Tutor profile: Jordan G.
Subject: Religious Studies
Describe how the latest canonical gospel, the Gospel of John, differs from the earliest canonical gospel, the Gospel of Mark.
The Gospel of John differs structurally, thematically, and theologically from the Gospel of Mark in several ways. The Gospel of Mark is generally agreed to have been written between 66-70 CE -- while the Gospel of John is generally agreed to have been written later, between 90-110 CE. Mark is considered chronologically the first of the synoptic gospels (followed by Matthew and Luke), and is also the briefest. Though both Mark and John include the story of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus, Mark spends just 11 verses on John the Baptist's prologue (Mark 1:1-8) before succinctly depicting Jesus's public baptism and recognition by God as his son in the following two verses. The bulk of Mark focuses on Jesus's various miracles, deeds, and parables. In contrast, the Gospel of John spends 34 verses alone detailing John the Baptist's description of Jesus as "the Word," or Logos, of God (John 1:1-34), and neglects any depiction of Jesus's baptism and recognition by God. By emphasizing Jesus as the Word rather than providing a description of Jesus's physical baptism, the Gospel of John situates Jesus within the wider tradition of Gnosticism, a fairly widespread faith tradition of the time. Though the Gospel of John does share many pericopes with the Gospel of Mark, John focuses much more on the discussion of Jesus as the son of God, and Jesus's own verbal wisdom being shared. There is far less emphasis on physical miracles than there is on the discussion and sharing of knowledge. The comparison between the prologues of each book demonstrates the key difference between the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John: one seeks to confirm Jesus as God's son during a time of illegitimacy for the Christian tradition, and one seeks to incorporate another salient tradition of the time into the Christian mythos. Mark is visceral, succinct, and theologically rooted in Christian tradition in order to establish legitimacy -- while John is intellectual, explorative, and theologically open to incorporation.
What is the field of semiotics, and how does it relate to ethnographic inquiry?
The field of semiotics explores how meaning is created and symbolized through physical or linguistic means. A semiotician may study how certain linguistic features (metaphors, allegories, etc.) are imbued with meaning, how a certain image may denote danger, or how a certain behavior (such as eye contact) may convey a certain emotion. The last example neatly demonstrates how semiotics relates to anthropological or ethnographic inquiry as certain "signs," like eye contact, communicate vastly different emotions in different cultures. For example, eye contact in American culture signals that one is listening attentively or showing respect for a conversational partner. This same behavior signals disrespect in many typically hierarchical cultures. Understanding how signs come to acquire certain meanings -- and how those signs (thus, meanings) are employed -- is a crucial component to sound ethnographic research.
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