The Use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel, Part 1 (former prospectus)

The recto of Rylands Library Papyrus P52 from ...
The recto of Rylands Library Papyrus P52 from the Gospel of John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am changing my dissertation focus from a literary analysis of the Fourth Gospel’s use of Deuteronomy to something else. Therefore, I am posting what I have already written. I’ll upload it on later. 

The Use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel


With every proposal for something new comes the necessary reexamination of something old. If we were like the writer of the Epistle of Hebrews, I would suggest old means a ready to pass away; I have no such intention. It is quite possible nothing has passed away since the studying of the Fourth Gospel began in the Second Century but only found a new use by a new generation of scholars. Before I outline my proposal for this thesis, it behooves me first to narrow down by expanding upon what we have heard from the beginning of critical analysis into several facets of the life and role of the Gospel of John. Thus, the plan of this chapter follows a relatively short schema. I will give an overview of John’s use of the Old Testament; research on the Fourth Gospel’s use of Deuteronomy; and follow these with my thesis accompanied by several examples of the type of research to be accomplished. The final examination is directed towards other issues currently under discussion in Johannine Studies.

  1. State of Scholarship on John’s Use of the Old Testament

Before we begin our examination of John’s use of the Old Testament, we must first determine what the word “use” implies. There are different ways to use a previous text. The Greco-Roman practice of mimesis sought to use previous works in different ways, with a proceeding text likely to act as a validating text. A later author may directly quote, allude to, or use images and themes from the previous work to act as an intertextual backbone for this new creation. A quotation is often easy enough to spot in John, with the author graciously using several different formulas to point to his use of his authoritative book(s) —i.e., various Jewish writings of the time. Thus, a quotation is noticeable even to audiences far removed from the author’s original context, even if the quoted text is now a footnote in literary history. An allusion, however, is much less likely to traverse well the ravages of time — echoes are even more difficult to hear once you are too distant from the original author.

For the more investigative modern reader, allusions and echoes remain a pursued enterprise. If the modern interpreter can decipher these two keys, the text becomes that much more alive, settled, and perhaps within reach. The allusion, or rather, the concept of allusion, is a relatively new one. Even now, scholars debate on the existential meaning of allusion, especially whether or not the author intentionally uses allusions. Echoes are even more tenuous, residing usually in the neutral zone of the literary critic. While I contend allusions are equally important as quotations — if not more so — there are many issues surrounding these hypothetical instances, issues we will attempt to answer in a later chapter. For now, however, we will define allusion as an unattested but intentional quotation while echo is just as it sounds, the inescapable use of a previous work that has so invested itself into the author’s frame of reference it is impossible not to speak or write without subconsciously referring to or in some way using the text. In the following two sections, we will examine the scholarship on both quotations and allusions (Old Testament as used by the author of the Fourth Gospel), but leave for later the illusive search for echoes.
1.1.              Quotations

For the purpose of this proposal, I will recognize fifteen direct quotations — rather, I recognize fifteen quotations signaled out by a recognizable formula although their sources are often disputed. These formulas are as follows:


  • 1:23 … καθὼς εἶπεν Ἠσαΐας
  • 2:17 ἐμνήσθησαν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι γεγραμμένον…
  • 6:31 καθώς ἐστιν γεγραμμένον…
  • 6:45 ἔστιν γεγραμμένον ἐν τοῖς προφήταις…
  • 7:38 καθὼς εἶπεν ἡ γραφή…
  • 7:42 οὐχ ἡ γραφὴ εἶπεν…
  • 10:34 Οὐκ ἔστιν γεγραμμένον ἐν τῷ νόμῳ ὑμῶν…
  • 12:14 καθώς ἐστιν γεγραμμένον…
  • 12:38 ἵνα ὁ λόγος Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου πληρωθῇ ὃν εἶπεν…
  • 12:39 πάλιν εἶπεν Ἠσαΐας…
  • 13:18 ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ…
  • 15:25 ἀλλʼ ἵνα πληρωθῇ ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτῶν γεγραμμένος…
  • 19:24 ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ ἡ λέγουσα…
  • 19:36 ἐγένετο γὰρ ταῦτα ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ·…
  • 19:37 καὶ πάλιν ἑτέρα γραφὴ λέγει…

As Steve Moyise points out, these formulas include a “verb of writing.” However, John is not content with quoting only recognizable written works as we see above, but has included into his primary sources at least one, perhaps two, other sources we are as of yet unfamiliar with. They occur in 17:12 and 19:28.

As noted above, when John quotes directly from a known text, he has a particular formula to call to his audience’s attention his use of the text, almost like an anachronistic footnote. However, except for just a few of these instances, John does not give a locus for his source. This has left, as Moyise demonstrates, a lingering discussion among various scholars as to from where these quotations hale.

Andreas Köstenberger is not so unsure as to where the sources for the direct quotations lie. He states, “In terms of distribution, seven quotations (or 50 percent) are from Psalms; four from Isaiah; two from Zechariah; one from the Pentateuch.” Köstenberger adamantly relates the style of Johannine usage to the Matthean usage, suggesting a rooting “firmly in OT conceptualities and specific texts” for the Fourth Gospel. Overall, Köstenberger relies too heavily on what appears to be a singular use of fulfillment formulas found among the Synoptics and the Pauline literature, suggesting a more theological approach to the Johannine quotations. Simply, he seems to see only a validating tendency of the author’s theology by using quotations.

What Köstenbeger does provide, however, is a basis for examining the quotations from the original text. It is possible John used a variety of the pre-Masoretic Text, although many of his quotations are more likely to derive in some way from the Greek Old Testament.

John Old Testament Relationship with Masoretic Text, Septuagint 
1:23 Isa. 40:3 LXX? Change from hetoimasate … eutheias to euthynate 
2:17 Ps. 69:9a LXX? Change from katephagen to kataphagetai 
6:31 Ps. 78:24b LXX? Phagein at end rather than beginning; ek tou added 
6:45 Isa. 54:13a LXX? As in MT, pantes nom. rather than acc. (as in LXX); as in LXX, theou rather than kyriou; “your sons” omitted 
10:34 Ps. 82:6a Same as LXX = MT 
12:13 Ps. 118:26a Same as LXX = MT (adds kai ho basileus tou Israēl 
12:15 Zech. 9:9 Independent adaptation of LXX/MT: “do not fear” added (Isa. 40:9?); sou omitted; “sitting,” not “mounting”; “colt of a donkey” (Gen. 49:11?) 
12:38 Isa. 53:1 Same as LXX = MT 
12:40 Isa. 6:10 Independent adaption of LXX/MT: “hearing” omitted; concentric structure changed to parallel one; etc. 
13:18 Ps. 41:9b Seems independent of LXX; own translation from Hebrew? 
15:25 Ps. 35:19 or 69:4 LXX? Accurately reflects both MT and LXX 
19:24 Ps. 22:18 Same as LXX = MT 
19:36 Exod. 12:46 or Num. 9:12; Ps. 34:20 LXX? Combination of Exod. 12:46/Num. 9:12; Ps. 34:20 
19:37 Zech. 12:10 Close to Hebrew; LXX misreads the Hebrew; testimonium


We will now examine a selected quotation among the various scholars just mentioned. For instance, John quotes a text in 2:17, giving us the footnote according the remembrance of the disciples. Unlike Mark’s Gospel (11:17), John does not refer to Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. Of course, unlike Mark’s Gospel, the scope of the passage is not the impurity of the Temple caused by the exclusion of Gentiles. Hanson suggests a basis for John’s reporting of Jesus’s words in Psalm 69:9 and Zechariah 14:21, mixed with Psalm 8:8. This allows Hanson to interpret the passage against the physical temple in favor of the temple of the body of the risen Christ. Köstenberger follows the more traditional route in connecting John 2:17 to Psalm 69:9. The point of this example is not to delve into the different theological interpretations caused by different sources, but only to point out the variety of scholarly allowances for Johannine sources.

1.2.  Allusions 

Allusions tend to allow to for a more robust discussion. If we begin with Köstenberger’s chart, we discover numerous allusions to a wider range of Old Testament books than what we have found in the use of direct quotations. These allusions include verbal allowance, a feast or some ritual event, some motif or ethical allowance from the Old Testament, or simply familiar language. Several scholars have noted even the allusion between postures. For instance, Glasson sees a connection in the way Jesus is physical presented in 19:18 with the way Moses is presented in Exodus 17:12.

Moyise sees in the Johannine prologue (1:1-18) allusions to Genesis, Proverbs (specifically chapter 8) and Exodus. He also uses John 1:51, proposing a connection to the story of Jacob’s ladder to round out his brief exploration of allusions in the Gospel of John. Hanson has provided us other examples as well. What these allusions do, however, rather than what they connect to, may be more important. Carson, following Hanson, sees theological significance in the allusions, allowing for a shaping of the Johannine narrative by the material used from the Old Testament. More than this, however, is Carson’s allowance for a new reading of the Old Testament passage as required by the Johannine usage.

1.3.         Use of the Old Testament in John’s theology
The use of the Old Testament in the Fourth Gospel, as with Deuteronomy below, is worth examining beyond the literary sharing of words in quotes or allusions. If we are to explore the possible intention of the author in using previous texts as something beyond using these texts as a cultural dictionary to supplement one’s word-choices then we must first examine briefly thematic material borrowed by the Evangelist to build his theology. These theological examinations are not exhaustive, but will highlight two interconnected areas — monotheism and Christology.

We must assume a rather liberal terminology in discussing John’s Old Testament. The term itself is rather anachronistic, coming to us only in the second century of Christianity; however, it is a term used throughout this work to reflect the larger canonical restriction of books largely accepted by Jews and most Christians today. Moreover, we cannot fully limit our search of John’s sources to the 39 books of the current Jewish canon of Scripture, but push this to include the breadth of books in the Septuagint, or Old Greek — a set of books much more likely to be used by John. These books include our deuterocanonical works like Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon, as D. Moody Smith has pointed out. While like-minded theology may be found in other (now) extant works such as those found at Qumran, these are considered only as sources to measure John’s lexicon rather than sources of John’s thought.

1.3.1.     Monotheism
Richard Bauckham sees a retelling of Genesis 1:1–4, and the monotheism it entails, in the first few verses of the prologue. Also noticeable is the normative Jewish separation between God and creation by the use of the agent (ὁ λόγος), allowing for a distinctly monotheistic view. Following this, as Bauckham notes, is the use of the said agent well in line with Psalm 33:6. As I will note in the next section, the monotheism of Deutero-Isaiah impacts the monotheism of John, but this is a topic better reserved in the discussion of John’s use of Deuteronomy. Monotheism, while not a constant refrain in the Old Testament, nevertheless makes its appearance in Deuteronomy and several of the Prophets while continuing to appear in what is now called the Deuteronocanon.

1.3.2.     Christology
The invitation to explore John’s Christology begins with Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. From there, the author of the Fourth Gospel begins to reinforce in his audience the nature of the λόγοςand how Jesus fulfills this. The author has no need to pull directly from pure Hellenistic sources, as he has thesyncretistic Wisdom of Solomon before him, a work based on various Old Testament texts including the Hebrew Proverbs 8.The use of the wisdom motiffs has allowed John to rewrite the Jewish Creation account to include Jesus as essential, as if Jesus was there.

The seven Ἐγώ εἰμιstatements followed by a noun build the Christological theme around several Old Testament themes; however, Bauckham argues for the lesser recognized statements where the same statements are allowed by John to stand alone. These statements are connected in the Old Testament theophanies, including Exodus 3:14 with its well known Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν. It is also possible John used Isaiah 40–55 where the Deutero-Isaiac author uses the phrase several times (in Hebrew for the original author and in Greek for the translator).

Robert Kysar proposes a controversy surrounding the Christological response found in John, especially the prologue. Following other “students of the Fourth Gospel” — namely C.K. Barrett, Barnabas Lindars, and Raymond Brown — Kysar proposes a Jesus as better-than-Torah motif in the prologue as well as the advent of the creation. This view, of a controversy answered by the prologue, is likewise held by James McGrath who brings into focus the role of Moses in discussing the Christology of the prologue. His premise, however, carries with it the sectarian psychology of legitimization, something we will explore later in this work. By using the Old Testament, John, according to McGrath (and others), has called for a legitimization of the sect — he accomplishes this by using the various Old Testament themes, allusions, and quotations in designing his theological view of Jesus.

The state of scholarship is immense regarding John’s use of the Old Testament to not only provide a lexicon and dictionary of quotations for his Gospel while using it as fodder for his own theology. What is shown with the aforementioned scholarship is the reliance of the author of the Fourth Gospel upon the Jewish Scriptures. They are his literary and theological education and with little doubt the mold of his cognitive environment. Given the amount of references, John would have received the Jesus tradition through the lens of his library. Here, I have but touched on a rather finite portion of this scholarship to show John is familiar with the Old Testament, by his manifold employment of it, with the hopes of creating an allowance for the singular study on the Book of Deuteronomy.

Edwin Freed made no such distinction, instead referring to even allusions as quotations (Old Testament Quotations in the Gospel of John, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1965.) As we will see, quotations and allusions are used by the author of the Fourth Gospel intentionally for different reasons.

Merrill C. Tenney in “The Old Testament and the Fourth Gospel” (Bibliotheca Sacra 120 (1963), 300–8) has differentiated the use of the Old Testament into three slightly different categories than the ones given below. For Tenney, citations are “almost exact verbally and which are definitely referred to a given author” while quotations are “sufficiently close to the original to leave no doubt concerning their derivation” while allusions are based on “only one or two words out of a sentence parallel in the Biblical text.” (301-2) Such a rigid view would prevent the paraphrasitic nature of John’s writing to reveal to the reader the number of quotations while hiding allusions.

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics defines allusion as “(a) brief, indirect, and deliberate reference— in a poem or other medium— to a person, place, event (fictitious or actual), or other work of art, allusion may be used by its author to enhance a work’s semantic and cultural density, topicality, or timelessness.” (The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition, Princeton: Princeton University Press, p. 42.)

For a fuller discussion on the use of these three instruments in reading the Gospels and their use of the Old Testament, see Steve Moyise, The Old Testament in the New: An Introduction (T&T Clark Approaches to Biblical Studies, London: T&T Clark International, 2001), 5-7.

Carson sees only 13 ‘direct quotations.’ He allows for 1:51 as an allusion, but cites others who see it as a quotation. D. A. Carson, and Hugh Godfrey Maturin Williamson, eds. It Is Written: Scripture Citing Scripture: Essays in Honour of Barnabas Lindars, SSF (Reissue. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 246. Fifteen are allowed by Menken (Old Testaments Quotations in the Fourth Gospel. Studies in Textual Form (CBET, 15; Kampen: KokPharos, 1996). G. Reim, sees one with the rest acting as allusions (Jochanan: Erweiterte Studien zum alttestamentlichen Hintergrund des Johannesevangeliums (Erlangen: Verlag der Ev.-Luth. Mission, 1995), pp. 108-9). Tenney (above) sees only three “positive citations” but fifteen quotations and eighteen allusions (Tenney, “Old Testament in the Fourth Gospel,” 301). Raymond Brown and Francis Moloney follow the NA-26 in recognizing 19 explicit quotations (Raymond E. Brown and Francis J. Moloney. An Introduction to the Gospel of John. 1st ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003, 132–3).

Steve Moyise, The Old Testament in the New: An Introduction (T&T Clark Approaches to Biblical Studies, London: T&T Clark International, 2001), 64.

The quotation formula is bifurcated. Whereas Moyise’s “verb of writing” occurs in the first half of the Gospel, the second partition has the author “prefer(ing) a fulfillment word.” (Moyise, 63).

These two specific instances will be explored in a later chapter.

John 1:23 includes the source of the quotation. Where a source is not easily determined, Menken has deferred to G. Richter in suggesting a Targum as the heart of the Johannine School. M. J. J. Menken, “The Provenance and Meaning of the Old Testament Quotation in John 6:31,” Novum Testamentum XXX, 1 (1988), 39. See G. Richter, Studien zum Johannesevangelium, ed by J Hainz (Biblische Untersuchungen 13, Regensburg: F. Pustet, 1977), 199-265.

Carson argues lightly against a strong line of separation between direct quotations and allusions, calling them “paraphrastic.” (Carson, It is Written, 246). Not all scholars agree about the lack of clarity for the origin of the quotations.

A. Köstenberger in “John,” G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007), 415.

Köstenberger, “John” in Beale, Commentary,413. Kösterberger also writes, “The overall purpose of the use of the OT in John’s Gospel, as evidenced by the formal quotations, is to show that both Jesus’ public ministry and his cross-death fulfilled scriptural patterns and prophecies.” (Commentary, 416)

The following list is found in Köstenberger, “John” in Beale and Carson, Commentary, 417.

The idea of remembering by the disciples provides the Evangelist the ability to quote Scripture. Only four quotations are placed in the mouth of Jesus. One is from the Baptizer, two from the crowd, while the remaining seven are directly from the Evangelist’s pen. (Köstenberger, “John” in Beale and Carson, Commentary, 418). Carson sees 2:17 as among the editorial comments. (Carson, It Is Written, 246). In this instance, Urban C. von Wahlde sees a hallmark to a second edition, “This formula appears only in material of the second edition in the Gospel and reflects the common rabbinic formula for referring to the canonical Jewish Scriptures.” Thus, many of the quotations may be the work of later redactors. (Urban C. von Wahlde, The Gospel and Letters of John, Volume 2: Commentary on the Gospel of John, The Eerdmans Critical Commentary, Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010, 101.) The appendix provided in von Wahlde’s third volume of this series is heavily reflective of source criticism, allowing several editions of John’s Gospel. This would make it almost impossible to propose and then to discover a cohesive view of Old Testament quotations in the Fourth Gospel. Francis Moloney sees a set pattern in the introductory formula, something we will explore below. (“The Gospel of John: The ‘End’ of Scripture.” Interpretation 63, no. 4 (October 1, 2009): 356–366.)

Anthony Hanson, The Prophetic Gospel: Study of John and the Old Testament (London: T&T Clark, 2006), 43. Lincolns notes the Johannine usage of Psalm 69 reaches beyond 2:17 to include the use of verses 4 and 21 in John 15:25 and 19:28-9 respectively. See Andrew T. Lincoln, The Gospel According to Saint John (Black’s New Testament Commentary, London: Continuum, 2005), 138.

Köstenberger, “John” in Beale and Carson, Commentary, 431–2.

Margaret Daly-Denton, David in the Fourth Gospel: The Johannine Reception of the Psalms (Brill Academic Pub, 1999), 188.

Köstenberger, “John” in Beale and Carson, Commentary, 419-420. Köstenberger’s chapter in the book handles these allusions. Likewise, David A. Jones has developed an extensive list of Johannine quotations and allusions, Old Testament Quotations and Allusions in the New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009). Jones steps outside the Protestant canon to explore possible allusions to other literature now considered deuterocanonical.

Köstenberger, “John” in Beale and Carson, Commentary, 420. Köstenberger cites John 16:22 and Isaiah 66:14 as one such allusion based on the familiarity of language. The author goes on to note the uncited allusions — 1:45; 2:22; 3:19; 5:39, 45-46; 12:34; 20:9.

T. F. Glasson, Moses in the Fourth Gospel (Eugene: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2009), 40-4. Glasson is not the last to see allusions in the Fourth Gospel of Moses. See Wayne A. Meeks, Prophet-King: Moses Traditions and the Johannine Christology (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1967) and M. E. Boismard, Moses or Jesus. An Essay in Johannine Christology. Translated by B.T. Viviano (Leuven: Peeters), 1993.

Moyise, 71-2. There is little to contend with here, except unlike Jones (see above) and Köstenberger, Moyise does not include any (what is now) extra-canonical literature, such as the Wisdom of Solomon and other prominent Second Temple works.

Hanson, Prophetic Gospel, 126-9.

For example, see Kirsten Nielsen’s essay, “Old Testament Imagery in John,” where she identifies the use of Ezekiel 34 with John 10. The two passages share numerous points of connection including the shepherd imagery as well as “I am” statements, something we may consider as an interplay between allusion and direction quotation. (Johannes Nissen and Sigfred Pedersen, New Readings in John. Revised. London: T&T Clark, 2004, 70).

Carson, It Is Written, 252. This issue will figure heavily in later chapters.

While several critical versions of the Septuagint are currently available, unless otherwise noted the Septuaginta Gottingensis is used as the critical text.

D. Moody Smith, The Theology of the Gospel of John (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 18

Richard Bauckham, The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 240.

Bauckham, Testimony of the Beloved Disciple, 241.

John Ashton sees a less-than-“austere monotheism” in John as compared to Deuteronomy and Deutero-Isaiah (Understanding the Fourth Gospel. 2nd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, 93).

See Gerald O’Collins, SJ, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus (2nd ed. Oxford Oxford University Press, 2009), 124–5. Several of the passages cited in O’Collins no doubt underlie the theology under John’s vision of God as the Father of Jesus.

Ashton, Understanding the Fourth Gospel, 384–386. Ashton is not able to point to a direct dependence between the two, but is able to show considerable points of collusion between the two works. T. E. Pollard notes the scholarly emphasis to suggest the prologue, instead of fully relying on Hellenistic Judaism (either theology or translations), relies instead on the “dbhar Yahweh.” (See T. E. Pollard, Johannine Christology and the Early Church, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, 8.) In our study, it matters little such a miniscule difference.

Bauckham, Testimony of the Beloved Disciple, 241

Bauckham, Testimony of the Beloved Disciple, 244–9. These are found in 4:46; 6:20; 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8.

It is possible John intended a reference in 1:51 to one such merger between heaven and earth. Meeks connects 1:51 to Genesis 28:12 based on the use of ἀναβαίνοντας καὶ καταβαίνοντας. He does note, however, the lack of any set imagery in the Fourth Gospel to correspond with the expected appearance of the angel. (Wayne A. Meeks, In Search of the Early Christians: Selected Essays. Edited by Prof Allen R. Hilton and H. Gregory Snyder. First Edition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002, 60–1). It is best to examine this allusion to Genesis as indicating a better-than motif. There are no angels in John to ascend or descend, only Jesus (cf. 3:13).

Cf Isaiah 41:4; 43:10, 25; 46:4; 51:2. The use of this phrase in Deutero-Isaiah is especially telling due to the distinctive evolution of monotheism by that author. Not only did these chapters provide for monotheism, likewise, they provided for contextualizing Jesus as used by the New Testament writers.

Robert Kysar, Voyages with John: Charting the Fourth Gospel (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2006), 37.

Kysar, Voyages with John, 37–8; Kysar follows J. Louis Martyn in placing the opening of John in light of Genesis 1:1.

James F. McGrath, John’s Apologetic Christology: Legitimation and Development in Johannine Christology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 149–96.

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