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The structure of the discussion

The central assumtion is that we can read the gospel at two levels. At one level it is a text which has served Christians well over nineteen centuries and in which we can discover treasures which enrich our life as individuals and a community. For instance I often use John 14.1-3 as a reading when I officiate at funerals and it provides a rich foundation for the address.

But the text can also be read as a history of a community and tell us a lot about the development of one Christian community and through it we can discover the source of the 'high' Christology which we find in the gospel. In these pages we explore this in detail using as a foundation the work of Raymond Brown in his book 'The Community of the Beloved Disciple' and in his commentary published in two volumes in the Anchor Bible Series. Other books to which I refer are mentioned in the Bibliography.

The first assumption is that the Gospel according to St John was written for a communiity of Christians, which we will call the Johannine Community, to remind them of the story they share and to teach them about God and Jesus Christ.

This commmunity differs from the Apostolic Church as founded by Peter and Paul in a number of critical ways: -

  • It is a universal body including within it Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles and recognising the ministry of women

  • It has a high Christology which celebrates the preexistannce of the word of God which for a period is identified in Jesus

  • It has a relatively weak emphasis on Ethical behaviour as a key element in determining how the community works. Rather it is more concerned with the love and compassion which is manifest within the community

  • It has a fundamental belief in the power of the Spirit (The paraclete) to lead the community and therefore sees little need for Ecclesiology. But it reveres the person known as the disciple whom Jesus loved

The gospel itself has it's origins in a Gospel of signs which was written down relatively early but this is enhanced by one or more redactors over several years (perhaps even a couple of decades) until it assumes the form which we have today