Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 5]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

The Gospel of John

(pp.63-71)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Louis Berkhof “graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1900 …

In 1902 he went to Princeton University for two years earning a B.D. degree …

In 1906 he was appointed to the faculty of Calvin Theological Seminary. He assumed the presidency of the seminary in 1931 …” [1]

[1] http://www.calvin.edu/hh/seminary_presidents/semm_pres_berkhof.htm

B) Chapter Summary:

I) Content

“The contents of the Gospel of John is also divided into five parts:

I. The Advent and Incarnation of the Word, 1:1— 13 …

II. The Incarnate Word the only Life of the World, 1:14 — 6:71 …

III. The Incarnate Word, the Life and Light, in Conflict with Spiritual Darkness, 7:1 — 11:54 …

IV. The Incarnate Word saving the Life of the World through his Sacrificial Death, 11:55 — 19:42 …

V. The Incarnate Word, risen from the Dead, the Saviour and Lord of all Believers, 20:1 — 21:25.” [1]

II) Characteristics

“1. The gospel of John emphasizes more than any of the others the Divinity of Christ. It has no historical starting-point, like the Synoptics, but recedes back into the depths of eternity, and starts out with the statement sublime in its simplicity: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”” [2]

“The miracles of the Lord, narrated in this Gospel, are of such a character that they give great prominence to his divine power.” [3]

See John 4:46, 5:5, 9:1, 11:17

“The teaching of Christ greatly predominates in Johns Gospel, but this is quite different from that contained in the Synoptics. We find no parables here but elaborate discourses, which also contain a couple of allegories. The all absorbing topic is not the Kingdom of God but the Person of the Messiah.”[4]

Christ presents himself as the source of life, 4:46— 5:47; the spiritual nourishment of the soul, 6:22-65; the water of life, 4:7-16; 7:37, 38; the true liberator, 8:31-58; the light of the world, 9:5, 35-41; and the living principle of the resurrection, 11:25, 26.

“The scene of action in this Gospel is quite different from that in the Synoptics. In the latter the work of Christ in Galilee is narrated at length, while He is seen at Jerusalem only during the last week of His life. In the Gospel of John, on the other hand, the long ministry of Christ in Galilee is presupposed rather than narrated, while his work and teaching in Judea and particularly at Jerusalem is made very prominent.” [5]

“4. The Gospel of John is far more definite than the Synoptics in pointing out the time and place of the occurrences that are narrated; it is in a certain sense more chronological than the other Gospels. We are generally informed as to the place of Christ’s operation. Definite mention is made of Bethany, 1:28; Cana, 2: 1; Capernaum, 2:12; Jerusalem, 2:13; Sychar, 4: 5; Bethesda, 5 : 2, etc. The designations of time are equally distinct, sometimes the hour of the day being given.” [6]

“5. The style of the fourth Gospel is not like that of the other three. It is peculiar in that “it contains, on the one hand, except in the prologue and χαρᾷ χαίρειin 3:29, hardly any downright Hebraisms,” Simcox, The Writers of the New Testament p. 73, while, on the other hand, it approaches the style of Old Testament writers more than the style of any other New Testament writing does …

His sentences are generally connected in the most simple way by καί, δεor οὖν, and his descriptions are often elaborate and repetitious. He exhibits a special fondness for contrasts and for the use of the parallelismus membrorum.” [7]

III) Authorship

“The voice of antiquity is all but unanimous in ascribing the fourth Gospel to John.” [8]

“The internal evidence for the authorship of the Gospel is now generally arranged under the following heads:

1.The author was a Jew. He evidently had an intimate acquaintance with the Old Testament, had, as it were, imbibed the spirit of the prophetical writings. He knew them not only in the translation of the LXX, but in their original language, as is evident from several Old Testament quotations. Moreover the style of the author clearly reveals his Jewish nationality. He wrote Greeks it is true, but his construction, his circumstantiality and his use of parallelism, are all Hebraic …

2.The author was a Palestinian Jew. He clearly shows that he is well at home in the Jewish world. He is intimately acquainted with Jewish customs and religious observances and with the requirements of the law, and moves about with ease in the Jewish world of thought [see e.g. 1:21; 4:9; 5:1 ff.; 7:22 ff; 9:2; 9:14 ff] …

3.The writer was an eyewitness of the events he relates.He claims this explicitly, if not already in 1: 14, “we beheld his glory” (Cf. I John 1:1-3), certainly in 19:35. “And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true that ye might believe.” This claim is corroborated by the lively and yet simple manner in which he pictures the events; by the many definite chronological data and naming of localities …

4. [By the process of elimination] The author was the apostle John …” [9]

“Not until the last part of the eighteenth century was the authorship of John attacked on critical grounds, and even then the attacks were of small significance. Bretschneider in 1820 was the first to assail it in a systematic way. But he was soon followed by others, such as Baur, Strauss, Schwegler, Zeller, Scholten, Davidson, Wrede e. a. It has been their persistent endeavor to show that the Gospel of John is a product of the second century. Some would ascribe it to that shadowy person, the presbyter John, whose existence Eusebius infers from a rather ambiguous passage of Papias, but who, in all probability, is to be identified with John the apostle. Others positively reject this theory. Wrede, after arguing that the authorship of John cannot be established, says: “Far less can the recent hypothesis be regarded as proven which purports to find the author of the Gospel in John the presbyter.” The Origin of the New Testamentp. 89.” [10]

“The most important considerations that led many rationalistic critics to the conclusion that the fourth Gospel was written in the second century, are the following: (1) The theology of the Gospel, especially its representation of Christ, is developed to such a degree that it points beyond the first and reflects the consciousness of the Church of the second century. (2) The Gospel was evidently written under the influence of the philosophic and religious tendencies that were prevalent in the second century, such as Montanism, Docetism and Gnosticism. (3) The great difference between the fourth Gospel and the Synoptics appears to be the result of second century cavilling respecting the nature of Christ, and of the Paschal controversy.

But the idea that the Gospel of John is a second century product goes counter to both the internal evidence to which we already referred, and to the external testimony, which is exceptionally strong and which can be traced back to the very beginning of the second century. Some of the Epistles of Ignatius show the influence of John’s Christology, and the writings of both Papias and Polycarp contain allusions to the first Epistle of John, which was evidently written at the same time as the Gospel. The latter was in existence, therefore, in the beginning of the second century.” [11]

Continue reading “Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 5]”

When did John write Revelation

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“Who wrote Revelation is relatively certain. Although not everyone agrees, the most ancient evidence points to the Apostle John. When the apostle John wrote Revelation is far less certain. Unlike books today, no one placed copyright dates in copies of biblical texts! To decide the approximate date when this biblical text was written, scholars compare what’s inside the book with what was happening in the world outside the book. In the case of Revelation, that process results in two primary possibilities.” [1]

 During the reign of Emperor Nero  During the reign of Emperor Domitian
  • Ruled the Roman Empire, AD 54-68.
  • After a fire in Rome, a rumor circulated that Nero had started the fire.
  • According to the ancient historian Tacitus, “To get rid of this report, Nero accused and inflicted exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, the ones called Christians.”
  • This persecution seems to have been limited to the regions around Rome, but it likely affected attitudes toward Christians beyond Rome.
  • Ruled the Roman Empire, AD 81-96
  • Domitian reportedly declared himself to be divine during his lifetime.
  • According to the ancient historian Suetonius, “Domitian issued an encyclical in the name of his governors that declared ‘Our Master and our God bids that this be done.’”
Evidence 1: An ancient inscription

  • A fifth century version of Revelation in the Syriac language refers to the book as “the Revelation given by God to John the Gospel-writer, on the island of Patmos where he was banished by Emperor Nero.” It is possible that this ascription preserves an earlier tradition.
Evidence 1: The testimony of Irenaeus

  • The second-century writer Irenaeus of Lyons – a student of Polycarp, who knew the apostle John – reported that John wrote Revelation while in exile during Domitian’s reign.
Evidence 2: Persecution of Christians

  • It seems that Christians may have been in the early stages of a time of persecution when John wrote Revelation (1:9; 2:2-3; 2:9-10; 2:13; 3:8-10).
  • Nero instigated the first imperial persecution of Christians in AD 64; this persecution lasted until Nero’s death in 68.
Evidence 2: Worship of the Roman emperor

  • Hints can be found throughout Revelation that Christians may have been coerced to worship the emperor (13:4; 13:14-17; 14:9; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).
  • Nero was never worshipped as divine in his lifetime.
  • Worship of the emperor does seem to have occurred during Domitian’s reign, in the AD 80s and 90s.
  • Coins from Domitian’s reign refer to Domitian as “father of the gods.” An idol of Domitian may have been constructed in the city of Ephesus.
Evidence 3: The temple in Jerusalem

  • If Revelation had been written in the AD 90s, it seems that John might have mentioned the fall of the Jewish temple that occurred in AD 70.
  • The wording of Revelation 11:1-2 suggests to some scholars that the temple of Jerusalem was still standing when John wrote this book.
Evidence 3: The church of Laodicea

  • The description of Laodicea’s self-sufficiency may reflect a time in the AD 80s when the Laodiceans rebuilt their city with no outside assistance after an earthquake (Revelation 3:17).

 

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.225