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While it is a tragic fact that the Gospel of John has contributed to anti-Semitism and religious violence during some chapters of Christian history, John is not anti-Semitic. It was written by a Jewish writer, about a Jewish messianic figure, targeted first toward convincing Jewish audiences that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah. Salvation is “of the Jews,” according to the Johannine Jesus, and each of the “I-am” sayings embodies a classic representation of Israel. John is no more “anti-Semitic” than the Essene community or the prophetic work of John the Baptist. On the other hand, “the Jews” sometimes typify the unbelieving world and are portrayed as primary adversaries of Jesus and his followers, despite the fact that some are also presented as coming to faith in Jesus. The Ioudaioi in John can be seen to represent several associations, ranging from “the Judeans” (suggesting north-south divisions) to the religious leaders in Jerusalem (or locally in a diaspora setting), who actively oppose Jesus and the growth of his movement. The main problem is with interpreting John wrongly or with allowing flawed interpretations to stand.2 When read correctly, the Fourth Gospel not only ceases to be a source of religious acrimony; it points the way forward for all seekers of truth to sojourn together, across the boundaries of religious movements, time, and space.


Originally published in John and Judaism: A Contested Relationship in Context. by R. Alan Culpepper and Paul N. Anderson, eds., Resources for Biblical Study 87 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2017). pg. 265-312

ISBN-13: 978-1628371864

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