For the author of the fourth Gospel, there is neither a Christless church nor a churchless Christ. In his book Ecclesiology and Theosis in the Gospel of John
(Cambridge University Press, 2017), Andrew J. Byers
argues that ecclesiology is as central a Johannine concern as Christology. Rather than focusing on the community behind the text, John's Gospel directs attention to the vision of community prescribed within the text, which is presented as a 'narrative ecclesiology' by which the concept of 'church' gradually unfolds throughout the Gospel's sequence. The theme of oneness functions within this script and draws on the theological language of the Shema, a centerpiece of early Jewish theology and social identity. To be 'one' with this 'one God' and his 'one Shepherd' involves the believers' corporate participation within the divine family. Such participation requires an ontological transformation that warrants an ecclesial identity expressed by the bold assertion found in Jesus' citation of Psalm 82: 'you are gods'.
Dr. Andrew J. Byers is The Director of the Free Church Track & Lecturer in New Testament at Cranmer Hall at St John’s College at Durham University. He has served for 13 years in pastoral ministry both in the US and in the UK, and is the author of Theomedia: The Media of God and the Digital Age
, and Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint
. His other writings have appeared in academic journals such as New Testament Studies
and Novum Testamentum
, and also in more popular-level publications such as Christianity Today
and Relevant Magazine
. He blogs (occasionally) at hopefulrealism.com.
Jonathan Wright is a PhD student in New Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds an MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a ThM from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @jonrichwright, or jonathanrichardwright.com.