St. John

Hey editorial writers in Pittsburgh: Do be careful when attempting to correct Jesus

Hey editorial writers in Pittsburgh: Do be careful when attempting to correct Jesus

As a rule, GetReligion doesn't post critiques of editorials, columns and analysis pieces in mainstream media or religious publications. Now, we may quote them, from time to time. Also, I frequently point readers to "think pieces" that aren't really news, but are linked to important Godbeat topics.

How do you criticize bias in opinion pieces? They're supposed to be biased. How do you criticize advocacy pieces for a lack of balance? They're supposed to advocate a specific side of an issue that the writer or publication thinks is correct. However, we can ask editorials to to be accurate when it comes to facts and quotes. Right?

Thus, a religion-beat veteran sent me a note this week about a really interesting problem in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial that ran with this headline: "The noble gendarme: Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame gave his life for others."

I've been writing about news-media coverage of the Beltrame case all week, as in this post: "Sacrifice in France: 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life ... ' " I also wrote my Universal syndicate column about religious themes in this drama in France.

The editorial in Pittsburgh was interesting, in that it attempted to steer around Beltrame's own Catholic faith, while praising his actions in secular terms. Kind of. Here is the opening of the editorial:

The French, who are under sustained attack by Islamist terrorists, have found a hero in French national police Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame.
On Friday, Lt. Col. Beltrame voluntarily traded places with a woman who was being used as a human shield during an armed assault by a self-proclaimed Islamic State “soldier.”

The piece then added more material about why this case was so important, while avoiding religious facts about Beltrame and his work, his marriage and his life.

Then, at the end, there was this leap into theology:

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Bible puzzler: Did John write the Gospel of John or not?

Bible puzzler: Did John write the Gospel of John or not?

PATRICIA’S QUESTION:

Who do you think authored the Fourth Gospel?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

This follows up on our Dec. 10 item about whether the apostle John wrote the Bible’s Book of Revelation. The Religion Guy will report what some experts say, not what a mere journalist thinks. The full question from seminary graduate Patricia shows she’s familiar with this debate. Bottom line, there’s no simple answer.

The headline sounds like a conundrum. But remember the Gospel text itself names no author; only later did Christians tack on “according to John.” (The other three Gospels, conventionally named for Matthew, Mark and Luke, are likewise anonymous compositions.) However, the tradition that the author was John, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles and thus an eyewitness, was firmly established by A.D. 180.

That’s when Bishop Irenaeus’ work “Against Heresies” said that “John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus” (3.1.1). Reinforcing this, it’s quite possible Irenaeus (born circa A.D. 125) learned such things from his hometown mentor Bishop Polycarp (born circa A.D. 70) who in turn had obtained information directly from the apostle John who was his boyhood friend.

Unlike the other three Gospels, the Fourth refers to a writer though without naming him, as “the disciple who had lain close to his breast at the supper . ... This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:20 and 24). Also, the crucifixion narrative says “he who saw it has borne witness -- his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth” (19:35).

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Final questions: Who wrote the New Testament's Book of Revelation?

Final questions: Who wrote the New Testament's Book of Revelation?

JOHN (the perfect name for this question) ASKS

I thought the John of Revelation was the Beloved Disciple. The sermon today tried to disabuse me of that notion. What do we know about this?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: 

One cherished Christmas tradition is dramatic presentation of the story of Jesus via Handel’s “Messiah,” the most-beloved, most-performed musical setting of Bible verses ever composed.  This 1742 oratorio concludes with a stirring chorus taken from the Book of Revelation 5:9,12-14 in the King James Version:

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain and hath redeemed us to God by his blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing…. Blessing and honor, glory and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever…. Amen.”

Who received this book’s elaborate vision and wrote it down? That’s among many mysteries about Revelation, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, along with what its many lurid symbols mean, and whether it addresses 1st Century persecution, church struggles throughout history, future culmination in the end times, or some combination. The early church, especially in the East, was reluctant and late in deciding this unusual book belonged in the New Testament.

The text names the writer as a “John” who lived on the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) due to “tribulation” and testimony to Jesus Christ, indicating he was in forced exile. There is early and strong tradition that this was John, the “beloved” apostle among the Twelve chosen by Jesus, though the text doesn’t say so.

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