Abstract

How might we read the canonical Gospel of John as anything other than anti-Jewish, a scholarly point of view that in recent years has received renewed support? The accusation is absolute and raises serious problems for the gospel’s ongoing reception as Christian Scripture. The appropriate response to this challenge of such high stakes is to return to the gospel and offer close readings of the relevant passages. This article participates in the ongoing debate regarding the status of the gospel by examining how John characterizes Nicodemus, the first “Jew” with whom Jesus engages in extended dialogue. Through a reading of his three appearances (John 3:1–21; 7:45–52; 19:38–42), this article argues for a positive characterization of Nicodemus. It contends that he progresses toward a fuller understanding of Jesus’s true identity, which culminates in reverently burying Jesus, this act representing an embodied confession commensurate with Johannine faith. Becoming a disciple, Nicodemus nevertheless remains a “Jew.” Thus, he is a case in point for how the gospel, while striking in its marked dualistic contrasts and exclusivist in its claim for Jesus as the only Way, permits movement across the very boundaries it establishes, thereby challenging the appropriateness of labeling John an anti-Jewish gospel. Part of the theological challenge of John’s Gospel is for all readers to recognize themselves in the story of Nicodemus.

You do not currently have access to this content.