The sheep of the fold : a critical assessment of the audience and origin of the Gospel of John
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The common template in Gospel scholarship places the key hermeneutical principle for interpretation as the quest for the community that each Gospel represents. At present the study of the Gospel text is almost a secondary concern; the primary effort is spent attempting to unveil the Gospel "community" which, it is claimed, is to be found within the collection of Jesus material we call a Gospel. In light of the Gospel community debate, this thesis will argue that such a hermeneutical approach is both internally inconsistent and does not match well with external data. By attempting to provide further definition to various aspects of the Gospel community debate, and by using the Fourth Gospel as a test case, we will argue that the Fourth Gospel was never intended for a local, geographic "community" or network of "communities." The conclusion of this thesis, then, is that both the use and concept of "community" in the historical depiction of the Gospel audiences and as the beginning assumption in the interpretation of the Gospel narrative be abandoned. Not only is the term very ambiguous, but it carries a conceptual meaning that has been found to be inaccurate. The current concept of a Gospel "community" is an inappropriate model of the Gospel audience. The interpreters who reconstruct the Gospel "community" have been misreading the Gospel narrative. Furthermore, the application of a general audience reading strategy to the Fourth Gospel reveals further aspects of the purpose and function of the Gospel of John.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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