Commentary on John Chapter 21

After reviewing John 21 for Sunday's Bible study, I had the following thoughts, which I decided to blog on so as to get the discussion started and not take to much time on Sunday morning.  In the Good News Bible, Chapter 21 is divided into three sections with headings of: "Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples", "Jesus and Peter", and "Jesus and the Other Disciple".  Here are my questions or comments.

  • Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples - Why is it necessary to know that Peter was naked in the boat while fishing?  If it was hot, why is only Peter naked?  What is the writer saying by calling attention to Peter in this way?
  • Jesus and Peter - As John was written some 70 to 90 years after the death of Jesus the person writing this was at least two generations removed from the life of Jesus.  By this time the early church was in a struggle over who was the authentic successor to Jesus' leadership.  There may have been several sects, some around Peter, some around Paul, maybe even some around Mary Magdelene.  The author of these versus was definitely in the Peter camp. 
  • Jesus and the Other Disciple - What is this cryptic reference to a disciple that Jesus loved all about?  If Jesus loved him, why did he pick Peter to "feed his sheep"?  Even Peter doesn't seem to know what to do about him and Jesus essentially tells him it's none of his concern.   What Greek word for love is used in the phrase "the disciple whom Jesus loved"?  Is it "agape" or "philio" or "storge" or "eros"?  By singling out this disciple in this way the text seems to be saying this was more than agape love.  Why did the author put this in the text?  What message is it trying to convey to us about Jesus or God?
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Andy Cook on Thursday, 15 May 2014 15:47

Peter was naked
We gentiles tend to forget to read with Jewish eyes. We tend to assume that everything would have been taken literally by the Jewish audiences for whom this gospel was written, when they often (usually?) would have been interpreted metaphorically.

Trying to think like a Jew, is it possible that the author was indicating that Peter was vulnerable, or that he was not hidden in any way, that his Lord would have/could have "seen right through him" as we might say today?

The disciple who Jesus loved
From my readings, scholars are quite divided on whom the "disciple who Jesus loved" is. Some consider it to be John the Apostle. Others have reasons for believing any number of other prominent biblical figures.

I can't help but wonder, particularly in light of the consideration that this gospel was likely written 2 or even 3 generations after Jesus's death, that "the disciple who Jesus loved" may be a literary character. The "story teller", if you will. From some things I've read, one could be justified in considering this character to represent members of the Christian faith, those who believe in Jesus.

That is the possibility that I am most attracted to.

We have grown up reading the gospels as reportage, but modern scholars generally concur that all of the books of the New Testament were written well past Jesus's death, and that none of the authors would have had personal knowledge of Jesus. There are scholars that suggest that the gospels were written down to capture the radical good news in a way that would keep the memory of Jesus alive within the context of the Jewish Sabbath rituals that were already a significant part of Jewish worship. It would have been natural for these Jewish authors, writing for Jewish listeners, for use in the context of Jewish ritual and worship, to use allusions to Jewish history...allusions that would have been instantly recognized by the Jewish audiences. But, when Christianity began to spread beyond the Jewish culture, the gentiles (with no Jewish historical reference) wouldn't have recognized the Jewish symbols in those words, and would naturally have literalized them. We may have suffered a disservice these centuries later, to have grown up with the assumption that the gospels were intended to be taken as newspaper-style historical documentation.

[u]Peter was naked[/u] We gentiles tend to forget to read with Jewish eyes. We tend to assume that everything would have been taken literally by the Jewish audiences for whom this gospel was written, when they often (usually?) would have been interpreted metaphorically. Trying to think like a Jew, is it possible that the author was indicating that Peter was vulnerable, or that he was not hidden in any way, that his Lord would have/could have "seen right through him" as we might say today? [u]The disciple who Jesus loved[/u] From my readings, scholars are quite divided on whom the "disciple who Jesus loved" is. Some consider it to be John the Apostle. Others have reasons for believing any number of other prominent biblical figures. I can't help but wonder, particularly in light of the consideration that this gospel was likely written 2 or even 3 generations after Jesus's death, that "the disciple who Jesus loved" may be a literary character. The "story teller", if you will. From some things I've read, one could be justified in considering this character to represent members of the Christian faith, those who believe in Jesus. That is the possibility that I am most attracted to. We have grown up reading the gospels as reportage, but modern scholars generally concur that all of the books of the New Testament were written well past Jesus's death, and that none of the authors would have had personal knowledge of Jesus. There are scholars that suggest that the gospels were written down to capture the radical good news in a way that would keep the memory of Jesus alive within the context of the Jewish Sabbath rituals that were already a significant part of Jewish worship. It would have been natural for these Jewish authors, writing for Jewish listeners, for use in the context of Jewish ritual and worship, to use allusions to Jewish history...allusions that would have been instantly recognized by the Jewish audiences. But, when Christianity began to spread beyond the Jewish culture, the gentiles (with no Jewish historical reference) wouldn't have recognized the Jewish symbols in those words, and would naturally have literalized them. We may have suffered a disservice these centuries later, to have grown up with the assumption that the gospels were intended to be taken as newspaper-style historical documentation.
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