by miriam berg
Chapter V

(John 5:1-9)
Chapter 5 begins with the story of the man by the pool of Bethesda, to whom Jesus says, Arise, take up thy bed, and walk. Again there is a similar story in the Synoptics; only it happens in Capernaum, and the man is brought to Jesus in a crowded house through the roof because they couldn't get in any other way, and Jesus is reported as saying, Thy sins are forgiven, because "he saw their faith". This conflicts with John's saying that Jesus offers to heal the man, which he never does in the Synoptics, but instead seeks rather to conceal the fact that people are healed in his presence. It is as if he were saying to the man in John's version, Will you believe on me if I heal you? Which is the more probable, that Jesus was reluctant to heal, or that he claimed it as evidence of his Messiahship? or which shows us the more compassionate person?

(John 5:9-18)
John then reports that the argument which followed was over healing on the Sabbath, rather than on forgiveness of sins, as reported in Mark and the other Synoptists. The Synoptics do however contain other stories where Jesus is criticized for healing on the Sabbath, and he retorts, asking his critics if they wouldn't even help their ox or ass out of a well on the Sabbath. But in John, his response is a claim that God is his father, and he tells the man to sin no more, lest a worse thing happen: both an order and a threat, uncharacteristic of the Jesus in the Synoptics. Again, we see John's tendency to take simple stories as factually reported in Mark et al without exaggerated claims of his own divinity as explanations and blow them up. But which picture should we believe, the down-to-earth carpenter who always refutes his critics in the Synoptics, or the hard-to-get-along-with theologizer which John depicts, whose only answer to any criticism is that he is divine?

(John 5:19-47)
Then Jesus continues his claim to divinity with a longer discourse on the power and authority of the "Son". Again this is in a completely different vein from anything that can be found in the Synoptics, where Jesus tells homely stories about fields and vineyards, and seeds and pearls and fish, and never in a single parable refers to himself. Not the parable of the wheat and the tares, nor of the sheep and the goats, nor of the son who returned to his father, can be interpreted as Jesus referring to himself. All his parables in the Synoptics have to do with the invisible but attainable "kingdom of God", and of best and worthy conduct; so far we have not found a single parable in the gospel of John. So whose report is genuine? or did the author of John remember only the one kind of discourse, and Matthew, Mark, and Luke the other? But are they even compatible? can a man who taught, Love your enemies, and Resist not evil, and Give unto him that asks of you, also have taught, I am greater than John the Baptizer, and, Moses wrote of me, and, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe? "Verily, verily, I say unto you," the two reports seem to me to be incompatible; the one has to do with actions, and the other with belief only; and Jesus, when asked in Luke what one must do to attain eternal life, replies with the story of the "Good Samaritan", devoid of any reference to himself, and finishes by saying, Go, and do thou likewise.

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