It is common amongst scholars, certain scholars that is, to assert and argue that the Gospel of John is very Greek or Hellenistic in its orientation and origination. Note E. F. Scott:
. . . that John has put the Gospel message into Hellenistic philosophical or religious terms intended to connect with the ideas of educated people in the Greco Roman world. (E. F. Scott, “The Fourth Gospel: Its Purpose and Theology”)
But what becomes strikingly clear, once some study and research of the Gospel of John is done, is that this claim about the flavor of John is mis-founded. When I was in seminary I took a class, New Testament usage of the Old Testament, where we worked through particular books of the New Testament and examined quotes from the Old Testament and compared and contrasted their usage with their original context. We did this with the Gospel of John, every now and then I will be posting some of my work in this regard. What this work yields, is the realization that the claim by Scott, and others, is totally dubious. The Gospel of John is thoroughly Jewish, in background and origination. It is richly Christian in trajectory, i.e. in establishing that Jesus is the promised son of David, the Messiah. Richard Bauckham says:
. . . In my view, John’s Gospel is Jewish primarily through its pervasive roots in exegesis of the Hebrew Bible in ways that can be illuminated by Jewish exegetical practice of the period. In this sense, John has done what all early Christian writers did: he has understood Jesus better by relating him to the Hebrew Bible. John has done so in ways that are in many (not all) cases rather distinctive. There are parallels in second Temple Jewish literature that may help us understand some of the more specific influences on him from the variegated Jewish theology of his time. But he was also a highly creative thinker, and his debts to the thought world of his context are therefore selective and idiosyncratic. The threads he has selected have been woven into his own very special tapestry. His Gospel defies ideological pigeonholing. (Richard Bauckham, “The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John,” 24-25)
I think Bauckham is very astute, and his claim represented in this quote, can be easily substantiated. One way to substantiate the Jewishness of the Gospel of John, is to simply do a biblical theological study of how John uses the Old Testament in his messianicly oriented Gospel. The following represents that kind of research.
John 1: 23 using Isaiah 40: 3
Jn 1:23, He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Is 40:3, A voice is calling, clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness, make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
*John uses the Masoretic text and the Septuagint
1. A. The broad context of Isaiah is speaking of judgment on Israel and the nations surrounding Israel. It also discusses God’s ultimate hope for Israel through the promised Messiah.
B. The nearer context is discussing the restoration of Israel through the coming of the Messiah. It is discussing the one who will prepare the way of the coming of the Messiah. And then discusses the results of the “shalom” that Messiah will bring, he will make that which is wrong, right. This is speaking, historically, of a yet future time, eschatologically.
C. There is conformity between the New Testament’s usage and the Old Testament context.
2. The contribution from the Old Testament, as it is used in this New Testament context, is that this passage in Isaiah is setting the people up for future messianic hope and salvation. God is making a promise that he will bring to fulfillment. And, in fact, John is recognizing this promise from God finding fulfillment in John the Baptist. John is pointing out that the promised Messiah of the Old Testament is now coming just as he said. John is saying, ‘ look the messenger has come (i.e. John the Baptist), therefore the Messiah is coming just as was said in Isaiah’. John is making the connection between Yahweh of the Old Testament with Messiah of the New Testament.
More to come . . .