"Truly this is the Savior of the world": Christ and Caesar in the Gospel of John

Lance Byron Richey, Marquette University

Abstract

The question of the Fourth Gospel's origins has occasioned a very large amount of scholarship over the last century, ranging from the arguments of Rudolph Bultmann for a proto-Gnostic background of the text to those of Raymond E. Brown and J. Louis Martyn for a strongly Jewish one. While both approaches have advanced our understanding of the Johannine milieu, neither accounts adequately for the Gospel's preoccupation with the concepts of power, kingship, and divinity--all of which were closely interrelated in the Augustan Ideology. Moreover, after expulsion from the synagogue and loss of Jewish religious privileges, Johannine Christians would unavoidably have come into conflict with the Roman authorities charged with defending both the political interests and the divine image of the emperor. The evangelist could not have ignored the grave practical and theological dangers this situation posed for his community. I argue that, in matters both of grand design and of minor detail, and on both a structural and a lexical level, the final redactor(s) of the Fourth Gospel made a conscious effort to address issues raised for his community by the religio-ideological and socio-legal claims of the Augustan Ideology. I begin by reconstructing a history of the Johannine community based on the writings of Brown and Martyn, before carefully examining the function of the Augustan Ideology in first-century Roman society, particularly but not exclusively as mediated through the Imperial Cult in the provinces of Asia Minor. I next apply these researches to several key christological terms and titles in the Gospel, as well as to the Prologue and parts of the Passion Narrative. In all these we can find substantive parallels and allusions which would have clearly connoted the person of the emperor to John's audience. These parallels and allusions, in turn, are pervasive and systematic enough to suggest the existence of a polemic governing the final redaction of John and directed at least in part against the Augustan Ideology. In short, the final redactor(s) of the Gospel wanted to distinguish clearly the nature of Christ's divinity and power from the religious and political authority of the Emperor.

Recommended Citation

Richey, Lance Byron, ""Truly this is the Savior of the world": Christ and Caesar in the Gospel of John" (2004). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3133750.
https://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI3133750

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