The Gospel of John
The Fourth Gospel is written some twenty to thirty years after Mark. Although it is an independent version of the Gospel form, it also can be divided into three sections: Jesus public ministry (the book of signs: chaps. 1&endash;12), a special section of instructions for his disciples (chaps. 13&endash;17), and the passion and resurrection narrative (chaps. 18&endash;20). Chapter 21 probably was added by a final redactor. While Marks instructions on discipleship center primarily around the necessity of suffering messiahship and suffering discipleship, the Johannine discipleship instructions focus on the motif of altruistic love and service, though this topic is also found in Marks discipleship instructions.
Like the Markan church, the Johannine community experiences persecutions and difficulties.135 The "world" not only hated and killed Jesus because of the revelation he had to give, it also hates Jesus disciples who, like him, are witnesses before the world (15:27; 17:14). Jesus had revealed that God loves the world (3:16)&endash;or in the words of 1 John that God is love (4:8). ~ Having shown his love by giving his life for his own, by making them "friends," Jesus asks them therefore to love each other. The disciples give witness to the world insofar as they love one another (13:34f). This love is at its greatest when they give their life for their friends (15:13), for in doing so they demonstrate that they are not "of this world," that is, that their life is defined not by the destructive powers of hate and death but by the life-giving power of God revealed in Jesus. As Jesus has loved them until the last second of his life, so the disciples are to love one another. In and through their love for each other they are called to give public witness to the life-giving power of Cods love revealed in Jesus. By this praxis of agape all people will know that they are Jesus disciples. Thus discipleship must be lived in service and love. It must be lived as a public witness which indicts the hate and death-dealing powers of "the world. ""v Although the Fourth Gospel is interested in a political apology vis-a-vis Roman political authorities, it does not advocate an adaptation of the community to Greco-Roman patriarchal power structures. it insists that Jesus power and the community of friends called forth by him is not "of this world" of hate and death.
That the Johannine community is an alternative community dearly comes to the fore in Jesus sign-action. washing his disciples feet. Whereas in the Pastorals the enrolled widows are required "to have washed the feet of the saints, in the Fourth Gospel this is Jesus action of love to be followed by all his disciples. Jesus whole ministry and his revelation of God is summed up in this scene:
The act of the foot washing and Jesus interpretation of it are interrupted by the ~jsunder5tandi11g and protest of Peter, who does not understand that the disciples are already dean and holy through the word that Jesus has spoken to them (15:3; 17:17). The purpose of the symbolic sign-action is not ritual cleansing but the completion of Jesus revelation in his praxis of service and love. If Peter fails to receive the service of love he has no part in Jesus and his ministry. If relatiOfl5hiP~ of equality are characterized by shifting relationships of power and by alternating leadership open to every member of the community, then the Johannine Jesus advocates the exercise of leadership and power through alternating service and love among the disciples who are understood as a community of friends. Therefore, the Fourth Gospel never stresses the special leadership of the twelve among the disciples. even though it knows of the circle of the twelve. All the members of the community have received the Spirit, are born anew (3:3&endash;9). and have received the powers of the new creation. The resurrected Lord appears to all the disciples, not just to the twelve. All the disciples are the recipients of the same mission Jesus had (20:21), they all receive the Spirit (v.22), and they are all given the power to forgive sins (v.23). 11 Raymond E. Brown is correct in his assumption that the pre-Gospel narrative referred to the eleven, then the fourth evangelist has changed the tradition deliberately to refer to all the disciples and not primarily to the twelve (cf. Matt 16:19; 18:18; 28:16&endash;20). The Johannine community of friends understands itself primarily as a community of disciples. The Beloved Disciple is their apostolic authority and symbolic center. This community is constituted as the discipleship of equals by the love they have for one another.
The "disciple whom Jesus loved" is historically not identified by name. He appears for the first time at the Last Supper, characterized as the hour "when Jesus having loved his own, now showed his love for them to the very end" Jn 13:1). The Johannine Jesus celebrates his Last Supper not just with the twelve but with all the disciples The resurrected Lord appears to all the disciples, gives them his peace and entrusts them with his mission- By enlivening them with the Spirit he constitutes all of them as the new creation (d. Gen 2:7) and empowers all of them to forgive sins, to bind and to loose (20:19&endash;23). Therefore, the Johannine Jesus likens the "hour" of his exaltation on the cross and the time of the disciples bereavement to the experience a pregnant woman has before and after giving birth. Just as the woman experiences anxiety and sorrow in anticipation of the childs birth, so the disciples are sorrowful and afraid because of Jesus departure. But just as the woman is glad and full of joy when the child is born, so the disciples will have peace and joy after their new life and future is revealed in Jesus resurrection (16:20&endash;22).
Though the term disciple is inclusive of the twelve and though the fourth evangelist knows of their leading role in the tradition, s/he nevertheless explicitly contrasts the Beloved Disciple with Peter. The Johannine community clearly regards the twelve and their spokesman Peter as belonging to Jesus "own." but by contrasting the communitys hero with Peter they implicitly maintain the superiority of their own form of discipleship over that of Petrine Christianity. Though Peter is rehabilitated in the redactional chapter 21, the bulk of the Gospel narrative points in the other direction. Under pressure he denies that he is "a disciple of Jesus" (18:17&endash;25); at the Last Supper Peter depends on the Beloved Disciple for information (13:23&endash;26); he is not found under the cross of Jesus the hour when the new community is born (19:26f); he is not the first to believe in the resurrection (2C:2&endash;10); and he does not recognize the resurrected Lord (21:7) as the Beloved Disciple does.
Thus Brown seems to be correct in his conclusion that the "Johannine Christians, represented by the Beloved Disciple. clearly regard themselves as closer to Jesus and more perceptive" than the churches who claim Peter and the twelve as their apostolic authority. One of those Christians claiming the name and authority of Peter is the writer of the first letter of Peter, who insists on the submission of slaves and wives. The dispute between Johannine and Petrine Christianity seems not to have centered on christological issues but on questions of discipleship. Chapter 21 acknowledges Peters pastoral leadership of nurture but only on the condition that he "loves" Jesus, that is, that he subscribes to the altruistic leadership advocated by the Johannine Jesus (21:15&endash;19)."
The discipleship and leadership of the Johannine community is inclusive of women and men. Although the women mentioned in the Fourth Gospel are examples of discipleship for women as well as men, it is nevertheless astonishing that the evangelist gives women such a prominent place in the narrative. " S/he begins and ends Jesus public ministry with a story about a woman, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary of Bethany. Alongside the Pharisee Nicodemus s/he places the Samaritan woman; alongside the christological confession of Peter s/he places that of Martha. Four women and the Beloved Disciple stand under the cross of Jesus. Mary of Magdala is not only the first to witness the empty tomb but also the first to receive an appearance of the resurrected Lord. Thus at crucial points of the narrative women emerge as exemplary disciples and apostolic witnesses. Although the story about the woman caught in adultery is a later addition to the Gospels text, the interpolator nevertheless had a fine sense for the dynamics of the narrative which places women at crucial points of development and confrontation." That such a preeminence of women in the Johannine community and its apostolic tradition caused consternation among other Christians is expressed in 4:27f where the disciples are "shocked" that Jesus converses and reveals himself to a woman. The evangelist emphasizes, however, that the male disciples knew better than to openly question and challenge Jesus egalitarian praxis.
Jesus public ministry begins with a miracle at a wedding in Cana. The pre-Johannine story, which might have belonged to the miracle source taken over and redacted by the evangelists stresses Marys influence as the mother of Jesus. since she intervenes for her friends to compel Jesus to work a miracle. The tensions in the text indicate that the evangelist has modified this traditional account by inserting v. 4: "woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." Since we have no precedent in Jewish or GrecoRoman sources for a son to address his mother as "woman,"147 the address distances Jesus from his biological mother and rejects any claims she might have on him because of her family relationship to him. At the same time, it places Mary of Nazareth at the same level as the Samaritan woman (4:21) and Mary of Magdala (20:13), both of whom were apostolic witnesses and exemplary disciples. Here Mary proves herself to be such. Despite the rebuff she admonishes the servants (diakonoi): "Do whatever he tells you." If the Johannine community acknowledged diakonai as leading ministers of the community, then Marys injunction has symbolic overtones for the readers of the Gospel. In the beginning of the gospel ministry the leaders of the community are admonished: "Do whatever he tells you." Further, it is stressed that this exhortation must be accepted not because it comes from Jesus mother but because it is given by a woman disciple.
The revelatory dialogue of Jesus with the Samaritan woman progresses through misunderstandings to a greater perception of the revealer. The whole section climaxes in the confession of the Samaritans that Jesus is the "savior of the world." The dramatic dialogue is probably based on a missionary tradition that ascribed a primary role to a woman missionary in the conversion of the SamaritaflS.45 Exegetes agree that the Johannine community had a strong influx of Samaritan converts who might have been catalysts for the development of the high christology of the Gospel.149 The present Johannine community reaps the harvest made possible by the missionary endeavors of a woman who initiated the conversion of the Samaritan segment of the community. In the "interlude" about missionary work (4:31&endash;38) Jesus uses the Pauline verb kopian to describe her missionary work, "I have sent you to reap what you have not labored for. Others have labored, and you have come in to enjoy the fruits of their labor" (4:38). Since the term is used here in a technical missionary sense, the woman is characterized as the representative of the Samaritan mission.
Missionary conversion is understood by way of analogy to the call to discipleship. Just as Andrew calls his brother Peter into the discipleship of Jesus by telling him "we have found the Messiah" (1:40&endash;42), 50 the womans testimony motivates the Samaritans to come to him (4:39). Just as Nathanael becomes a disciple because Jesus knew what he had done under the fig tree (1:46&endash;49), so the woman becomes a witnessing disciple because "he told me all that I ever did" (4:29). In 17:20 it is stressed that Jesus prayed not only for the disciples but also for "those who believe in him through their word." Using almost the same words, 4:39 states that many Samaritans believed in him "because of the words of the woman who testified." However, they come to full faith because of the self~revel5tiOn of Jesus. The Johannine community in Samaria no longer bases its faith on the proclamation of the missionaries but on its own experience of the presence and revelation of Jesus.
Finally, it is significant to note the response of the woman to Jesus and the content of his revelation. Faith and revelation are the two motifs that dominate the dramatic narrative. How revelation and faith interact dialectically can be seen in the progress of the christological statements: Jew (v. 9), Lord (v. 11), greater than our father Jacob (v. 12), prophet (v. 19), salvation comes from the Jews (v. 22), Messiah (v.23), lam (v. 26), Christos (vv. 25, 29), Savior of the world (v.42). In addition to the major topic of mission,, two additional themes are dealt with: the gift of the revealer&endash;living water&endash;and the worship of the new community.
The question of the fullness of life which the revealer gives and promises is elucidated throughout the Gospel. Wine, water, bread, light, truth, way, vine, door, word, are essential to human life be-cause without them people perish. These images not only designate Jesus himself but, at the same time, his gifts for life, the living and life-giving divine powers that lead to eternal life as well. It is the Spirit who creates and sustains such life (cf. 3:8; 6:63). The life mediated through the Spirit is the great gift of salvation, representing an active and vital reality in persons so that the image of the source welling up unfailingly could also be applied to it.
The second theme in the revelatory dialogue with the Samaritan woman is that of "worship In spirit and truth" (4:20-24). The central symbol of religious power for the Johannine community is no longer either the Temple in Jerusalem or the one at Gerizim. Already in 2:13&endash;22 we learned that the risen Jesus "body" is the place where God is to be worshiped, the true temple replacing the central Jewish) Samaritan symbol of religious power. For the Johannine community the time Is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, because God is Spirit, the life-giving power to be adored. Such worship takes place in the community of believers who are born anew in the Spirit and are called to "do the truth" (3:21). It is the worship of those who are made holy through the word and for whom social-religious distinctions between Jews and Samaritans, women and men no longer have any validity.
Jesus public ministry climaxes in the revelation that Jesus is the resurrection and the life (11:1~54).15I Whereas in the original miracle source the raising of Lazarus stood at the center of the story, the evangelist has placed the dialogue and confession of Martha at the center of the whole account. Central to the dialogue with Martha is the revelatory saying of Jesus in 11:25f, "I am the resurrection and the life..." as well as Marthas response in v. 27: "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the son of God, who is coming into the world." As the raising of a dead person the raising of Lazarus is the greatest miracle and therefore the climax of the "signs" of Jesus. However the evangelist has not placed it at the end of Jesus public ministry and the beginning of Jesus passion because of its miraculous character, but rather to make it clear that Jesus who will be killed is in reality "the resurrection and the life." The miracle becomes a sign pointing to the true resurrection and everlasting life: to Jesus himself. Although believers may suffer human death, they have life in an ultimate sense. In faith, human life gains a new dimension that does not know ultimate death; and this new dimension of life, eternal life, is opened up through Jesus.
Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are characterized as Jesus friends whom he loved (11:5). They are his true disciples and he is their "teacher." Martha, after receiving the revelation and expressing her faith in Jesus word, goes and calls Mary (11:20), just as Andrew and Philip called Peter and Nathanael. As a "beloved disciple" of Jesus she is the spokeswoman for the messianic faith of the community. She confesses, however, her messianic faith not in response to the miracle but in response to Jesus revelation and challenge: "Do you believe this?" Her confession parallels that of Peter (6:66&endash;71), but is a christological confession in the fuller Johannine messianic sense: Jesus is the revealer who has come down from heaven. As such it has the full sense of the Petrine confession at Caesarea Philippi in the synoptics. especially in Matt 16:15&endash;19. Thus Martha represents the full apostolic faith of the Johannine community, just as Peter did for the Matthean community. More importantly, her faith confession is repeated at the end of the Gospel in 20:31, where the evangelist expresses the goal of her/his writing of the Gospel: "but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." If Robert Fortna is correct that this summary statement concluded the signs source, then it might be possible to conjecture that the evangelist deliberately put these words of his/her source into the mouth of Martha as the climactic faith confession of a "beloved disciple" in order to identify her with the writer of the book. Such a suggestion is not inconceivable since we do not know who the writer of the Gospel was. On the other hand, such a conjecture can neither be proven nor disproven historically.
While Martha of Bethany is responsible for the primary articulation of the communitys christological faith, Mary of Bethany articulates the right praxis of discipleship. She is explicitly characterized as a beloved disciple whom the teacher has specifically called. She had many followers among "the Jews" who came to believe in Jesus (11:45). Though in 11:1&endash;54 Mary plays a subordinate role to that of Martha, in 12:1&endash;8 she is the center of action. The evangelist might have used a tradition which was similar to Luke 10:3842, in addition to the Markan (Matthean) anointing story and the Lukan story of a great sinner who washed Jesus feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. The meal is in Bethany. (In Mark it is at the house of Simon the Leper, whereas here no name of the host is given). That Martha served at table could be an allusion to Luke 10:40, but it is here seen much more positively. If Corells suggestion is right that the only established office in the Johannine community was that of diakonos, then Martha is characterized here as fulfilling such a ministry. In John, Mary and Martha are not seen in competition with each other, as is the case in Luke. They are characterized as the two ministers at a suppers which takes place on a Sunday evening, the day on which the early church celebrated the eucharist.
Marys anointing of Jesus feet resembles the anointing story of the synoptics, but in the Johannine tradition the woman is not left unnamed. However, the feature of her wiping away the anointment with her hair is awkward and draws our attention to it. Therefore, it is possible that this gesture points forward to the Last Supper of Jesus, where Jesus washes the disciples feet and dries them with a towel. Moreover, the centrality of Judas both in this scene and in the foot washing scene emphasizes an evangelistic intention to portray the true disciple Mary of Bethany as counterpart to the unfaithful disciple Judas Iscariot. Whereas according to Mark 14:4 "some" and according to Matt 26:8 "the disciples" object to the waste of precious oil, in John it is Judas who objects and he does so because of avarice. Thus not only the person of Judas but also the male objection to Marys ministry of anointing is discredited. This is also emphasized by the harsh rebuke of Jesus: "Let her alone." If we take all these different aspects of the story unto account, it is most likely that the evangelist is interested in portraying Mary of Bethany as the true disciple and minister in contrast to the betrayer who was one of the twelve. She anticipates Jesus command to wash the feet of each other as a sign for the agape praxis of true discipleship. Both stories - the messianic confession of Martha and the anointing of Jesus feet by Mary point to the death and resurrection of Jesus, to his hour of glorification.
According to the Fourth Gospel, women~Je5us mother, his mothers sister, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalen and one male disciple stood by the cross of Jesus (19:25&endash;27). Numerous studies of this scene have been written and a variety of symbolic meanings has been suggested. The most likely meaning of the scene is probably indicated by the explicit statement that the mother of Jesus became a part of the Johannine community after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Interestingly enough, neither she nor the Beloved Disciple are mentioned by name. Here, as in chapter 2, she is addressed by the title "woman" and thus characterized as one of the apostolic women disciples. The scene then probably has a meaning similar to that of Mark 3:31&endash;35, where the discipleship community of Jesus as the replacement for all ties and claims of the patriarchal family is also stressed. In Jesus death the "new family" of disciples is constituted, thus making them brothers and sisters. The scene then seeks to communicate the same message given in the prologue "lie came to his own, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God (1:11&endash;12). The Beloved Disciple, then, represents the disciples of Jesus who, having left everything, now receive a "new familial community," houses, and brothers, and, sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, and in the age to come "eternal life" (cf. Mark 10:29&endash;30). The Johannine community seems to have an understanding similar to that of Mark, namely, that the "new familial community" will include "mothers" as well as brothers and sisters, but not father5~because their father is God alone.
Finally, the scene might also contain some historical overtones. Though Jesus mother is explicitly acknowledged as one of Jesus "own" who are represented by the Beloved Disciple, Jesus brothers are not so rehabilitated. Raymond Brown has suggested that the brothers of Jesus in the Gospel might represent Jewish Christians of inadequate faith (John 7:1&endash;10). According to early Christian tradition
James, the brother of the Lord, had received a resurrection appearance (1 Cor 15:7), had served as leader of the Jerusalem church (d. Gal 1:19; 2:9; Acts 15; 21:18), and had died as a martyr in the early 60s:
This fits into the present discussion when it is remembered that James, the brother of the Lord, was followed during his life-time by a number of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who were more conservative than Peter and Paul (Gal 2:12), and after his death he became the hero par excellence for the Jewish Christians of the second century who gradually separated from the "Great Church.."
If Browns suggestion has some historical plausibility, then it must be pointed out that the fourth evangelist distinguishes between the male and female members of Jesus family and therefore implicitly also between male and female Jewish Christians. Not only the mother of Jesus but also her sister are among the faithful followers of Jesus. Could it be possible that women members of the Jerusalem church were more open to Johannine Christianity, thus prompting the evangelist to insist that they have become a part of the community of the Beloved Disciple?
The last woman to appear in the Fourth Gospel is Mary Magdalene who was also mentioned as standing under the cross of Jesus. She not only discovers the empty tomb but is also the first to receive a resurrection appearance. Thus in a double sense she becomes the apostola apostolorum - the apostle of the apostles. She calls Peter and the Beloved Disciple to the empty tomb and she is sent to the "new family" of Jesus to tell them that Jesus is ascending "to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." In contrast to Mark 16:8 we are unambiguously told that Mary Magdalene went to the disciples and announced to them: "I have seen the Lord." She communicated the message to them which he had given to her. Thus she is the primary apostolic witness to the resurrection. Whereas Matthew, John, and the Markan appendix credit primacy of apostolic witness to Mary Magdalene - the Jewish Christian pre-Pauline confession in 1 Cor 15:3&endash;6 and Luke claim that the resurrected Lord appeared first to Peter. Since the tradition of Mary Magdalenes primacy in apostolic witness challenged the Petrine tradition, it is remarkable that it has survived in two independent streams of the Gospel tradition. Moreover, later apocryphal writings&endash;as we have seen - reflect the theological debate over the apostolic primacy of Mary Magdalene and Peter explicitly.
The story "in the garden" must not be psychologized. Mary is characterized not so much as the "great lover" of Jesus who is upset about his death for personal reasons, but rather as representative of the disciples situation after the departure of Jesus. Her great sorrow is turned into joy as Jesus had promised in the farewell discourse. She is characterized as a faithful disciple in a threefold way.
First, Jesus addresses her as "woman" and asks: "whom do you seek?" The Greek verb zetein has a rich meaning for the Johannine community which probably knew its technical meaning of "to study" and "to engage in the activities of a disciple." According to Culpepper John 13:33&endash;35 implies that even though the disciples could not "seek" Jesus successfully before the resurrection, subsequently (in the Johannine school), by observing the new commandment and remembering the words of Jesus (15:20; 16:4), they were distinguished from the Jews and able to seek (and find) Jesus (the Word).
Mary Magdalene is the disciple who, despite her sorrow, "seeks" Jesus and finds him.
Second. she recognizes Jesus at the moment when he calls her by name. In John 10. the discourse on the good shepherd. Jesus asserts:
"I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me" (10:14). The good shepherd "calls his own sheep by name and leads them Out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them and the sheep follow him for they know his voice" (10:3&endash;4). Just as the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, so Jesus loved his "own" to the end (13:1). Mary Magdalene is characterized as one of "his own" because Jesus calls her by name and she recognizes his voice.
Third, her response is that of the true disciple. She recognizes the resurrected Jesus as "teacher." As the faithful disciple who "seeks" the Lord-Sophia, Mary of Magdala becomes the primary apostolic witness to the resurrection. Like Mary of Nazareth, the nameless Samaritan woman, Martha, and Mary of Bethany (and perhaps the nameless adulteress who was not judged but saved by Jesus), she belongs to Jesus very own disciples. Thus for the evangelist&endash;who might have been a woman&endash;these five women disciples are paradigms of womens apostolic discipleship as well as their leadership in
The Johannine communities. As such they are not just paradigms of faithful discipleship to be imitated by women but by all those who belong to Jesus "very own" familial community.
Most of our New Testament literature was written in the last third of the first century and addressed Christian communities of that time. These communities seem to have experienced tensions, troubles, and even persecutions from their Jewish as well as their gentile environment. Although the post-Pauline literature seeks to lessen these tensions between the Christian community and Greco-Roman society by adapting the alternative Christian missionary movement to the patriarchal structures and mores of their Greco-Roman society and culture, the primary Gospel writers insist that such sufferings and persecutions cannot be avoided. Whereas the authors of the Epistles appeal to the authority of Paul or Peter to legitimize their injunctions for submission and adaptation to Greco-Roman patriarchal structures, the writers of the primary Gospels appeal to Jesus himself to support their alternative stress on altruistic love and service, which is demanded not from the least and the slaves but from the leaders and the master5~and I might add, not only from the women but also from the men.
While&endash;for apologetic reasons&endash;the post-Pauline and post-Petrine writers seek to limit womens leadership roles in the Christian community to roles which are culturally and religiously acceptable, the evangelists called Mark and John highlight the alternative character of the Christian community, and therefore accord women apostolic and ministerial leadership. In historical retrospective the New Testaments sociological and theological stress on submission and patriarchal superordination has won out over its sociological and theological stress on altruistic love and ministerial service. Yet this "success" can not be justified theologically, since it cannot claim the authority of Jesus for its own Christian praxis. The writers of Mark and John have made it impossible for the Christian church to forget the invitation of Jesus to follow him on the way to the cross. Therefore, wherever the gospel is preached and heard, promulgated and read, what the women have done is not totally forgotten because the Gospel story remembers that the discipleship and apostolic leadership of women160 are integral parts of Jesus "alternative" praxis of agape and service. The "light shines in the darkness" of patriarchal repression and forgetfulness and this "darkness has never overcome it."