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- 336-323 B.C.E. Alexander the Great,
king of Macedon, extends his empire
across the Near East, with the result that Hellenism
(Greek-derived, Greek-speaking culture) becomes the dominant culture
in those lands (which include the traditional habitat of the Jews,
as well as a number of other religious cultures).
- [323-40 B.C.E Judaea successively ruled
Greece, Syria, and Rome, with a brief interlude (ca. 140-135 B.C.E)
of independence following the success of the Maccabean
- ca. 200 B.C.E. the Septuagint,
a translation of the Old Testament into vernacular Greek, is created,
according to tradition by a collective of 70 translators (hence the
name, "Septuagint," from Latin septem [seven] + -ginta
(>viginti, twenty). The Septuagint was designed to help
Jews who were now using Greek as their primary language to remain
familiar with their sacred texts, but it had the side-effect of making
Hebrew Scripture available to the Greek-speaking population at large
for the first time.
- 39 B.C.E. Herod (later the Great) declared
King of Judaea by the Roman Senate.
- 4 B.C.E.
Jesus is born (according to scholarly concensus) Herod dies.
His son Archelaus replaces him as ruler of Judaea.
- 6 C.E. (="A.D.") The Emperor
Augustus exiles Archelaus, replacing him with a
Roman prefect. Thus, for the first time since the Maccabean Revolt
150 years earlier, Judaea is directly governed by a foreign, pagan
authority instead of by a Jewish religious leader. Taxes are now paid
directly to Rome (instead of being filtered through a local Jewish
ruler). As a result, the power structure of the region is awkwardly
divided among persons, systems, and cultures: the (pagan, Roman) Prefect
lives in Caesaria (on the coast), visiting Jerusalem about 3 times
a year, for festivals; the (pagan, Roman) High Priest lives in Jerusalem;
the population, however, is mostly Jewish (thus it's unlikely that
Jesus would have met any Romans in most of his travels).
- 4 C.E. scholars' accepted date for the birth of Jesus
- ca. 33 C.E.
crucifixion of Jesus
- ca. 50 C.E. letters of Paul
- ca. 70 C.E. Gospel of Mark
- sometime between 70 and 100 C.E.: Gospels
of Matthew and Luke
- ca. 110 C.E. Gospel of John.
At the end of class on Tuesday, I asked you to consider
further the relationship between Matthew's Gospel and the Hebrew Scriptures
we read (Genesis, Exodus). In particular, I asked you to revisit the
handout I gave you on "Pattern in Genesis" (click
for an online copy) and to consider the ways in which those
patterns (or their inverses) also played out in the life and ministry
of Jesus--as narrated by Matthew
Please perform the same exercises for the Gospel of John. Does it
make sense to use the "Patterns in Genesis" table when discussing
John's use of Hebrew scripture? In what ways are his uses of/allusions
to Hebrew Scripture similar to Matthew's (in style and/or purpose),
and in what way(s) are they different? How many such allusions can
you identify? Is there a pattern in the way they are used (style,
As you did for the birth and youth narratives in
Matthew and Luke, I'd like you to compare, thoughtfully, the Gospels
of Matthew and John as you read the latter. Did you find John easier
or more difficult to understand? What important differences did you
notice in the way John designs his narrative (what kinds of events,
speeches, symbols, and themes he focuses on; what details
he actually changes (from the version in Matthew); and what
he omits)? What do these reflect about John's plan for his
Gospel--that is, for whom is John writing and what does he want his
audience to do? What effect(s) is he striving for? What, in John's
view, is the most important aspect of the Christian cult, and how
does he try to deliver that aspect in his Gospel?
Most importantly, what do you have to do to be saved, according to
Matthew? According to John? How do their conceptions of salvation
influence the way they shape their texts?
In your analysis, please pay particular attention to the following
(a) the opening (first few verses) of each Gospel
(b) the feeding of the 5 thousand (incl. walking-on-water episode):
John 6, Matt. 14:13-23
(c) the Last Supper: John 13-14; Matt. 26:20-56.
Note that John dates the Supper differently from Matthew:
in Matthew (and the other Synoptics), the Supper is the first Seder,
or Passover meal (and the "bread" Jesus offers his disciples
is therefore matzah, the unleavened bread of the Passover); in John,
the meal is the last chametz meal, the last meal before
the beginning of Passover. Look back at the origins of the Passover
festival, Exodus 12:3-11. Why does John (and not Matthew) time the
Last Supper to coincide with the previous evening?
- Keep a close watch on John's use of everyday objects such as water,
wine, bread, fish, light. How does John transform these objects to form
the basis of his symbolic vocabulary? What is special about the way
he does this? (Again, thoughtful comparison with Matthew may yield some
- In particular, note the extent to which the above object-symbols are
culinary. I asked you to pay particular attention to the emphasis on
eating and drinking in Exodus; those considerations should bear
fruit here as you contemplate the same themes in John. Note carefully
each instance in which eating is emphasized (with literal or figurative
intent), and hypothesize about (a) the role of these references in John's
symbolic system and (b) to what degree their meaning is intertextual
(i.e. depends on our correlating them with another text: in this case,
- Pay attention to John's use of time and space. Compare
with Matthew's use. How does John's concept of the relationship between
the "now" of Jesus's ministry and the "then" of
history (particularly Biblical history) differ from Matthew's?
- When you discussed Genesis with John, I assume you gave some consideration
to the issue of language (its role in both the first and second
Creation stories; the story of Babel; etc.). Now, consider John's concept
of (and symbolic use of) language. What parallels can you draw
with the way language was treated in Genesis? In what way(s) is John's
use of language (as a concept or theme) different/special?