CELESTINO G. LINGAD, JR., THE PROBLEMS OF JEWISH CHRISTIANS IN THE JOHANNINE COMMUNITY
A perceptive reader is struck by the hostility and the harshness of language in the disputes found in John's Gospel as well as the attitude of Jesus even towards "the Jews" who supposedly "believed in him" (see John 2:23-25; 8:31, 44). Almost right from the outset of the Gospel, the Johannine Jesus begins to speak about his death and rising: "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). And quite early on "the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him" (5:18; cf. 7:1, 25; 11:53). Indeed, only in the Fourth Gospel does Jesus ever ask his interlocutors quite bluntly: "Why do you seek to kill me?" - and this not once but repeatedly (7:19; 8:37, 40).
Was this hostility really between Jesus and his contemporary Jews alone or is there another way of making sense of the Gospel data? Read autobiographically, i.e., viewed as a two-level drama, the Gospel describes the goings-on in Jesus' life, while at the same time opening a window for us to see what John himself and the Johannine Community were going through toward the end of the first century A.D.
This work attempts, firstly, to determine who the Jewish Christians involved precisely were, and, secondly, their possible problem areas with (and possibly within) the Johannine Community, as reflected in the Fourth Gospel. To this end selected passages in John 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8 are analyzed in order to highlight possible answers.
The main difficulty seems to stem from the Christological stance held by the parties involved. In contrast to the opponents' low Christology (in the Gospel) and the ultra-high Christology of the secessionists (in the Epistles), Johannine high Christology sees "Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth" (John 1:45) as "the Messiah, the Son of God" (20:31), in the strict and univocal sense of being divine.
CELESTINO G. LINGAD, JR., born in 1946 in Manila, Philippines, is a Salesian Priest of Don Bosco. He took up his Licentiate in Sacred Scriptures at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and Doctorate in Theology in the Pontifical Gregorian University. Actively engaged in the biblical apostolate and in pastoral life, he teaches Scriptures in Don Bosco Center of Studies (Manila).
(C) PUG 2004