Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Comparing John 1:29-54 to Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20

Last night I typed away on the Harmony, reaching the death of Jesus on the cross. So all I have left is his burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection activities. Based on my typing speed and available hours for it, I should finish this by Sunday next, if not before. I also spent some time last night adding passage headings and footnotes. Much more of that remains.

Yesterday I gave some of my process of analysis on how to judge whether the four gospel accounts of Jesus calling his first disciples are one event, two events, or three events. Why would I write yesterday, "A careful reading of the four gospels together, as an overlapping panorama (as my friend Gary described it) suggests that these are three events" when a have a study Bible that says these are all one event, and another study Bible that says the John event was separate, but the other three accounts are of the same event? Why would I, a layman, dare to challenge someone (either an individual or a scholars committee) who had enough standing to have their opinion published in a study Bible?

I do so because my detailed study of the four passages leads me to that conclusion. How can I remain silent, despite what I see in a published work? Look at the circumstances of the passage in John 1:29-54. John the Baptist is preaching and baptizing somewhere, probably at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan River (Jn 1:28). The day after some Pharisees question him, he begins to point his disciples to Jesus. The next day, some of those disciples (Andrew among them) begin to follow Jesus. Andrew goes to get Peter. Since Peter was likely in Galilee with the fishing boats, this must have required a couple of days. From there, Jesus goes to Cana (Jn 2:1), to Jerusalem (Jn 2:12), etc. as I described yesterday. In John 3:26-36, we see John questioned about Jesus, and his well-known reply, "He must become greater; I must become less."

Now, in John chapter 4, we see Jesus go from the Judean countryside through Samaria on his way to Galilee. That means, assuming John is giving an accurate chronology--which seems likely, that Jesus was still in Judea when John was baptizing, now at Aenon near Salim. Obviously John the Baptist is a free man; he has not yet been put in prison. Yet, in Matthew 4:12,17 we read, "When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee...[and] began to preach." This is echoed in Mark 1:14. So Jesus began to preach after John the Baptist was imprisoned, and he called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be his disciples after he began to preach. Clearly, the encounter between Jesus and Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel in John chapter 1 was before John the Baptist was imprisoned, and thus must be a separate event than Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20. To me this is a no-brainer.

Yet, enough other things are different between the John account and the Matthew/Mark account to show they are different events. John 1:29 etc. takes place at Bethany. Matthew 4/Mark 1 takes place on the Sea of Galilee, probably at Capernaum. In John 1, Jesus doesn't call anyone; they simply come to him based first on the Baptist's testimony then by word of mouth. In Matthew 4/Mark 1 Jesus is the one who does the calling. In John 1 there is no mention of the fishermen leaving their livelihood to follow Jesus. In Matthew 4/Mark 1 they do leave their livelihood. All of this points to two events.

What, then, is my basis for saying Luke 5:1-11 is a separate event from Matthew 4/Mark 1? Unfortunately, I'm running long and I'm out of time. Stay tuned for another post on another day.

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