I participated in a fascinating conversation about the Gospel of John as a group of us who had attended the “John the Jew” Enoch Seminar coped with a train strike in Italy.
The conversation was about the references in the Gospel of John to being expelled from the synagogue. Since there was no universally-accepted authority that could kick people out in any formal way, some have suggested that the references in John are merely rhetoric.
But thinking about this in the context of the candidacy of Donald Trump, I found myself questioning the distinction between “real/historical” and “merely rhetorical.” If a future historian were to find references to Muslims being deported from the United States in sources from way back in 2016, they might likewise ask if the language is rhetorical or reflects reality.But the correct conclusion would be that the rhetoric reflects a historical reality, a real use of the rhetoric, and not merely something that was a literary flourish in our time. No Muslims may have been deported in 2016. But the rhetoric was used.
The same, it seems to me, might well apply to the background and context of the Gospel of John.
I should also mention that I still need to get around to reading Jonathan Bernier’s book on this topic. Perhaps once I do so, I will view this topic differently…