The Date And Purpose Of The Gospel By John -- By: George Allen Turner

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 006:3 (Summer 1963)
Article: The Date And Purpose Of The Gospel By John
Author: George Allen Turner


The Date And Purpose Of The Gospel By John

George Allen Turner

Questions as to the date, origin, purpose and authorship of the Fourth Gospel, pel, which critical scholars of the past generation thought were settled, have arisen again in acute form. There is an increasing tendency by critics to abandon earlier conclusions: that the writer utilized Synoptic materials, that the book was sub-apostolic in date designed for Greek-thinking people, and that its theology reflects a long period of development. This paper calls attention to these trends and the reasons for them and suggests that more attention should be given to indications that a Palestinian origin before the destruction of the temple is sufficient to account for the distinctive emphases of this Gospel.

The case for apostolic authorship has been well stated by Alfred Plummer (CGT), B. W. Westcott and Win. Sanday and need not be reviewed here. This view was defended with great effectiveness a generation later by W. Scott Holland, then Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, and commended by Dr. J. Armitage Robinson as offering “the most important contribution of recent times to the discussion of Johannine authorship.”1 The burden of Holland’s study is that the details mentioned in this Gospel cannot be satisfactorily explained as E. F. Scott had explained them—i.e., as due “to the fine instinct of the literary artist”2 —but only as memories of an eye-witness. He notes, for example, that in John’s reference to the Feast of Dedication details are included—such as Solomon’s Porch, the winter weather, etc.—items which are meaningless unless they are details provided by a vivid memory of the experience. Details such as “Sychaff Aenon near to Salim, and Bethany beyond Jordan, which have no reason for inclusion, since they contribute nothing to the theme, are inexplicable unless recollections from memory by the eye-witness.3 Holland’s arguments showing that Clement of Alexander was wrong in calling this a “Spiritual Gospel” because it was independent of historical facts, appears to this writer, quite convincing. Instead, for the author of the First Epistle and the Gospel of John, “the body is itself the organ of the spirit.”4

This Oxford scholar’s position receives support from a Cambridge scholar of this present generation. J. N. Sanders argues effectively that because the Gospel of John is theological it need not be less historical.5 He proceeds to demonstrate that John may not have b...

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