Having written two scholarly works about the New Testament’s fourth Gospel, and with a third book forthcoming, Adele Reinharz looks back on her career-long interest in this biblical book and explains how her ideas have shifted, particularly in reference to John’s attitude toward the Jews:
I am now convinced that John’s well-documented anti-Judaism is not peripheral but central to the Gospel’s theology and rhetorical program. While I do not for a moment believe that John’s author (or authors) would have foreseen or applauded the history of Christian anti-Judaism, there is no doubt that he intended to foster suspicion of, distancing from, and even hatred of the [people he refers to as] ioudaioi. To be sure, John’s ioudaioi are not an ethnic or religious category but a rhetorical one. Jesus and the first disciples were ethnically ioudaioi, but not theologically so—this label is never used [in John] for the disciples and only once for Jesus (John 4:9). Yet the fact that there existed, and continued to exist, real people who fit that label—whether we call them Jews or Judeans or some other name—and who, by and large, did not go along with the Gospel’s views about God, Jesus, and humankind, means that John’s Gospel could be, and was, used to build a wall between Christ-confessors and ioudaioi that had real consequences for real Jews. . . .
Furthermore, I had to let go of the idea that the [fourth Gospel’s] primary intended audience was Jewish; it now seemed to me just as likely that the audience was Gentile. Finally, whereas I had agreed with the majority of scholars that the Gospel was both profoundly Jewish and at the same time included many anti-Jewish statements, I now believed that even the Jewish elements of the Gospel are mobilized rhetorically for anti-Jewish purposes.
In effect, the Gospel constructs a rhetorical “parting of the ways” between Christ-confessors and the ioudaioi—Jews who, in John’s view, should have believed [in Jesus’ message] but did not. The relationship between this rhetorical “parting” and the historical processes by which Christ-confessors became “Christians” who saw themselves as separate from and opposed to Jews remains murky. But it strikes me as significant that a late-1st-century Gospel already promoted the view that Christ-confessors and ioudaioi were mutually exclusive categories.