That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, Son of God
“That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, Son of God” John 20. 31. Explain and criticise this claim concerning the purpose of the author of the fourth gospel. (20) There are many possible reasons for why the fourth gospel was written, the claim that it was written to make readers believe that Jesus, is the Christ, Son of God in 20.
31 can be explained by Macrae as he thought that John had used both terms, ‘Christ’ and ‘Son of God’, so as to accommodate both the Gentiles and the Jews who would understand one of the terms, this reveals that the text has a universal focus, and was written to help bigger audiences understand about Jesus and who he was. However, due to the other possible reasons that have to be taken into consideration, this claim is in a disadvantageous position.
A possible purpose for the writing of the gospel and the most popular theory believed by scholars such as Martyn, is that it was to encourage and support the faith of Jewish Christians who were ex-communicated from their synagogues for believing in Jesus as the Messiah, as told in 9. 22, where it is said that ‘anyone who confessed to Jesus to be the messiah would be put out of the synagogue’. This theory is known as the sociological approach and is not only supported by J. Martyn but also R.
Brown as he wrote in his book, ‘The Community of the Beloved Disciple’ in 1979. Another possible reason is for sacramental purposes, and Cullman, believes it was written to rectify the under-emphasis on the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism in the early church. Cullman explained that whenever bread or wine is mention in the gospel then the author is talking about the Eucharist and whenever water is mentioned, he is talking about baptism, and therefore because they are mentioned quite often, then the gospel must be sacramental.
Following on from the sacramental purpose, there is an idea called false Christology, an idea supported by Smalley, where he says that the purpose was to correct the false teachings on Jesus Christ. There are two heresies during the time of the gospel, due to the fact that Jewish Christians had been taught up one God, they found it difficult to believe that Jesus was God, and could not see him as a spirit, whereas on the other hand, the Gentiles found it very difficult to see Jesus as a human and as a spirit.
Due to this, Smalley proposes that the purpose was to connect these two ideas together about Jesus being just a man and just a spirit, and intertwine them to show that Jesus was a real person and God, the incarnation. The author proved that Jesus was both a spirit and a man in two ways, he showed that Jesus was a spirit by telling the stories of the signs that Jesus performed like the raising of Lazarus, but also in this story showing that Jesus also had human feelings was when he wept, 11. 35. As part of Jesus teaching, the author suggests that Jesus is God’s son and can offer salvation to all humanity, 3.
16, this is due to him being a part of God’s spirit and can be portrayed as both man and spirit. A further possible explanation that can oppose the claim is that called an eschatological purpose, proposed by C. K. Barratt, this was to explain to the Christians who believed that Jesus would return in their lifetime, why he had not come back to them, parousia, as he had promised he would. So the author addressed this problem and told the Christians that Jesus was returning as he had promised and would raise the dead, like he had done in the story of Lazarus.
R. Fortna believed that the author tried very hard to lay too much importance on the importance of miracles as a means of salvation, the author tried to teach to the Christians that faith based on miracles was not as important as faith based on Jesus’ teachings. In 4. 48, when Jesus raised the official’s son, he taught that beliefs should be based on other things, and that it is sad to rely on wonders to believe in Jesus. The author stresses this point once again in the resurrection appearance in 20.
29, when Jesus tells his disciples, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ he emphasises that those who believe in him despite not having actual proof in front of them are holy. Due to the many other possible reasons for the purpose of the gospel, the claim, cannot be the only reason why it was written, due to the sheer number of alternatives, the different scholars must have had reasonable doubt not to decide that the claim, ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, Son of God’ is totally accurate and that the purpose of the gospel could be due to another or more than one other possibilities.