John's Gospel hating on the other Gospels?

GethsemaneImage by mtsofan via Flickr
I read this during Lent and never got around to blogging about it until now.  Did you ever notice that the Gospel of John not only has different stories and takes on stories as the other three Synoptic Gospels...but it actually hates on them too (in a mean way)?


I'm reading through This Tragic Gospel by Louis Ruprecht and he outlines the ways how the Gospel according to John subverts the other Gospels...especially the Gospel of Mark.  The key point of difference comes in the Lenten story of the prayer at Gethsemane.   You know, where Jesus prays to God? Check out what Jesus says in Matthew, Mark, Luke:
"Father, if you will, take this cup away from me. Still, let not my will bed one, but yours."
- Luke 22
"My Father, if it is possible, then let this cup pass me by. Still, not how I want it, but how you do."
- Matthew 26
"Abba, the Father, all things are possible through you. Take this cup away from me. Still, not what I want, but what you do."
- Mark 14
Now check it out in John.
Oh, that's right.  There is no prayer at Gethsemane.  Hmm.  In fact, Jesus seeks out the arresting party and confronts them, terrifies them to their knees, and practically makes them arrest him.  Very different from the others.

Why is this important?  Look at what Jesus says to the arresting party:
The cup that the Father has given me--shall I not drink it?
- John 18
And consider what Jesus said previously in his parables:
"Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.
- John 12:27
Yup, that's right.  Jesus in John directly quotes and ridicules the Prayer of Gethsemane found in the other three gospels.  Think about that for a minute...what Jesus says in John directly quotes and refutes all three of the other Gospels...and not just a line, but the heart-wrenching, soul-searing prayer in Gethsemane! 


What does this mean?  According to Ruprecht's This Tragic Gospel:
  • Jesus in John replaces the doubt and wrestling found in the other Gospels with a cold certainty and a scary intensity.  
  • Instead of a very human Jesus who doubts and wrestles with God found in the Synoptics, in John we have a Jesus who lacks doubt and fear and scares the arresting party to their knees.  
  • There is no collision of wills between Jesus and God in Gethsemane that the other gospels report on; in John, Jesus never doubts or is self-wondering or is otherwise.....human.  [I would point to Lazarus's death, though, as a story when Jesus wept]

Very weird. Thoughts? Anyone else troubled by this?

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Anonymous,  April 17, 2009 at 11:48 AM  

The differences between these and other passages I was first confronted with when reading Brown's An Intro to NT.

Among other things he also cited the difference in what the authors saw as the knowledge of Jesus, where in Mark 5:30-33, Jesus looks for who touched him and in Matthew he immediately turns towards her, where in Mark where Jesus relates David entering the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, however in 1 Samuel 21:2-7 the high priest is not Abiathar but Ahimelech, and when you look up Matthew (12:4) and Luke’s (6:4) version they omit any mention of the high priest.

And also in John when Jesus asks Philip where bread can be found (John 6:5)the author adds that he was only testing Philip implying that he already knew what he would do and lastly in John 6:64 we learn that Jesus knew from the beginning who would refuse him and who would believe him.

These just seem to be concious modifications reflecting a theological belief, and that makes me a bit uncomfortable...

nathanaquilla April 17, 2009 at 3:36 PM  

I always thought John was strange because of the specific polished theology it puts forth. I thought it was strange that Paul in 1 Corinthians 1.18-25 avoids using Logos to directly refer to Jesus, but uses Sophia more directly. On the other hand, John flaunts Logos to start his Gospel, and uses this theological construction as his cornerstone. I interpret this difference to John's date being written 40-50+ years later. I think we can see theology changing to fit a particular Christian community of its time.

In the case of your specific reference Jeremy, we may see a John community that's very much into martyrdom, that they would even balk at not being willing to be executed. They changed the story for a reason.

I know that I have joked with fellow classmates that they shouldn't argue using John, because it doesn't count... Maybe John does count if it means that we should be able to interpret the Good News for our own time.

Nathan April 17, 2009 at 3:54 PM  

Yeah, there's no questioning God on the cross either (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me." I'm not troubled by this. John simply portrays a more "superhuman" Jesus than the rest of the gospel writers. I think this is b/c John is writing to an audience that is far more concerned about the spiritual nature of Christ than the other gospel communities. My old Prof. (Greg Riley) believes that they are Christians who are aware of/participants in the Gospel of Thomas community, and John contains polemic against gnosticism, but also stuff that will be persuasive to them. Christ as superhero falls into that category.

Anonymous,  April 18, 2009 at 1:46 AM  

Good discussion. I agree with the poster who noted that John was written some later than the others and that helps account for the rather different portrayal of Jesus in the fourth gospel.

The more I think about it, the more I note connections between John and Mark. It seems to me their theology is quite similar in its focus on the cross--the "hour" in John--though they get there is very different ways.

Also, I see both Mark and John as at least somewhat anti-Petrine.

Antonio Jerez,  April 18, 2009 at 7:18 PM  

Interesting observation from Ruprecht. And he is absolutely right. Another indication that the author of John had read the Synoptics. It really beggars belief that so many scholars can still go on believing that John was not dependent on at least Mark.

Anonymous,  April 19, 2009 at 10:55 AM  

Why interpret The Lord's words in John 12:27 as "ridiculing" the prayer he prayed just before his arrest? It seems very straight forward to me.
He had prayed and The Father had strengthened The Son to do his will so that he was able to say, even though his soul was troubled,
"for this purpose I have come to this hour."

Each of the Gospels do indeed reveal different facets from different angles but it is always the same light.

Sue April 19, 2009 at 12:14 PM  

Have you read Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels? She argues that Iranaeus was the architect of teh canon, insisting on the fourfold gospels and considered John the foremost gospel because it taught clearly that Christ was the Son of God. She also cites Origin who wrote,

"John does not always tell the truth literally, he always tells the truth spiritually." Beyound Belief page 118.

I think Pagels makes some excellent points about the role of John's gospel in the canon.

Warren April 19, 2009 at 3:11 PM  

I am writing an exegetical paper for my intro to bible class on John 4 -- and I think the context from which it was written is hugely important for understanding why some things are the way they are.

While an exact date for the writing of John is unknown, most scholars agree that it was after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. The temple, the locus of Jewish worship, had been destroyed and there was sectarian infighting going on within the Jewish sects. There were now at least two competing factions, the Pharisees and the Christians (and possibly followers of John the Baptizer). Each were trying to distinguish themselves from the other. It is in this milieu that John was written.

John is trying to distance Christianity from Judaism and the Baptizer's movement. This is why the Pharisees are seen at worst to be feared and at best simply antagonistic to Jesus. (John 4:1-3, 9:13-34). The Baptizer is characterized as less than Jesus, the friend of the bridegroom, a law-breaker. (3:22-36).

The Johannine Jesus is the hero set against the arch nemesis the Pharisees.

Anonymous,  December 21, 2009 at 6:08 PM  

The way I see it--- Jesus kept John around to write Revelation and so I think more than likely Jesus had more respect for his version (the truth). The others wrote off each other. I trust Johns testimony!
I don't trust Lukes at all!

Anonymous,  December 21, 2009 at 6:12 PM  

Ever wonder where the word lukewarm came from? You should research it and then read Revelation and the Laodicean church!

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