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White Horse Inn: Conversational Theology

The Jewishness of John’s Gospel

There was a time in which Judaism & Christianity had many more beliefs in common. As it turns out, many ancient Jews before the time of Christ actually expected the coming of a divine messiah who would appear in bodily form in order to atone for sin and accomplish redemption. In fact, some Jews even spoke of this messiah as a kind of second divinity who was distinct from the Ancient of Days, and whose relationship to God was like that of a son to a father. Shane Rosenthal discusses these issues and more with Daniel Boyarin, author of The Jewish Gospels, and John Ronning, author of The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology.


The standard Aramaic translation of the Hebrew word for ‘word’ is actually a Persian lone word. That’s not the kind of word that we’re talking about. We’re talking about two other Aramaic words. The most common one was memra and the other is degora. These are not, generally, translating anything that’s in the Hebrew, but rather they’re part of a substitute for the name of God. So sometime, probably after the exile, the Jews stopped pronouncing the divine name. I think it says, somewhere, that it was only pronounced by the high priest on the Day of Atonement, and eventually, it was stopped being pronounced altogether. Kind of like in our English translations – when you have ‘LORD’ in capital letters in the Old Testament. You know that the capital letters indicate that that’s actually the name of God, Yahweh, which they no longer pronounce. But at some point, they also begin substituting not just ‘the LORD’ but ‘the Word of the LORD.'”

John Ronning


“Dead Sea Scrolls”

These documents date from c. 250 B.C. – A.D. 70. They were found in Judean caves between 1947 and 1956. Thousands of fragments of biblical and early Jewish documents were discovered in eleven caves near the site of Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea. These important texts have revolutionized our understanding of the way the Bible was transmitted, and have illuminated the general cultural and religious background of ancient Palestine, out of which both Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity arose. A number of Old Testament texts were found in addition to the scrolls which defined the Qumran community. These series of documents include the oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible, along with deuterocanonical and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism at the time of Christ and the early church.

(Adapted from the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, s.v. “Dead Sea Scrolls”)

More from this Series: The Gospel of John Year-Long Series

  1. A Sneak Peek at our New Series on the Gospel of John Listen Now ›
  2. Eyewitness Testimony in the Gospel of John Listen Now ›
  3. Richard Bauckham on the Reliability of John Listen Now ›
  4. In the Beginning Was the Word Listen Now ›
  5. The Jewishness of John’s Gospel Listen Now ›
  6. The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us Listen Now ›
  7. The Lamb of God Listen Now ›
  8. Climbing Jacob’s Ladder? Listen Now ›
  9. Water into Wine Listen Now ›
  10. An Interview with D.A. Carson Listen Now ›
  11. Money-Changers in the Temple Listen Now ›
  12. God in Our Midst Listen Now ›
  13. Born from Above Listen Now ›
  14. God So Loved the World Listen Now ›
  15. He Must Increase, I Must Decrease Listen Now ›
  16. The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel Listen Now ›
  17. Living Water Listen Now ›
  18. Worship in Spirit & Truth Listen Now ›
  19. Can This Be the Christ? Listen Now ›
  20. An Early Date for John’s Gospel? Listen Now ›
  21. Jesus on Trial Listen Now ›
  22. The Scriptures Bear Witness of Me Listen Now ›
  23. The Bread of Life Listen Now ›
  24. Drawn by God Listen Now ›
  25. If Anyone Thirsts Listen Now ›
  26. The Light of the World Listen Now ›
  27. The Truth Will Set You Free Listen Now ›
  28. I Am the Good Shepherd Listen Now ›
  29. My Sheep Hear My Voice Listen Now ›
  30. I Am the Resurrection & the Life Listen Now ›
  31. Jesus’ Death Foretold Listen Now ›
  32. The Triumphal Entry Listen Now ›
  33. Who Has Believed Our Report? Listen Now ›
  34. The Servant Leader Listen Now ›
  35. The Betrayal Listen Now ›
  36. I Am the Way Listen Now ›
  37. The Spirit of Truth Listen Now ›
  38. I Am the Vine Listen Now ›
  39. Father, Son, & Spirit Listen Now ›
  40. Christ’s High Priestly Prayer Listen Now ›
  41. The Arrest & Trial of Jesus Listen Now ›
  42. My Kingdom Is Not of This World Listen Now ›
  43. The Significance of Golgotha Listen Now ›
  44. Naked, Ashamed, Despised, & Rejected Listen Now ›
  45. Reconciling Accounts of the Resurrection Listen Now ›
  46. Peace Be With You Listen Now ›
  47. The Epilogue of John’s Gospel Listen Now ›
  48. Feed My Sheep Listen Now ›
  49. The Identity of the Beloved Disciple Listen Now ›
  50. The Incarnate Word Listen Now ›
  51. The ‘I Am’ Sayings of Jesus Listen Now ›
  52. The Messiah’s Mission Listen Now ›