A controversial look at how the Gospel of John fundamentally distorted the central quality of Christianity: compassion
Certain to influence the often contentious dialogue over how the church has construed the figure of Christ, This Tragic Gospel contends that John's account of Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane conveys a meaning dramatically different from the famous prayer reflected in the other accepted gospels: specifically, that Christ does not pray to be spared death, but instead embraces his imminent demise with confidence. Lou Ruprecht believes that this misinterpretation undermined the tragedy of Jesus' death, and so paved the way for a Christianity less focused on compassion in the face of human suffering.
Lou Ruprecht (Atlanta, GA) is currently the first William M. Suttles Chair in the Department of Religious Studies at the Georgia State University.
This Tragic Gospel suggests that the “Gospel” of John intended to supplant the first three gospels and succeeded in gaining undue influence on the early churches. This study focuses on the tragic moment when Jesus prays for deliverance from his impending death in the garden of Gethsemane. Ruprecht contends that John rewrote this scene in order to convey a very different dramatic meaning from the one reflected in Mark's gospel. In John's version, not only did Jesus not pray to be spared, he actually mocked this prayer, embracing his imminent demise with godlike confidence. Ruprecht believes that this dramatic reinterpretation undermined the tragedy of Jesus's death as Mark imagined it and so paved the way for the development of a kind of Christianity that focused far less on compassion in the face of human suffering. John's Jesus offers the faithful food so that they will never hunger, water so that they will never thirst, and the promise of a world in which no faithful person ever sheds a tear. Mark's Christians do suffer, but they witness to suffering and death differently...with compassion.
Mark's Christ suffers, like all Christians after him, but he embodies a tragic hope in the promise of a faith shored up by love and compassion.
Louis A. Ruprecht Jr. holds the William M. Suttles Chair in Religious Studies at Georgia State University and is an active member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society for Biblical Literature, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Society for Values in Higher Education.