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Befriending the Beloved Disciple, Adele Reinhartz

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Befriending the Beloved Disciple

A Jewish Reading of the Gospel of John

By Adele Reinhartz

In Chapters 4-8 Reinhartz approaches the text from a variety of perspectives, but each time takes a close look at the Gospel as historical, cosmological and ecclesiological tales. As a Jewish woman whose chosen profession is of a New Testament scholar, she offers several ways in which to interpret the Gospel and the time in which it was written. Besides pointing out anti-Semitic themes and the historical conflict between Christian and Jewish communities, Reinhartz simply offers literary criticism of the Gospel of John.

CH. 1 Prologue (p.11-16)

CH. 2 Reading as Relationship

Reasons why author is disturbed by Gospel’s representation of Jews:

  • Of the 70 +/- references to Jews, many occur in the context of hostile or negative statements
  • Jews are associated with unbelief, the execution of Jesus, and the persecution of his followers.
  • Their self understanding as the children of Abraham and of God is denied. Their festivals and their institutions are replaced, usurped, or undermined.
  • Verse 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” This image has echoed through centuries, in theology, art, literature and anti-Semitic invective.
  • The Gospel casts the Jews as a group in the role of the Other who resists and opposes the Gospel’s message of truth. (p.20)

CH. 3 The Gospel of the Beloved Disciple

  • Gospel was written at a time when Judaism and Christianity were separating, which suggests tensions were high, and would explain negative language towards Jewish community. Ex: passages 9:22, 12:42, and 16:2 all refer to the aposynagogos, which means “one who is put out of the synagogue.” (p.38)
  • These passages also reflected a revision in the twelfth benediction of the Amidah (central prayer of the Jewish liturgy.) The change added a curse on Jewish-Christians and other heretics. Suspected Christians were then asked to lead prayer, and dependent on which version of the benediction they recited would be a sign of their allegiance. Christians would then be excluded from the synagogue. (p.39)(more on this topic, p.75)

CH. 4 The Beloved Disciple as Mentor: A Compliant Reading of the Fourth Gospel

-Three ways in which John disassociates Jesus with Judaism (p.63)

  • 8:17 & 10:34 Jesus refers to the Jewish law as “your law.” 5:17- Jesus says he is not bound by the Sabbath laws.
  • Jesus’ named disciples are never described as Jews, though it is a logical assumption that they were seeing as they were in Palestine and were common people.
  • “Although many of the messianic titles have Jewish referents, the presentation of Jesus as the Messiah has appeal beyond the Jewish community, as evident in 4:25, 29, and 12:20)

-Author speaks of John’s thoughtful use of metaphors. Describes dichotomy in language and what it represents (p.67-70) Example: light/dark, life/death, etc.

-Conflict as family feud, see p.77

CH.5 The Beloved Disciple as Opponent: A Resistant Reading of the Fourth Gospel (p.81-98)

In the chapter, Reinhartz considers the perspective of the Jews within the Gospel and constructs their objections to Jesus.

CH.6 The Beloved Disciple as Colleague: A Sympathetic Reading of the Fourth Gospel(p.99-130)

Readers of the Gospel is compelled to be a part of the story, “the open-endedness allows succeeding generations of Christians to see themselves as addressed directly by Jesus and the Beloved Disciple.” Reinhartz compares this to the Passover Haggadah in which Jews are obligated to write themselves into the story. (p.102-106)

CH.7 The Beloved Disciple as Other: An Engaged Reading of the Fourth Gospel (p.131-159)

CH.8 Conclusion: Befriending the Beloved Disciple(p.160-167)