Jesus and Christology: The Gospel of John as Case-Study
As a follow-up to my posting yesterday in which I drew attention to the widely-shared fallacious assumption that the theological validity of NT Christological claims rests upon their having been articulated and taught by Jesus, I (immodestly) draw attention to an essay of mine on the Gospel of John. In this essay I note that GJohn in fact maintains a clear distinction between what was believed about Jesus during his earthly ministry and what his followers came to believe about him in the “post-Easter” period. This is, of course, all the more remarkable in that GJohn also is distinctive in the programmatic way that the earthly Jesus seems to speak with a lot of the discourse-features of the author and the believers for whom he wrote.
The essay in published form = Larry W. Hurtado, “Remembering and Revelation: The Historic and Glorified Jesus in the Gospel of John,” in Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children: Christology and Community in Early Judaism and Christianity. Essays in Honor of Larry W. Hurtado and Alan F. Segal, ed. David B. Capes et al. (Waco, TX: Baylor Univesity Press, 2007), 195-213. (I can’t here go into the curious phenomenon of having written an essay for a volume that was produced with me as the joint-honoree.) I’ve put the pre-publication form of the essay on this blog-site under the “Selected Published Essays” tab here.
Indeed, more explicitly than any of the other Gospels, GJohn makes it clear that the author saw and accepted a distinction between what he regarded as the level of understanding of Jesus among his followers during his earthly life and the subsequently enhanced level of understanding in the “post-Easter” period. The text (in discourse ascribed to Jesus by the author) attributes this to the work of the Spirit, who will “glorify” Jesus, and will guide believers into “all truth” (about Jesus), as, e.g., in 16:12-15.
Of course, early believers held that what they came to realize in the “post-Easter” period (through what they took to be God’s revelations to them) were truths of Jesus’ significance and person that, in some senses, were always true of him. This, however, was again fundamentally a theo-logical conviction: They believed that God didn’t make things up as he went along, but had it all planned out from the beginning. Moreover, they believed that God’s eschatological actions were simply the revelation of things purposed from the beginning.
But my point here is that even GJohn doesn’t make the high Christological claims affirmed by the author rest simply (or even particularly) on demands and teaching of the earthly Jesus. Instead, the text fully affirms that the realization of Jesus’ glorified/glorious status came subsequently, through the revelations of the Spirit.