The Gospel of Luke, as has been mentioned here, is very similar to that of Mark in its narrative and in describing Jesus, the man. This is an element of the Gospels about which authors Nickle and Brown agree. There is, too, a strong belief that the Gospel of Luke was written by a "missionary colleague of the Apostle Paul (Nickle, 1980, p. 125)." The Book of Luke is the most extensive and detailed account of the life of the historical Jesus of any other book in the Bible. "When this Gospel is joined by its companion volume, Acts and Apostles, they together make up about twenty-seven percent of the New Testament (Nickle, 1980, p. 125)." The most distinctive characteristic of the Book of Luke, is that it is sequenced with Acts and Apostles (Nickle, 1980). Luke is unique in that his book goes beyond the life of Jesus, into the Acts and Apostles (Nickle, 1980). The books follow a literary design indicating that they were intended to be read one following the other, and this is understood in the scripture as found in Luke 1:1-4, and in Acts 1:1-5 (Nickles, 1980)..
What is interesting is that in the New Testament the Book of John has been placed between the Luke and Acts (Nicles, 1980). For some theorists and theologians, this poses a problem, especially if, as many contend, the Book of John is a Christian sect, not represented nor accepted by the mainstream Christianity. The result is that the continuity of reading Luke sequentially is interrupted, causing a break in the reader's attention in a way that the author of Luke clearly did not intend to have happen.
The narrative in Luke addresses the announcement of salvation. "The volume tells how the salvation promised to Israel was realized through the birth, life, passion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The second volume tells how appointed witnesses proclaimed this salvation in Jerusalem, Samaria, and even wider circles, so that the Word of God grew and even Gentiles became participants in that salvation (Nickle, 1980, p. 126)."
The expanded books of Acts and the Apostles, then goes on to explain the spread of the Gospel through the efforts of the Church (Nicle, 1980). That this narrative is sequentially interrupted by the John, remains curious as to why it was inserted into the place it holds and why it interrupted the sequencing of Luke at a critical point in the continuing story of Luke. "As he drew attention to God's continuing activity in and through the apostolic church (and implied by extension, in and through his own church), Luke intensified the impression that the life of Jesus - his ministry, death, and resurrection - was an event that belonged to a past epoch in human history which was unique (Nickle, 1980, p. 126)."
The order of the Gospels is important, and serves an element for comparison between them. "By way of comparison, we might say that Mark told the story of Jesus to clarify and convict his hearers of concerning the present claims of the exalted Lord for their faithful, informed, allegiance. Matthew historicized the Jesus traditions but emphasized their present relevance through his use of the "promise-fulfillment" pattern. Luke conceived of the internal Jesus's life as a unique period of time distinct from the time of the church (Nickle, 1980, p. 126)."
We can see how the John interrupts not just the continuity of Luke, but the historical presentation of the Synoptic Gospels as a collection. The followers of John depart from the theology of the Synoptic Gospels, and for that reason fall into a theological study classification of "secessionists (Brown, 1979)." That John has been deemed by some a "Gnostic Gospel, is the subject of debate amongst scholars. "Recently, K. Weiss has pointed out that some of the most characteristic marks of the Gnostic system are conspicuously absent in the thought of the secessionists, which, in fact, contains features opposed by later Gnostics (Brown, 1979, p. 105)."
The communities addressed in the Synoptic Gospels and in John are very different...
John is, again, conveys a sense of a community "mix" and certainly a different influence over that community. There is reason, Brown contends, to suspect that John's community had a large number of Gentiles and other pagans in its community mix. This might explain why John is inserted in the sequence of Luke; so that the presentation of the Bible is inclusive of the communities that consisted of Gentiles and pagans and others - all people, willing to embrace Christianity and its foundation of Jesus as the incarnation of God on earth, who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of mankind's salvation.
Some of the language in John's narrative has led some theologians and experts to speculate as to the ethnic and religious mix of John's community. Brown points to suggestions that the community might have included Jews whose language was Greek, and who contributed the Hellenic philosophical influence to John (Brown, 1979). Also, that the language directly referencing and addressing - even cautioning, as to false prophets (I John 4:1), and urging the community to "test the spirits" of those who would appear before them in the name of God (Brown, 1979); is an indication of a charismatic Christian group that was not bound by region, but rather moved about from place to place (Brown, 1979).
Brown offers his own simple idea of who the members of John's community might have been. Brown says, "In my judgment the hypothesis that best explains the positions of the Epistles and of the secessionists is this: Both parties knew the proclamation of Christianity available to us through the Fourth Gospel, but they interpreted it different. The adversaries were not outsiders to the Johannine community but the offspring of Johannine thought itself, justifying their positions by the Johannine Gospel and its implications (Brown, 1979, p. 106)."
The early years identifies some members of the community as being.".. Christian Jews who stood in a relatively untroubled stream of social and theological continuity precisely within the Synagogue (Brown, 1979, p. 172)." The middle years of John's community saw a break with the Temple as a result of the division in belief of Jesus as the Messiah, and those whose held fast to messianic traditions, but who would nonetheless seek out the ouster of those members who belief rested with Jesus (Brown, 1979).."Those who continued in the group now became "Jewish Christians" (Brown, 1979, p. 173)."
Another incident marking the middle years was the persecution of Jewish Christians, who stood accused of creating a second God, and encouraging worship of that God. Those Jewish Christians were killed for their break with the Temple (Brown, 1979). The execution of the Jewish Christians is discussed in John 5:18, 10:33, and 16:2 (Brown, 1979).
Another reason that the Gospel of John is important is found in the middle years of John. The Gospel of John reports that Jesus is the stranger from above, the Messiah, and that he has been rejected as such by his own people (Brown, 1979). Not only is Jesus rejected by the Jews, but so, too, are those who believe in Him as the Messiah, and would follow his teachings (John 17:14, 16). The Synagogue deems the followers of Jesus as no longer followers of Moses, but as disciples of Jesus (John 9:28) (Brown, 1979). The response of the Johannine community is that one is either a follower of Jesus, or amongst those who reject the Messiah; there is only of two positions to take and the implications of this would be clear to either community (Brown, 1979).
What is interesting is that there is reason to believe that the Crypto-Christians joined with the Temple not in theological philosophy, but in their effort to persecute and prosecute Christian Jews (John 10:16) (Brown, 1979). "Second, a relationship to other Jewish Christians who had left the Synagogue and were scattered by persecution. These were 'other sheep' of 10:16 who would ultimately be joined with the Johannine community into one flock under one Good Shepherd (Brown, 1979, pp. 173-174)."
Thusly, based on one theory of thought, the community of John been identified as consisting of (1) the Synagogue of the Jews; (2) Crypto-Christians (Christian Jews) within the Synagogue; (3) Christians Jews who had been expelled from the Synagogue and lived outside of it; (4) Johannine Christian Jews.
The dynamics of John's community is unlike that of the communities of the Synoptic Gospels, because of the diversity that existed in John's community, and because of the complex dynamics that existed within that diversity. However, the community, its relationship to Jesus, and to the Synagogue and to another serve as valuable insight into the life and teachings of Jesus.
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