If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. It’s the idea that John presents Jesus as divine and the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) present Jesus as a mere man. And when you combine all the Gospels together, only then do you end up with a vision of Jesus as both God and man.
In fact, it is precisely this characterization of the matter that makes people doubt the historicity of John. It makes it seem like folks originally viewed Jesus as just a normal guy, but then, over time, their views evolved more and more until you end up with something like the Gospel of John. Thus, you can’t trust this later, more-divine version of Jesus. You have to go back to the earlier (and purportedly more human) version of Jesus in the Synoptics.
To be sure, there’s a sliver of truth to this characterization (which is why it has survived so long). It is true that John’s Christology is certainly more straightforward and unequivocal. One might even argue that it is more “developed”—depending on what is meant by that term. Indeed, John’s portrait of Jesus is unique in many ways, which also explains why his Gospel is so well-loved.
But it does not follow that the Synoptic Gospels somehow deny Jesus is God, or portray Jesus as merely and only human. Instead, I think it is more accurate to say that the Synoptics present Jesus as God in ways that are less overt than John, but are nevertheless clear about his identity as the God of Israel.
As just one example, [Read more…]