The problem of blasphemy : the Fourth Gospel and early Jewish understandings
This thesis argues that the Johannine Jewish Christians—those who produced, preserved, and propagated the Fourth Gospel—were perceived to be blasphemers of God because of their exalted claims for Jesus and their disparaging remarks against the Ιουδαιοι. It was probably on this basis that Jewish Christians were excommunicated from the synagogue (cf Jn 9:22; 12:42; 16:2). We take three steps to establish this claim. First, we review J. Louis Martyn's hypothesis that the Johannine Christians were expelled from the synagogue as a result of the Birkat ha-Minim. We argue that the Birkat ha-Minim is problematic, suggest that an alternative hypothesis is necessary, and propose that accusations of blasphemy would provide an alternative explanation. Next, we survey recent research on blasphemy, offer an analysis of the historical, social, and literary context of the Fourth Gospel, and present a semantic analysis of βλασφημέωand related terms. Second, we probe seven Jewish traditions pertaining to blasphemy. We examine the prohibitions against cursing God (Exod 22:27), "naming the name" (Lev 24:10- 24), and sinning with a high hand (Num 15:30-31). Then, we track some of the most notorious blasphemers, including Sennacherib (2 Kgs 18:1—19:37), Antiochus (1 Mace 1:20—2:14), Nicanor (2 Mace 14:16—15:37), and an unnamed Egyptian ruler 2.123-132).Third, we examine three Johannine claims—that Jesus is equal with God, that Jesus is the New Temple, and that the ' Ιουδαιοι are of the devil -and argue that non-believing Jews would have regarded these claims as blasphemous and would have expelled anyone from the synagogue who proclaimed them.