The Jewishness Of John’s Use Of The Scriptures In John 6:31 And 7:37-38 -- By: Glenn Balfour

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 46:2 (NA 1995)
Article: The Jewishness Of John’s Use Of The Scriptures In John 6:31 And 7:37-38
Author: Glenn Balfour

The Jewishness Of John’s Use Of The Scriptures In John 6:31 And 7:37-38

Glenn Balfour


Two of some eighteen citations of scripture in the Fourth Gospel are examined in detail in order to demonstrate that John’s use of the Old Testament is based on received Jewish exegetical methods. His treatment of scripture is essential to major facets of his gospel, namely his christology and polemical thrust.


That Judaism and its scriptures directly influence the Fourth Gospel is nothing new. Sixty years ago Dodd wrote:

Jewish terms and usages are sometimes explained in the Fourth Gospel, but knowledge of Judaism is assumed. We are hardly through the Prologue when we meet with priests, Levites and Pharisees, a reference to Elijah, and a quotation from Isaiah, all without any explanation. There are unexplained allusions to Rabbinic doctrines, and interpretations of the Old Testament.1

Our intention here is to develop the insights of Dodd and others concerning the essential Jewishness of the author of the Fourth Gospel2 by means of a consideration of his use of the Jewish scriptures.

Many scholars have paved the way for this. Barrett assimilated a broader view of the Jewish influence on the Fourth Gospel, finding that ‘the whole body of the Old Testament formed a background, or framework, upon which the new revelation rested’.3 Glasson’s seminal work demonstrated a vast range of Mosaic imagery in the Fourth Gospel, especially in its christology, and highlighted a considerable body of rabbinic parallels with John’s Old Testament imagery.4 Reim cogently argued that many significant Johannine developments of the Christian tradition evinced an Old Testament background.5 Freed made the first detailed investigation of John’s explicit references to the Old Testament.6

In what follows, consideration will be given to two of John’s eighteen Old Testament quotations (6:31; 7:37-38) in which the Jewishness of John’s use of Old Testament scripture is clearly to be seen. It is our belief that these test cases provide important examples of how John uses the Old Testament based on received Jewish exegetical methods.

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