The title of this book, John, Jesus, and the Renewal of Israel, indicates both its focus and its thesis. We offer a new reading of the Gospel of John as a story of Jesus’ mission in the historical context of early Roman Palestine. We will argue that the Gospel of John portrays Jesus engaged in a renewal of the people of Israel against the rulers of Israel, both the Jerusalem authorities and the Romans who placed them in power.
This book began in a conversation about the potential value of the Gospel of John as a source for the historical Jesus. We share a conviction that the relationships between John, the other Gospels, and the historical Jesus need to be rethought in the light of recent research. For some time interpreters have assumed that the Gospel of John sheds light on the history of Johannine Christianity and the development of early Christian theology but very little light on the historical Jesus. For access to the historical Jesus, interpreters focus mainly or exclusively on the Gospels as ancient texts. A more appropriate understanding of the Gospels and of how any of them can serve as sources for the historical Jesus will require a substantial reconsideration of many standard assumptions, analyses, and approaches that have guided New Testament studies – many more, in fact, than we could possibly address here. For this project, therefore, we have narrowed the focus to John’s portrayal of Jesus’ mission.