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‘The way of an eagle in the sky’ Following John’s story, style and structure

The ‘way of an eagle in the sky’ may be hard to understand (Prov. 30.19) but many readers have felt similarly as they have sought to follow the twists and turns, heights and depths of this most subtle evangelist. As long ago as the second century ad, Clement of Alexandria suggested that John had composed a ‘spiritual gospel’ full of theological meditation to complement the ‘physical facts’ contained in the Synoptics. As we have seen, Mark, Matthew and Luke actually have plenty of theological reflection themselves, but John is still different. He shares the basic story of Jesus’ ministry leading to conflict with the authorities and his subsequent Passion and some sayings, stories and events are similar to those in the Synoptics. However, he writes in a different style, with his own themes and vocabulary, with a different chronology (e.g. the Temple incident happens at the beginning in Jn. 2, not at the end as in Mk. 11); there are no parables or exorcisms; Jesus talks in extended discourses about himself rather than pithy sayings about the kingdom of God; many well-loved characters and incidents appear only in John – the wedding at Cana (2.1–11), Nicodemus (3.1–21), the Samaritan woman (4.1–42), the man at the pool of Bethesda (5.1–16), the blind man at Siloam (9.1–41), and Lazarus (11.5–44)…

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