Reading John in Context
For my Johannine Literature class with Dr. Hartley (about which I am extremely excited and nervous) we were required to read the gospel of John in one sitting. As I was reading John my first thoughts were about how different the exercise I was doing was from what we usually get in a church or bible study setting. When we quote from the gospel of John, which many churches have made a regular practice, we usually take a verse at a time that will back up whatever point we are trying to make. The tendency in such a setting is to take verses out of context—reshaping their meaning to match our theology—or we forget the context all together. In the exercise of reading the whole book in one sitting one is more naturally guided to make exegetical interpretations in light of the entirety and essential arguments of the text. Rather than seeing one verse at a time making propositional arguments I saw a story unfolding—a story of great truth, being strategically exposed with every turn of the page. I saw first hand how important context is especially with such a deeply symbolic story like the Gospel of John.
I had a notable observation and realization. My realization was the role of the devil in the story. In John’s gospel the devil is seen as a great enemy, an adversary to be defeated (I realize of course that the name Satan is a Hebrew word meaning enemy or adversary). I realized how much of our Satanology comes from the gospel of John. I don’t recall any other books in the bible which draw such a distinct picture of Satan. Satan seems to pop up throughout the book as though he’s another character; a villain trying to defeat Jesus and
My observation throughout the text is that John continuously brings us back to the creation/fall narratives in Genesis (Genesis 1-3) and to prophetical images of a redeemed