Lazarus, John’s Gospel, and Friendship in South Africa

Steve Hunt in Cape Town, South Africa, at the end of his trip.

The last thing Steve Hunt, professor of biblical studies and Christian ministries, thought when he began his scholarship on the Gospel of John was that it would take him around the world, to South Africa to be exact. 

But since 2009, Hunt has been working on a book with D. Francois Tolmie, dean and professor of New Testament at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, entitled, Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel: Narrative Approaches to Sixty-Seven Figures in John (to be published by Mohr Siebeck in 2013).  As a result, Tolmie invited Hunt to his homeland—his first trip to South Africa—from October 6-13, 2012, where the two worked on their book and Hunt guest lectured for a large audience on, “Lazarus: Jesus’ Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John.” A revised version of the lecture will be published in one of two South African theological journals, Acta Theologica or Neotestamentica, late next year. Below is Hunt‘s abstract on Lazarus: 

“The question related to the Beloved Disciple’s identity in the Gospel of John has confounded interpreters for centuries. No doubt, part of the confusion here issues from the rather muddled traditions related to this Gospel which originated in the second century A.D.

The internal evidence of the Gospel, on the other hand, is relatively clear. Based on Wolfgang Iser’s literary theory of ‘consistency building,’ only one person can be identified as Jesus’ beloved disciple in the Gospel called ‘John,’ and that person is Lazarus. Building on the narrator’s repeated references to Jesus’ love for Lazarus in ch. 11, I’m trying to show how the rest of the Gospel makes eminently good sense when one re-reads it in light of this identification. The study is more than an exercise in curiosity, however, as the ramifications of the proposal for the re-interpretation of the Fourth Gospel are enormous. Consider, for example, that instead of the Gospel originating with one of Jesus’ ‘Twelve Disciples’, the Fourth Gospel actually originates within an anti-temple Judean community which celebrated ‘the other disciple’ of Jesus—his Beloved Disciple, Lazarus.”

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