Tag Archives: Gospel of John

Bishop Spong on the Gospel of John

fourthgospelAfter five years of study and writing, retired Episcopal Bishop John Spong has published a new book that argues that the Gospel of John signals in several ways that its author did not intend it to be read as a literal account of Jesus’ life and teachings.

Spong summarizes his conclusions by suggesting:

  1. John is a composite of writings from at least three writers, none of whom were John Zebedee or any other of Jesus’ disciples.
  2. Jesus probably didn’t say the things that are attributed to him in the gospel.
  3. Probably none of Jesus’ “signs” ever actually happened.
  4. Many of the characters in the book were invented by the author.
  5. The book itself ridicules literal interpretations.
  6. The author exaggerates details to signal that we are not dealing with literal reporting.

Clearly (and not unsurprisingly), this is a very different way of reading the Gospel of John than has been customary. What might change in our understanding of Jesus, the Gospel process, and the life of the church?

You can read more of Spong’s own commentary on his book at the Huffington Post. Or better yet, read The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic (HarperOne, 2013) and then tell us what you think.

 

Between the Lines: Pentecost Sunday: May 19, 2013

Text: John 14:8-17 (25-27)

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

Truth

Truth (Photo credit: d4vidbruce)

I am struck by this statement, which seems almost offhand in the midst of Jesus’ extended farewell speech as imagined by the writer of the gospel of John. It seems to me to raise a fundamental question about how one might relate to Jesus.

The “Records of the Life of Jesus” seminars led by the Guild for Psychological Studies raise this question quite pointedly. Early on in the study of the teachings of Jesus as found in the gospels,  participants are asked to consider whether “these things are true because Jesus said them,” or “Jesus said these things because they are true.”

Consider what Jesus says, or what any teacher who you consider wise and insightful—the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr, your father or grandmother—says. Do you trust in what they say to you because you believe in who they are, or because you find truth in how they live? Is it possible to separate those things?

– Andy Kille


“Between the Lines” is excerpted from BibleWorkbench, a weekly resource for engaging the biblical story in a new way published by the Educational Center in Charlotte, NC.  For details and subscription information, see About BibleWorkbench.

Between the Lines: Easter 6: May 5, 2013

Text: John 5:1-9

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time…

And the lame man will walk

And the lame man will walk (Photo credit: Maxine Sherrin)

I am intrigued by the image of the healing pool this man has sat beside for so many years.  I wonder what form that pool and its waters might take in my life.

Take some art materials and paper and quickly give some form to this healing pool.  What waters have you lived beside, without ever putting your toe in?  What expectations might you have around what others have found healing?  What do you know of finding life somewhere other than in the expected place?  What might it be like to “stand up…”

What might it cost you to pick up that mat that you have been lying on?  What might it cost you not to?

What might it be like to walk away, carrying your mat?

Put on a short piece of music, perhaps something like Pachelbel’s Canon, or Barber’s Adagio for Strings.  Sit with it for a moment beside the pool, waiting. Decide as you sit there whether you will stand up, or not.  Take up your mat and walk.  Or not.

Consider, then, what you now know that you didn’t know before.

– Beth Harrison


“Between the Lines” is excerpted from BibleWorkbench, a weekly resource for engaging the biblical story in a new way published by the Educational Center in Charlotte, NC.  For details and subscription information, see About BibleWorkbench.

http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=138#gospel_oth_reading

Between the Lines: Easter 5: April 28, 2013

Text: John 13:31-35

Simple Love

Simple Love (Photo credit: smiling_da_vinci)

Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.

Jesus calls his disciples little children.
What does the designation child mean in his culture?
What do you know of “little children”?
of little children and love?

Whom do they love?
Whom do you/are you to love?
What do you know of the “little child” in yourself?
What does she or he love?

– Terry Dowdy


“Between the Lines” is excerpted from BibleWorkbench, a weekly resource for engaging the biblical story in a new way published by the Educational Center in Charlotte, NC.  For details and subscription information, see About BibleWorkbench.

Between the Lines: Easter: March 31, 2013

Text: John 20:1-18

English: Grieving Mary Magdalene by Czech-Aust...

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple…

How do you suppose Mary might be feeling when arriving at the tomb she finds the stone removed? What must be running through her mind? Why do you suppose she does not enter the tomb or even peek in but rather sets off to find Simon Peter and the other disciples? What have you ever experienced of discovering a deal you thought was done not done or a death that you thought to be dead not dead? Of an agreement you assumed finished not yet agreed upon, incomplete and undecided? Of an ending you supposed over, done with and final only to be surprised that the issue, argument, relationship or love was still alive and well? What is it that may have filled you with caution and kept you from going into that dark tomb and looking around? What is an issue for you today that you have assumed dead that you now discover is still alive? What is the cost and promise of entering the tomb and seeing what yet lives? What is the cost and promise of running off in search of another to look inside for you?

– Bill Dols


“Between the Lines” is excerpted from BibleWorkbench, a weekly resource for engaging the biblical story in a new way published by the Educational Center in Charlotte, NC.  For details and subscription information, see About BibleWorkbench.

Between the Lines: Pentecost 11: August 12, 2012

Text: John 6:35, 41-51

English: Picture of a Wendy's in Charlotte NC.

Picture of a Wendy’s in Charlotte NC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.

This passage, like last week’s, invites the question about how we feed ourselves.  What did you eat yesterday, today?  How nourishing was it?  How satisfying?

Where did you eat?  In your car?  At a fast food place?  With friends? Family? Anonymous others? Alone?

How long did you spend enjoying (or not) your food?

What might we be overlooking or masking or hiding by eating the way we do?

What sweetness do we crave in our life?  What salt?  What yeast?

What bread are we really seeking?

– Beth Harrison


“Between the Lines” is excerpted from BibleWorkbench, a weekly resource for engaging the biblical story in a new way published by the Educational Center in Charlotte, NC. BibleWorkbench includes a series of open-ended questions focused on a reading in the Common Lectionary aimed at drawing readers into the story and making connections with the world around them and the world within. Also included are “Between the Lines” reflections, Parallel Readings from literature, poetry, and the news, and Critical Background on the text and its setting. For details and subscription information, go to www.educationalcenter.org.

Between the Lines: Pentecost 10: August 5, 2012

Text: John 6:24-35

Feeding the 5000

Feeding the 5000
(Photo credit: twenty_questions)

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he has sent.”

In her book, Revelations (Viking 2012), Elaine Pagels writes: “Lest anyone object that God judges not on the basis of what people believe but on the basis of what they do – whether they feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, and care for the sick and prisoners, as Jesus says (Matthew 25:31ff) – Irenaeus insists that moral action and right belief are inseparable. He argues that only those who accept true doctrine actually do act morally; and from this he concludes that God’s judgment will divide believers from non-believers.” Continue reading