[George H. van Kooten (Geurt Henk van Kooten; Delft, 1969) is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, and Dean of the faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen. He studied at Leiden, Durham and Oxford: Theology at the University of Leiden (Master of Arts, 1995), New Testament studies at the University of Durham (Master of Arts, 1995), and Judaism of the Graeco-Roman Period at the University of Oxford (Master of Studies, 1996). During 1996-2000 he was appointed by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) as a junior researcher at the University of Leiden (PhD, 2001). He previously lectured at the University of Amsterdam (2000), Kampen Theological University (2002), and the University of Groningen (2002-2005). Following an open application procedure, he was appointed Professor of New Testament & Early Christianity with effect from January 1, 2006. In September 2008 he was appointed Dean of faculty. During the years 2001-2002 he trained as a priest in the Protestant Church in the Netherlands at the University of Utrecht; ecclesiastical examination 2007 at the Protestant Theological University, location Leiden; ordination 2008, with special attention to the post-academic training of clergy].
On 6th June, I had a second visit to the academic block and the library of the University of Groningen. The visit was planned in order to collect academic materials toward my research project. During our visit, I along with my friends, Henk and Els Cornelissen, were warmly welcomed by Prof. van Kooten in his office and to the university. It was a rare opportunity having one hour interaction with a promising Dutch New Testament scholar like him. In our scholarly interaction, we discussed mostly about topics related to “the Gospel according to St. John”. The following is an excerpt from that very important talk:
- Genre of the Gospels: The viewpoints of Charles Talbert and Richard Burridge are significant with regard to the genre of the Gospels. As they (i.e., Talbert and Burridge) propose, the Gospels reflect many striking similarities with the biographical writings of the ancient past. While a majority group of the German scholarship argues that the Gospels themselves are a unique genre, the arguments by Talbert and Burridge have to be seriously considered in scholarly discussions. Moreover, their proposals are helpful in looking at the Gospels from a different vantage point. As they suggest, we may have to look at the Gospel of Mark as a literary work patterned in the form of ‘apologetical biographies’ of ancient times. Similarly, Matthew as a ‘hermeneutical biography’, Luke a ‘historiographical biography’, and John an ‘ancient biography’ where dialogue is added as a literary ingredient.
- Dating the Gospels: The recent trend among the New Testament scholars is arguing for Markan priority, and, hence, interpret the other three Gospels secondary to Mark. While they argue that Mark is the first written Gospel and an underdeveloped one, John is viewed as the latest one as its higher Christology suggests. This general view among the scholarly circles cannot be proven on several grounds. Instead of interpreting the Gospels on the basis of this hypothetical-interdependance theory, also we need to look at them from their independence. The Gospels are written in order to meet the diverse theological needs of the people groups. This would have prompted the Gospel writers to compose their Gospels independently from one another.
- John’s Authorship: John the apostle (i.e., the disciple of Jesus) was the author of the Gospel of John. This can be proved by the help of the “first person language” used in the Gospel and the detailed description of the geography.
- The Prologue of John: Interpreting the rest of the Gospel of John without the backdrop of the prologue is a difficult task. The prologue and the body of the Gospel are coherently structured. The ‘Logos theology’ of the prologue lies at the root of the ‘light’ and ‘life’ symbolisms within the body of the Gospel. An interpretation of John without connecting the themes logos, light, and life may not make a good sense. Logos is patterned as the ‘true light/life’ within the narrative framework of John. Moreover, ‘truth’ and ‘light’ are properly introduced only by the help of the prologue. A Logos-Light-Life synonymity may make a better sense in the process of the interpretation of the Gospel of John.
- The Dialogues of the Gospel of John: The dialogues of John are much in line with the Platonic dialogues. There are evidences available to prove that Plato’s dialogues were known in the Galilean context during the time of Jesus and John. Josephus the Jewish historian records about Justus of Tiberias (i.e., a Jew from Galilee, one who knew Greek, and a follower of Jesus) who was well aware of the Platonic dialogues.
The above mentioned five points cannot adequately be discussed within a few paragraphs or within one hour discussion. But, the intention of the blog here is to state the thinking pattern of Prof. van Kooten when he approaches the Gospel(s). As a scholar, Prof. van Kooten is interested in trans-boundary and international scholarly interactions. In his opinion, it is for something good that scholars from different parts of the world wrestling with the same levels of quests and approaching the biblical texts.
Thanks galore to Prof. van Kooten for the valuable time of interaction.
For more details about Prof. van Kooten and his writings, visit the link here.
By Johnson Thomaskutty, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Holland