Narrating the Death and Resurrection of Jesus in The “Gospels”: Comparative Analysis of The Gospel of John
The “Gospels” which are better known as the good news biographies of the teachings concerning Jesus Christ. These biographies have been passed down by “oral tradition”. Which include stories of Jesus’s miracles, healings, parables, teachings and death/resurrection. (Lecture 2). Each Gospel proclaims a different interpretation of the Christian message using Jesus of Nazareth as a spokesperson for the evangelists’ position.'(PBS, Frederiksen). All four gospels offer a rich plurality of portraits (Lecture 2). History offers us little direct evidence about the events of this period, but we understand that the four portraits of the Gospel offer differing characterizations that reflect the past experiences and the circumstances of their authors’ communities. (PBS Mellows).
All four of the portraits of Jesus create a single harmonized portrait. Written 40 years after Christ’s death, “the gospel of Mark is the second to appear in the New Testament, but most scholars now agree that it was composed first. While the work is attributed to ‘Mark,’ we will probably never know the author’s identity” (PBS Mellows). The Gospel of Mark establishes Jesus as the Messiah that was prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Mark’s narrative mostly focuses on the death of Jesus, he tells the gospel this way in order to make sense out of his death and in the light of the events. (PBS, White). Mark portrays Jesus as a subversive, enigmatic, wandering, miracle worker (Lecture 2). Additionally, he tries to prove that Jesus was the Son of God, who lived a sinless and perfect life who needed to die (Mark 1:35). He adds accounts of the disciples understanding that Jesus as the Messiah, however many of the disciples who confess that Jesus is the Messiah, clearly do not understand the significance of his Messianic identity (PBS, White). Thirdly, Mark focuses on displaying Jesus as a miracle worker. This Gospel records his miracles over nature. For instance, verses such as Mark 4:37, Mark 6:48-51 and Mark 7:31-37 mentions Jesus performing miracles with nature. “Additionally, Mark focused on including miracles where he healed other people. including Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30-31), the paralyzed man (Mark 2:3-12), the woman with bleeding (Mark 5:25-29), and the deaf-mute (Mark 7:31-37). Jesus also displayed miracle powers over death by raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead (Mark 5:37-39). Including Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30-31), the paralyzed man (Mark 2:3-12), the woman with bleeding (Mark 5:25-29), and the deaf-mute (Mark 7:31-37)” (PBS, White) However, in Mark’s eyes, Jesus is seen as an enigmatic figure who intentionally keeps people from understanding who he is. When Jesus performs miracles, he tells his followers to not tell anyone. Additionally, when the disciples witness the miracles, they don’t understand what’s going on. They are kept the message from Jesus, in order to better understand who Jesus is after his death. For instance, in Mark 15:39, it isn’t until after his death that they understand that Jesus was truly the Son of God (PBS, Koester). In Mark’s story, the gospel doesn’t include an account of the resurrection; Instead, he ends the gospel by adding, two women enter the tomb, and they see a young man dressed in white. The angel explains that Jesus has been raised, and he instructs the women to tell Peter and the other disciples. “The women flee in terror. Mark’s depiction of the resurrection deliberately constructs a, a divine mystery of God’s revelation that will happen yet. And I think it’s that sense of hope that is deeply appealing.'(PBS, Mellows)
Written 80 years after Christ’s death, the Gospel of Matthew focuses on the important facts and lessons that Jesus communicated. Matthew like Luke supplemented most of his material from the Two-Source Hypothesis (2SH). Which is the theory that holds Mark to be the first gospel composed with sayings of Jesus from a lost sayings collection? Matthew’s narrative focuses on the traditions of Judaism. Jesus is represented as the Heir of Abraham, second Moses, opponent of the Scribes and Pharisees (Lecture 2). Matthew’s gospel is directed towards a Jewish Christian audience that observes the strict rules and regulations of the Torah (PBS, White). In Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, “Jesus addresses this crowd saying, ‘think not that I’ve come to destroy the law and the prophets – I’ve come not to destroy them but to fulfil them.’ In Matthew, Jesus observes the Torah, just like the Pharisees. So, on the one hand, they follow the law in a way that makes them very good Jews. On the other hand, there are tensions over what is the proper form of piety for them” (PBS, Koester). Matthew presents the resurrection of Christ by adding more to the final scene of Mark’s story. Instead of the women coming to not understanding where Jesus went, Jesus appears himself before the women. “He then directs them to tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee, the disciples go the mountain — just as Jesus ascended the mountain to deliver the Sermon on the Mount — and they encounter Jesus’ (PBS, Mellows).
The Gospel of Luke written 40 to 80 years after Christ’s death focuses on writing for a Gentile community awaiting the arrival of God’s Kingdom (PBS, Mellows). Luke ‘s narrative focuses on the question ‘Can Christians who believe in the Kingdom of God while being loyal subjects of the Roman Empire? He focuses on Jesus as his universal Messiah. Jesus is presented as a Scholar, merciful and compassionate forgiver (Lecture 3). Luke like Matthew supplemented most of his material from the Two-Source Hypothesis (2SH). Which is the theory that holds Mark to be the first gospel composed with sayings of Jesus from a lost sayings collection? However, unlike Matthew, Luke is much more antagonistic toward Judaism. Acts who are hypothesized to be also written by the same author as Luke. ‘Acts reflects on the development of the Christian movement more away from the Jewish roots and in fact …developing more toward the Roman political and social arena. This political self-consciousness and ethnic self-consciousness that’s being reflected by Luke/Acts is beginning to say that we, the Christians, the ones who are telling this story, are no longer in quite the same way just Jews. And so, there’s growing antipathy toward at least certain elements within the Jewish tradition and within Jewish society’. (PBS, Attridge). In Lk 23:34, Luke presents Jesus’s last words as ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ The Jesus of Luke dies with calm resolution. “Luke’s gospel ends, on the victorious note of Jesus’ resurrection. The sense of mystery that characterizes Mark’s ending isn’t present in Luke’s story. As Luke’s gospel ends, Jesus has departed in the body. But at the beginning of Acts, his Spirit returns, guiding the disciples to the successful completion of their mission followed by the birth of the church”. (PBS, Mellows)
Written around 70-80 A.D, The Gospel of John focuses on resembling Jesus as the Jewish ideal of heavenly Wisdom (PBS, White). John depicts Jesus very different than the rest of the gospels. Jesus is seen as God Incarnate, and the only way to reach the Father is to receive salvation from him. ‘Jesus is presented as someone who travels freely between the dual realms of heaven and earth.; which is why the belief in him is the only way to reach the Father, the only way to salvation. The believers of John’s community can see into this spiritual and redeeming cosmos; their opponents cannot. (PBS Mellows). Like in Luke, John presents” the Jews” as enemies of Jesus, who cannot understand who he is. “The author of John deliberately creates a story that may be interpreted on two levels. That is, the story that John tells of Jesus’ encounter with the Jews consciously parallels the tensions between John’s community and its contemporary Jewish opponents. “In Acts, the new “Jesus movement” is being expelled from the synagogues, because they believed in Jesus was the Messiah. The Jews in John’s gospel simply cannot grasp his identity. They constantly ask, ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘Where are you going?’ Jesus responds by saying where he is going, they cannot go; they think that he intends to travel abroad. ‘Does he intend to go to the Diaspora among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?’
In this gospel, the Jews cannot know because they are from the darkness; Jesus and his followers are from the light: ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this cosmos, I am not of this cosmos.’ (PBS Mellows). Just like in the other gospels, Jn 19:38 – 21:25, “John describes the scene of the empty tomb, just like in Matthew and Luke. John additionally states, Thomas still doubting that the figure before him is really Jesus. Jesus instructs him to feel the wound at his side, whereupon Thomas is convinced. Jesus, in a telling reference to those who accept him, says: ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.'(PBS, Mellows). John addresses his community by saying ‘Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that through believing you may have life in his name.’ (JN 20:30-31) (PBS, Mellows)in. As previously stated, each Gospel proclaims a different interpretation of the Christian message using Jesus of Nazareth as a spokesperson for the evangelists’ position.'(PBS, Frederiksen). All four gospels report on the good news that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (eg-John 20:31). Even though all four gospel writers present the good news in a unique way, they present the question of “Who is Jesus?” (Lecture,2) The first example is all four Gospels tell the same story of Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection.
All four Gospels were written before 80 AD, as Christianity spread beyond the ability to live eyewitnesses to personally teach, and as they started to die off. However, as previously stated each Gospel is told from a slightly different point of view, for a different audience, for different reasons. Luke, for instance, wanted to write the closest thing to what we would consider a historical’ account, whereas John’s Gospel is a theological treatise on the divinity of Jesus, written for a primarily Gentile audience. Additionally, “The Gospel of John, differs from the remaining canonical gospels. Matthew and Luke use common sources such as the gospel of Mark for information of Jesus miracles/teachings. “Both use the so-called synoptic sayings gospel, and therefore great similarities are evident, particularly the outline of the ministry of Jesus”(PBS,Koester)jn. However, The Gospel of John has some relationship to the canonical sources used by the other gospels. For instance, the passion narrative in John is essentially the same as the passion narrative in Mark, Matthew, Luke and in the Gospel of Peter. The other thing that is common with the other gospels is a chain of miracle stories. What makes the Gospel of John different the element of Jesus’ discourses and dialogues with the disciples” (PBS, Koester). “Each of the four gospels depicts Jesus in a different way. These characterizations reflect the past experiences and the circumstances of their authors’ communities” (PBS, Mellows). “As already indicated, Mark wrote for a community struggling under the Roman Empire. Matthew wrote for a Jewish community in conflict under several rules/regulations of the Torah. Luke wrote for a Gentile audience that yearned for Christian beliefs that balanced with the ability to serve as a good citizen of the Empire. While John focused on teaching both Jews and Gentiles communities salvation and grace through Christ. Despite all these differences, all four gospels contain the ‘passion narrative,’ the central story of Jesus’ suffering and death.” (PBS, Mellows) While the gospels tell a story about Jesus, they reflect on the growing tensions between Christians and Jews. “While Luke was composing his work, the tension was breaking into open hostility. By the time John was written, the conflict had become an open rift, reflected in the vituperative invective of the evangelist’s language” (PBS, Mellows). ‘Most of the gospels reflect a period of disagreement, which causedboth a rift between Judaism and present day Christianity!
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