Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Farewell Discourses and the History of Johannine Christianity*.

  • John Painter (a1)


The question of ‘traces’ of history in the Fourth Gospel is not new. In 1968 Louis Martyn published his History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. His thesis, reduced to utter simplicity, was that the Gospel is a drama presented at two levels, one concerning Jesus and the other concerning the community of the evangelist in which the Jesus tradition had been shaped. Thus the Fourth Gospel is seen as a Jewish Christian composition shaped in the dialogue/conflict with the synagogue. More recently Raymond Brown has given us his own penetrating reconstruction of the history of the Johannine community. This is presented in four phases: from its beginning until the exclusion from the synagogue; the situation at the time the Gospel was written; internal division (Epistles); and the final disappearance of both groups in the second century, absorbed, either by the emerging great church or by Docetism, Gnosticism and Montanism.



Hide All


[1] See my John, : Witness and Theologian (= JWT) (SPCK 1975, 2nd ed. 1979) and further ‘Johannine Symbols’, Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, no. 27, 06 1979, 2641.

[2] Harper and Row, New York, 1968, revised edition Abingdon, , Nashville, 1979.

[3] The Community of the Beloved Disciple (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1979).

[4] Brown, Ibid., p. 25 n. 32, on the use of ‘high’ and ‘low’ in relation to christology.

[5] If the evangelist had been a follower of the Baptist he might well have been critical of the Temple, ‘establishment Judaism’ and the view of the people of God by physical descent from the very beginning. The tradition of the Baptist's critique is recorded in Matt, . 3. 712 = Luke, 3. 79.

[6] Even if John did not know the Synoptics criticism must proceed on the basis of a comparison with them as there is no other external point of reference and the separation of sources within John is as yet too uncertain to offer an internal alternative.

[7] In this paper, in agreement with J. L. Martyn, ‘Christian Jews’ refers to Jewish believers who have not separated from the synagogue while ‘Jewish Christians’ refers to Christians of Jewish extraction whose beliefs have brought about their separation from Judaism.

[8] See George, Johnston, The Spirit Paraclete in the Gospel of John (Cambridge: University Press, 1970), pp. 70–4, 162–71. But what he suggests is a ‘sequence of dramatic scenes’ with ‘stage directions’ such as 14. 31.

[9] See Johnston, , The Spirit Paraclete, p. 164.

[10] The Gospel According to St. John (SPCK 1965), p. 379 and second edition (1978), pp. 454 f.

[11] Barrett, C. K., The Gospel According to St John (1978 2), p. 455.

[12] See my The Church and Israel in the Gospel of John: A Response’, NTS 25 (1978–9), 109 ff.

[13] The Community of the Beloved Disciple, p. 28.

[14] Pauline christological development had already taken place by the middle of the first century.

[15] John, 16. 2 would make a later date necessary.

[16] See Betz, O., Der Paraklet (Leiden: Brill, 1963).

[17] The ‘dualism’ of Spirits reflects schisms in the two communities; the Qumran sect from Judaism as a whole and the Johannine community from those who went out from them, 1 John, 2. 15.

[18] Brown, R. E., The Gospel According to John, vol. 2 (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1971), pp. 1139, 1143, and see my JWT pp. 6470.

[19] See my ‘Christ and the Church in John, 1. 3551 in de Jonge, M., ed. L'Evangile de Jean (Leuven: University Press, 1977).David, Hill, New Testament Prophecy (Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1979), p. 149 rejects the association of the Gospel with a Christian prophet but immediately accepts the prophetic role of the Paraclete. But how was the activity of the Paraclete embodied or manifest if not in a Christian prophet or prophets?

[20] The terms for excommunication from the synagogue are used only in John, 9. 22; 12. 42; 16. 2 in the whole of the NT. This is significant for the Johannine situation. See Martyn, J. L., History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel, chapter 2, pp. 17 ff. and Barrett, C. K., The Gospel According to St. John, pp. 361 f.

[21] Brown, , The Community of the Beloved Disciple, p. 123 notes that πιστεύεν is sude 98 times in the Gospel and όμολόγειν 3 (or 4) times while πιοτεύειν is used 9 times in the Epistles and όμολόγειν 6 times, a significant increase in proportionate use of όμολόγειν over the Gospel. He concludes that the Gosple was not concerned with public confession. This might be true of early strata but the material formed in the conflict with the conflict with the synagogue cannot be included in this assessment. Further, statistics are sometimes misleading. The importance of the occasion of use should be noted. If Martyn is right John 9 is of pivotal importance hence the use in 9. 22 should be reassessed, as should 12. 42, in the light of the importance of the treatment of the ‘secret believers’ in the Gospel. Although ⋯μολόγειν is not used in 16. 2 it is implied by the connection with 9. 22 and 12. 42 and the understood μαρτυρεīτε (περί έμο) carried through from 15. 26–27.

[22] It does not seem to be legitimate to use uncertainty about birkath haminim to argue for an early date of this material. There is no early parallel for the situation described by John.

[23] The word is used elsewhere in John, only in 8. 46.

[24] In John, 16. 8 έλέγξει has a double meaning, the equivalent of έλεγχθη¯ and φανερωθη¯ in John, 3. 1921. See Lindars, B., ‘ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΤΝH in John 16. 8 and 10’ in Festschrift für B. Rigaux (Gembloux, 1970), pp. 275–85 especially p. 280.

[25] See Barrett, C. K., The Gospel, According to St. John, pp. 405 ff.

[26] See my JWT, pp. 59 ff.

[27] Ibid., pp. 123 ff.

[28] See my Johannine Symbols’, JTSA 06 1979, 2641.

* A paper read in the Johannine Seminar at the SNTS meeting in Toronto, August 1980.

The Farewell Discourses and the History of Johannine Christianity*.

  • John Painter (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed