by miriam berg

We have now gone through the Gospel of John chapter by chapter, noting its variances from the other three Gospels. The salient points of John's gospel have been found to be the following:
1.   Jesus was the literal Son of God, although no mention is made of the virgin birth.
2.   Jesus himself claimed to be the Son of God and gave that as the reason for all his words and actions.
3.   He performed many miracles as signs in order to convince people that he was this Son of God.
4.   When people didn't accept him, even with his signs, he denounced them as remaining in sin, and as "not of my fold".
5.   As he went to his death to fulfil the "commandment of God" (why we are not told, but Paul and later Christians invented the explanation that he was a human sacrifice analogous to the lamb in the Jewish ritual to appease God, or ransom us to him, to expiate all our misdeeds for us) he restricted his prayers and love to those who believe on him, and commands them to do the same, even though God is the universal creator of all people and loves all people, and Jesus claims to be the Son of that God.

Now it has been our purpose to show that all these tenets of the Christian faith are repudiated by the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In their gospels, Jesus never claims to be the Son of God, but rebukes all those who call him such, including his own disciples; many healings occur in his presence, sometimes with his help, but he attributes them to the person's faith and tells them to tell no one, and expressly states that he will give no sign; when people do not accept them or challenge his authority he retorts sharply with sensible everyday images and arguments, not with theological dogmas about his own person; and not only does he teach universal love and unlimited forgiveness and constantly emphasizes conduct while scarcely ever mentioning belief, but when he is dying on the cross he forgives those who have crucified him. Let us now briefly examine the Synoptic Gospels themselves, and note the many events and teachings there attributed to Jesus which corroborate this picture but which are totally missing from the gospel of John.

But we shall first note that in the Synoptics Jesus frequently quotes from the Old Testament, both in the form of aphorisms and in imagery on which he develops his teachings and parables. Elsewhere I have counted eighty-four such references in the Synoptics, almost none of which he presents as predictions; these are found scattered throughout the books of the Old Testament and reveal that Jesus had an intimate knowledge of those books. So it is with astonishment that we find in the Gospel of John that Jesus quotes from the Old Testament a total of eight times only:

Angels ascending and descending (Gen. 28:12)
They shall be taught of God (Isa. 54:13)
On circumcision (Gen. 17:9-14)
The requirement of two witnesses (Deut. 17:6)
They shall become one flock (Ez. 34:23)
Ye are Gods (Ps. 82:6)
He that eateth my bread hath lifted up his heel
   against me (Ps. 41:9)
They hated me without a cause (Ps. 35:19)
Almost all of these are given as predictions of his life, and only one of them may also be found in the Synoptics, and that only in Matthew: the requirement of two witnesses to "establish a matter". But this part of Matthew (18:16) is questionable, since it presumes the previous existence of the Church, and assumes the enmity of the Christians towards the Gentiles ("let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican"), and interrupts Jesus' remarks to his disciples on how often they ought to forgive; and John's Jesus reduces himself to absurdity in his interpretation of himself as one of the required witnesses and God as the other! The passage spoken of in Deuteronomy requires those witnesses to condemn a man to death; can Jesus be saying that his own word, and God's, are sufficient evidence for them to kill him? Surely they thought so! But anyway no one can doubt that the Deuteronomic law meant two persons other than any of the disputants, and John's Jesus is palpably absurd for claiming that his own word that he is the Son of God establishes that word as true. Anyone could make such a claim! Jesus is thus disqualified as such a witness; and whether we should accept God as the other witness, I leave you to judge for yourself. No one that I know of since Samuel has had God speak directly to him in words, and certainly most people have never experienced such verbal revelation such that anyone else was also aware of it, not even Paul; so that even if Jesus imagined that God had spoken to him, that does not make God a witness, since no one-eIse heard anything. But to conclude, the absence in John of the rich wealth of Old Testament imagery which is found in all of the Synoptics makes us wonder if John heard all (or any) of the words of Jesus, even assuming that the author was the disciple.

Another surprising omission from John: we do not find a single reported episode of "casting out devils", or unclean spirits, whatever they may have been, mental disturbance or actual demons; in the Synoptics we find no less than five vividly told episodes of exorcism (Mark 1:23-27; Mark 5:1-20; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 11:14-20; Matt. 12:22-28) as well as many casual references in other places, and in the Acts of the Apostles we read the only mention of Jesus' life in the entire rest of the New Testament, as follows:
Jesus, who went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed of the devil... (Acts 10:38)
We need not dwell on this omission, since we have only a hazy notion of what the "devils" were; but Jesus rebukes them "with authority" and without claiming that it is evidence of his power. I can not help but wonder what the Synoptic Jesus would have said to someone who claimed to be the unique Son of God, and water of life, and bread out of heaven, and told people that they should eat his body and drink his blood. Might he not have repeated his words:
If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ; or Lo, there; believe it not; for there shall arise false prophets, and shall show signs and wonders, that they may lead astray, if possible, even the elect." (Mark 13:21-22)

Then there is the matter of the missing parables. We have already pointed out that in John Jesus does not utter a single parable, but only theological discourses about himself. Most of us are familiar with many of Jesus' parables, but we have never noticed that none of them are found in John. I have listed them all in the table on the next page. One astounding thing is the many of them which are found only in Luke! By contrast the teaching of Jesus according to John consisted of the following discourses, all totally different in flavor from any of the parables:


Ye must be born again...
On living water
On the Son and the Father
The bread out of heaven, and
   Jesus' body and blood
Living water "and the Son"
The Son and the Father
The good shepherd and the door of the sheep
The Son and the Father
Jesus as the Son of God
Jesus' prayer for his disciples
   and the exclusion of others
Not one of these has to do with conduct, not even what we euphemistically call Christian love, but only with belief in Jesus as the Son of God. It is this dogmatic concern with himself that makes the Gospel of John totally unacceptable to me, especially when contrasted with the alive freshness and directness of Jesus' teaching in the Synoptics.

The house on the rock
The sower*
The wheat and the tares*
The seed in the earth*
The mustard seed*
The 1eaven*
The treasure in the fie1d*
The pearl of great price*
The net and the fish*
The king and the servants
The good Samaritan
The importunate friend
The unclean spirit
The rich man and his barns
The two stewards
The fig tree
The marriage feast (I)
The marriage feast (11)*
The lost sheep*
The lost coin
The lost son
The unrighteous steward
The rich man & the beggar
The unprofitable servants
The widow and the judge
The publican and Pharisee
The householder and the
The ten pounds
The two sons
The wicked husbandmen*
The ten virgins
The sheep and the goats















* Also found in the Gospel of Thomas

No doubt some of you are tired or exasperated at my dogged criticality over John's gospel, the so-called "cornerstone of Christianity". But I am weary too of those who speak as if in the beginning was the Gospel of John, and the Gospel of John was with God, and the Gospel of John is God, without ever having examined the discordances I have pointed out between the utterances of Jesus in the Synoptics and the preaching of Jesus in John. Give me an explanation for these discordances; tell-me how the ethical and moral precepts taught by Jesus in the Synoptics follow from and are consistent with the dogmatic idolatrous Jesus-worship spouted by the Jesus in John; show me those passages in John which indicate any humanitarian or Christlike character, where Jesus shows any compassion for other than believers, or that he believed that the weightier matters of the law were justice and mercy (Matt. 23:23) and oing was more important than believing (Matt. 7:21; Luke 6:46). But it is useless; such indications cannot be found, because they do not exist. Only look, I ask you, at the actual quotations attributed to Jesus in John with an open mind, and ask yourself, if you heard someone speaking like this, in Union Square in San Francisco, or in Sproul Plaza at the University of California, would you have followed him?

Let us pause, now, to consider the question: how much of the Sermon on the Mount can we find in John? This discourse, probably collated by Matthew from many authentic sayings of Jesus, is almost synonymous with what Christianity is supposed to be all about. But the answer must be disappointing to Johannophiles; there is not a single teaching in the Sermon which can be found in John. - Whether Jesus ever actually delivered all these teachings upon a single occasion or not may be doubted, and we may wonder about the accuracy of translation through three languages; but the authenticity of the contents of the Sermon cannot be doubted, since most of it is found also in Luke, in a portion known as the Sermon on the Plain, and in other places, and many of the sayings are also found in the gospel of Thomas, recently discovered. The Sermon may be summed up as containing the parts shown in the table on the next page: Not a single one of these teachings, some of them supposed to be almost identical with Jesus himself, can be found in John; and many of them are directly in opposition to the Johannine message, the teachings on universal love, and doing versus believing, and on judging, for example. Again, can we conceive of John to have simply forgotten these sayings, through carelessness, old age, or whatever? Or is it not rather much more likely, in the light of the general differences between John's message and the Synoptics, that the author of John either invented his discourses, or wrote down what his group (the church in Ephesus) believed?

Another interesting discordance between John and the Synoptics is the matter of who were the disciples. John never lists them all, and refers to there being twelve three times, one of which is in verse 24 of chapter 20, after the reported resurrection and the defection of Judas, so I don't know if that reference comes from John and is just a careless error, or was added later and is also just a careless error. The Synoptics however also contain a reference to "the twelve" even before the betrayal as if Judas was expected to wear one of the crowns and judge one of the tribes (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:28-30)! But in all, John only mentions six of the disciples by name, Simon Peter, Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, Judas, and Thomas. He never mentions the name John at all, nor James, although they are cited as.being important participants in at least six of the episodes in the Synoptics (Mark 1:19-29; 3:17; 9:2; 9:38; 10:35; 14:33, with parallels), being called "sons of thunder" by Jesus, coming with him into the mountain and into Gethsemane to pray, and contesting over sitting at Jesus' left and right hand when he is on his throne. Why didn't John himself (if he was the "beloved" disciple and the author of the fourth gospel) report any of these events? Do we doubt Matthew, Mark, and Luke because they report these events and John himself doesn't? Was Nathanael really one of the twelve, since he is not mentioned as such by the Synoptists? If Thomas had such a big part why is none of it reported in the other gospels? Why are so few of the disciples, only Peter, Judas, and Thomas, whom even non-Christians know about, named by John in any of the events between Jesus' first appearance and the Last Supper? Perhaps the author didn't really know their names! Or perhaps it actually reveals that most of them were unimportant in the events which succeeded Jesus' death. Anyhow the facts are there: John apparently didn't know or didn't consider it worth reporting the names of six out of the twelve disciples, and gives us at least one name different from those in the Synoptics. And John also makes us wonder whom he considered disciples, when he tells us:
Upon this many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more. (John 6:66)

Lastly, we find many reported stories in the Synoptics which are thoroughly identified with Jesus in our minds but of which no trace exists in John. The words of John the Baptizer in Luke and Matthew are not only not found in John but contradict the words John the Evangelist puts in the mouth of John the Baptizer; there is no report of the Temptations in the wilderness, nor of his rejection in his home town, nor of his associating with "publicans and sinners" for which he is several times criticized; nor for his sending out his disciples on a mission while he was still alive. There is no report of most of the famous healings in the Synoptics; there is no report of the death of John the Baptizer; there is no report of his scathing condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy and self-love (John reports his criticisms of them as being solely because they wouldn't believe in him); and there is no report of his extended prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) and his vision of the Coming of the Day of the Son of Man (Luke 17:20-37), however obscure the meanings of these words of Jesus may be. Where did John get his information? If he is the latest of the gospels, as nearly all scholars agree, why doesn't he contain any of the reports found in two or more of the other gospels? And if he was the disciple John, why is his memory of the discourses and teachings of Jesus so different from the others? Did he think they were wrong? But the early church didn't think so. If the words he ascribes to Jesus are authentic, why are none of them reported in any of the Synoptics, all of which are assuredly older?

Let us hear then the conclusion of the matter: Fear (that is, respect and honor) God, and keep his commandments (Eccles. 7:13). Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28; from Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18); and he gives us many examples of how to live these commandments: reconciliation with others, non-resistance to injury, loving all people including our enemies, unceasing forgiveness, giving a cup of water to anyone regardless of their beliefs. The medieval church rightly caught the sense of Jesus' message when it laid down the rules for the seven earthly acts of mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned; and even the seven spiritual acts of mercy: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowing, forgive all injuries, and bear all wrongs patiently. But the dogmatic and tyrannous belief that all people must call upon Jesus as God and Lord and Saviour cannot be found in his words in the Synoptics, and his words there expressly forbid it:
Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46);
Why do you not judge of yourselves what is right? (Luke 12:57);
Take up your own cross, and bear it. (Mark 8:34)
But to take the doctrines of John as a guide to how we should live our lives is to neglect the "weightier matters of the law: judgment, and mercy, and faith (Matt. 23:23, based on Micah 6:8); and these we ought rather to have done, and not to have left undone. But there is no room or need in Micah's formulation for belief in a Messiah or a crucified and risen Jesus God-son, or condemnation of those who do not believe:
God hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth God require of thee, but to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with God? (Micah 6:8)
Perhaps God changes the rules for man every millenium or so, but personally I doubt it; the principles by which we should live pur lives must be the same at all times and in all places and for all people, else God is not God. And Jesus in the Synoptics confirms this epochal epitomization given by Micah.

The Beatitudes
On salt and 1ight

The law and righteousness
On reconciliation
On adultery
On divorce
On oaths
On non-resistance*
On universal 1ove*
On publicity
Jesus' public prayer*
On material things

On judging
On motes and beams
On asking
The narrow gate
False prophets
On doing and be1ieving
The house on the rock







* Also found in the Gospel of Thomas