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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

John and the Synoptic Gospels.

1.

The basic differences between John and the Synoptic Gospels have been outlined at the beginning of this article. The relationship between them continues, however, to be highly disputed, several different opinions being put forward. In 1974 Norman Perrin held that John must have known the Gospel of Mark directly. In Denaux (1992 ) Rene Kieffer held that John knew Mark or a source very similar to Mark, while Frans Neirynck argues for the direct textual dependence of Jn 5:1–18 on Mark. On the other hand in the same work Peder Borgen maintains that John is not using the actual text of the Synoptics, but rather an underlying oral tradition which they have in common; he compares John's use of the synoptic tradition in several passages to Paul's use in 1 Cor 11:23–34 of the tradition of the institution of the eucharist reflected also in Mk 14:22–5 .

In detail the links between John and the synoptics are diverse.

  • (a) Some stories are closely similar in both John and the Synoptics, including verbal and structural similarities, though reworked to express the special theology of each author (e.g. the multiplication of loaves and the walking on the waters, see J.1–3).

  • (b) In other cases Johannine miracle-stories are based on stories of the same type as the synoptic stories: controversial healings on the sabbath, Jn 5 and 9 , a dead person, Lazarus, is raised to life, as Jairus' daughter or the son of the widow of Nain are in the Synoptics. It may be argued that in John the raising of Lazarus is so crucial to the decision to get rid of Jesus that, had it been known to the synoptic tradition, it could not have been omitted.

  • (c) There are sayings so close that they may simply be different translations of the same original (e.g. Jn 1:26–7; 2:19 compared to Mt 3:11 and Mk 14:58 respectively). In such cases the very form of the saying may be affected by the theology of the writer, and its positioning and use can certainly impart to it a different force.

  • (d) Some sayings in John appear in the form of stories in the Synoptics (e.g. Jn 12:27 and the prayer of Jesus in the Garden, see K.5). The saying of Jn 3:3, 5 , is very similar to Mt 18:3 ; it is the only mention of ‘the kingdom’ in John, and makes the same point as the Matthew-saying. In the passion narrative John has no scene corresponding to the decision of the Sanhedrin in Mark/Matthew to deliver Jesus to Pilate, but there may be traces of the same discussion and decision in the meeting of the chief priests and Pharisees related in Jn 11:47–53 .

A special link between Luke and John is apparent. Luke and John share several omissions from the Mark–Matthew tradition (e.g. the mention of the Baptist baptizing Jesus). Some passages show a close relationship between Luke and John (the call of the disciples in Lk 5:1–11 and Jn 21 , see F.5; the anointing in Lk 7:36–50 ). The link between John and Luke is clearest in the passion and resurrection narrative. Normally it is assumed that, if there is any direct dependence, it is John who is dependent on Luke. It has also, however, been argued by Lamar Cribbs (1971 ) that dependence goes in quite the opposite direction, and that Luke depends on John. There is a remarkable series of 20 passages where Luke departs from the Mark–Matthew tradition precisely to agree with John. It remains, however, most probable that John's link with Luke, as with Mark and Matthew, remains at the oral level (see J.1).

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