Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 24
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I’ve divided my notes on this fascinating chapter into two parts.
Chapter 15. The Witness of the Beloved Disciple (part 1)
In the previous chapter it was argued that the Beloved Disciple is portrayed as ‘the primary witness’ and author of the Gospel. But what does ‘witness’ mean? While the argument of the book thus far would strongly imply that we should understand the Beloved Disciple’s ‘witness’ in an historiographic sense, it needs to be noted that the marureō word group used in the Gospel for ‘witness’ derives not from historiographical contexts, but rather those legal. A.T. Lincoln has argued that the Isaianic motif of a cosmic trail ‘forms a broad metaphorical framework’ for this Gospel. ‘In that framework witness is a legal metaphor and the Beloved Disciple’s witness cannot be equated with “literal” eyewitness’. The ‘Beloved Disciple’s testimony’ for Lincoln, is thus ‘a literary device in the service of the theological agenda of witness, not a serious claim to historiographical status’. However, and while agreeing with much in Lincoln’s case, Bauckham nonetheless insists that the Beloved Disciple can only interpret the various witnesses in the trial metaphor throughout the Gospel, ‘if at the same time it does in some sense report them’. The Gospel understanding of witness coincides with and should not be played against ‘historiographic autopsy’. Indeed, in comparing this suggestion with material in Luke-Acts, Bauckham strengthens his argument that the Fourth Gospel intentionally used both a historiographic and metaphorical-theological understandings of ‘witness’. Furthermore, the posited inclusio of eyewitness testimony (cf. chapter 6) indicates a historiographical element. Bauckham extends his earlier analysis to suggest a ‘quite elaborate use of the inclusio of eyewitness testimony’ in John. Not only that, but the role the Beloved Disciple plays in the narrative of the Gospel coheres well with the hypothesis that he is the primary witness and author.
To make this case, Bauckham strongly argues against false notions associated with the portrayal, in John, of the Beloved Disciple as the ‘ideal disciple’ in contrast with Peter. While there is a sense in which the Beloved Disciple is superior to Peter, they represent two types of discipleship: active service (Peter) and perceptive witness (Beloved Disciple). There are four elements that lend to an understanding of the Beloved Disciple as ‘perceptive witness’: his intimacy with Jesus, his presence at key points in the story of Jesus, the observational detail involved in the narrative when the Beloved Disciple appears (cf. the chapter for important qualifications), and the spiritual insight of his witness. Together they ‘qualify him to be the ideal witness to Jesus, his story, and its meaning’. Suggestively, in arguing that these two portrayals of Peter and the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel are made to denote their two different ways of following Jesus, he notes that this is done so precisely as it would relate to their role in the church after the resurrection. In other words, the Beloved Disciple is framed as the ideal author of the Gospel.