Abstract of Kostenberger, Andreas J. “The Destruction of the Second Temple and the Composition of the Fourth Gospel.”

Kostenberger, Andreas J.  “The Destruction of the Second Temple and the Composition of the Fourth Gospel.”  Trinity Journal, n.s., 26 (2005): 205-42. [Israel/Herod/Destruction]

The first eight pages of this article are an excellent review of the history of the interpretation of John.  The traditional view of apostolic authorship maintained until the Enlightenment, when from1790 to 1810, it was investigated like any other book and considerable “ferment” grew as several theories questioned the traditional view. Subsequently Strauss and Bultmann viewed the gospel as mythological.  Westcott was more conservative and saw the gospel of John growing out of three historical events: 1) the Gentile mission, 2) the destruction of the temple, and 3) the emergence of Gnosticism.  In the second half of the 20thcentury, J. Louis Martyn developed the “Johannine community hypothesis”.  He argued that rather than being written by John, it was written by members of his religious community who were expelled from the synagogue.    Though this theory had its weaknesses, up until about 1990 it held sway among Johannine scholars.  Ray Brown, though rejecting in part the Martyn thesis, did hold on to the “Johannine community” idea.  The theory went through considerable refinement after 1975, and particularly in the 1980s.  However, after 1990 there was a definite shift away from the theory which was up to then thought to have been “virtually established.”  Christian historians now pointed to a lack of evidence for a specific Johannine community and saw early Christians as rather homogeneous.  So, it was time for a new assessment of the historical setting of John.

Much hinges on the date of the writing of John; whether it was pre- or post-70 A.D.  Most scholars hold it was written in the 80s or 90s of the first century after Christ. This is where Kostenberger’s article comes in.  Keying off of Westcott’s second point, the destruction of the temple, Kostenberger’s thesis is: “…a link between the destruction of the temple and the Fourth Gospel’s composition (and in particular its Christology) would be in keeping with the experience of the loss of previous sanctuaries by God’s people and with messianic expectation centered on God coming and manifesting his presence more fully in the person of the Messiah.  As will be shown, the Fourth gospel’s emphasis on Jesus as the fulfillment of the symbolism surrounding various Jewish festivals and institutions–including the temple–can very plausibly be read against the backdrop of the then-recent destruction of the second temple as one possible element occasioning its composition.  If this sketch is essentially correct, at least in its general contours, John would have formulated his Christology at least in part in the context of the crisis of belief engendered by the destruction of the temple.  The gospel could then be understood, at least in part, as an effort to respond to the religious vacuum which resulted from the temple’s destruction by pointing, not to a temporary, but a permanent solution: Jesus’ replacement of the temple in the religious experience of his people by himself.  It remains to set forth, first the historical, and then the internal evidence supporting such a reading of John’s gospel.”  (p. 215, emphasis in original.)

The remainder of the paper is devoted to a detailed examination of these two subjects through an analysis of the historical context and the temple theme in the literary structure of John.  Not surprisingly in this conservative Evangelical publication, Kostenberger concludes that Jesus fulfilled the temple and related Jewish festival symbolism and became the replacement of the temple–a larger and more pervasive thematic base “than mirror-reading the gospel along sectarian lines.” (p. 241) He further concludes that this reading will “result in recovering an important aspect of John’s message…that, now that the temple had been destroyed, the resurrected Jesus was without peer or rival as the new tabernacle, the new temple, and the new center of worship for a new nation which encompasses all those who are united by faith in Jesus as Messiah.”  (p. 241)

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