Many have believed the Gospel of John stands against a backdrop of intra-Jewish community conflict. But could the Fourth Gospel also have a relationship with early Gnosticism? Could the gospel actually contain a carefully structured argument against Gnostic opponents or ideas current in John’s first-century environment? Many scholars, both ancient and modern, have thought so.
In this entry I discuss the history of the idea that the Gospel of John is a polemic, specifically an anti-Gnostic polemic. Opinions surveyed include that of Irenaeus of Lyon, J.L. Martyn, E.F. Scott, R. Bultmann, C.H. Dodd, Raymond Brown, E. Yamauchi, P. Perkins, Craig Keener, Kyle Keefer, Peder Borgen, George MacRae, Greg Riley, April DeConick, Elaine Pagels, Christopher Skinner, and more.
I also offer a way of untangling the messy business of sorting out what is potentially Gnostic and anti-Gnostic in the Fourth Gospel, a way which most John scholars have failed to consider.
H&J Part 02: