But What About John's Gospel?

So far this summer we have read parables from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, called the Synoptic Gospels, but we have yet to study any parable from John's Gospel. There is a very simple reason for this: scholarship and tradition state there are no parables in John's Gospel. As with every thesis, though, there are arguments, and since there are certainly metaphoric teaching moments in the fourth book, why are they not called parables? What is the difference between the stories found in John as opposed to the teaching moments in the first three books?

The Gospel of John was written well after Mark, Matthew, and Luke. While there are some similar stories, John has extra material that the other three do not contain, omits well-known sections of the Synoptics, and has a different focus. Throughout the writings, the Synoptic Gospels specifically state that Jesus used parables. In John only three times is the Greek word paroimiaused, which means "wise saying", "figure of speech", or "riddle": once after the story of the Good Shepherd in chapter 10, and twice in chapter 16 at the conclusion of the Farewell Discourse. In the Synoptic Gospels, quotations of Jesus are typically (but not always) in short, pithy statements. These would be from what is called the Q source - or a source of Jesus' sayings - a course that Mark, Matthew, Luke, and the Gospel of Thomas all use as source material. The Synoptics also contain miracles. John's Gospel contains signs which unveil the divine identity instead of miracles, and Jesus' quotations are often longer and are heavily seasoned with deep theologic import. The author of John clearly knew the material in the Synoptic Gospels, but was writing for a different audience who needed a different manner of teaching.

On Sunday I will specifically address one of John's allegorical passages, John 15:1-8: The True Vine. Take some time between now and Sunday to think about vines. In the passage, Jesus would have been referring to a grapevine, a familiar sight in a Mediterranean climate. But even a trumpet vine, some virginia creeper, or a host of others would work for the visual. Draw a vine, with branches that stem from the main. Each branch is dependent on the main vine, and as you continue to draw it, with fruit or flowers sprouting from the leaves, think about how a vine is nourished, both by the roots, the leaves, the flowers. It all works together, but the flower on the branch cannot sustain itself cut from the main vine. How are you nourished?

~Rev. Andrea Joy Holroyd

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