A Man of No Reputation: Jesus and Ascribed Honor in the Gospel of John -- By: Nijay Gupta

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 40:0 (NA 2008)
Article: A Man of No Reputation: Jesus and Ascribed Honor in the Gospel of John
Author: Nijay Gupta

A Man of No Reputation: Jesus and Ascribed Honor in the Gospel of John

Nijay Gupta*

Who is Jesus? The question of his identity appears to be a leitmotif in the canonical Gospels as a whole and in John’s Gospel in particular.1 Jesus’ identity is quite regularly brought into question: Who is this man that is approaching Jerusalem on a donkey (Matt 21:10)? Who is this man that calms storms (Mark 4:41)? Who is this man that blasphemes (Luke 5:21) and claims to forgive sins (Luke 7:49)? Who is this man that heals (John 5:12)? Each Gospel answers the “identity” question in a particular way. Each writer made deliberate choices in order to nuance and bring to light aspects of Jesus’ personality, instruction and character. But, all of them sought to describe him as the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. John’s Gospel is known for being distinctive,2 but it is certainly no less emphatic on this point. It is the manner in which Jesus is portrayed that makes this Gospel stand out in its depiction of his messianic identity.

In order to pursue the method by which John accomplishes this, one must consider the purpose of the Gospel of John. Many have turned to the comment in John 20:31, “these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”3 Based on texts like this, it is reasonable to suggest that the fourth Gospel was written with the intention of depicting Jesus as the true Messiah who is worthy of belief. Exactly how and why this Gospel is unique is still a matter of some debate. Certainly there is variety in chronology, topology, narrative dynamics, and the development and employment of Jewish and Greco-Roman imagery. One particular method of analysis, though, has been very insightful as an interpretive tool. In the last century many scholars have shown an interest in how cultural anthropology allows the Gospels to be read with an awareness of the societal codes particular to the ancient Mediterranean peoples. Specifically, the study of honor and shame in early cultures has led to fruitful insight into the social dynamics of the Gospels.4

One does not have to dig deep in order to notice that John’s Go...

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