Antisemitism and the reception history of the Gospel of John
Katz, Elizabeth Alexandra
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Since over half of the references to “the Jews” in the Gospel of John suggest a negative literary association, it is not surprising that the text has been used in Anti-Semitic rhetoric throughout the centuries. While scholars today verbally acknowledge that certain verses from the Fourth Gospel have been used to denigrate ethnic Jews, little work has been done to explore such discriminatory uses. In this presentation, instead of assuming the historical-critical focus on original meaning and context, I will assume the focus of reception history, which is on such historical interpretations and uses. This thesis examines the way the Gospel of John has been interpreted and used Anti-Semitically at influential points in its history such as in the Early Church documents, Luther’s writings, and pro-Nazi rhetoric. It seems these earlier interpreters read the term “the Jews” in its original context in John to apply to all ethnic Jews and then applied this interpretation to contemporaneous Jews. This analysis will inform the way contemporary scholars engage the brutal history of the Fourth Gospel’s use, as they seek to be faithful to the original situational text and mindful of the way the text has been exploited. Whether or not scholars agree with defamatory uses of the Gospel of John, the importance of understanding the particularities of such uses cannot be disregarded in this age of fundamentalism.