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The Gospel of John: the interpretation of the ancient text

The Gospel of John is one of the four narratives of the Christian gospel included in the canon of Holy Scripture. It is known that none of these books had proven authorship, but traditionally it is believed that every Gospel is written by the four disciples of Christ - the apostles. According to the testimony of Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons, a certain Polycrat who personally knew John, claimed that he was the author of one of the versions of the "Good News." The place of this Gospel in theological and theological thought is unique, because the very text of it is not only and not so much a description of the life and precepts of Jesus Christ as the presentation of His conversations with disciples. No wonder many researchers believe that the narrative itself was formed under the influence of Gnosticism, and among the so-called heretical and unorthodox currents it was very popular.

Interpretation of the Gospel of John in the Early Period

Christianity before the beginning of the fourth century was not a dogmatic monolith, rather, a doctrine unknown to the Hellenic world. Historians believe that the Gospel of John was that text that was positively received by the intellectual elite of antiquity, as it borrowed its philosophical categories. This text is very interesting in explaining the relationship between spirit and matter, good and evil, peace and God. It is not for nothing that the prologue that opens the Gospel of John speaks of the so-called Logos. "God is the Word," the author of the Scripture openly declares (Gospel of John: 1.1). But the Logos is one of the most important categorial structures of ancient philosophy. One gets the impression that the real author of the text was not a Jew, but a Greek who had an excellent education.

The Question of Prologue

Very mysterious is the beginning of the Gospel of John - the so-called prologue, that is, chapters 1 to 18. Understanding and interpreting this text over time became the stumbling block within orthodox Christianity, on the basis of which the theological justifications for the creation of the world and theodicy were derived. For example, take the famous phrase, which in the synodal translation looks like "Everything began to be through Him (that is, God), and without Him nothing has happened that has arisen" (Jn: 1,3). However, if you look at the Greek original, it turns out that there are two ancient manuscripts of this Gospel with different variants of writing. And if one of them confirms the orthodox version of the translation, then the second one sounds like this: "Everything through Him began to be, and without Him nothing arose." Moreover, both variants were used by church fathers during the early Christianity, but later it was the first version that entered the church tradition as more "ideologically true".

The Gnostics

This fourth gospel was very popular among various opponents of the orthodox dogmas of Christianity, who were called heretics. In times of early Christianity, they were often Gnostics. They denied the bodily incarnation of Christ, and therefore many passages from the text of this Gospel, justifying the purely spiritual nature of the Lord, suited them to taste. In Gnosticism, God is often contrasted, being "above the world", and the Creator of our imperfect being. And the Gospel of John gives grounds to believe that the rule of evil in our lives does not come from the Heavenly Father. It often speaks of the opposition of God and the World. No wonder one of the first interpreters of this Gospel was one of the students of the famous gnostic Valentine - Herakleion. In addition, among the opponents of orthodoxy, their own apocrypha was popular. Among them were the so-called "John's Questions", which referred to the secret words that Christ told his beloved disciple.

"Origen's Masterpiece"

So called the comments of the ancient theologian to the Gospel of John French researcher Henri Cruzel. In his work, Origen criticizes the Gnostic approach to the text, while extensively quoting his opponent. This is an exegetical work in which a well-known Greek theologian, on the one hand, opposes unorthodox interpretations, and on the other hand he himself puts forward several theses, including those relating to the nature of Christ (for example, he believes that man must move from his own essence to the angelic one) Which were later deemed heretical. In particular, he also uses the version of the translation of Ying: 1,3, recognized later as inconvenient.

Interpretation of the Gospel of John Chrysostom

Orthodoxy is proud of its famous interpreter of the Scriptures. They are rightfully John Chrysostom. His interpretation of this gospel goes into extensive work on the interpretation of the Scriptures, beginning with the Old Testament. He demonstrates a great erudition, trying to reveal the meaning of each word and sentence. His interpretation plays a predominantly polemical role and is directed against opponents of Orthodoxy. For example, the above translation of Ying: .1,3 John Chrysostom finally recognizes as heretical, although before him enjoyed the esteemed Fathers of the Church, in particular, Clement of Alexandria.

When the Gospel was interpreted in the political sense

It may sound surprising, but the interpretation of Scripture was also used to justify mass repression, annihilation of unwanted people and hunting for people. This phenomenon is most clearly manifested in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. At the time of the formation of the Inquisition, Chapter 15 of the Gospel of John was used by theologians to justify the burning of heretics at the stake. If we read the lines of Scripture, they give us a comparison of the Lord with the vine, and his disciples with the branches. Now, when you study the Gospel of John (15 chapter, verse 6), you can find words about what you should do with those who do not dwell in the Lord. They, like branches, are cut off, collected and thrown into the fire. This metaphor of the medieval lawyers of canon law managed to interpret literally, thereby giving "good" to cruel executions. Although the meaning of the Gospel of John completely contradicts this interpretation.

Medieval dissidents and their interpretation

During the reign of the Roman Catholic Church, she opposed So-called heretics. Modern secular historians believe that these were people whose views differed from the "dictated from above" dogmas of the spiritual authorities. Sometimes they were organized into communities that also called themselves churches. The most formidable opponents of Catholics in this regard were Cathars. They not only had their own clergy and hierarchy, but also theology. Their favorite Scripture was the Gospel of John. They translated it into the national languages of those countries where they were supported by the population. The text in the Occitan language has reached us. In it, they adhered to that version of Prolog's translation, which was rejected by the official church, believing that it is so possible to justify the presence of the evil source opposing God. In addition, interpreting that very chapter 15, they emphasized the fulfillment of the commandments and the holy life, and not the observance of dogmas. He who follows Christ deserves to be called His friend - such a conclusion they made from the Gospel of John. The adventures of different interpretations of the text of the Scriptures are instructive enough and show that any interpretation of the Bible can be used both for the benefit of man and for harming him.

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