The former Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is playing biblical scholar and claiming the Gospel of John confirms the "historical reality" of Jesus. That, according to an article from Richard Owen, at timesonline.
Actually, Pope Benedict is just engaging in wishful thinking. He wishfully thinks that the Gospel of John is "'the passionate testimony' of a man who as a young, humble fisherman had been attracted to Jesus, had loved him as a disciple, had shared his experiences at first hand for three years, and had seen Him die on the Cross and then rise again."
He also wishfully thinks that "From this experience, which he meditated in his heart, John drew an intimate certainty - that Jesus was the Knowledge of God incarnate." Pope Benedict insists that "incarnation" was an historical reality.
Ah, if only it were so. Scholars, however, have known for years that the Gospel of John is fiction, a creative writing exercise by someone who used legends of godmen to put together a new and more extensive tale of the Jesus story as told by Matthew, Mark and Luke.
The writer of John, utilized only a fraction of the synoptic material. The rest he made up. Ninety percent of the Gospel of John does not appear in the synoptics. John gives an entirely different and quite gnostic picture of the godman, Jesus, putting long homiletical dialogues in his mouth, none of which were known to Matthew, Mark and Luke, who wrote many years before the Gospel of John was put to papyrus.
One glaring example of John's "creativity," is his three-year time span for Jesus' ministry. The synoptic gospels agree that Jesus wandered around Palestine for only a year. There are numerous other major inconsistencies and contradictions between John and the three Synoptics.
Pope Benedict may find St. John fun to read, and may wish it were all historical stuff as that would serve to further justify Roman Catholic theology and practice. But wishing does not make it so.
We get a clue in chapter 1:1-4 -
"When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him. All that came to be was alive with his life, and that life was the light of men."
No silly little Christmas story here. John doesn't want to hear anything about his Jesus being born of a woman in a cave/manger. His Jesus was the Logos, the Word, of God!
The writer of John uses motifs from the pagan mysteries and the gnostics to portray his Jesus as the "Word" of God. Freke and Gandy, in their most excellent book, The Jesus Mysteries, explain that "The concept of the Logos is completely foreign to Judaism and is entirely derived from the Pagan Mysteries. As long ago as the sixth century BCE Heraclitus set out on a journey of self-discovery and discovered the 'Logos shared by all.' ...
"The Pagan sage Epictetus preaches: 'The Logos of the philosophers doth promise us peace which God proclaimed through his Logos.' The Roman Vitruvius writes: 'Let no one think I have erred if I believe in the Logos.' Clement of Alexandria [a church father] acknowledges that: 'It may be freely granted that the Greeks received some glimmers of the divine logos,' and quotes the legendary Pagan sage Orpheus, who proclaims: 'Behold the Logos divine. Tread well the narrow path of life and gaze on Him, the world's greatest ruler, our immortal King.'"
Freke and Gandy further explain that the concept of the Logos, St. John's "word," is very old, "found in the ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts of the Third Dynasty, which were written more than 2,500 years before the Christian era!"
The Logos, or "Word," in the Gospel of John had many meanings to the ancients. Clement suggested it was "'the Idea of Ideas.' It was God's primal thought. The legendary Pagan sage Hermes Trismegistus expresses exactly the same concept. He describes the Logos--the Idea of Ideas--emerging from the Oneness of God like a word or thought."
Furthermore, the notion expressed in John's Gospel that the Word was with God and the Word was God, derives from ancient Pagan doctrines. The Son of God, the Word of God, is a personification of the Oneness of the the soul or God of the universe.
For the Pagans, however, the Logos represented "an eternal philosophical principle" and was mythically represented in various godmen down through the ages.
For Christians, as represented in John's Gospel, the Logos (now Jesus) no longer mythically embodied the principle, but actually, literally, became the incarnate representation of the Logos principle. He was, explains St. Augustine, the "Word made flesh."
All of the above was unknown to the writers of the Synoptic Gospels. The Gospel of John presents a new and mystical savior, different from the pagan godmen only in his incarnational representation. John is not writing history, but theology, taking Christianity out of its Jewish roots and moving it into the realm of the Pagan Mysteries from which it borrowed much.
So sorry, Pope Benedict. You can believe what you wish, you can wish for what you would like, but none of that makes it so.
The Gospel of John is not an historical portrait of a human being who lived and died upon this earth, but a creative theological representation of the Logos incarnated; a mythical construct that is based, not on historical reality, but on the wisdom of the ancient sages who taught that various godmen embodied mythologically, the Logos, the "word" of the one God.