The anthropology of John's Gospel

Friday, January 8, 2016

Dr. Benjamin Reynolds, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, is looking at the Gospel of John from a new perspective for an upcoming publication. His research is for the collaborative book Anthropology and New Testament Theology to be published by Bloomsbury/T&T Clark. The book brings several scholars together and asks what the New Testament tells us about humanity and the relationship between us and God. Speaking of his essay on the Gospel of John’s anthropology, Dr. Reynolds says, “This is a bit of a challenge because John’s Gospel is not about human beings – it’s about Jesus.” He is researching the implications: “The fact that Jesus came as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world implies that there is sin in the world, that human beings are sinful, and that somebody who is outside the world needs to come and take that sin away.”

Dr. Reynolds has made interesting finds during his research. John’s Gospel begins with the well-known creation account that focuses on the Word and Jesus’ role in creation with God. Yet several major differences set John apart from the Genesis account: John’s account is post-Fall and makes no mention of imago dei. The world is a dark place at the beginning of John’s creation account, and it rejects the Light. Dr. Reynolds explains that this difference shows the antagonism and the spacial separation that has existed between humanity and God since the Fall.

In John’s Gospel, it is through belief that this antagonism can be bridged. “I think John’s Gospel presents sin as non-belief,” says Dr. Reynolds. Throughout the book, we see the interaction of characters who are wrestling between belief and unbelief.

John’s anthropology is relational, depicting the broken relationship between God and human beings. God then reaches out to begin bridging the gap so that humans can enter into His dwelling. The Epistles are also relational, but they depicts antagonism as taking place between believers and unbelievers.

“There is something of value in asking questions,” says Dr. Reynolds. Looking at the Gospel of John from an anthropological perspective has been a helpful exercise, he says. By asking what Scripture says about humanity, we can see how we are in relation to God and understand better how the Incarnation works.


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