The Johannine Corpus and the Unity of the New Testament Canon -- By: Gregory Goswell

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 61:4 (Dec 2018)
Article: The Johannine Corpus and the Unity of the New Testament Canon
Author: Gregory Goswell

The Johannine Corpus
and the Unity of the New Testament Canon

Gregory Goswell*

* Gregory Goswell is Academic Dean, Lecturer in OT, and Postgraduate Coordinator at Christ College, 1 Clarence Street, Burwood NSW 2134, Australia. He can be contacted at

Abstract: The Johannine Corpus makes a significant contribution to the unity of the NT and the wide dispersal of the Johannine writings assists in this regard. The focus of the Gospel of John on a few miracles (“signs”) and its high Christology suit its location in fourth and final position in the Gospel corpus. Its canonical location makes it the interface between the Gospel corpus and the rest of the NT, where it bridges the evangelists’ portrait of Christ and Paul’s teaching about Jesus as the “Son of God.” Situated at this canonical seam, John’s Gospel also anticipates certain features of the book of Acts. Putting the Johannine Epistles alongside letters by James, Peter, and Jude in the Catholic Epistles implies the harmony of the teaching of the apostles and of the family of Jesus. Lastly, special prominence is given to Revelation by putting it in final position in the canon, where it brings together the witness of the OT and NT by describing the completion of the divine goal of renewing creation and restoring humanity through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Key words: John, Johannine corpus, Gospel of John, canon, unity, Acts, Revelation

The NT writings are connected by a network of authorial associations (e.g. Mark and Peter, Luke and Paul) that present the Gospels and epistles as alternate mediums for the same message that centers on Jesus Christ.1 Along these lines, the Johannine corpus makes a special contribution to the unity of the NT witness to the person and work of Christ, and the unifying function of the Johannine corpus is all the more effective due to the fact that it includes literary works in several genres (Gospel, epistle, and apocalypse) and its components are not placed together but scattered throughout the NT canon.2 In this article I argue that the wide dispersion of materials labelled Johannine assists in unifying the disparate contents of the NT canon and promotes a particular reading of the NT as a whole.3 My main arguments are as follows: the climactic placement of John’s Gospel makes it the interface between the Four Gospel Corpus and the rest of the NT; in a number of significant ways John’s Gospel prepares for the presentation in the book of Acts; the teaching of the three Johannine Epistles is shown to be in harmony with t...

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