witness fits into the Gospel's much wider metaphorical motif of the cosmic trial. (387)  By writing the Gospel, the author guarantees that these witnesses continue to bear testimony.

Regarding the Beloved Disciple as a historic witnesses, Bauckham begins by showing how this mysterious figure fits the criteria he discussed earlier that the primary witness to each Gospel account (Matthew being the most problematic) was there "from the beginning." For Mark and Luke, Peter is that witness. For John, the Beloved Disciple is that witness. The problem with this assertion is that the Beloved Disciple is not explicitly mentioned until chapter 13.

Though that is the case, Bauckham argues that in fact, the Beloved Disciple first appears at the beginning in 1:35-38. There, two of John the Baptist's disciples leave him and join Jesus. Bauckham asserts, and defends, that one of those two anonymous disciples was the Beloved Disciple himself. This does not mean, however, that the Beloved Disciple was one of the Twelve. Based on the absence of the list of Twelve (an important feature in the Synoptics) and other evidence, Bauckham believes that though the Beloved Disciple was an early follower of Jesus, he was not among the Twelve.

This, then, leads Bauckham to discuss what qualifies the Beloved Disciple as the ideal witness to Jesus. First, he is given some prominence over Peter, a point I will not engage here. Secondly, the Beloved Disciple is present at key points in the story of Jesus (397). This includes John the Baptist's assertion that Jesus is the Lamb of God (1:35); the trial of Jesus (18:15-16)*, the empty tomb (20:3-10), etc. Thirdly, when the Beloved Disciple appears, there is an increase in detail. This reminds me of what happens in Acts when Luke is present in the narrative. Finally, the Beloved Disciple is portrayed as a perceptive witness, with spiritual insight into the meaning of the events of the Gospel story (399).

This is all important to Bauckham's main thesis that the four Gospels are primarily based on eyewitness accounts. Not only is the Beloved Disciple an eyewitness to the story of Jesus but is the ideal one.

There is one other matter worth highlighting here. Near the end of this chapter, Bauckham answers a common question in modern scholarship regarding John's Gospel. Is it authentic or psuedopegriphal? Although at first Bauckham suggests The question is by no means easy to answer (408), he does conclude with this gem:
Judgments may have to depend in part on whether the content of the Gospel's narrative is considered historically plausible within the historiographic conventions of the time. However, there is one rather strong argument in favor of the authenticity of the Gospel's claim to authorship that we can only now appreciate at this final stage of our argument. If, as we have argued in the last section, the Gospel presumes the Beloved disciple to be an obscure figure unknown in other Gospel traditions, not in a position to advance his claim to be a significant witness to the events of the Gospel story easily, needing to establish his place in the readers' consciousness artfully and gradually, building the credibility on which he can count only at the very end of the Gospel where he reveals his authorship of the work, why should a pseudepigraphal author in search of a suitable pseudonym choose such a character? Why not write, as the authors of other pseudepigraphal Gospels did, in the name of a well-known disciple - Philip or Andrew of Thomas? Why make the task of establishing the credibility of this Gospel narrative so hard for himself or herself? Moreover, why not claim for the Gospel a more explicit and convincing authorization from Jesus than the ingenious but obscure interpretation of a saying of Jesus that ostensibly means nothing of the kind (21:22-24)? For a disciple who could make his audacious claim to testimony more significant than Peter's only by some such means, the combination of modesty and audacity in the Gospel's portrayal of the beloved Disciple is a brilliant strategy. But is is hard to believe that is pseudepigraphal writer would have invented a character who required such a brilliant strategy to establish his claim to witness. (409)
This is an excellent point worth remembering. All four Gospels, not just John, is named after lesser disciples. Little is known of Matthew. John Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabbas. Luke was Paul's personal doctor. And if we adopt Bauckham's view on John's authorship (he denies it was written by John the Apostle), then the fourth Gospel was written by perhaps the most obscure disciple. This is not what the Gnostics did.


* Bauckham admits that we cannot know for sure who this disciple is but believes it is the Beloved Disciple.


For more:
"The Historical Jesus": A Lecture by Ben Witherington
"The Story of Jesus" Documentary
We've All Heard This Before: "Zealot" and the Same Search For the Missing Jesus  
12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels
Ravi Zacharias' 12 Arguments For the Historicity of the Resurrection
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
"Raised With Christ" by Adrian Warnock: A Review
NT Wright: Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
"The Jesus Inquest" by Charles Foster: A Review
"The Case for Easter"
"The Case For the Real Jesus" by Lee Strobel
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
The Quest For the Historical Satan: The Entire Series   
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