John the Sectarian and Evangelicalism

John the Sectarian and Evangelicalism December 16, 2020

I have always enjoyed Robert Gundry’s works. His Mark commentary is one of the best ever and I think he nails the purpose of Mark’s Gospel: An apology for a crucified Messiah. He wrote some good essays too on imputation and justification as well that I’ve appreciated, i.e. there is no explicit text that mentions the imputation of the active obedience of Jesus to the believer, zip, none, nada. Gundry was, however, unceremoniously kicked out of ETS around about 1980 because he alleged that Matthew’s Gospel uses midrash in its infancy narrative. Ever since, many evangelical scholars have been afraid to even utter the words “midrash” even where there are clear instances of midrash in the New Testament such as in Romans 4. Seriously, the word “midrash” is the evangelical equivalent of “Voldemort” – a word designed to strike fear and terror in your heart. I don’t think it would be an issue now, but those were the days of the inerrancy wars.

When I was fresh out of seminary I read Robert H. Gundry, Jesus the Word according to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelicalism, especially Its Elites, in North America (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002) which I’d call a learned exegetical rant about Logos christology and a call for evangelicals to be less worldly. It is quite a stimulating read on many fronts. One quote in the book stands out:

Evangelical biblical and theological scholars began holding their meetings in conjunction with those of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, both of these societies populated with heretics, non-Christians of other religious persuasion, agnostics, and outright atheists as well as with true Christian believers. And in droves evangelicals (including me) started joining these societies and participating in their activities. Would John approve? I do not know and maybe it does not matter whether or not he would, but noncanonically he is said to have fled a public bath on perceiving that the heretic Cerinthus was there. (p. 73).

So, yeah, what would John the Evangelist make of SBL and AAR?

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