A program unit of the Society of Biblical Literature
Sessions held at the 2013 Annual Meeting
(Baltimore, MD - Nov. 23-26, 2013)
The John, Jesus, and History Group highlights issues related to the Johannine tradition and the composition-history of the Fourth Gospel and the Johannine Epistles, with special emphasis on the place of these documents in contemporary study of Christian origins. Dialogue on these issues is encouraged through the group’s annual meetings and through other venues throughout the year.
S23-122 - John, Jesus, and History (Joint Session with Synoptic Gospels)
11/23/2013, 9:00 to 11:30 AM
Theme: Jesus Remembered in the Johannine and Lukan Traditions
Paul Anderson, George Fox University, Presiding
Turid Karlsen Seim, Universitetet i Oslo What Is in a Name? Mary, Martha, and Bethany in Luke and John (30 min)
Abstract: Luke and John both include poignant narrative material about two sisters named as Mary and Martha, and there is a surprisingly broad consensus assuming that they refer to the same two individuals—notwithstanding that beyond the names, there is hardly any overlap either in narrative frame nor in content. The same applies to the village of Bethany. While examining the substance of the established consensus, I will also reflect on the role of names in the stories of John and Luke and more generally on names as aggregates of remembrance.
Mark A. Matson, Milligan College The Curious Case of Luke’s and John’s “Anointing” Stories (30 min)
Abstract: Many scholars have noted and catalogued the extensive and various links between the Gospels of Luke and John. A notable example is Lamar Cribbs, who has explored the connections in a series of articles. While the greatest number of similarities is found in the passion narratives, there is one notable connection found early in Luke’s gospel: the so-called anointing pericope. In an early monograph on the relationship of these two gospels, John Amedee Bailey used this pericope as his “clearest” means of demonstrating John’s dependence on Luke. Perhaps Bailey was too confident about the obvious literary relationship, but the set of passages in which a woman anoints either Jesus’ feet or head illustrates the complexities of the relationship between the gospels and suggests that a solution is not to be found in a simple, direct literary reliance.
John T. Carroll, Union Presbyterian Seminary John’s Resurrection Account(s) and Luke’s Gospel: Probing the Connections (30 min)
Abstract: The concluding scenes in John’s narrative (chapters 20–21) differ widely from the synoptic accounts of Jesus’ final encounters with his followers. At the same time, John 20–21 contains several intriguing connections to Luke’s Gospel, or to pre-Lukan traditions from which the Third Gospel has drawn, or to the evolving Lukan textual tradition. This paper will consider several features of John’s closing chapters, in inter-traditional “dialogue” with Luke. Attention will be given to such matters as (1) the “fish tale” and ensuing meal in John 21:2–14, in relation to the (transplanted?) episode in Luke 5:1–11 as well as to Luke 24:41–43; (2) a set of narrative details in John 20:19, 20, 26 that figure also in Luke 24 (vv. 12, 36, 40), whether in the Lukan narrative as composed or in the later textual transmission history; (3) Jesus’ invitation to a doubter to touch Jesus (John 20:27; Luke 20:38–40); (4) the role played by Mary Magdalene in the two accounts; and (5) the shared imagery of Spirit-conferral and Jesus’ ascent. How can one make sense of these suggestive intersections between otherwise largely divergent Gospel traditions of the tomb and resurrection appearances?
Ian Paul, Saint John's College (Nottingham) Symbolic Action in Luke and John (30 min)
Abstract: The Gospel of John has, from the time of the early church, been recognised as having a character distinct from the Synoptics. A key element of this distinctiveness has been its use of symbolic double meaning. Actions and events which could be understood literally or historically are, within the narrative of the Gospel, very quickly interpreted (explicitly or implicitly) as having symbolic meaning. In a context where John has been thought of as a late, symbolic or “spiritual” gospel, and where John is thought to be at some distance from the Synoptics in terms of its genre, this symbolism has been attributed to the creative embellishment of the historical stories about Jesus, rather than originating in the actions of and around the historical Jesus himself. Among the Synoptics, Luke has some distinctive connections with the Johannine tradition in general, and with John’s Gospel in particular. There are a number of episodes (including the anointing of Jesus, the miraculous catch of fish, and significant elements of the passion narrative including the approach to Jerusalem, Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, and the post-resurrection appearances), where Luke has a distinct approach among the Synoptics and also has significant points of connection with John. This paper will explore the presentation of symbolic action at these points, and compare the treatment in Luke and John. This will highlight both similarities and differences between Luke and John, but also explore Luke’s distinctive approach in comparison with the other Synoptics. The paper will then reflect on the extent to which we should attribute the origin of these accounts of symbolic action to different interpretative traditions, or whether symbolic action has its origins in the historical Jesus. This in turn will shed light on recent developments in understanding the Johannine tradition as having value in the quest for the historical Jesus.
Discussion (30 min)
S24-232 - John, Jesus, and History
11/24/2013, 1:00 to 3:30 PM
Theme: Jesus Remembered: Portraits of Jesus in the Gospel of John
Catrin Williams, Prifysgol Cymru, Y Drindod Dewi Sant - University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, Presiding
Craig R. Koester, Luther Seminary Exploring the Many Portrayals of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (30 min)
Abstract: Interpreters sometimes speak of “the Johannine Jesus” in the singular, identifying Jesus as the divine Word who becomes flesh, speaks on a heavenly plane, and manifests divine glory in his own person. Yet one can also discern various layers within John’s presentation, so that it may be helpful to speak of multiple “Jesuses” in the Fourth Gospel. On one level he is identified as a Jewish rabbi, who engages in teaching, has a circle of disciples, and disputes questions of Sabbath observance. On another level he is called a prophet by others and uses that title for himself. As a prophet he speaks in the name of God and performs miraculous signs like those attributed to Moses, Elijah, and Elisha. He is sometimes called “Messiah” in contexts that suggest connections with the royal Davidic tradition. He also uses the title “Son of Man” in ways that may recall the apocalyptic traditions of Daniel and other Jewish sources. Each of these portraits reflects a way of remembering Jesus that has affinities with traditions about Jesus in other ancient sources. They also correspond to some of the recent portrayals of the historical Jesus as teacher, sage, and apocalyptic prophet. Although studies of Jesus have often focused on the transmission of traditions about particular sayings or incidents, it is also helpful to ask about the principal categories that were used to remember Jesus. Doing so provides a multidimensional perspective on John’s portrayal of Jesus, along with the traditions that inform the text.
Bruce Chilton, Bard College Rabbi Jesus in the Gospel according to John (30 min)
Abstract: The Fourth Gospels follows the Synoptics in the consistent address of Jesus as "rabbi," utilizing the Aramaic term in transliteration. Although the Johannine range of usage is comparable to that of the Synoptic Gospels, John follows a more systematic presentation; the meaning of referring to Jesus as "rabbi" for both insiders and outsiders is developed. This pedagogy for what the term means contextually enables hearers or reader of the Gospel to frame a socially sensitive definition of “rabbi,” involving a teacher who attracts students, demonstrates unusual insight and knowledge, performs signs, defines a distinctive style of purity, interprets tradition as well as Scripture, and enters into controversy. Each of these categorical aspects of activity is instanced within Judaic literature in respect of figures also known as rabbis. Yet the Fourth Gospel is unusual in bringing these characteristics together in order to focus on a single figure. The Johannine focus on Jesus as rabbi enables the Gospel to coordinate different activities as all expressive of one identity. In every case, the activity introduced as that of Jesus in his role as rabbi develops into a major thematic statement within the Gospel. At the same time, elements within those presentations involve unexpected assertions that sometimes amount to aporiai. (The most discussed case is the statement that Jesus baptized more successfully than John the Baptist did; John 3:26.) Aporetic presentation in John is by no means limited to cases in which Jesus appears as rabbi, but it remains striking that aporiai are consistently involved when Jesus is so addressed. Two explanations of that phenomenon emerge: (1) that the source traditions connected with Rabbi Jesus present him in ways no longer current when the Gospel was produced, and (2) that John developed aporiai as a sign of mystery, so that the use of “rabbi” became an invitation to other identifications of Jesus.
Richard Horsley, University of Massachusetts Boston No Prophet Is to Arise from Galilee: Jesus as Prophet in the Gospel of John (30 min)
Abstract: The primary role and title of Jesus in the Gospel of John is ‘Messiah.’ But the Gospel also portrays Jesus as (a) prophet at many points in the narrative, both explicitly and implicitly. It is increasingly clear to interpreters that the Gospels, including John, are stories, not collections of Christological statements or theological treatises. Our approach must be relational to fit both the dynamic interrelations and interaction in the Gospel story and those of the interactions of Jesus and his followers in which the story is grounded historically. After brief consideration of contemporary prophets who led movements of renewal, this presentation will survey key episodes in which Jesus acts and/ or is acknowledged as a prophet. Finally, comparisons with those contemporary prophets and with the portrayal of Jesus as prophet in Mark may suggest ways in which the episodes in John reflect basic memories of Jesus’ interaction with his followers and the rulers of “the Judeans.”
Benjamin E. Reynolds, Tyndale University College and Seminary (Ontario) Jesus as the Apocalyptic Son of Man in the Gospel of John (30 min)
Abstract: As in the rest of the Gospel tradition, the Jesus of John’s Gospel speaks of himself as “the Son of Man.” Two dominant views of the Johannine Son of Man have been to portray these sayings as references to either Jesus’ humanity or as synonymous with the designation “Son of God.” A stronger case can be made that the portrayal of Jesus as Son of Man in the Gospel of John shares close connections with the “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7 and more particularly with the interpretations of this figure in Jewish apocalypses such as the Parables of Enoch and 4 Ezra. Jesus’ authority to judge because he is the Son of Man (John 5:27) is the clearest example of these connections, although similarities with the Jewish apocalyptic interpretations can be noted throughout the Gospel of John’s Son of Man sayings. The significance of the connections to the Jewish apocalyptic tradition for the Fourth Gospel’s portrayal of Jesus as Son of Man is the emphasis that they place on Jesus as a heavenly, preexistent figure who is the Messiah and who is active in judgment and salvation. The Johannine Son of Man sayings indicate some overlap with the Jesus traditions in the Synoptic Gospels. The most obvious evidence of this is that all four gospels, in contrast to almost the entirety of the rest of early Christianity, speak of Jesus as “the Son of Man.” If the Gospel of John is understood as representing a separate Jesus tradition from that of the Synoptic Gospels, the Johannine portrayal may add further support for the authenticity of some of the Synoptic Son of Man sayings and may plausibly provide evidence of sayings of the historical Jesus apart from those found in the Synoptic Gospels.
Discussion (30 min)
S25-319: John, Jesus, and History 11/25/2013, 4:00 to 6:30 PM
Theme: Jesus Remembered Within the Developing Johannine Tradition Jaime Clark-Soles, Southern Methodist University, Presiding
Anne Moore, University of Calgary Recollections of Bethany, Cana, Jerusalem and Galilee: Memories and Places in the Gospel of John (30 min)
Abstract:In the vibrant field of Memory Studies and the New Testament, “place” is a recurring term. Attention has focused on the mnemo-technique of place systems that was employed by Greek and Roman rhetoricians for the memorizing of speeches (Thatcher 2007), as well as the classification of the Gospels and Pauline Literature as memory sites (Kirk 2010), and the role of memory in terms of the oral tradition (Dunn (2003). This presentation will explore the interaction and intersection of memory and place in terms of the Gospel of John’s Remembered Jesus. Drawing from the work of Allan Pred, Making Histories and Constructing Human Geographies (1990), Edward S. Casey, Remembering: A Phenomenological Study (2000) and Getting Back into Place (1993), I will examine the constructed place-worlds of the Gospel and how these place-worlds relate or inform the Gospel of John’s recollection of Jesus.
Urban C. von Wahlde, Loyola University of Chicago Did the Johannine Community Want to "Remember Jesus"? Some Evidence That the Issue of the “Historical Words of Jesus” Was a Problem for the Johannine Community Itself (30 min)
Abstract: Recent scholarship has pointed to a variety of features that suggest the pendulum is swinging back from the extreme of saying that there was very little of significance for the study of the historical Jesus in the Gospel of John. The present seminar “John, Jesus, and History” is proof of that. Yet there are features in the Gospel—indeed structural features—that suggest that the issue of the importance of what we might call “the historical words of Jesus” was an issue even for the Johannine community itself.
James D. G. Dunn, University of Durham John’s Re-Envisioning of Jesus (30 min)
Abstract:This paper will explore ways in which the Johannine understanding of Jesus developed over time, related to a variety of factors. As such, John's re-envisioning of Jesus goes some distance toward accounting for its distinctive presentation of Jesus when viewed alongside the other gospels and varying ways Jesus was remembered in the New Testament era.
Martin C. de Boer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam - VU University Amsterdam The Death of Jesus in Johannine Tradition and Experience (30 min)
Abstract: There is a connection between the development and re-use of Johannine tradition with respect to the death of Jesus and Johannine community experience. This paper will trace the history of the Johannine interpretation of the death of Jesus and correlate it with the distinctive history of Johannine Christianity. What we see are repeated and different attempts to understand the necessity and the significance of this death theologically in the midst of ever changing circumstances and challenges. The culmination of this process is to be found in the Johannine Epistles with its emphasis on the cleansing blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7) and his work of “expiation” (1 John 2:1; 4:10), though traces of this culmination can also be found in the Gospel.
Discussion (30 min)
Call for papers for 2013: The John, Jesus, and History Seminar is planning three sessions for 2013, continuing the theme of "Jesus Remembered in the Johannine Tradition." One will focus on the multiple "portraits" of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, including Jesus as rabbi, prophet, and apocalyptic Son of Man. A second session will be held jointly with the Synoptic Gospels Section and focus on common elements of tradition in Luke and John. Special attention will be given to the passages and themes most relevant for historical Jesus research. A third session will focus on "Jesus Remembered Within the Developing Johannine Tradition." Topics will range from the study of oral tradition to later written material. At least one paper will focus on Jesus remembered in the Johannine Epistles, building on the intratraditional features of the developing Johannine tradition.