April 19, 2009

Does the Gospel of John Subvert the Synoptic Gospels?

Posted in Atheism, The Bible tagged , , , , , at 3:55 pm by Andrew

Rev. Jeremy Smith seems to think so. His argument stems from (1) John’s omission of the prayer at Gethsemene followed by (2) John 18, in which Rev. Smith claims that Jesus quotes from, and ridicules, the prayer account contained in the other Gospels.

HT: James McGrath.



  1. Nathaniel said,

    There is no prayer at Gethsemane.

    Is it supposed to be a novel discovery that John did not just photocopy the Synoptics?

    Jesus in John directly quotes and ridicules the Prayer of Gethsemane found in the other three gospels.

    Er, not. Good grief.

  2. Andrew said,

    Come on, Nathaniel — you can do better than that. At least respond to Rev. Smith’s argument!

    I am not qualified to weigh in either way. But as with my previous link to James McGrath, I think it’s instructive to point out that not all Christians agree with the interpretation of the Bible given it by the most conservative members of your flock. This even includes other evangelicals (like Fred Clark). Too often, atheists are drawn in to discussions where we allow the conservative Christian to assert that “Christianity requires X” or “Christians believe Y” without exploring whether that assertion is, in fact, true.

  3. Nathaniel said,


    One can respond to an argument only when the argument exists. But Smith offers no argument. He simply quotes a line from John and asserts, without a scrap of evidence, that it amounts to “ridiculing” a passage from the Synoptics.

    If it was your purpose in bringing this up to point out that sometimes self-identified Christians say things without and even in the face of the evidence, you should reflect that maybe we know that already.

  4. Steven Carr said,

    Nathaniel seems to have gone into denial mode.

    In John’s Gospel, what ‘cup’ was Jesus talking about in John 18:11?

    It has absolutely no context. There is no mention of a cup other than this.

    But the other Gospels have a cup, in a passage that the anonymous Gospel of John omits.

    In those Gospels, Jesus asks not to drink the cup.

    In John, Jesus says he will drink the cup, in a passage that has no context, other than the context of the other Gospels.

    Still, I’m sure Nathaniel will just deny the Biblical evidence and explain away the Bible.

  5. Steven Carr said,

    I would agree with Nathaniel if he said that ‘ridicules’ was too strong a word for what the author of John was doing.

  6. UMJeremy said,

    Hello there, found this in the backlinks to my blog and am glad to have a conversation!

    In the book referenced in the blog post, Ruprecht focuses on that the Gospels were written to particular groups. He claims that the Gospel of John was written as a competing testimony of Jesus Christ that altered Jesus’ message to speak to a different people in a different time than the synoptics. The tragedy, however, is that in doing so, John removed the splinters in our mind that the Gospel of Mark is happy to leave there. The example of Gethsemane is one example of many.

    One has only to look at the prevalence of the Gospel of John in evangelism literature and methods to see the frustration Ruprecht has with this situation. Gone are the wrestlings with uncertainty, replaced by a Jesus who knows no fear or weakness. Is it any wonder that John is used in “turn or burn” conversations?

    The point of the blog post and conversation is not to say that John is bad. it is simply to point out that it tries to smooth out the wrinkles in our lives rather than make us deal with them. As a pastor, I prefer to let the wrinkles show.


    Thanks for the link, Andrew. Subscribed to your feed as well!

    • Andrew said,

      Rev. Smith —

      Can you provide additional examples of the “wrinkles” in the Synoptics that you believe were smoothed out by the Gospel of John?

      Looking forward to your input,

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