A critique of Bultmann's Attempted Rearrangement of the Gospel of John. From:
Previously Unconsidered Evidence concerning John 7:53-8:11, 2005-2006 ( hosted on ChristianForums.com )
Last Updated: Feb 23, 2009
Section 1: - Introduction
Section 2: - Bultmann's Prehistory for John
Section 3: - Bultmann's Signs Source
Section 4: - Bultmann's Proto-Gospel
Section 5: - O.T. Quotation Structure Damage
Section 6: - John the Hijacker
Section 7: - Rearrangement of the Passion (chapters 13-21)
Section 8: - Rearrangment of Signs Gospel (chapters 1-4)
Section 9: - Rearrangment of Signs Gospel (chapters 5-6)
Section 10: - Rearrangment of Signs Gospel (chapters 7-9)
Section 11: - Rearrangment of Signs Gospel (chapters 7:31-44)
Section 12: - Rearrangment of Signs Gospel (chapter 8)
Section 13: - Rearrangement of Signs Gospel (chapter 10)
Section 14: - Summary and Conclusion
The Wikipedia Online provides us with a straightforward and brief biographical sketch of Rudolf Bultmann:
Rudolf Karl Bultmann (August 20, 1884 - July 30, 1976) was a German theologian of Lutheran background, who was for three decades professor of New Testament studies at the University of Marburg. His History of the Synoptic Tradition (1921) is still highly regarded as an essential tool for gospel research, even by scholars who reject his analyses of the conventional rhetorical tropes or narrative units of which the Gospels are assembled, and the historically-oriented principles called "form criticism," of which Bultmann has been the most influential exponent:
"The aim of form-criticism is to determine the original form of a piece of narrative, a dominical saying or a parable. In the process we learn to distinguish secondary additions and forms, and these in turn lead to important results for the history of the tradition."
In 1941, he applied form criticism to the Gospel of John, in which he distinguished the presence of a lost Signs Gospel on which John, alone of the evangelists, depended. This monograph, highly controversial at the time, is a milestone in research into the historical Jesus.
Bultmann remained convinced the narratives of the life of Jesus were offering theology in story form. Lessons were taught in the familiar language of myth. They were not to be excluded, but given explanation so they could be understood for today. Bultmann thought faith should become a present day reality. To Bultmann, the people of the world appeared to be always in disappointment and turmoil. Faith must be a determined vital act of will, not a culling and extolling of "ancient proofs".
Some scholars criticized Bultmann and other critics for excessive skepticism regarding the historical reliability of the gospel narratives.
(Exerpted from From Wikipedia Online, article, Rudolff Bultmann)
Schaff gives us a good picture of what the Tubingen school of thought was on John, and how off-base it was seen to appear to orthodox Christian scholars:
3. The Irenic tendency-theory is a modern Tubingen invention. It is assumed that the fourth Gospel is purely speculative or theological, the last and crowning literary production which completed the process of unifying Jewish and Gentile Christianity and melting them into the one Catholic church of the second century.
No doubt it is an Irenicon of the church in the highest and best sense of the term, and a prophecy of the church of the future, when all discords of Christendom past and present will be harmonized in the perfect union of Christians with Christ, which is the last object of his sacerdotal prayer. But it is not an Irenicon at the expense of truth and facts.
In carrying out their hypothesis the Tubingen critics have resorted to the wildest fictions. It is said that the author depreciated the Mosaic dispensation and displayed jealousy of Peter. How in the world could this promote peace? It would rather have defeated the object. But there is no shadow of proof for such an assertion. While the author opposes the unbelieving Jews, he shows the highest reverence for the Old Testament, and derives salvation from the Jews. Instead of showing jealousy of Peter, he introduces his new name at the first interview with Jesus (1:42), reports his great confession even more fully than Matthew (John 6:68, 69), puts him at the head of the list of the apostles (21:2), and gives him his due prominence throughout down to the last interview when the risen Lord committed to him the feeding of his sheep (21:15-19).
This misrepresentation is of a piece with the other Tubingen myth adopted by Renan, that the real John in the Apocalypse pursues a polemical aim against Paul and deliberately excludes him from the rank of the twelve Apostles. And yet Paul himself, in the acknowledged Epistle to the Galatians, represents John as one of the three pillar-apostles who recognized his peculiar gift for the apostolate of the Gentiles and extended to him the right hand of fellowship.
( P. Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume I: Apostolic Christianity. A.D. 1-100. Chapt.XII, § 83. John )
It would not do, to leave the discussion of alleged 'additions' and 'editions' of John without discussing the almost famous rearrangements proposed by Bultmann and others, in their effort to reconstruct 'sources' for John's Gospel. These conjectural switcheroos have actually been incorporated into bibles, such as the Moffat Translation.
In order to understand exactly what Bultmann was selling concerning an earlier 'rearranged' Gospel, it is important to see his whole plan. Bultmann proposed not just a 'proto-Gospel', but also an even earlier 'Signs Source', used by John (or 'Proto-John'!) in composing his Gospel.
How did he arrive at this extended '3-stage' process, with (1) an early 'Signs Source', (2) an intermediary 'proto-Gospel', or 'Ur-John', and (3) a Final Redaction (our Greek John)?
He noted that the Gospel of John neatly falls into two halves: a public ministry, which extends over about a three-year period (the first 12 chapters), and a second half: the 'Last Supper', Passion Account, and Resurrection stories. John uniquely treats Jesus' miracles as 'signs', and these all fall in the first half of the Gospel (ignoring some obvious miracle-signs, like Jesus' own ressurrection!,and a miraculous draught of fish in another post-ressurrection appearance!).
Bultmann used the 'new' (and just about the only critical tool of that time)
This approach appears rather myopic nowadays, but its force is still felt in critical circles, because a few basic observations of Bultmann and others have withstood objections to other aspects of his work.
Even men such as C. H. Dodd recognized a certain attractiveness to solving most of the Gospel's structural features/'problems' using the method of rearrangement and deletion (obviously powerful tools for fixing problems, real or perceived, when other explanations were not yet discovered or available):
"The original order is supposed to have suffered some primitive disarrangement, whether fortuituous or deliberate, which has resulted in inconcinnities and disjunctures...
Many attempts have been made to improve the work by re-arrangement of its material. Some of these have been (as it were) 'canonized' by being adopted in large and important editions of the 4th Gospel, and in modern translations. [i.e., Bultmann's rearrangements adopted by Moffat in his translation of John]
I have examined several of these rearrangements, and cannot sufficiently admire the patience and endless ingenuity which have gone into their making. It is of course (scientifically) impossible to deny that the work may have suffered dislocation, and plausible grounds may be alleged for lifting certain passages out of their setting, where there seems to be some prima face breach of continuity...
Meanwhile the work lies before us in an order which (apart from insignificant details) does not vary in the textual tradition, tracable to an early period.
I conceive it to be the duty of an interpreter at least to see what can be done with the document as it has come down to us before attempting to improve upon it...
...if the attempt to discover any intelligible thread of argument should fail, then we may be compelled to confess that we do not know how the work was originally intended to run.
If on the other hand it should appear that the structure of the Gospel as we have it has been shaped in most of its details by the ideas which seem to dominate the author's thought, then it would appear not improbable that we have his work before us substantially in the form which he designed."
(C.H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, pg 289-290)
Yet Dodd largely had no trouble in tracing the line of argument throughout the Gospel, except notably in one place; he is following the critical Greek text omitting John 7:53-8:11, and at this point he says:
"Chapters seven and eight bear the appearance of a collection of miscellaneous material. [!] It consists of a series of controversial dialogues, often without clearly apparent connection..." (ibid, pg 345)
Although we can only speculate what would have happened had Dodd been using the traditional text which actually includes the passage (Jn 7:53-8:11), it is apparent that the Gospel of John without the passage has a serious flaw.
In any case, lets have a look at Bultmann's proposed original 'Sayings Source', to see what we are buying with Bultmann's solutions:
The Logos.......................................... 1.1-5, 9-12, 14, 16
Flesh and Spirit................... 3.6, 8, 11-13, 18, 20-1, 32-6
The Water of Life.................................. 7.37-8
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4.13-14
The Bread of Life...................... 6.27, 35, 48, 47, 44-5, 37
Father, Son, and Eternal Life............ 5.17, 19-21, 24-5;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11.25
The Glory................................................ 5.31-2, 39-44;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.16-18;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.14, 16, 19;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.7, 28-9;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.50, 54-5;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.33-4;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.43, 42, 44, 47,45,46,51
The Light of the World.......................... 8.12;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12.44-5;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9.39;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12.47-50;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.23, 28-9;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9.5,4;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.9-10;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12.35-6
Shepherd-Door.... 10.11-12, 1,4,8, 10, 14-15, 27-30, 9
The Coming of the Hour........................ 12.27-8, 23, 31-2
Freedom through Truth.......................... 8.31-2, 34-5, 38
The Revelation of Glory........................ 17.1, 4-6, 9-17;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13.31-2
The Vine and the Branches........... 15.1-2, 4-6, 9-10, 16
Departure of the Revealer/
Arrival of the Paraclete............... 15.18-20, 22, 24, 26;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16.8, 12-14, 16, 20, 22-4, 28;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14.1-7, 9, 14, 16-19, 26-7 (18.37?)
The first thing we may notice when we look at Bultmann's version of a 'Sayings Source', is how tiny it is.
When we turn to the actual 'Sayings Source' itself, we see that Bultmann has further gutted his own conjectural 'proto-John' and stripped it down to a small collection of sayings formed by completely snipping the discourses of Jesus into tiny 'sound-bytes' (and discarding most of them).
This leaves a 'swiss-cheese' like skeleton of Jesus, disembodied from any real historical context, and results in something like a primitive 'Thomas', or gnostic 'Q' like document.
This, Bultmann wishes to convince us is the authentic 'source' of the Gospel of John. A Signs-Source, or list of Jesus' miracles something like Mark, and a Sayings-Source made up of gnostic mysticism.
But worst of all, of course, in the process the Gospel of John has shrunk to a third of its size.
When we glance at his 'intermediate stage' proto-Gospel, we are perhaps not immediately aware of just how much of John's material was being jettisoned: The first four chapters suffer relatively little loss or even rearrangement. It is not until the Passion Section (chapters 18-21) that Bultmann begins throwing large sections overboard.
This is partly explained away by the fact that chapter 21 has the appearance of an appendix or add-on. But then Bultmann proposes that the whole Passion (the Betrayal, Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion, Ressurrection Appearances etc.) was simply for the most part adopted from the Synoptics or early tradition, and added later.
1.19-51 Testimony of John the Baptist
I. The Revelation of the Glory before the World (ch. 2-12)
2:1-22 Preliminary revelation
A. The Encounter with the Revealer
2.23-3.21 1. Jesus and the teachers of Israel
4:1-42 2. Jesus in Samaria
B. Revelation as Judgement
4:43-54 1. Healing of the Royal Officer's Son
6:1-59 2. The Bread of Life
5.1-47 3. The Judge
C. The Revealer in Conflict with the World
7.1-14 1. Hidden, Contingent Revelation
8.41-7 2. A 'Fragment' (?)
9.1-41 3. The Light of the World
10.22-6 4. The Good Sheperd
D. The Revealer 's Secret Victory over the World
10.40-2 1. The Decree of Death 11.1-54
11.55-12.33 2. The Way of the Cross
II. The Revelation of the Glory In the Community (chapters 13-20)
A. The Departure of the Revealer
13:1-30 1. The Last Supper
13.1 2. The Farewell Prayer
3. Farewell Discourses and Sayings (13.31-16.33)
13.31-5 a. Departure and Empowering
15.18-16.11 b. The Community in the World
16.12-33 c. Eschatological Future of Believers
13.36-14.31 d. Communion with Father and Son
B. Passion Narrative and Easter
C. Gospel Conclusion
That is, quietly near the end, Bultmann has removed the whole orthodox Christian understanding of what a Gospel is: namely the story and theological explanation of what the crucifixion, death and ressurrection of Jesus means.
Instead, Bultmann wants to replace all this with a simpler, 'realised eschatology', by which he means a 'gospel' without a ressurrection, or a sacrificial surrender by Jesus to the will of the Father in order to secure the salvation of His flock and potentially the world.
The Gospel of John in its proto-stage becomes a kind of 'Thomas-like' mystical document gutted and disembowelled of all of its gritty historical and true eschatological content. This 'proto-John' apparently wrote a kind of gnostic tale, far removed from the historical Jesus of the Gospels, including our Gospel of John.
In examining Bultmann's 'proto-John', the first thing we can note is that his rearrangements leave the O.T. Quotation structure largely intact, since he doesn't significantly rearrange the passages which quote the O.T.
On the other hand, his elimination of virtually the entire Passion Account chops off the last three O.T. quotations, and damages the second chiastic pattern around the Great Commandment. This is unfortunate, for Bultmann's proposal for a 'proto-John' does not remove the structure, but only damages it moderately.
This means that if there were a 'proto-John' roughly along Bultmann's lines, it must have contained the O.T. Quotation structure, and Bultmann is simply wrong in eliminating the bulk of the Passion Narrative!
So much for Bultmann's proposal concerning the original 'ending' of John.
So much for Bultmann's attempt to clip off the Passion account for 'Proto-John'. If Proto-John is anything like his proposal, then the Passion narrative should be left where it is.
Bultmann actually rearranges the contents for his 'Proto-John' in two separate and independant steps:
(1) He rearranges the first half of the Gospel, the 'Book of SIgns', (chapters 1-12)
(2) He rearranges the Passion, specifically the Last Supper Discourses. (ch. 13-21)
This is a bizarre methodology, since the whole point of reconstruction should be to recover the elusive 'Signs Source'. This was the original rationale or justification for rearrangement in the first place. But Bultmann doesn't even try to do this at this stage.
The 'Signs Source' (if it ever existed as a separate document) is still firmly embedded here in his proto-gospel, yet he is acting as if this document were in two separate halves or books. All of the rearrangements he proposes in the first half (the Signs part) stay within these boundaries, and likewise with the 2nd half of the document.
To see how bizarre this is, keep in mind that the document Bultmann is reconstructing here, his 'Proto-Gospel', is actually supposed to be a stage between the sources (i.e., the Signs Source) and the final Traditional Gospel.
How can it be possible, working back from the Gospel, that rearranging each half of John separately could create the hypothetical intermediate document? Or put another way, how could an editor move from the proto-gospel to the final Gospel, by simply rearranging material within each of the two halves?
But if Bultmann is not undoing whatever the supposed editors were doing, what the heck is Bultmann doing?
John the Gnostic Hijacker:
By now it should be apparent: Bultmann is not trying to reconstruct the composition of John from his alleged sources at all, but is proposing a completely different idea, a hypothetical and wholly fictional 'Other Gospel' of a Gnostic Kind.
Bultmann's 'proto-gospel' is not a simple 'intermediate stage' between source and final Gospel at all. Its a completely foreign creation gratuitously inserted into an imaginary 'history of composition'. This history is unsupported by the actual internal evidence that John's Gospel actually does provide.
Bultmann wants to sell us his Gnostic 'Proto-Gospel' as the true source for John's Gospel, rather than the actual sources that John's Gospel may plausibly suggest.
This Gnostic 'Proto-Gospel' is not based upon any internal evidences provided by John. It is instead artificially created by reversing the imagined act of John in 'kidnapping' a Gnostic Gospel and converting it into a Catholic Gospel.
So Bultmann must manufacture a 'Gnostic John' to support this theory. But in order to do so, he not only has to create this Gnostic Gospel, he also has to severely modify both of John's apparent sources, the 'Signs Source', and the 'Sayings Source', so that they can plausibly be used by the 'Gnostic John' to create his proto-gospel. This is the true motivation for all the hacking and slicing, the virtual gutting of not only John, but all his sources.
But at this point we have to simply stop and marvel at John the Evangelist's incredible good fortune, according to Bultmann:
(1) Not only were there convenient 'proto-Gnostic' sources based upon the life of the historical Jesus handy for the Gnostic John to create his Gnostic masterpiece out of.
(2) But there was a genius Gnostic author able to adapt these sources into a Gnostic Gospel the like of which has never been seen before.
(3) This genius Gnostic John chose against all convention to adopt huge narrative sections, stories of Jesus into his Gnostic work.
(3) Hence John was easily able to adapt this Gnostic proto-gospel into a conventional Gospel, without any significant changes to its narrative content.
(4) Instead, John concentrated upon adapting Gnostic sayings embedded in his Gnostic source-gospel into conventional and heavily Judaic confrontations between Jesus and the authorities, rather than deleting them.
(5) The result was the most profound, deep, creative and advanced statement of orthodox Christian dogma ever written, all done with material borrowed solely from Gnostic heretics.
We simply must stop and wonder at both John the Evangelist's good fortune, and ours.
Or could there be another, less unlikely possiblity?
What if instead a German professor simply attempted to create a Gnostic Gospel out of previously existing material, i.e., the Gospel of John?
And what if, after mutilating and rearranging his source in a rather primitive fashion, the result was not the 'great Gnostic Gospel' that was hoped for? What if the result was an inferior product which ineffectively and unconvincingly used its sources?
The reader may guess what we are likely to find in examining Bultmann's proto-gospel.
Let's look at (2) The Last Supper rearrangements first:
a) Bultmann proposes that the Final Farewell Prayer (John 17:1-26) be inserted in the very beginning of the Discourse(s) at 13:1.
b) Bultmann also takes the four exchanges with the four apostles and places them at the very end, where the Final Prayer was.
What is the purpose and effect of this?
Well it seems to remove a 'seam' at 14:30,31, and place it at the very end of the discourses, giving a kind of absolute sense to the suggestion that Jesus will not 'talk too much after this'.
But is it necessary to move everything from 13:36 all the way to the end of chapter 14, just to smooth an apparent wrinkle caused by the two verses?
The material moved is clearly meant to be at the beginning of a discourse, not at the end of one. Each of the disciples in turn questions the Teacher, and gets an individualized response, which clearly must have taken place before the grand statements and assurances in the Final Prayer. These may be 'last minute lessons', but they could hardly have come at the end of other deep teachings which convince the disciples that they finally know the secrets the Messiah has planned to give them.
Wouldn't it be easier to simply move the two offending verses (if they are so problematic), and place them at the end of chapter 17, if we feel such a strong need to do so at all? Or better, at least from a form-critical point of view, simply delete the second round of talks (chapters 15-17) as an addition, as our previous friend has done?
But the two verses are hardly attached any more strongly to the previous section than to what follows. It may seem inexplicable to some modern readers why John would place these verses here, if he intended to write or include more discourse. And of course one apparent solution is to assume that John is using a 'source', and blindly copying it in chunks, not fully realising the difficulty he causes by not amending his source at this point.
Yet this flys in the face of everything we know about John, and by this I mean the final author/editor/redactor. Everything we know points toward him as a rather careful structure-builder, fully aware and sensitive to every word and phrase he so carefully assembles.
If anything, (since it is all conjectural anyway, and without any textual existance), we might simply propose a scribal dislocation or gloss of these two verses. This is certainly the simplest and most likely assertion, if the verses were miscopied in one very early exemplar.
So Bultmann's solution for the Second Half of John has been dismissed by almost all other critics as the wrong answer, even if some answer is still required.
What is even more troublesome for Bultmann's conjecture is its
The whole exercise has been one of trying to please the sensibilities of the modern critics as to what John would have or should have done in composing or arranging his Gospel material. But the best attempts at reconstruction produce a 'proto-Gospel' with the exact same kinds of problems as the original. One can hardly be impressed. Surely the initial complaint and the resulting activity, no matter how artificial, should have produced a 'proto-Gospel' minus these very flaws, said to have been introduced by a redactor in the first place.
Whatever the true solution is, it can hardly be Bultmann's, and it looks like it can never be arrived at by these arbitrary and non-sequitous methods.
To sum up then, the entire case of problems found in the last half of John amounts to a total of two(!):
(1) A pair of verses (14:30-31) could possibly be out of place, causing a kind of 'sky is falling' panic among the chickens with smaller brains in the henhouse.
(2) The ending dialogues/discourses seem rather long, and appear to be composed of two sections (13:1-14:31 and 15:1-17:26), possibly the testimony of two different apostles, or meant to be used alternately in private/public reading or service.
An additional self-contradicting and confusing charge, based upon an impression which has become a dogma, runs something along the following lines:
(3) John is completely different than the other three Gospels.
a) John is so different, that it can have no connection to or dependance upon the others.
b) So in order to make 'a)' true, in case anyone notices it really isn't very true at all, we must rip out the entire Passion narrative and Ressurrection appearances.
It probably won't take a rocket scientist to see that this 'crisis' is largely self-generated by the complete ignorance of modern critics as to how and why John composed his gospel the way he did. And the argument from silence being put forward isn't really all that deafening.
Bultmann leaves the first four chapters of John pretty much intact. However, he does feel compelled to propose a switcheroo between the two halves of the second passage of John the Baptist's testimony about Jesus. We'll see why in a moment:
At first glance, this looks like pure insanity: The first part of JB's testimony carries its own introduction, and is integral to its composition. It can hardly be the 'second half' of a section. The second half (as it stands in the gospel as we know it) also is clearly not a beginning, but a secondary commentary on previous material.
The madness is explained this way: The second half of John's testimony isn't John's at all! It is the second half of the speech found in John 3:16-21, a speech often attributed to Jesus and alleged to have taken place in His dialogue with Nicodemus the previous week or so! Of course this isn't all Bultmann's imagination, or entirely his fault.
If you look in a few different
Some Christian scholars honestly feel that Jesus' speech in this section ends at verse 3:15. John (the Evangelist/author, not the Baptist!) then begins his interpretive commentary in the narrative, beginning at 3:16, and continuing until verse 21. There are many reasons to hold this view. One important one is that partly because of this kind of confusion, many people have raised charges against John, that he rather freely put words into Jesus' mouth which Jesus didn't actually speak, making the Gospel of John a *very* interpretive document to say the least.
Of course these features are minimized and the charges of John putting words in Jesus' mouth are easily refuted when we properly divide the narrative portions from the dialogue. The reason this confusion is even possible is that quotation marks, punctuation, even spaces between words were often missing, and largely not even invented yet at the time of Jesus.
We personally can agree with Bultmann and many others that Jesus' speech probably ends at verse 15. Choices like this go a long way toward being able to differentiate the speech and personality of Jesus and other characters like John the Baptist from the speech and character of John the Evangelist (or whoever the author of John is). When we allow for this and apply these beginning and end-points properly, it becomes clear that John is not a 'made up theological document full of long discourses'. It is a primitive eyewitness account and a true Gospel as authoritative and accurate as Mark.
What Bultmann is proposing is that the second half of John the Baptist's testimony (3:31-36) really belongs to John the Evangelist, and is actually the second half of (3:16-21). This almost makes sense when you examine the content of the various sections.
There is no need to move the author's commentary in the narrative at 3:31-36 at all. It can be quite adequately and clearly connected directly to the preceding testimony of John the Baptist in exactly the same manner as the previous commentary (3:16-21) can be simply related to Jesus' speech to Nicodemus.
That is, we can easily recognise and admit that this section is another short commentary by John the Evangelist on the preceding section (the Baptist's speech), without succumbing to a clumsy urge to 'group like things together'. This is just what an editor/compiler like Matthew might actually do, but is the opposite of our stated goal of reconstructing the ORIGINAL layout.
In this case, since there is a total lack of evidence for some different arrangement, and the passage makes perfect sense where it is, we assume it is exactly where it belongs.
Bultmann's urge to connect the narrative comments of John together is wrongheaded for this obvious reason: The whole thing about these discourses of Jesus being too long was solved by recognising the existance of additional commentary by the Evangelist. Once this is done, long speechs are no longer the prominent feature that we thought they were, and now we have no reason to believe John's commentaries were long rambling monologues either. So why artificially join them together to create long rambling monologues by the Evangelist?
Once again, an assured methodology of a textual critic has resembled a cowboy shooting himself in the foot while attempting to draw his weapon.
The simplest and best solution here is just to leave the first four chapters of John the way we find them, since they stand without variation in the textual tradition, and they make perfect sense as they are, whether or not we allow for narrator providing explanatory comments.
It should be noted that these kinds of errors are common, and almost inevitable whenever a 'new tool' for textual criticism is invented and proposed. It seems unavoidable that such tools are at first over-applied, and that people will attempt to apply the tool to every unsolved problem (real or imagined) in the New Testament.
We can hardly fault these pioneers too greatly, when after all, the methods are untested and their scope and relevancy is unknown until they are experimentally applied and critiqued.
Well, Bultmann's handling of the beginning and ending of the Gospel is disappointing. Let's see how he does for the middle.
The first thing Bultmann does is tear out the entire chapter six of John, rip this in two, and place the first half before chapter five, and the last half at the end, after chapter twelve, Jesus' Triumphal Hour.
The supposed motivation here is that John's chronology is problematic in comparison to the Synoptics: John's schema is as follows:
Thus John paints a scene of Jesus mainly living and teaching in Galilee, but visiting Jerusalem on important Feast Days, and performing signs there also.
In John's schema, the ministry of Jesus extends over about a two or three year period, with Jesus visiting Jerusalem on multiple occasions.
Yet this should not be exaggerated. All the gospels mention the fact that 'Jesus did many other miracles and signs' and often simply summarize long periods in Jesus' ministry with a few sentences.
A hundred years ago, when many textual critics believed that John was a 'late, non-historical' pseudo-gospel, it was assumed that the Synoptics gave a more accurate picture of the travels of Jesus and the length of His ministry, and could be taken quite literally as more or less 'complete' sketchs of His travels. But that was before the interdependance of the Synoptics was fully appreciated, lessening the force of their seeming agreement against John.
Yet again, John's chronology is also loosely connected, just as it is in the Synoptics. There are large segments of time which are omitted or summarized, and the more detailed 'chapters' are rather vaguely joined. This is what allows the book to fall naturally into chapters, and also for their rearrangement, without causing total havoc at the 'joints'.
So it probably seemed sensible at the time to try to rearrange John to correspond to a single extended journey through Galilee and Samaria, and ending in Jerusalem. Of course this blueprint failed, because John provides extensive and careful notes throughout the incidents and discussions he chooses to detail for us.
These notes concentrate on geographical and physical details that appear to be extremely accurate, and many have been recently confirmed by archeaological digs in Jerusalem etc. Far from John simply inventing these details, it turns out that he must have had intimate knowledge of Jerusalem before it was burnt down.
Again, the same reason that Mark is held to be the first and primary Synoptic gospel can be applied to John. Many verbose details and incidental facts suggest an original eyewitness document. Typically, when these testimonies are re-used and edited, the unimportant details are the first things to go, and the actual historical situations are lost or generalized. John's narrative however, is rich with historical details that are unlikely to have been invented.
Nowadays, there's far less reason to believe that John has the chronology 'wrong', and we should give precedence to the Synoptics. Although John presents us with a very definite 'schema' and pattern of Sign/Discourse, certain key features of the chronology show that John is not willing to chronologically rearrange his own chosen material in favour of his own schema.
For instance, looking at the chart above, it will be seen that the 2nd Discourse and 2nd Sign are 'out of order'. Rather than postulate a clumsy mis-arrangement however, it would be far more plausible to just admit that John is not sacrificing chronology to form, especially when he goes to so much trouble to provide geographical and chronological detail.
One of the big problems with Bultmann's rearrangements is that he utterly fails to take into account the schema of John. Here was a perfect opportunity to propose a 'rearrangement' which would at least have a surface plausibility, namely to switch around the 2nd Sign and 2nd Discourse to follow the pattern in the rest of John. Other possibilities could have been tried also, in the later miracles and discourses.
Instead, Bultmann makes a crude cut and paste which does more harm than good.
Nor does Bultmann's rearrangement really solve the problem of Jesus coming to and fro from Galilee to Jerusalem. While the incidents in Jerusalem are moved a bit closer to one another, the basic incongruity between John and Mark remains about the same in scope and severity.
In the end there is no real support or justification for Bultmann's handling of chapter six. It exaggerates the difficulties in John, ignores what is known of John's schema, and doesn't really fix anything, while causing new problems.
We may note the following additional weaknesses as well:
(1) (as can be seen in the diagram above) there are really multiple incidents of disputes with the Judeans following Jesus' signs and discourses. More could have been noted and added. Moving just one of them to the end of the Triumphal Hour (ch 12) is inadequate and wholly unconvincing. This is especially true when John repeatedly insists this exchange took place in Capernaum.
(2) At the end of chapter 12, the passage just becomes an 'anti-climax', completely out of sync with the fact that finally, all the people are behind Jesus, including the exiled and excommunicated Greek Israelites. In the basic story in all four gospels, Jesus' crucifixion was a result of betrayal at the peak of His popularity, not abandonment by the multitudes.
(3) And this places Jesus away from Jerusalem again, instead of where He must have been for His arrest.
(5) Most importantly,
Bultmann has just given in to his own aesthetical demands that John's march of signs be a progressive march of 'bigger' and better in the eyes of the critic. But John's interest lies rather in presenting an escalating series of disputes and conflict between Jesus and the Judean hierarchy based upon their longstanding rejection of both Jesus and John the Baptist. The evangelist hasn't time for Bultmann's artistic sense.
Next Bultmann has a go at the 'Light of the World' cluster of discourse and exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees at the temple. (John 8:12-59).
Again, the surgery appears far more drastic than the mild symptoms seem to call for. If Bultmann was a doctor, he'd be a millionaire-cosmetic surgeon, gifted as he is at selling needless extras that will make the Gospel appear more 'perfect and beautiful' than ever before. The problem is, we only have to look at Michael Jackson to ultimately judge on why too much surgery is not necessarily a good thing.
Lets have a look at the details for this section:
Before dealing with Bultmann's shredding of chapter 8, lets examine the final reversal of the two sections, 7:31-36 and 7:37-44.
The first thing that strikes us is how can this man plausibly make the cut between verse 30 and 31, when it is blatantly obvious that verse 31 really belongs to the previous bitter dispute, 7:14-30?
And the answer isn't some profound secret only recently discovered by the brilliant tool of 'source criticism', but it turns out rather lame: Because if the section is cut at its natural point between 31 and 32, then it would be impossible to join
" ...and some of them would have taken Him, but no man laid hands upon Him.
Well, obviously in order to swap the two sections, Bultmann has to do some trimming off of the ends here, or else make a new cut at 30 and leave verse 31 dangling from the beginning of 32-36.
This not only places the
Is it too unreasonable to ask why the original version of the story isn't far more plausible even as a story?
The (non-Bultmann) Version:
In the original order, Jesus teaches publicly, and many are turning to Him to follow Him. THIS would be the obvious reason for the Pharisees and chief priests to send an arresting party, which in turn gives the reason He doesn't appear again until the Last Day of the feast.
Yet that party may not have been able to organize that quickly or do anything for at least a day because of the crowds alone. Earlier, the Pharisees dared not speak against John the Baptist for the very same reason: the people believed he was a prophet.
In this scenario, Jesus naturally escapes at the end of the day, and returns again on the Last day of the feast (v37). Thus Jesus, after His surprise visit in the middle of an 8-day (or two week) festival, leaves the arresting officers hanging for days, as they stand around like idiots hoping to see Him again.
Now on this Last Day, even though the enthusiasm begins to turn to confusion and division after some difficult words, it is still unsafe for a handful of guards to dare an arrest.
They return empty-handed finally after at least trying for 4-7 days to arrest Jesus, protected as He is by His disciples and the (out of town) crowds.
Even the guards have waivered plausibly: Why? because according to the
Not everybody will be happy with the historical plausibility of the original arrangement. But all can agree that it is far more credible as the version John would have written than Bultmann's silly story!
In summary then,
(1) Bultmann's 'swap' must involve some clearly artificial surgery in order to allow any kind of 'fit'. And so rather than SOLVE existing 'seams', real or perceived, Bultmann has had to actually invent NEW seams where they previously had no existance at all.
(2) Bultmann's result is a limp-wristed story that simply doesn't have any realistic coherence or plausibility.
Granted that the gospel stories involve miraculous events and sometimes even puzzling perpexities of detail, Bultmann's *new* story reads more like the surreal dream of an opium addict than a primitive gospel account. He seems to have anticipated John Allegro's "Sacred Mushroom" cult theory by almost 30 years! Perhaps Allegro arrived at his own unique ideas by reading Bultmann's version of John!
Bultmann's treatment of chapter 8 of John's Gospel is especially interesting and enlightening, ...not least from a psychological point of view.
Out of 60 whole verses, Bultmann leaves us with a mere 12. He leaves intact about the same amount as previous critics were willing to remove from the entire chapter (namely the pericope de Adultera). Note: that in itself was up to then the largest single excision ever attempted against the entire NT. But Bultmann outstrips them all.
A subsequent 100 years of post-mortem examination have failed to show any objective, or at least empirical difference between chapter 8 and any other chapter of John. Why then is this particular chapter subjected to this brutal mutilation and indignity?...
The Infamous Seam between 7:52 and 8:12...
What is of special interest to us of course is how
We noted previously that even Hort was obliged to offer 5 pages of 'apology' and rationalization for the 'seam' created by attempting to join the two halves of John back together directly after the removal of John 7:53-8:11, in his Introduction.
Now yet another critic is compelled to show himself wholly unsatisfied with the results of the critical application of the textual evidence, namely the idiotic removal of John 7:53-8:11 :
The first thing to go for Bultmann is 8:12 , " I am the Light of the World." Of course it seems preposterous to Bultmann, (and practically everyone else of perception,) for Jesus to have stood up smugly announcing this, after leaving His enemies and the crowd dangerously divided in 7:52. Even C. H. Dodd, who foolishly follows the critic's text, is embarrassed by the 'lack of connection' between the two halves after the smoke has cleared.
But now Bultmann is just as unhappy with the next bit, 8:13. Again he tears off a strip from the second half of John, this time bigger (8:13-20).
And again Bultmann cannot find any way to join back the two halves! But like a one trick pony or a Pavlovian dog, Bultmann cannot stop. He tears away yet another massive chunk out of chapter 8: (8:21-29). And yet once more, Bultmann is unable to sew back up the patient (or victim). Still he can't make ends meet:
Now a 4th organ is removed from the abdomen of John; 8:30-40! At last Bultmann feels he can now stitch the halves back together. But has he really solved the problem, or is he just giving up in despair? It seems that he somehow senses that this process cannot possibly go on forever, and still retain hope that the patient will survive in any recognizable form, to enjoy quality of life.
All he has left now is 8:41-59. But even this last piece fails to fit gracefully to 7:52....
...So it must be operated upon twice more, removing 8:48-50, and 8:54-55. Thankfully, Bultmann is now snipping out smaller bits of flesh, apparently adjusting his surgery to the dwindling size of the remainder.
In the end, we are left with a paltry 12 verses of chapter 8 to hold together the two great halves of the Gospel.
The Wrath of Kahn:
Like a stubborn man trying to fix his own car, he has continued to remove parts he doesn't understand, hoping that it will still start up smoothly in the end. The lawn is now covered with rather large engine parts: transmissions, manifolds, waterpumps, carburetors...does anyone seriously think the car will actually start now?
It doesn't take a genius to see that Bultmann, for all his cleverness, is suffering from the
Why not tear chunks off of the previous section, 7:45-52?<
Why not try a different technique or method, if this one continues to fail?
These are the questions we would have liked to have asked Bultmann BEFORE he rushed to publish.
Obviously Bultmann is no mere scoffer.
He is a man who has profoundly wrestled with the Gordian knot that is the Gospel of John. Unfortunately, like Alexander before him, his only solution was to hack it to pieces. This time however, far more subtlety of technique is required. Real profound puzzles cannot be solved by Alexander's methods, any more than one could put back together the silky cable of the Gordian knot after the Emperor had slashed it to bits.
Unlike the patriarch Jacob, Bultmann has not won his wrestle with the angel in any convincing manner. At the end of the day, the Gospel of John, like one of the Two Witnesses of Revelation, has simply stood up and walked away intact.
That there are profound problems and puzzles surrounding John and his methods of composition there is no doubt; but they will have to await more advanced and sophisticated methods than those of Bultmann.
The Subway Litter Effect:
It is rather an anti-climax to note that Bultmann, a product of his 19th century German culture, was a plodding, myopic victim of his blinkered sequential approach. But this alone cannot really explain the fiasco of chapter 8.
A more modern psychological analysis reveals a more recently discovered principle at work: the "subway litter" effect. This is the principle behind the old adage, "one man breaks the ice, and everybody else chisels in."
It has been noticed time and again that if a subway or train platform is kept clean, people will hesitate to litter there. That is, no one wants to be the first to drop a conspicuous piece of garbage in a public place, leaving an eyesore and provoking 'herd' disapproval. Yet within minutes of one piece of garbage being dropped, the platform will soon virtually fill with garbage of all kinds, from candy wrappers to newspapers.
Once a (perceived) majority of critics had ejected the Pericope de Adultera, the snowball effect reached a zenith. From this point on, critics felt free to mutilate the Gospel of John in any manner they pleased. The apparent weave, "all of a piece", seemed to have been proven to be a myth after all. The Achilles' heel had been found, and the armour had been shattered.
This factor weighed so heavily upon Bultmann's mind in dealing with chapter 8, that he seems to have lost all self-control and scientific detachment in the matter.
The result was neither pretty, nor scientifically defensible.
In Bultmann we see a man, continuously frustrated with the difficulties of the text, and with the only familiar tool , a pair of scissors, he speedily cuts the Gospel into jigsaw pieces which he hopes his intellect and intuition will allow him to rearrange in a manner less offensive to his 19th century existential philosophy.
The experiment fails, and Bultmann is unable to justify his incredible assault on chapter 8 of the Gospel of John.
Although Bultmann's hack and slash through the jungle of chapter 8 could not be called any kind of victory, it may after all have had some kind of cathartic effect upon his temper and methodology.
After resting his razor throughout chapter nine, he finds energy for one last burst of jigsaw-making. Yet without reason once again, he applies his effort locally only.
If other parts of John can have been removed and placed at opposite ends the gospel entirely, Bultmann gives us no explanation at all why these particular parts should only be shuffled within the chapter itself. Surely John's rearrangement plans stretched beyond the range of a single chapter, even though the actual divisions were invented long after the age of apostles, according to Bultmann.
But the answer we fear lies rather in the fatigue of the great textual theologian of the 19th century, than in the probabilities engaged by the content.
Now Bultmann, perhaps more wisely than before, becomes less ambitious, and merely chops the chapter into five easy pieces, playing the 'three-cup shuffle' with three out of five.
The reader by this point is so grateful that the contortions are relatively minor, that they are almost willing to just let them go, and hope nothing is too bent out of place when the pieces come to rest.
Still the nagging question is after all, why?
The first thing Bultmann does is break apart the
This Bultmann seizes upon this piece as the casing or outer garment for all the earlier dialogue and exchange: Accordingly, he takes the last paragraph and separates it at the junction between v26 and v27.
All the rest of chapter 10 will be placed inside this cocoon between 26 and 27 like a carefully arranged Japanese Garden.
For the first half however, he does not follow the obvious cut between v21 and v22, but instead snaps off the first piece sooner, at v19.
Already we are dismayed, since once again, rather than discovering and correcting or healing any real or apparent
The section 10:19-21 he treats as the connection to the previous segment, the incident concerning the blindness of the Pharisees in comparison to the man given sight (9:39-41).
If we are stunned by this first connection, we should be: Now Bultmann has the crowds saying
"He (Jesus) has a demon, and is insane!" (v20) as a result of His famous (and we thought quite reasonable) statement:
"If you were blind, you would have no sin: but now you say 'we see.' therefore your sin remains!" (9:41).
While this new connection is so jarring and disconcerting as to make our teeth grind, apparently it makes good logical sense to Bultmann with his Higher German existential glasses.
But how does it compare to what we already had between chapter 9 and 10? Originally, Jesus, unimpressed with the Pharisees self-evaluation, had criticized them in 9:41, and immediately followed up with a murky parable (implying they were not His sheep...). He then as usual expounds upon the parable for those able to understand. Later, Jesus refers back to this veiled insult in 10:26:
"...you are not of My sheep, as I (already) said unto you." (Jn 10:26)
Yet now in the Bultmannian version it has no previous reference at all, since it has been placed at the beginning with
But these are only the preliminaries. More important than how Bultmann's rearrangement joins (or fails to join) the rest of the Bultmannian Gospel, how does the new chapter 10 hold up as a unit in itself?
Using verses 19-26 as an introduction, (and stealing the first half of Jesus' shorter summary speech given an indeterminate length of time later, in the winter at the Feast of Dedication), Bultmann manages to have Jesus begin the whole discussion with the harsh and unsubtle announcement to all that:
"You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I (formerly in some other gospel somewhere) said to you:"<
Bultmann prefers that all modern readers be
Now Jesus announces,
" I am the Good Shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep..."
...After He has disavowed any attachment to all His hearers and readers! What sheep are these? Who cares, they clearly don't include the listener or reader. The New Jesus is describing His fantasy of an invisible group of followers we will never actually meet in Bultmann's gospel.
Now comes the description of the hirelings. This becomes the first half of the Parable of the Sheepfold Door, so we have verses 11-13 and 1-10 forming a new unit, the 'Super Parable' which blends and confuses the uncaring hireling with the bandit who enters the Sheepfold without using the Gate. One has to be onguard to keep all the characters straight.
In the old John, Jesus talked about robbers attempting to enter the sheepfold by bypassing the Door, aimed at the Pharisees, a very apt metaphor.
Later, Jesus talks to His disciples about 'shepherds' who as hirelings don't care for the sheep. An entirely different message, but one again appropriate for the actual audience addressed.
But apparently to Bultmann verses 11-13 are opaque, and must be 'parable-like' enough to be part of 1-5. They cannot be allowed to be part of the explanation of the parable which follows in verses 7-18.
Here thankfully, we can experience Jesus giving the rest of the parable (v1-5), and after suitable pause in v6-7, we can try to imagine Jesus is now talking to His disciples (true sheep?), although this illusion will soon be shattered.
The main explanation of the parable continues in the right order (minus v11-13), and manages to survive with minor wounds.
But now follows the last half of the speech to the unbelieving Judaeans (v27-31), as though Jesus had just given His explanation of the parable to them! The New Jesus ends his exposition with a claim regarding Divinity, which invokes the threat of a stoning!
The explanation of the parable, so carefully separated from the altercations with the Judaeans in the standard gospel, now has no receptive audience of believers to receive it. Instead the Judaeans are given credit, both for hearing the 'secret explanation' Jesus normally gives only to His own disciples, but also for rejecting it *after* understanding it.
The result is a version of the Gospel completely alien to the way Jesus was known to conduct business, (cf. Mark 4:10-12! ) and in which the regular Gospel of John was in perfect harmony.
Once again, the determined Higher German Critic has achieved with
He has perceived there is much that is magical and peculiar about John's text, but has failed to operate upon it with the right tools.
The result was predictable.
A detailed examination of Bultmann's work upon John has revealed obviously that he is not working according to conventional standards and concepts, like historical or cultural plausibility. No proper rational account of the imagined evolution of the Gospel of John is offered.
Nor should we expect one. Bultmann is not a Biblical critic after all, certainly not a textual critic or dry scholar.
Through the slices and shuffles, the imaginative reconstructions, the gatherings of 'like and alike', the leaps from island to island of isolated artificial floats, a picture of the real Bultmann begins to emerge.
And of course we should have expected that the handling of John's Gospel would tell us more about Bultmann than about John, in the end.
And hints of his true identity have teased and prodded us from the beginning.
The spirit of Bultmann is the spirit of Picasso.
As we view Jesus through the shattered kaleidoscopic lens of Bultmann, we actually come to appreciate his work in spite of ourselves.
For Bultmann has unintentionally done us a great service, whether we be Gospel of John fans, or simple Christians.
In order to defend something well, you have to both love it and know it, so that you can do so accurately and enthusiastically.
Bultmann's challenge has given us two great gifts:
(1) We have discovered just how much of the authentic historical Jesus can shine through the most damaged copy of John. It was as if we had all the pages, and on the way to the binder stumbled and fell in the wind. We may have put the unnumbered sheets together as best as we could, but some flaws remain. Yet still Jesus is able to shine a guiding light out to us through even the dimmest candle.
(2) We have been forced to learn and appreciate exactly why many initially puzzling features of John must remain just as they are. There is an invisible net which binds John together tighter than any superficial sketch of the landmarks could ever indicate.
While it can be a thrilling and educating adventure to explore the wild shenanegans of textual critics and theologians, for those of us with the strength of faith and loyalty to do so without harm, it is still good to come back home again to a place where our well-placed faith can rest.
When all is said and done, as fun as excursions into Neverland can be, we are more grateful than ever that we possess a clear and coherent picture in the traditional Gospel of John, far superior to the imagination of the average theologian.
In the traditional John we have the greatest vision of Jesus ever recorded. This Jesus was high above the cleverest theologian, and more concise than the stogiest textual critic. Here we find a king worthy of the title Lord of Lords, a purity and primitive expression that makes plain the conflict with establishment 'religion', and presents anew the concentrated Word of God.
In the traditional Gospel, we find the authentic Messiah sought by sincere Israelites such as Nathaniel. With Peter we discover the life-giving words that sanctify and save us from ourselves and the world. In John we are confronted with the face of the Father, and find mercy and truth combined with a creativity that can only have come from their source. We discover Paul's eternal proclamation:
"My mercy is sufficient even for you."
And what can any clever theologian's machinations offer in place of this?
The Pericope de Adultera Vindicated:
What we *can* understand from a careful examination of Bultmann, is that the reconnection of 7:52 with 8:12 after violent removal of the Pericope de Adultera (7:53-8:11) is so jarring, even to the enemies of this passage, that they feel compelled to frantically continue mutilating, in the vain hope that whatever is left will somehow fit together.
Yet we should as Christians understand the gravity of the attack.
Christianity as we know it stands or falls with the Gospel of John. That is why it is the focus of the most energetic attack from all sides by the enemies of Christ, whether they be calculating, unwitting, or simply witless. This is a Spiritual battle, and the recognition of the Only True Shepherd by those desperately needing salvation is at stake. Christians must be ever vigilant to know their faith thoroughly and defend it vigorously and clearly for those literally dying of thirst for the Word of the Lord.<
In a world desperately in need of the love of God, John is a towering Lighthouse pointing the Way. In spite of its detailed description of the violent clash between the Messiah and the religious authorities, or perhaps because of it,
Let us not abandon it so easily to the whims of self appointed critics who lack a real understanding of the purpose of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, Son of God and Lord of Creation.