The author points out that most Jews seemed to be expecting only one Messiah, however the term "Son of God" was often used of both angels and prophets, "indeed of anyone who could be considered God's mouthpiece." "Son of God" and "Savior" also were used within the Roman world for "whichever Caesar happened to be occupying the imperial throne." (pg. 255)
The question then becomes is Jesus the unique "son of God" or as some English versions of the Bible put it "the only begotten son" which I've read in the past was the King James-era method of declaring someone as a unique person not necessary begotten of a person in a human birth way. Oh, I found this which explains it a bit more clearly perhaps.
The phrase "only begotten" translates the Greek word monogenes. This word is variously translated into English as "only," "one and only," and "only begotten." ...
So what does monogenes mean? According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD, 3rd Edition), monogenes has two primary definitions. The first definition is "pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship." This is the meaning attached to its use in Hebrews 11:17 when the writer refers to Isaac as Abraham's "only begotten son." Abraham had more than one son, but Isaac was the only son he had by Sarah and the only son of the covenant.
The second definition is "pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind." This is the meaning that is implied in John 3:16. In fact, John is the only New Testament writer who uses this word in reference to Jesus (see John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). John was primarily concerned with demonstrating that Jesus was the Son of God (John 20:31), and he uses this word to highlight Jesus as uniquely God's Son—sharing the same divine nature as God—as opposed to believers who are God's sons and daughters through faith. (Source)
While the author makes concession in the book's end notes that there is a case for Paul making Jesus God, the author's view is the opposite. He said neither Paul nor Mark, Luke nor Matthew thought of Jesus as God. But the writer of the fourth gospel - credited to John - did. (pg. 257)
Do you agree that John was the only one?
About the Gospel of John the author writes, "the delightful parables of the Synoptics are nowhere to be found, replaced by dignified but boring speeches that sometimes run to several pages" and "overwhelm us with airless solemnity that leaves us begging for the sinewy, down-to-earth Jesus of the Synoptics. John's Jesus is always in control." (pg. 271-272)
Bah! I take it this author likes action better than words! Perhaps he should be in movies instead of writing books! :-)
It is John's Jesus of "the ancient creeds, of tasteless religious art, of German passion plays and Hollywood movies. He is the immobile icon loved by ecclesiasts and theologians. It is if John's symbolic reverence has made an icon too awesome to be touched by the soiled and unconsecrated hands of ordinary humans....The weight of human and fleshly, the sweaty and smudged is finally overcome in John by the weightless illumination of the divine." (pg. 272)
The author states that this process of icon-making is what later lead Mary from being a simple Galilean woman to rising to Mother of God, perpetual virgin status of the Church.
"Many who are comfortable with the Synoptic tradition and even with Paul feel that here at the threshold of John's Gospel they must part company with the New Testament. They may be believers or half-believers, Jews, humanitarians, agnostics -- all of whom may cheer the insights and advances of Paul and the Synoptic evangelists but find themselves abashed and compassless once they come into the field of John's unearthly glow. The author continues that it's not the deification of the God-man that makes them uncomfortable, but "a spirit of touchy exclusivity" that repeatedly surfaces throughout Western history with "devastating results." For in John, the author claims, the Jews are often enemies, often "designated with contempt, the lost people who 'have no king but Caesar.'" This gospel "is still capable of leaving Jewish readers purple with rage and Christians red with embarrassment." (pg. 273-275)
For about two minutes I wondered if something was wrong with me for never being one of those Christians who found John's gospels embarrassing, but as I kept reading I found out why.
Cahill points out that the Johannine church developed separately almost like an island cut off from the mainland (which - the "mainland" - grew slowly into "the Great Church of succeeding centuries.") John's church didn't rely on a central administration of bishops and deacons, but "was wholly dependent on individual, prophetic inspiration - from 'the Spirit' -- and it rejected the notion that anyone but Jesus could be pastor, that is, their shepherd. ... For all its problems, the high Christology of the Johannine community gave its theology a profundity and piercing clarity that other churches lacked; and its Spirit-based social ambience encouraged equal participation by all, especially women, in its common enterprises of charity and prayer." (pg. 276-277)
"Its insistence on there being but one way of thinking makes uneasy anyone who has ever had an unorthodox thought. It comes as no surprise that John is often the favorite evangelist of the uptight and unrelenting; and his rigidity can call to mind contemporary churchpeople of several unfortunate varieties. The difficulties of John's Gospel are extreme enough that to this day Christian churches use its passages sparingly in their lectionaries, whereas the other gospels are proclaimed in full." (pg. 277)
Am I one of those "unfortunate varieties" of church people because I happen to like John? Maybe. I am a bit rigid about certain doctrines! I feel there are some matters too important to be wishy-washy about. While many I know like John's gospel (not sure if he is their favorite evangelist since we all have different tastes), I must tell you that they don't seem to hate Jews or blame them for crucifying Christ. I read a book a couple years ago by a Jewish American guy who appealed to his fellow Jews to understand that - although liberal Jews and conservative Christians may not agree on politics in the United States - we conservative Christians were great friends of the Jews in many matters. He explained that while European Christians of the past were often anti-Jew and blamed Jews for killing Jesus, North Americans were strongly influenced by London-born John Nelson Darby who was very pro-Jewish. Darby made missionary voyages to North America in the 1800s and his beliefs became more popular here. Therefore, instead of us seeing Jews as Christ killers, we see Jews as the ones who brought us Christ and the Bible we hold dear. Our Savior was a Jew! "Our" Paul! "Our" Isaiah! "Our" David!" How can we hate the Jews? In fact I grew up hearing that the Jews didn't kill Jesus. In reality, we all did if we believe he died for our sins for all of us are sinners. I think this is why many of us were puzzled when Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ came out and Jews were fearful that we would blame them for killing Jesus. Huh? That thought never crossed my mind!
So although "my people" may like John, I wanted to clarify that we are among the Jews' best friends. This is actually a point that annoys me quite a bit because my people often equate today's Zionist State of Israel with the Jews and thus conservative Christians are one of the most staunch supporters of Israel today despite the country's many war crimes and mistreatment of people. My Syrian friends know this and is one reason they were quite surprised that Andrew and I were nice people. They figured we all were monsters, apparently.
Lastly, the author admits to some of John's literature as being "the most beautiful of the New Testament."
On this point, I totally agree with Thomas Cahill. What from John's Gospel or letters do you find most beautiful? What do you greatly dislike? Any favorite stories from John?
Any thoughts on any of this? Please share.