Discerning the contexts shaping the Gospel of John is as crucial as it is contested. John 16:2, which predicts martyrdom at the hands of those who purportedly think themselves to be offering faithful service to God, suggests that one dimension of the Gospel's ideological setting engages first-century Jewish debates regarding the laying down of life for piety. A survey of several early Jewish texts demonstrates that the rhetoric of pious execution of perceived idolaters (articulated with reference to the biblical exemplars of Phinehas, Levi, and Abraham) was alive in key points across a spectrum of Jewish communities. Analysis of John 8:31–59 shows narrative engagement with themes and figures central to these ideological debates, suggesting Johannine polemic against ideologies of religious violence. Within the Jewish ideological struggles to articulate “true” Jewish faithfulness in the face of Roman imperialism, the Gospel of John critiques “pious” violence and reconfigures faithfulness around Jesus's crucifixion as an ideal martyr. This study substantiates the shaping role of the ideological discourse of religious martyrdom and highlights the sharp political and social thrust of this spiritual Gospel.

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