The Key to the Fourth Gospel? Certainly not the Old Testament!

Not surprisingly, I will refute Irenaeus’ points fully by stating that ApJohn (and of course TriProt) actually seems to be key to correctly interpreting the Fourth Gospel, and it also is an intra-Christian debate text on the “value” of The Old Testament (OT.) Plenty have made solid arguments that the drafters must have respected and wanted to include the OT in the Canon given just how much ApJohn refers back to Genesis, the Moses statements, etc. However, I believe their intention was to show how egregiously wrong parts of the originals were that the OT’s inclusion was at best superfluous. 

In my opinion, it was not turning pre-Christian texts into a revelation from Christ; it was a statement of fact on how wrong the original works were, just as in GosThom Saying 52 Jesus scorns his disciples upon hearing the following: “Twenty-four prophets spoke in Israel, and all of them spoke in you.” [Jesus] said to them, “You have omitted the one living in your presence and have spoken (only) of the dead.” 

Harvard’s Karen King believes that ApJohn points to the ultimate rejection of the original (OT) texts. According to her, somewhat paraphrased: in the end the biblical treatises have more to be rejected than received, and this is the general attitude of ApJohn. Therefore, the drafters refer to the OT texts “only when it suits their purposes.”

A good example of this opinion is as follows: ApJohn 29: “And he (the chief Archon) repented for everything which had come into being through him. This time he planned to bring a flood upon the work of man. But the greatness of the Light of the foreknowledge informed Noah, and he proclaimed (it) too all of the offspring which are the sons of men. But those who were strangers to him did not listen to him. It is not as Moses said, ‘They hid themselves in an ark’ (Gen 7:7), but they hid themselves in a place, not only Noah but also many other people from the Immovable Race. They went into a place and hid themselves in a luminous cloud. And he (Noah) recognized his authority, and she who belongs to the Light was with him, having shone on them because he (the chief Archon) had brought darkness upon the whole earth.”

Additionally, The Blue Letter Bible states the following boldly: “There are no direct statements in The Old Testament about the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the believer. Thus it is difficult to arrive at any conclusion about the work of the Holy Spirit during the Old Testament period.” This fact solidifies my reasoning.

I’ll reference The University of Edinburgh’s Dr. Larry Hurtado’s work Lord Jesus Christ in the coming Johannine Secessionists Section more extensively, but he does make the observation regarding how such works apply to the Sethians and Valentinians on p. 531 of his extensive discourse:  “It is likely that their myths were intended to substitute for the function of the Old Testament narrative of world events, characters, and themes. That is, the mythic schemes provided a replacement narrative world in which the elect could ‘situate’ themselves meaningfully. And in this rival narrative world the Old Testament and its deity, along with Israel, and run-of-the-mill Christians as well, were assigned a vastly inferior status and significance.”

He continues on p. 559: “The world [the second-century Christians] surveyed was then [as it is now] a less than perfect creation, to put it mildly; it is a classic philosophical difficulty to account for a world so afflicted by natural and moral evil as the creation of an omnipotent and good deity. Moreover, there are undeniable tensions for Christians in treatment of the Old Testament as their Scriptures: Israel versus church, Torah versus Christ, and the anthropomorphic pictures of God in the Old Testament, to name a few obvious ones. Those who urge a distinction between the Old Testament deity and the true God were not simply trying to be difficult; they were reacting to real issues. But the stakes were high, the issues far-reaching, and the potential consequences of the battle over who the Christian God was were monumental.”

Furthermore, Yale University’s Bentley Layton observed in Gnostic Scriptures, xxii: “What is first and foremost in gnostic scripture is its doctrines and its interpretation of the Old and New Testament books—especially its open hostility to the god of Israel and its views on resurrection, the reality of Jesus’ incarnation and suffering, and the universality of Christian salvation. On these points, the gap between gnostic religion and proto-orthodox Christianity was vast.” He proposed that “Valentinus, though essentially a gnostic, tried to bridge this gap,” and that “he and his followers consciously limited themselves to a proto-orthodox canon,” avoiding reference to heterodox texts in their writings.” As Dr. Hurtado notes, the “Valentinians did primarily, if not solely, focus on New Testament writings, not those of The Old Testament.”